(. . . or just scholars better trained in historical research than I.)
I'm trying to find out what happened to a minor--but long-standing and very public--religious practice that seems to have stopped abruptly with the English Reformation. It's of interest to me because I've turned up an extended literary allusion to the practice in a well-known work written a couple of generations after the Reformation. For the allusion to work, however, the audience would have to have real familiarity with the practice (not just a vague cultural memory of its existence).
So basically, we're talking about something that might have persisted in practice or in oral culture, but without textual traces. I can't find any mention of it in scholarship on early modern popular religion (though it's such a minor practice that it's not something anyone would be looking for specifically, and the evidence would be easy to miss).
I think I've done as much as I can do combing through early printed books and the existing historiography. If I'm to do any more research, I suspect it would have to involve manuscript archives--probably something like parish records and churchwarden's reports. But a) I have no experience working with such sources, and b) sifting through all the surviving records would require a massive amount of time, travel, and effort for what might be zero result.
Anyone have any thoughts or advice?