Early Muster Rolls
From medieval times until the English Civil War in the mid 17th century there was no standing army. Troops were raised, as the need arose, from the adult male population who were called annually to muster for the local militia. Militias were part-time, voluntary, civilian forces of able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 which were organised by county. Muster rolls, which are name lists of men called to serve in the militia, were commissioned by Local Commissioners or the Lord Lieutenant of the county, assisted by local officials such as the parish constable, to count the men and arms that were available.
Not a complete census
They can be valuable sources for family historians as they list the names of local inhabitants who were liable to military service, and the equipment they were required to have. However they do not represent a complete census of the male population – those who were unfit or too poor to provide the necessary equipment (and who might not be trusted to use their weapons in defence of property) may be omitted altogether. The minimum requirement under the 1557 act was for those holding land worth £5 to provide one bow, one bill, one sheaf of arrows and one steel cap. The returns may list able-bodied men ‘without harnesse’.
Whilst a few muster rolls survive locally, the majority are held at TNA amongst the State Papers Domestic, the Exchequer Accounts and the Audit Office Accounts, or at the British Library. The records shown here have survived amongst deposited private collections or parish records and are held at HALS.
Related records held at HALS include:
- Muster books 1583-98 for the hundreds of Edwinstree and Odsey with neighbouring parishes in the hundreds of Broadwater and Braughing, (ref: 6990, 8283, 9531). A hundred is a division of the county containing a number of parishes. These books have been transcribed and published
- List of Aspenden men conscripted to the national militia 1651-75 (ref: DP/8/81)
- Transcript by Cussans from TNA State Papers Domestic of Hertfordshire horsemen mustered in 1538 (ref: DE/Cu/1 p142)
- List of finders of horse, officers and soldiers in the militia under the command of Sir John Bucknall, Hertford, 1690 (ref: 79902).