The Society of Genealogists’ family history library has a large number of resources to help you find your 17th century ancestors.
The protestation oath returns of 1642 are one such type of record. The protestation was an oath of allegiance to the King and the established church. A bill was passed in Parliament in July 1641 requiring those over the age of 18 (normally only men) to sign the protestation, and no one was allowed to hold office in the church or the state unless they did so.
A letter was sent by the Speaker of the House of Commons to the Sheriffs of each county, instructing them and the Justices of the Peace to take the protestation. The incumbents of each parish then read it to their parishioners who were also asked to take the oath. This took place in February and March 1641/2, after which the returns were sent back to Parliament.
The 1642 Protestation Oath Return for the city of Coventry has recently been added to the Members’ Area of the Society’s website. The return (which also includes some hamlets and villages surrounding the city) lists 1451 men over the age of 18. At the end are the names of those who have not taken the oath, including two men identified as Papists.
The original returns are kept in the House of Lords Record Office and the Society would like to extend their thanks to Eben W Graves of Norwalk, Connecticut for allowing his transcript to be placed on the Members’ Area.
The Society’s library also contains returns for many other parts of the country.