Memory, Orality and Life Records: Proofs of Age in Tudor England
Sixteenth Century Journal
This article examines memories of the births of feudal heirs to consider both what witnesses remembered from their past and how they remembered it. It argues that in the early sixteenth century jurors' memories revolved around the life-course markers of birth, marriage, and death, and were recalled in parallel with the same events in the lives of their neighbors. By the later sixteenth century written records came to play a greater role in the process of proving age, as witnesses were increasingly likely to present and witness a father's record of his son's birth rather than recall their own involvement in the event. This shift reflects the ways in which both literacy and family records were rooted within the household, and allows us to see the ways in which the bureaucratic process of proving age changed in response to the changed literacies of English jurors.