Celebrating Burns night and Scottish Ancestry

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Its Burn’s night  tonight and so I began thinking about how my Scottish ancestors may have celebrated this important anniversary.

Burns Night falls on 25 January every year, the date having been chosen to coincide with the poet’s birthday, who was born on 25 January 1759.  According to Wikipedia Robert Burns, also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. See: Wikipedia

To celebrate this anniversary I have sat down with a copy of Chris Paton’s new book: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records. Pen & Sword November 2019

My Scotts ancestors are a fascinating bunch and so in the hope of being able to trace a bit more about them I have turned to the latest book written by the respected genealogist and writer who runs Scotland’s Greatest Story research service.

 

BOOK REVIEW

Book: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records

It always bodes well when just a few pages into a genealogy book that the author manages to capture my attention by expanding my knowledge with a number of facts that I had not known and which allow me to experience that ‘light-bulb’ moment when I think: Ah that explains why…so and so. That was exactly what happened to me when reading this new Scottish ancestry book from Chris Paton, the well respected author and professional genealogist.

I have sometimes wondered why I had found an ancestor born on the continent in an European country, but who also appears within the Scottish records in Edinburgh. This publication has finally cleared it up for me. As the book points out, as well as the normal  civil records, that you would expect to find recorded at the General Record Office for Scotland (GROS), there are also a number of Minor Records that relate to Scots residing or working overseas in certain capacities, as well as those born at Sea (until a UK based authority took over births at sea in 1874).

Another point that I had not been fully aware of was that adoption in Scotland was not placed on a legal footing until the Adoptions of Children (Scotland) Act 1930 came into force. The book taught me that the NRS Register of Adoptions can only be consulted in person at the ScotlandsPeople Centre and it gave me other helpful details about researching adopted people in Scotland.

I was very interested to learn about the differences between Regular and Irregular Marriages and to understand the differences between a marriage by declaration, a betrothal followed by intercourse and a marriage by habit and repute. Again, to understand that there are a number of minor records of marriage that covered Scots people abroad I thought could be important when researching some of our ancestors living in foreign countries.

A fact  that I had not know until I read this book was that uniquely, in the British Isles, Scotland has a Register of Corrected Entries for its civil records. This would allow a name to be put right if it had been given incorrectly to the registrar at the time of registration. This seems so sensible as I am aware of a member of my family whose registered name was misspelt by her father when he registered it in the English system, with the records remaining incorrect to this day!

I was fascinated to read the brief history of the Church in Scotland, especially as I have a Scots ancestor who was an Episcopalian Bishop in Perthshire and now I see why his family were supporters of the Jacobite cause in 1745-46. Other ancestors of mine from Scotland were Covenantors and so I have been given a better understanding of their religious leaning. Previously I had only noted them in the records where I had found them, be it in Church of Scotland parishes, the Scottish Episcopal Church or others. I had not fully understood the various factions that had broken away from the State Kirk and how, even in the branch of my family tree that was Scots, that my ancestors may have had different views on religion from each other.

When looking at the Old Parish Records, which I have done for a number of my ancestors who were married before civil registration took place in January 1855, Chris Paton suggests in this book that we researchers should always consult both the marriage register and the Kirk session minutes “even if there appears to be nothing out of the ordinary with the marriage record”. His example of a couple who tried to get away with banns being read twice on one Sunday, because of their hurry to be married before the baby was born, made me smile.

The advice that Church of Scotland registers may also contain the names of dissenting couples whose banns are being read is yet another example of how educating this volume was for me. The author suggests that we pay careful attention to the name of the minister that performed their marriage as this can reveal the denomination of the church that the wedding actually took place within. Should the minister’s name differ from the incumbent of the Parish Church, in whose register the banns had been published, then the minister’s name can lead us to find the nonconformist church or chapel where the marriage took place.

There is so much more that I could have brought up in this short review that I found interesting in this book, from understanding Land Tenure and the chapters on Inheritance and Law and Order.

I thoroughly recommend that anyone with Scots heritage get hold of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records as I am sure you wont be disappointed by it!

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Scottish-Ancestry-through-Church-and-State-Records-Paperback/p/16848?aid=1101

 

 

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An Archive is not a Library

 

Dudley Archives West Midlands
Dudley Archives, West Midlands

Sometimes I am reminded that family historians can make assumptions that others understand what we mean when we refer to records and archives.

