Domesday Book

The Domesday Book, sometimes called just Domesday, is a written record of a survey of England ordered by William the Conqueror in 1085. William was attempting to register the wealth of the country in a systematic fashion and to determine the revenues due him.

The survey was executed by groups of officers called legati, who visited each county and conducted a public inquiry. A questionnaire used by these officials on the estates of the abbey of Ely, known as Inquisitio Eliensis, has survived. The questionnaires used in other English shires have not survived, but they may have resembled this inquest in content. The answers supplied the information from which the Domesday Book was later compiled.

Domesday is a corruption of Doomsday (the day of the final judgment); the work was so named because its judgments in terms of levies and assessments were irrevocable. The original manuscript was made in two volumes. The first and larger one, sometimes called the Great Domesday, included information on all England, with the exception of three eastern counties (Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk), several northern counties, London, and some other towns. The surveys of the three eastern counties made up the second volume, which was known as the Little Domesday. These documents were frequently used in the medieval law courts, and in their published form they are occasionally used today in cases involving questions of topography or genealogy.

For more information, see the Domesday Book Online, the National Archives' Research Guide to the Domesday Book, Medieval English Genealogy's Public Records: Domesday Book, and WikiPedia.