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Discovery at the National Archives

This month’s topic is “discovery” – so what better to write about than what I found on the Discovery section of the National Archives website? Many years ago, when I first started exploring family history, my mother told me about a solicitor’s letter that she possessed amongst old family papers. This letter, addressed to Mr J W Holyland (JWH) of 186, Charnwood St, Leicester, and posted in 1911, referred to a claim against the estate of Thomas Bale, deceased. In short, the legal outcome was that JWH and Mrs Rawlings were “the persons entitled to the residue”. John William Holyland was the older brother of my great grandmother Eveline Holyland; he seems to have been something of a reprobate and had spent his life in poverty. You can read his story (and see his photo!) in a separate post (1). I knew the Bale surname as well; it was the maiden name of John William Holyland’s paternal grandmother. As a newbie to family history research, I had no idea how to take this further. Imagi
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Thomas Hollylande, fighting for the family home.

For generations, “home” to the Leicestershire Holylands was the village of Desford. The surviving Desford parish registers start from 1559, and the first mention of any of the Holyland family was in 1564 with the burial of Thomas Holyland. However, the Holylands had their home in Desford prior to this. An 1827 copy of the “Calendar to Pleadings and Depositions” during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs is available on the internet via Google Books (1), and contains the following: Date: Reign: 1+2 Phil + Mar   (ie 1553-4) Plaintiff: Thomas Hollylande, Son of Agnes Hollylande, Widow, deceased, a Tenant by the Custom of the Manor of Desford   Defendants: Robert Dewsburye otherwise called Strynger, Reve of the Manor of Desford, and Nicholas Crosbie who was admitted Tenant of the Premises after an alledged Forfeiture. Premises and matters in dispute: Disputed Title to a Messuage, Cottage, Land, and Pasture claimed by the Plaintiff as devised to him by his Mother’s Will, to hold unt