 

I was talking to a man at a bar recently and with a drink in hand he asked me to educate him a bit about this genealogy pastime of mine.

It was when I had got to the bit where I was explaining about records and how they are kept in archives and other repositories and he said to me:

“So when you go to one of these libraries, how do you know if they have the records that you are looking for?”

That was when I realised that, in his mind, he saw an archive as just a sort of library, with loads of dusty records sitting on the shelves just waiting for us to go in browse a little and then find our ancestors within the files.

Notwithstanding that some archives share a building with a library (I am thinking of Portsmouth and Birmingham to name just two) I had to explain that they were really very different beasts. It is complicated by some major libraries having collections of records that are relevant to our ancestor research – the likes of universities, the British Library and so on –  but generally a library and an archive are not the same thing.

 

The Nosey Genealogist at Birmingham Archives
The Nosey Genealogist at Birmingham Archives, floor 4 of the Library of Birmingham

This conversation reminded me of something I had read in Chapter 9 of Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip. His explanation is that:

‘Archives resemble retail catalogue showrooms, in which customers use a catalogue to identify the items they require, which are then fetched from storage areas by members of staff.’

I so loved the analogy of browsing a sort of genealogical Argos where we select a record collection in which to research our ancestors. Inevitably I used it in my conversation and immediately saw a realisation cross the face of my friend at the bar.

 

TNA selecting a record in the reading room
Reserving a seat at a table in the reading room at TNA

I gave him an example of a recent visit I made to The National Archives. I used the Discovery catalogue to look for a particular person, whom I was researching, and found that TNA held his 1919 divorce papers. I was able to select it from the online catalogue, book myself a seat at a table in the reading room and then wait for the archive staff to bring the file of documents to be collected from the locker.

Collect your document from the locker assigned to your seat in the reading room
Collect your document from the locker assigned to your seat in the reading room

By now examining the bundle of papers I was able to understand that my subject had been divorced by his wife as he would not return home to her after fighting at the Somme in the First World War. Who knows the exact human details of the case, but the court ordered him to return to her or his marriage would be legally ended. The result was that he refused and so they were divorced; but happily they remarried at a much later date.

By also ordering up his service papers I discovered that, as he waited to be demobbed, he was being treated for depression as a result of his experiences in the war.

So my drinking acquaintance now understood that it was not simply a case of browsing down the shelves of a library, where all the books are arranged alphabetically by subject to find what we required, but that records were catalogued by reference in an archive and that we order up what we want from the strong rooms in which they are held.

Inside the strong room at the Jersey Archive
Behind the scenes in the strong room of the Jersey Archive

The subject of how archives reference those records in their catalogue is another matter altogether.  If you want to learn more then you could do a lot worse than reading the chapter on Archives in Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip.

Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestor

 

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Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors

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Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestor

I’ve been reading Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip this week and I am impressed!

It is a book aimed at the more advanced family history researcher, those people whose research has taken them back to the early nineteenth century in England and Wales and are now discovering that it is a bit more difficult to go back further.

The author examines online services, repositories, archives and the catalogues that exist for these. He also encourages his readers to look at factors that can influence the outcome of their research, to be aware of their ancestors’ wider family and to use a variety of resources and search tools when tackling the problem of tracing back before the Victorian period and its civil registration and census records.

As someone who is passionate about family history I found John Wintrip’s book to be a very stimulating read.

In the years that I have been building up my own knowledge of family history, in some cases I have learnt which record to use and perhaps that the record was set out in a particular way, but without ever being told why it was so. As I read more and more of the pages of this book I found myself increasing my own understanding of the whys and wherefores and the number of ‘light-bulb’ moments occurred when it revealed some of the fascinating details of why records are the way they are made.

 

The author makes a great case for researchers to expand their ‘External Knowledge’, where this helps to understand a record or what records we may use to chase after our ancestors.

For example, I have known for many years that ancestors’ names can be written down how they sounded to the clergyman, especially when our ancestor couldn’t read or write. I was aware that we should bear in mind the local accent, but I hadn’t attached much thought to the fact that the clergyman may have been from a different part of the country altogether and so unused to the local way of pronunciation. Reading this book has made me realise why I have been telling people to think about how a name sounded!

