Using Justice’s Diaries to Add Detail to Ancestors Lives

When undertaking research for my clients, or in my own study, I am always on the lookout for sources that add more than just vital events. Whilst having dates of birth, marriage and death etc. are very important, that don’t put meat on the bones of the story.

One unusual source that I have used on several occasions in my own research are justice of the peace diaries for various members of the Brockman Family, of Beachborough, Kent. The originals are at the British Library (Add MSS4259801) but the copies I viewed were on microfilm at what was the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone, now at the Kent Library and Archives Centre in Maidstone.

The first concerns my 6th Great Grand Father, James Griggs (1735-1835) from an entry in 1760:

“Xber 12 On complaint of Rd Haris Jam[e]s  Griggs of Liminge [Lyminge] was seen
in his grounds wth ferretts & netts to take Rabbits, I grant a warr[an]t
to search his House &c for of same & to have hime before a Justice
Sd Jam[e]s Griggs was bro[ught] before me coonfessed it fact. I ordered
him to pay 5/. s he declared Francis Colley was with him
& had netts & Ferrets w[ic]h he carry’d away with him”

In contrast, James grandfather, William had made a complaint in 1727 on the other side of the law:

“Wm Griggs of Sellindge maketh Oath that last night after ye hour of nine his dwelling House in ye sd Parish was broke into and he misses from then sundry Mead to ye quantity of about a bushells as also a great Coat and further that a Lock was broke off from his stable door that when he came into that stable tis morning he horse was hot and wett and seem’d to have been rid in ye night as appeare further by ye saddle and bridle being wet and he has found such footsteps of a horse this morning that he has reason to suspect that said robbery may have been committed by Wm Barnes of Brabourne or Tho: Priggs of Hasting Lye or one or both of them, they being persons who have no livelyhood and of an ill reputation having been suspected of pilfering about the neighbourhood”.

Sorry for the bad spelling, I have remained faithful to the originals!