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An abundance of administrative documents provide important details of Shakespeare's economic and social status. Shakespeare divided his time between his theatrical career in London, and business and personal matters in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where he was born, grew up, and raised three children with his wife Anne: Hamnet (who died when he was 11), Judith, and Susanna. Documents from Stratford-upon-Avon's corporate archives illustrate his Stratfordian connections and the constant balancing of debt and credit among its more prominent citizens. The parish register of Holy Trinity Church records the baptisms, marriages, and burials of members of his family. Paperwork created by various courts provide details relating to real estate transactions, taxes, legal cases, and his social network at the time of his death. Records preserved by the College of Arms chronicle his father's application for a coat of arms in 1596 and the subsequent debate over its validity. Various other legal and financial records which mention Shakespeare or his family reflect the work flows of a wide range of highly organized administrative bodies in early modern England. 

Shakespeare's personal papers do not survive, which is frustrating but not surprising. In general, personal papers only survive if they are absorbed into institutional archives or if they suffered from benign neglect in the muniment rooms of noble houses. Shakespeare's last direct descendant died in 1670, at which point his house, New Place, and its belongings, was sold. It wasn't until the 18th century that people began to value and romanticize the manuscripts of famous authors.

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January 24, 1563
John Shakespeare, together with John Taylor, appears to have been elected as a chamberlain of the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation in the autumn of 1561. Chamberlains kept the Corporation accounts.
April 26, 1564
The earliest reference to William Shakespeare appears in the parish register for Holy Trinity Church in an entry for his baptism on April 26, 1564.
December 20, 1564
The outbreak of plague in July 1564, meant that fewer members of the Corporation attended its subsequent meetings. Attendance reached its lowest point on December 20, shown here, when only 13 were present.
January 10, 1564
The Corporation elected two chamberlains in September or October each year to manage its financial affairs. One chamberlain was responsible for drawing up the account for the following twelve months, while the other checked it.
September 27, 1564
On September 27, 1564, John Shakespeare was one of ten capital burgesses included in a list of those witnessing an order.
July 4, 1565
The Corporation was made up of 14 aldermen, who were named in the town’s 1553 charter of incorporation, and 14 capital burgesses who the aldermen elected to assist them.
October 13, 1566
Gilbert, John and Mary’s fourth child, was baptized on October 13, 1566, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
February 15, 1566
In the autumn of 1563, John Taylor and John Shakespeare completed their two-year term of office as chamberlains. William Tyler and William Smith, haberdasher, were appointed to take their place.
September 11, 1566
In late August 1566, a local ironmonger named John Page brought a charge of detinue, or wrongful taking of goods, against Richard Hathaway, a husbandman (a term indicating a farmer of a modest landholding) from nearby Shottery. An undated precept (Minutes and Accounts, ii, p.
December 4, 1568
Stratford-upon-Avon's 1553 charter of incorporation stipulated that the bailiff, acting as justice of the peace, would preside over a court of record held fortnightly (every two weeks), which would handle civil claims of up to £30.

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