While on the subject of Vicars; I knew that Church of England incumbents may well have had more than one ‘living’, having a curate in place to look after the parish where they did not live. But I had just not considered the fact that the ‘livings’ may have been many miles apart, even in different parts of the country!

Then there was the Militia. Before I read this book, I did know a little about the part-time local force, but that information has now been considerably fleshed out after reading a case study involving a pensioner sergeant. I had forgotten, for example, that in peacetime the sergeants were appointed to permanent posts and sometimes received pensions for long service that may have created a record. That they may have been posted away from their original town, or village, to a full time position at the militia headquarters and thus their wife may hail from that town and their children would be born there.

Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestor

I was reminded that an illegitimate child could be referred to as a ‘bastard’ in the church registers, or as a ‘natural born’ son or daughter when they were acknowledged by the father. In my family, if we go back into the 17th century, we have a ‘natural born son’ who is gifted a parcel of land from his father’s holding and thus could be seen to have been acknowledged.

Other revelations from reading this book, that some may find interesting, include how the change of the meaning of the title ‘Gentleman’ took place between the early 18th century and today. Family historians should also know that Mrs came from the word Mistress and was not always a prefix for a married woman, but had once identified the status of a person. This could be very useful to help identify which of two similarly named women in an area was the member of your family.

John Wintrip also reminds his readers of the different meanings that were once attached to the occupation of Clerk, Pensioner, Commoner and Invalid – very different from the modern meanings.

 

I have been greatly stimulated in reading this book as it has reminded me of facts that I had learnt and long since forgotten; taught me new ones; and made me think about the sources and the specific records that I may use when tracing my pre-Victorian ancestors. With a wider knowledge of the historical context, a researcher can often make progress in finding their ancestors. John Wintrip focuses on how to do the research and also gives his readers some of the practical steps that can help them to break down their brick walls.

Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip is published by Pen & Sword Books

 

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The ScotlandsPeople website relaunched

scotlandspeople website

This week saw the relaunch of ScotlandsPeople website under its new operators, CACI. For years it had been run for the Scottish Government by the people behind FindMyPast, but they relinquished their franchise and this week saw the new site appear, albeit a little later than expected.

 

The top genealogy website for tracing your Scottish ancestors because it contains millions of documents held by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) – now boasts an enhanced search facility and new user interface that is designed from the start to be accessible on a range of devices.

There has been a slight increase in the price of purchasing pay-per-view credits from £7 to £7.50 for 30 credits, but users are no longer charged for accessing statutory index entries to birth, marriage, death, Old Parish Register and Open Census records.

If, like me you had been a previous user then, all credits, saved images and searches from the old version of the website are still be available to users once you log into the new platform.

 

I have spent a profitable time this weekend searching out some of my Scots forebears in the Old Parish Records, finding a number of my ancestors in 18th century Fife. I was particularly pleased to find a marriage in 1719 in the parish of Wemyss that looks like it could be relevant for my maternal family tree.

Family Tree on a computer

If you have any Scottish ancestry then now is a good time to take a look at the records on this website: www.ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk

The ScotlandsPeople website  is the official Scottish Government site for searching government records and archives and is used by hundreds of thousands of people each year to apply for copies of official certificates and to research family history, biography, local history and social history.


 

 

You may also be interested in this book…

 

tracing-your-scottish-ancestors

This fully revised second edition of Ian Maxwell’s Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors is a lively and accessible introduction to Scotland’s long, complex and fascinating story. It is aimed primarily at family historians who are eager to explore and understand the world in which their ancestors lived.

He guides readers through the wealth of material available to researchers in Scotland and abroad. He looks at every aspect of Scottish history and at all the relevant resources. As well as covering records held at the National Archives of Scotland, he examines closely the information held at local archives throughout the country. He also describes the extensive Scottish records that are now available on line.

His expert and up-to-date survey is a valuable handbook for anyone who is researching Scottish history because he explains how the archive material can be used and where it can be found. For family historians, it is essential reading as it puts their research into a historical perspective, giving them a better insight into the part their ancestors played in the past.

