I’ve just had an email from Ancestry and have immediately checked out their new records of Civil and Mechanical Engineers to see if I could find any of my engineer ancestors. If you have any that followed this career path then I’d recommend you too have a look now!
Just before I jump back to the data, that I have open in another window, here is their press release…
Today Ancestry.co.uk, has launched online for the first time the Civil and Mechanical Engineer Records, 1820-1930, detailing almost 100,000 of Britainâ€™s brightest inventors and innovators from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The digitised records were collated from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and reveal fascinating details about the institutionsâ€™ members, including pioneers of automobiles, bicycles and even hydropower.
Many were behind some of the notable inventions of the age, including one of the foremost designers of the internal combustion engine (Ricardo) and even an early sniper rifle (Whitworth). Others created some weird and wonderful designs, including a cucumber straightener (Stephenson), an elaborate mousetrap, and early forms of amusement rides (both Maxim).
The collection comprises membership records and photographs of engineers who were members of both institutions between 1820 and 1930, and provides a unique insight into their careers and accomplishments.
Before the 1700s, engineers in Europe had been almost all military men. Although civil engineering work had been carried out before then, it had not been recognised as an identifiable profession. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was formed in 1818 with a mission to â€˜foster and promote the art of civil engineeringâ€™.
Founded in 1847, IMechE was formed for the growing number of mechanical engineers who were employed in the flourishing railway and manufacturing industries. The institutionâ€™s first president, rail pioneer George Stephenson is known for designing the â€˜Geordie lampâ€™ used by miners. A record of Stephensonâ€™s membership appears in the collection, along with a photograph.
Other famous engineers who appear in the collection include:
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel â€“ Brunel was known for building dockyards, the Great Western Railway, a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship and numerous important bridges and tunnels. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering. Brunelâ€™s membership form for the Civil Engineers isincluded in the collection, dated 27 January 1829.
- Sir John Rennie â€“ In 1815 Rennie assisted his father, who was another famous engineer, in the erection of Southwark Bridge, and later undertook the construction of London Bridge in 1824, which was opened in 1831, the same year he was knighted. His membership was passed by the council of the Mechanical Engineers in 1844 after â€˜many years in the professionâ€™.
- Christopher Hinton â€“ Hinton was a British nuclear engineer and supervisor of the construction of Calder Hall, the world’s first large-scale commercial nuclear power station. Born in 1901, Hintonâ€™s application to join the Mechanical Engineers is in the records, dated 1921. Â
Sir F Henry Royce is another famous engineer listed in the records; he is known globally as the co-founder of the quintessentially British Rolls-Royce manufacturing company where his engineering legacy lives on today. Frederick W.Â Lanchester, another of the so-called â€˜big threeâ€™ English car engineers, celebrated for his innovative work on gas and petrol engines as well as his laterÂ researchÂ into aeronautics and flight theory, is also featured.
Aside from cars, prolific railway engineer ThomasÂ Brassey appears in the records. Upon his death in 1870,Â BrasseyÂ was responsible for one in every 20 miles of railway in the world. Irishman Thomas Andrews is also listed as the chief naval architect of the ill-fated Titanic and he lost his life on its maiden voyage in 1912.
ICE received a royal charter in 1828 and by the end of the 19th century had become both an educational and qualifying body when it introduced examinations for civil engineers.
IMechE started graduate examinations in 1913 and elected its first female member, Verena Holmes, in 1924. She got her first job building wooden propellers at the Integral Propeller Company in Hendon and went on to patent many of her own inventions including medical headlamps, poppet valves and apparatus for treating patients with tuberculosis. ICEâ€™s first female member, Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan, is also included in the records, becoming a member in 1927.
Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.uk comments: â€œIncluded within this collection are some of the brightest brains Britain has ever produced, who were responsible for some of the countryâ€™s most iconic landmarks and feats of innovative design. Today, as it was then, engineering is a vital part of the countryâ€™s economy and it is fascinating to be able to learn more about the men and women who established this legacy.
â€œNot only do these records provide a unique insight into engineering during the 19th and 20th centuries but they will provide a valuable resource for anybody trying to trace an ancestor within the collection.â€
The new database comprises three collections; the Mechanical Engineer Records, 1870-1930, the Civil Engineer Records, 1820-1930 and the Civil Engineer Photographs, 1829-1923, each of which is available to view from today online at Ancestry.co.uk.