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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.

All Documents

December 9, 1568
This precept, issued by John Shakespeare in his capacity as justice of the peace, concerned William Shotteswell's suit against Richard Walker for a debt of £10. It should have been preceded by an initial hearing, but of this there is no surviving record.
September 4, 1568
Under the terms of Stratford-upon-Avon’s 1553 charter of incorporation, every September the fourteen aldermen and fourteen capital burgesses elected one of their number to serve as bailiff for the coming year.
April 15, 1569
Joan, John and Mary Shakespeare’s fifth child, was baptized on April 15, 1569, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. It was a normal practice at the time to use the name of a deceased child for later offspring.
September 7, 1569
Following his election as bailiff in 1568, John Shakespeare presided over meetings of the Corporation, although minutes were only properly kept for two – on October 1, 1568 and  April 20, 1569 (Minutes and Accounts, ii, pp. 13-14, 24-5).
1570
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1570
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1570
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
January 27, 1570
In the later part of the 16th century, the chamberlains' accounts submitted to the Corporation show regular payments to traveling troupes of players.
September 28, 1571
Anne, John and Mary Shakespeare’s sixth child, was baptized on September 28, 1572, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
September 5, 1571
Under Stratford’s 1553 charter of incorporation, the Corporation elected annually a chief alderman to serve as a justice of the peace. He assisted the bailiff in the execution of his office, particularly at sessions of the court of record.

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