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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

November 19, 1578
From the late 1550s until the mid-1570s, John Shakespeare’s service as a member of the Stratford Corporation, first as a capital burgess and then as an alderman, had been exemplary.
October 15, 1579
At this time, when property was conveyed from one party to another, it was typical for the vendors to enter into a bond that they would perform all conditions as specified in the accompanying deed of conveyance. This bond would be signed by the vendors or, in this case, certified by their marks.
1579
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
October 15, 1579
John Shakespeare's wife was born Mary Arden, the daughter of Robert Arden. In 1550, Robert Arden settled two properties he owned in Snitterfield on trustees, to be divided among six of his daughters after their mother’s death.
April 4, 1579
Anne, John and Mary Shakespeare’s sixth child, was buried on April 4, 1579 according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. She was eight and a half years old. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
1579
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1580
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
May 3, 1580
Edmund Shakespeare, John and Mary Shakespeare’s eighth child, was baptized on May 3, 1580, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
1580
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
September 1, 1581
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!

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