Read more about this book here:
http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Scottish-Ancestors-Paperback/p/6132

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Norfolk Parish Records now completed by TheGenealogist

This week the team over at TheGenealogist announced the completion of thier project to release fully searchable Norfolk Parish Records online. For anyone with ancestors from this county this is brilliant news.

  • Over 6.23 million new searchable Norfolk Parish Records released in partnership with the Norfolk Record Office
  • This final tranche includes over 5.95 million records for Norfolk
  • Plus more than 276,000 records relating to the boundary areas of Suffolk
  • Adding to the 3.6 million individuals already released earlier

TheGenealogist has successfully completed a project to release over 9.8 million fully searchable records for the registers of baptisms, marriages, marriage banns and burials for Norfolk with images of the original registers.

It is now easier than ever to research Norfolk ancestors in the parish registers of this Eastern English county. With some of the surviving records reaching back as far as the early 1500s, this is a fantastically rich resource for family historians to use for discovering Norfolk ancestors.

Released in partnership with The Norfolk Record Office, the registers of baptisms, marriages, burials and banns of marriage cover the majority of parishes in the Diocese of Norwich. This also includes a number of Suffolk parishes in and near Lowestoft that make up the deanery of Lothingland. Also covered by this release are the parishes in the deanery of Fincham and Feltwell that were part of the Diocese of Ely in south-west Norfolk.

 

 

Examples of famous people to be found in these records include:

Edith Cavell, the First World War Nurse executed by the Germans for treason was born in the South Norfolk village of Swardeston. Her baptism can be found in the register of Swardeston for February 1866 where her father was the vicar and performed the christening ceremony. With a single click family historians can see an image of the actual entry in the parish register.

Edith Cavell baptism on TheGenealogist

 

Edith Cavell’s baptism record in the Norfolk Parish Register on TheGenealogist

 

Likewise, Horatio Nelson – who would grow up to become perhaps Britain’s best known naval hero of all time – was also baptised by his clergyman father. In Nelson’s case it was in the the village of Burnham Thorpe on the North Norfolk coast in 1758.

Nelson's birth record from TheGenealogist.co.ukHoratio Nelson’s baptism 1758 in the Norfolk Parish Registers on TheGenealogist

 

Another British seafaring hero, whose baptism can be found in the Norfolk parish records on TheGenealogist, is Henry George Blogg. He would grow up to become known as the “Greatest of the Lifeboatmen” and be highly decorated. In his case, however, it was not his father that baptised him. His entry in the register reveals a less than auspicious entry of this Norfolk hero into the world – the vicar wrote in the parish register of Cromer that Henry was “base born”. Blogg, however, became a skilled seaman and a lifeboatman. For the many rescues, that he took part in as the coxswain of the Cromer lifeboat, he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution no less than three times and also the RNLI silver medal four times. He was also honoured with the George Cross from the King, the British Empire Medal, and a series of other awards.

Henry Blogg in Cromer Parish Record 1876Norfolk Parish Registers on TheGenealogist: Henry Blogg’s baptism 1876

Five years after his birth, Henry’s mother, Ellen Blogg, married a fisherman called John Davies. It was this stepfather that taught Henry how to fish and the skills that he needed to be a highly competent seafarer. The marriage banns for Henry’s mother and stepfather can be found in the Banns book for the parish, within the new records on TheGenealogist. Their actual marriage can also be found recorded in the parish register for Cromer included in this new release. See the records at: www.thegenealogist.co.uk

Banns of Marriage 1881 Norfolk Parish Records on TheGenealogistBanns of Marriage records from the Norfolk Parish Registers on TheGenealogist

 

 

To search these any countless other useful family history records take a look at TheGenealogist now!

 

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Family History: Last Will & Testaments

 

Death of NelsonFinding Ancestor’s Wills

Wills are a valuable source of genealogical information for researching our ancestor’s family history. They can give us details of family members, places of residence and burial, as well as revealing details about possessions. Many researchers new to family history are surprised to find that all levels of society left wills and not just the wealthy.

That having been said, however, as this week has seen the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, on the 21st October 1805, I am going to take as my example the will of the great architect of that victory: Admiral Lord Nelson. Viscount Nelson, as most of us are aware from our history lessons, lost his life on that day on board his flag ship, HMS Victory.

