A new publication, English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia, by Carolyn Hartsough is available for download at http://www.pettypool.com/England/index.html. This 137 page document describes the origins of the Pettypool surname in medieval England, and traces the family from its Essex roots through the departure of William Pettypool for colonial Virginia in the 17th century. An excerpt from the paper follows:

The earliest known mention of both Pooty Pools Farm as well as an individual called by the name appears in an Essex record over 800 years old. The effort to understand this record provides an opportunity to introduce several medieval legal and dating issues that aid in understanding the remainder of the story.

In England, as was to be the case in the American colonies, records regarding land, including its uses, acquisition and disposal, constitute one of the surest avenues for productive genealogical research. As pointed out by F. W. Maitland in his distinguished history of English common law, in the Middle Ages land law is the basis of all public law.  The system whereby land law assumed such importance in English society arose out of the medieval English legal and social arrangement that has come to be known as feudalism.

Briefly, feudalism as practiced in England rested on the governing premise that the King held title to all of the land in his dominion. In turn, he awarded large allotments to his great barons (or lords), who in turn leased plots to their sub-tenants (lesser lords). These sub-tenants, in turn, created their own sub-tenants. Accordingly, for the periods during which we will explore records about Pooty Pools Farm and the Pettypool family, England was divided into manors (estates) of various sizes.

Because of the confusion in title that frequently resulted from the possibly lengthy chain of sub-tenancies created by the feudal system, medieval English civil court records are largely concerned with validation of land titles in one form or another. It is, therefore, not surprising that little over a decade after the first central recording of English law cases began, Pooty Pools Farm is the center of a title dispute. Thus from autumn of the year 1206 we read …



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