Was your ancestor admitted to the Freemen? Explore the records of over 7,400 Freemen of the Borough of Ipswich, Suffolk during the period 1320 - 1996. Many Freemen were admitted through birth right and you may find multiple family records. Discover your ancestor’s occupation, residence and father’s name.
Each record includes a transcript of the original records. The amount of detail in each record can vary but most will include the following:
The tradition of freemen began during the earliest organisation of towns and boroughs (or burghs in Scotland) and after the breakdown of the feudal system. Freemen enjoyed special privileges such as voting rights and exemption from tolls, but the title also came with responsibility. Freemen (or burgesses) were responsible for the governing of the borough. They often gave money to local schools and ministers and had to be a respectable member of a congressional church. The position of Freemen changed in 1835, when the Municipals Corporations Act passed. The act replaced the governing bodies with a uniformed system of boroughs, governed by town councils elected by ratepayers. Despite these changes, many traditions of freemen sustained and the title continued to be granted.
There were two approaches to become a freeman of the borough. First was through birth right (patrimony). The son of a freeman could be admitted after his 21st birthday. In most boroughs it was only the freeman’s son who could hold the title and not the daughter. In the Ipswich Freemen records, the evidence shows that this practice changed in the 20th century. In 1990 there are at least two entries of women who were admitted to the freemen of Ipswich; Joyce Beaton, a house wife and Lisa Chaplin, a nurse.
A second pathway to become a freemen was through servitude. The candidate needed to already be accepted as an apprentice for five to seven years and the master must be a freeman. In some boroughs there were additional methods. One could buy the title from the municipal corporation or the title could be gifted. Each borough had its own laws and restrictions for these methods.