Affidavit and Statutory Declaration
Both of these documents are written statements. They are commonly found in deed bundles as part of the evidence of title collected by lawyers. They were often used to verify family relationships, or to certify that a particular piece of land had been in someone's possession for a substantial period of time.
Some affidavits and statutory declarations can be very useful in tracing family history. They might give all the birth dates or death dates of the children in a family, or be accompanied by a pedigree. Some give details about members of the family who went abroad and were never heard of again.
There is very little difference between the two types of document, except for the method by which they were made. An affidavit had to be accompanied by an oath sworn by the person making it. However, nonconformists and Quakers objected to taking oaths on religious grounds, so in 1835 the Statutory Declarations Act was passed, enabling people to make a simple declaration confirming the statement.
Confirmation of a piece of information.
Important words and phrases
Affidavits and statutory declarations give the name, address and sometimes the age of the person making them, with an indication of why they would know the information (for example, being a member of the family, or one of the oldest people in the village). The person making an affidavit was usually referred to as the 'deponent'. 'Deposition' is another word for a written statement.
Statutory declarations are recognisable because they always include a paragraph explaining what they are:
'... and I make this Solemn Declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of an Act made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of His Majesty King William the fourth entitled "An Act to repeal an Act of the present Session of Parliament entitled An Act for the more effectual abolition of Oaths and Affirmations taken and made in various departments of the State and to substitute Declarations in lieu thereof and for the entire suppression of voluntary and extrajudicial oaths and Affidavits and to make other provisions for the abolition of unnecessary oaths".'
Pl E12/6/19/20/5 - Affidavit as to the Sherwin and Longden families of Nottingham and Bramcote Hills, Nottinghamshire; 5 Oct. 1825
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This affidavit was drawn up in connection with a surrender of copyhold land on Spring Lane in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, to George Downs, on the same day (Pl E12/6/19/20/6). One of the parties to the surrender was John Sherwin Sherwin. This affidavit was sworn in order to identify him and to verify that he was the surviving representative of the Sherwin family.
Thomas Wheatcroft of the Town of Nottingham Gentleman aged eighty one years maketh oath and saith that he knew John Sherwin late of the Town of Nottingham Esquire now deceased; that he this deponent understood and believes that the said John Sherwin had two Brothers and no more namely George Sherwin who this deponent believes died at Bunkers Hill in America a Bachelor many years ago and Robie Sherwin who lived at Wing in the County of Rutland and is now dead as this deponent verily believes without leaving any Issue. And this deponent also saith that he knew Barbara Sherwin Spinster and Martha Sherwin the wife of Francis Longden That they were the only two sisters of the said John Sherwin who attained Years of Maturity; That the said Barbara Sherwin died some time ago without having been married. That the said Martha Sherwin was married to the said Francis Longden who as this deponent understood and believes had only one Son namely John Longden late of Bramcote Hills in the County of Nottingham Esquire who died some years ago leaving John Sherwin Longden now of Bramcote Hills aforesaid Esquire his only Son and heir at Law who has lately taken the name of John Sherwin Sherwin.
Sworn at the Town of Nottingham [signature of Thos Wheatcroft]
aforesaid the fifth day of October in the Year
of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and
twenty five before me
[Signature of Sam'l Parsons a Master in Chancery Extraordinary]
Next page: Certificate of acknowledgment of a deed by a married woman