Latin translation service


Latin was the legal and administrative language of England and Wales until 1733. Most family historians can cope with the few latin phrases found in earlier parish registers, but there are other sources that can fill out your family or local history during the mediaeval and early modern period that will inevitably demand more linguistic skill. Even if you studied Latin at school you may well be stumped by the handwriting and abbreviations.

Mediaeval documents are occasionally in Anglo-norman, the form of French that was spoken by the English gentry and aristocracy until the fifteenth century (and for rather longer by antiquarian lawyers), and Peter can also translate such documents.

Examples of Latin documents that you might want translating:


Manorial records can tell you about roles taken by your ancestors in their communities - constables, haywards, pinders, waywardens, headburrows or tithingmen as well as their misdemeanours and squabbles with their neighbours. Suit rolls can sometimes help you discover when ancestors moved in or out of a community. If your ancestors were copyholders, you may be able to find out about their property, purchase and inheritance; sometimes an entire family tree can be worked out from manorial records alone (and court rolls often extend back well beyond the start of parish registers). Serious social and economic history can also be supported by manorial court rolls, accounts and byelaws. Some communities are fortunate enough to have 800 years of manorial records. I supported the Norton Community Archaeology Group in a project to translate and study their court rolls, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. My translations of the Norton Court Rolls from 1244 to 1720 have now been published.

“Bawdy court” records might shock you. Here you may find out just what your distant ancestors got up to and with whom in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These courts were run by the church at a time when the church was concerned with sex and marriage, slander, and inheritance, as well as religious beliefs. They are often written in a mixture of abbreviated Latin and very down-to-earth English.

Probate records: Tudor and earlier wills might be in Latin; even if they are in English, the probate information will probably be in Latin.

Mediaeval Charters: I have translated extensive extracts from the Cartulary of the Carthusian Beauvale Priory in Nottinghamshire for a group of local historians.

Thanks very much for the translation. I’m well pleased. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find someone who is willing and capable to take on this kind of work [translating Bawdy Court records from abbreviated Latin]


Send a scan of a document which you want translating or explaining. Or hire Peter Foden to visit the archive to study it for you.

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  • If you'd like Peter's help

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    peter@peterfoden.com
    Mobile telephone: 07734 203624



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