This chapter uses the Hundred Rolls to reconstruct family dynasties of late 13th-century Cambridge, focusing on the transmission of property between generations. The families that feature in this chapter are not a representative collection of Cambridge families. They are families that achieved significant wealth through property holding. They either held substantial property or derived substantial rental income from properties held from them by others. To feature in this chapter a family had to hold at least four properties in 1279 and to have at least five members who were related to each other.
The Hundred Rolls present detailed information on the descent of properties, which often takes the narrative back to c.1200 or even earlier. This unique feature means that for each family a tree can be constructed showing how different individuals related to each other, both within the same generation, for example, as brothers and sisters, and between generations, as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, uncles, aunts, and nieces and nephews. Some families rose to prominence during the period 1200–79, while others were in decline. Some peaked in their fortunes during the period, while others maintained stability. By comparing the profiles of different families it is possible to identify different groups of families that were at different stages of maturity.
Information from the Hundred Rolls has been supplemented from a wide range of additional sources, several of them specially translated for this purpose (see Chapter 1 and Business and Community in Medieval England: The Cambridge Hundred Rolls Source Volume). As a result, this chapter is exceptionally rich in detail. Some of the families have never been described before, while others have been described only partially and sometimes erroneously. The new evidence not only reveals new secrets but shows that several conjectures made by previous authors are false. But the amount of detail can be overpowering. Cambridge antiquarians will, we hope, be fascinated by the new evidence, but other readers may not. General readers may wish to skip this chapter on a first reading and proceed directly to Chapter 5, where thematic issues, such as family survival and success, are discussed. They can refer back to this chapter as required. Readers who wish to get a flavour of family life before they move on are recommended to study the histories of the Barton, Blancgernun, Dunning, Gogging, le Rus, Toylet and Aylsham families.