The Soldier in Later Medieval England
How to search?
To search the database enter the parameters you are looking for in the relevant fields and press the Search button. You will receive the list of records which match ALL the criteria entered. For example, if you put ‘John’ into the First Name field, ‘Grene’ into the Surname field and select ‘Man-at-Arms’ from a Rank drop down list you will receive all the records concerning the men-at-arms called John Grene.
By default the database will be looking for full exact matches. Therefore if you type ‘Fitz’ for the surname it will only return people with surname ‘Fitz’ (if any) and NOT the whole variety of surnames starting with ‘Fitz’. To get these you will need to use Wildcards e.g. ‘Fitz*’ (see below for Fuzzy searching and Wildcards).
NB: The results will be limited to 15000 records so formulate your queries wisely.
In the initial version of the database (2009-16) the three main datasets (muster rolls from the TNA, musters of the garrisons held by the English in France in the first half of the fifteenth century, and the Letters of Protection) had to be searched separately but thanks to improvements funded by the Universities of Reading and Southampton from August 2016 you can do it in a single search.
By default the search is done throughout all the Datasets: Musters, French Garrisons, Protections and Agincourt Roll. You may untick any of datasets to exclude them from your search and tick them back in if you need them. This will only take effect after you run a new search by pressing the Search button.
First Name variants
The database is able to trace the various forms of a first name e.g. ‘Guillaume’ or ‘Wilkin’ for ‘William’. To do so tick ‘First Name’ Variations before running the search. This will only work, of course, if you are including the First name as one of your search parameters.
Rank and Status
When you choose one of the categories from drop-down lists, you may find among your results mixed categories involving the one you were looking for e.g. ‘Archer / Crossbowman’ or ‘Archer / Gunner’ when looking for ‘Archer’.
Captains / Lieutenants / Commanders
Unlike the Name column, the names of captains, lieutenants and commanders are given in a standardised form, containing the person’s last (and most important) title(s) which may be different for that used during the given act of service. The same is true for those who have earned their knighthood during their career; they will always appear as knights in these columns.
A good example of this is John, Lord Talbot, a famous commander of the fifteenth-century phase of the war. He will always appear as earl of Shrewsbury, will always appear as such even though he was only raised to the earldom in 1442. He became Lord Talbot in 1421, and was previously known as Lord Furnivall. Later he was also earl of Waterford and count of Beaumont-sur-Oise.
Please be aware of this if searching by these columns. Check The Complete Peerage of England for exact title dates in case of doubt.
Other militarily active peers with changes of title include:
Thomas Beaufort, initially Sir Thomas, then earl of Dorset from 1412, and Duke of Exeter from 1416 to death in 1426.
Edward, duke of York (killed at Agincourt in 1415). Was earl of Rutland from 1390 to 1402, duke of Aumale from 1397 to 1399, duke of York from 1402 to 1415.
John Holland (b. 1395/6), was called earl of Huntingdon in 1415 (although not technically restored to the earldom until 1417) and duke of Exeter from 1444 to his death in 1447.
The records are sorted by date as a default. If you click on the title of any columns the results will become sorted by this column. The new sorting order will stay as you may be doing new searches until you choose to have the data sorted by another column or reload the page.
NB: If you need to check the order in which the soldiers appear in the actual document, have the results sorted by the ‘Reference’ Column.
Fuzzy searching (Wildcards)
You can use asterisk (*), percentage sign (%), question mark (?) and underscore (_) as wildcards. The former two (* and %) can be used to replace any number of letters; the latter two (? or _) stand for a single symbol.
Surname & spelling tips when searching (by Adam Chapman)
The letter ‘i’ is often used interchangeably with ‘y’, e.g. Smith and Smyth
‘e’ is frequently added to the ends of names in place of ‘y’ in modern usage, or simply because of scribal preference. It is also often used where we might employ an ‘a’.
‘ai’ often stands in for ‘ay’ and ‘our’ for ‘er’ (the influence of French spelling) – Taillour (rather than ‘Taylor’) is the classic example of this.
For some names, their current form may be a shortened or diminutive form of an earlier toponym (i.e. a name derived from a place). Spellings related to places are notoriously unstable in this period as they might vary from generation to generation. In some areas (notably Wales), such names were relatively unusual and are thus more reliable – though not wholly so – than
For this, the site has a ‘fuzzy search’ facility, which makes use of asterisks in conjunction with specific syllables. If you take the first syllable of a name like ‘Geden’ for example, you enter it into the search box as Ged*. All names beginning with Ged can be found in this way.
Using the first three letters is a good approach. If your name contains double letters, e.g. ‘dd’ common in Welsh names, then just use one before the asterisk. You can also place the asterisk before the syllable.
Many of the muster rolls appear to have been compiled by clerks simply asking the name of the soldier so there is much scope for phonetic variation. Remember that in the garrisons of English-held Normandy in the fifteenth century, it was often a French clerk who was trying to write down an English name he heard. This does not necessarily explain the spelling but it can help.
Surnames were not necessarily inherited in this period, particularly if a person moved. A real example: Roger le Couper, (as in ‘Cooper’, a maker of barrels) had a son known as David Hope or David de Hope.
If your surname is recognisably Welsh, Scottish or Irish (or even French), e.g. Kendrick, Bevan, Price, Fraser, O’Leary, etc. there are other considerations:
Welsh naming (like Scots) was patronal (patronymic), that is based on the fathers name for both sons and daughters e.g. Dafydd ap Gwilym, literally, David, son of Gwilym. Price derives from ‘ap Rhys’ and so on. Daughters incidentally were dubbed as follows: Gwenllian ferch Maredudd that is Gwenllian, daughter of Maredudd. To differentiate, several generations were often employed, e.g. Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri.
There were also ‘cognomen’, which described personal characteristics or trades, Faber for a smith, Gogh or Gough for a man with red hair (from Welsh, but this one at least is found all over England).
The situation is eased of course by the fact that Scots, Irish and French (together with other Europeans) only appeared in relatively small numbers in English armies.