The Protestation Returns of 1641/2 are currently being digitised and made freely accessible on the UK Parliament website.

My understanding is that for each parish the oath was performed by everybody on a single day in February or March of 1641/2. Were only inhabitants of the parish recorded on the return for that parish? How were visitors or travellers handled? Did anyone qualified to take the oath take it, regardless of where their permanent abode was? If someone was away at the time of the Protestation, might they have been added at a later date?

When interpreting these returns it seems important to understand precisely who was qualified to take the oath in a parish.

1 Answer 1


The Protestation Returns on 1641-1642: Part I, General Organisation by Anne Whitman says that many parishes made an effort to distinguish between 'recusants' (who refused to take the oath) and 'non-takers' who might have been travelling, at sea, or otherwise unable to attend or unaware of the need to do so.

Naturally enough, not everyone liable to take the Protestation turned up at the right place, on the right day, and at the right time. Local officers were anxious to distinguish those who had received a warning from those who, being away from the parish, could not comply with it, or did not know it had been issued. The officers also offered excuses for the non-attendance of the sick or bedridden, or those too old to come, like the two men of Drewsteignton in Devon who at 94 and 86 were too decrepit to appear.Many of these parishioners, they averred, would certainly have taken the Protestation had they been able to do so.

The second article in the same series mentions that some parishes included 'strangers' in their returns.

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