 

I have accessed the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills on TheGenealogist website and by using the Master Search I entered the Forename: Horatio, and Surname of Nelson and then selected Wills from the drop-down menu.

With one click we can see below an image of the original will written, on the 10th May 1803.

Admiral Nelson's will

Who got what?

The last Will and Testament can reveal what an ancestor considered important to them by what they distribute to their family and friends. We can often discover the charities that they may have supported and perhaps, as in Nelson’s case, other people that they cared enough about to have specifically mentioned in the document.

Nelson, we can read, left the poor of three parishes a charitable donation. As for whom he considered important, his mistress, Lady Hamilton, is first in line with the gift of his Diamond Star and a silver cup. Next to receive a  bequest was his brother, the Rev. William Nelson D.D., who got the gold box that had been presented by the City of London to the Admiral. The Reverend Nelson was also left the gold sword that had been presented by the Captains who had fought alongside Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. His two sisters are left a sword and a silver cup each and to his “worthy friend Captain Hardy”, Nelson left his telescopes, sea glasses and £100.

Last Wishes Betrayed

Codicils can reveal changes of mind by our ancestors, or simply an update of their last wishes. In Nelson’s case he was aware that he was going into battle and may not survive the day when he wrote a final codicil “in sight of the combined fleets of France and Spain” poignantly he was correct in that assumption.

A click on the record on TheGenealogist and, with a bit of practice to decipher the handwriting, we can make out the words of praise that he heaps on Lady Hamilton for the help she has given to her country. It would seem that the Admiral believed she had been overlooked for a reward for her diplomacy on behalf of Britain.

 

Nelson's codicil

Nelson appeals to the King and Country that, should he die “ample provision to maintain her rank in life” should be given to his mistress. It would seem providing for Lady Emma Hamilton and, by inference, his illegitimate daughter Horatia lay heavy with Nelson as he saw the enemy fleets on the horizon.

On that very afternoon the Admiral was fatally wounded by a single musket ball and died.

HMS Victory and the spot where Neslon Fell

Despite his last wishes, the government awarded various moneys to Nelson’s family instead and ignored Lady Hamilton and Horatia. Emma ended up in the King’s Bench Debtors Prison, along with her daughter, before running away from her creditors and going to live in Calais. When Lady Hamilton died in 1815, aged 49, Horatia went to live with one of Nelson’s sisters and eventually she married a clergyman to live quietly with a large family of ten children as a vicar’s wife back in England.

 

To search for your ancestor’s wills and countless other useful records take a look at TheGenealogist now.

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Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh friends

 

Welsh Flag

 

A Happy St David’s day to all my Welsh friends and readers of this blog.

While many of the records for doing Welsh family history are the same as those for neighbouring England, there are some differences when it comes to researching in Wales, or Cymru as it is known in its own language.

For those of us used to finding our family records in the County Record Offices in England will discover that much is the same in Wales. Researchers will find that records of registration of births, deaths and marriages are exactly the same in Wales as in England, and that the Registrar General’s indexes cover both England and Wales.

The census is the same, except for an extra question from 1891 when all those aged 3 and over were asked whether they spoke English only, Welsh only, or both languages.

Anglican parish records are the same as those for England, and are kept in local authority archives in the same way.

Some of the differences, however, that can cause us to stumble are Common names, the favouring of Patronymics, the Welsh language, and that many families were not members of the Established Church.

Nonconformity, being more important in Wales than in some parts of England, may mean that you find that your ancestors didn’t go to the local parish church. In many chapels the language used was Welsh, and some of the records may also be in Welsh.

Because the country has its own language English speakers may find the place names to be unfamiliar to them.

Another difference, from the English system, is that in England the County Record Offices are (in most cases) the diocesan record offices and therefore hold all the records of the diocese, such as Wills, bishop’s transcripts and marriage bonds and licences, as well as parish records. In Wales, the National Library of Wales is the diocesan record office for the whole of Wales, and therefore holds all the bishop’s transcripts, marriage bonds and licences, and Wills proved in Welsh church courts.

The National Library of Wales or Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru is very important for our research as it acts as the main repository for family history research in Wales holding a vast number of records useful to the family historian – census returns, probate records, nonconformist records and tithe maps, to name but a few, will help at some point during research.

Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources to use to find elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Hearth Tax Records from 1662 identify a family

HearthI have been looking into the English family tree for a client that lives on the other side of the world recently.

It was easy, using the census and BMDs to quickly trace the family line back from Surrey and the South London area in the 1960s to Shoreham in Kent around the middle of the 18th Century. There then followed a nice trail, in the parish church registers, of one generation after the next being baptised following obvious marriages of the parents. Suddenly, however, I lost the connection as one set of parents seemed not to have conveniently married in St Peter and St Paul, Shoreham.

As it happened I had noticed that the Hearth Tax Online website http://www.hearthtax.org.uk/ had published a 1664 Kent Hearth Tax list and with one click I was able to see the return of names for the various parishes of the county.

Scrolling to Shoreham I found one incidence of the client’s family surname and so we can suppose that if we could trace his line back that this is where it would point to.

While this Hearth Tax payer in Shoreham may have been an ancestor, I can not advise my client that this is definitely so. What I have told him is that his family may well have been living in this village at the time that Charles II’s government hit on the idea of taxing his citizens at 2 shilling a hearth in the late 17th century. It helps us see where the tree is possibly pointing as we do more research in the primary records.

Hearth Tax Online

The hearth tax was a type of property tax on the dwellings of the land payable according to the number of fireplaces the occupiers had. The 1662 Act introducing the tax stated that ‘every dwelling and other House and Edifice …shall be chargeable ….for every firehearth and stove….the sum of twoe shillings by the yeare’. The money was to be paid in two equal instalments at Michaelmas (the 29th September) and Lady Day (25th March) by the occupier or, if the house was empty, by the owner according to a list compiled on a county basis and certified by the justices at their quarterly meetings. These quarterly meetings conducted within each county were known as the Quarter Sessions. The lists of householders were an essential part of the administration so that the returns of the tax could be vetted and for two periods 1662-6 and 1669-74, one copy of the relevant list was returned to the Exchequer and another was held locally by the clerk of the peace who administered the Quarter Sessions.

Taken from the Hearth Tax Online website http://www.hearthtax.org.uk/ 

 

Learn more about resources you can use to find elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course:

 

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Wolf Hall and family history

Thomas Cromwell

You may have been watching the BBC’s dramatization of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” on television. The lead character in the book and television series, is Thomas Cromwell a man born into a working class family who rises to be the right hand man of Cardinal Wolsey, at one time King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. Cromwell managed to survive the fall from grace of Wolsey and went on to become the King’s Chief Minister until his own downfall.

The connection between this man and we family historians, with ancestors in England and Wales, is that Thomas Cromwell is responsible for the fact that we are able to trace many of our ancestors back in the documents created by the parish churches across the land.

The Parish registers for baptisms, marriages and burials, were first introduced into the Church of England in 1538 by Cromwell as Henry VIII’s Vicar General and Vice regent, a position that gave him power to supervise the church.

Cromwell required that every parish church was to acquire a sure coffer (that is, a parish chest) within which their records could be securely stored. While the parish chest was not a new idea, they could have been found in churches up and down the land all the way back to medieval times, what was new, in Tudor times, was the notion that Cromwell dictated that accurate records were to be kept and the responsibility to do so was placed on the parish officials to keep these records safe.

The parish chest were often no more than a hollowed out tree trunk that was secured with three locks. The keys were to be kept by the Bishop, the Priest and by a religious layman.

By the mid-1500’s the parishioners in every parish of the land were instructed by law to provide a strong chest with a hole in the upper part thereof, and having three keys, for holding the alms for the poor. Another chest may have been used to keep safe the church’s plate and this or the first chest would also double up as a place where the parish registers and other parish documents could be kept safe. In some places only one chest would have sufficed for both purposes, while in other parishes two or more may have been used.

So the debt we owe to Thomas Cromwell is that he introduced parish registers, some of which have survived pests, fire and flood back through the generations and provide us today with names of ancestors stretching back generations.

If you want to know more about what documents to use to find your elusive ancestors then join the Family History Researcher Academy to learn where to look and what resources to use.

 

If you are new to English/Welsh family history research then I’ve got a FREE quick read tip sheet for you.

Fill in your email and name and I’ll send you this pdf called 6 Professional Genealogist’s Tips that is distilled from interviews done with several professional genealogists.

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