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The problems for Roman Catholics started with Henry VIII falling out with the Pope over Henry’s desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine. Henry declared himself Head of the Church in England.

Successive monarchs and their Governments were concerned about a take-over of England by Catholic powers in Europe.Between 1559 and the Emancipation Act of 1829 many Acts of Parliament were passed in order to prevent Roman Catholics practising their Faith and to force them into conforming to the newly established Anglican Church and its rites. They were barred from many occupations and activities.

Those who refused to conform were called recusants. People who followed the Pope in Rome were papists. All those who refused to take the required Oaths to prove their loyalty to the British monarch were described as non-jurors. Not all of these were Roman Catholics. Jacobitism was a political movement working towards restoring the Catholic Stuart King James II of England and VII of Scotland, and his heirs, to the throne, leading to various uprisings and support from Catholic monarchs in Europe. Followers of James were called Jacobites and many of them were also Roman Catholic.

Roman Catholics who came into any of these categories were sought out by the local Anglican Church wardens and constables in order to be punished usually by fines or by double land taxes. To facilitate this, local officials were ordered to make lists of papists/recusants/Jacobites in their area and send such lists to the higher authorities. Such lists may be found in the archives of the Anglican Diocese or local Record Offices. A complete set for 1767 is in the House of Lords Archive. They are not kept in any Catholic Archives, though copies of transcriptions may be.

Two lists have been transcribed by Sylvia Dibbs as part of a long term project undertaken by Brother Rory Higgins of the De La Salle Brothers to build a database of pre-1837 Roman Catholics, mainly in England. The lists have names of adult men and often women. Sometimes children are named or just the number of children in a family. Some lists include occupations. Addresses did not exist then, but locations, necessary for land taxes, areas are often given. As marriages and usually burials had to take place in Anglican Churches this can be a useful pointer to a parish register. The lists are available for download from GENfair by following the links below where more details of the areas covered can be found.

Lists of Papists for Some Counties

List of Papists for the London area

The originals of these lists are in London, England at The National Archives Kew, The London Metropolitan Archives, and The British Library

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