ONLINE RECORDS REVEAL OVER 360 YEARS OF STAFFORDSHIRE HISTORY

Findmypast logoOne of my clients has family from Staffordshire and he was bemoaning the lack of records he could find online.

Well now the UK family history website findmypast.co.uk has published online for the first time over 2.8 million parish records in partnership with Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service as the final instalment of Findmypast’s 100in100 promise to release 100 record sets in 100 days.

 

Spanning 1538 to 1900, the parish records launched today mark the start of an exciting project to create the Staffordshire Collection on Findmypast – a rich source, which on completion will comprise around 6 million fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of handwritten parish records.

 

The Collection covers all Staffordshire Anglican parish registers up to 1900 deposited with the Archive Service and includes over 3,400 registers recording the baptisms, marriages and burials carried out in the ancient county. This will include the City of Stoke on Trent and parishes now within the City of Wolverhampton, as well as the Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall.

 

The lives of many notable Potteries folk are recorded in the Collection. Captain of industry and prominent abolitionist, Josiah Wedgwood, the man who established the Wedgwood company in 1754, industrialised the manufacture of pottery for the first time and created the famous “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” anti-slavery medallion, appears in a baptism register. Born on 12 July 1730, Josiah was baptised the same day at St John’s church in Burslem. His grand-daughter Emma Wedgwood, the future wife of Charles Darwin, also appears in the Collection.

These church records also provide some unexpected insights into significant events in Staffordshire’s colourful history. In a late 18th century register of baptisms from the parish of Alrewas, curate John Edmonds took it upon himself to record a narrative of local happenings, and this too can now be read online for the first time. Edmonds recounts details of a flood that swept two bridges away, an earthquake that rocked the parish in 1795, a series of local riots over food shortages and even a lightning strike that killed 3 cows and 2 horses. He also recorded events of national significance, such as King George III being fired upon with an air gun on his way to parliament.

 

The Potteries proud manufacturing history is well represented in the Collection. Other important potters in the records include William Moorcroft, Potter to the Queen by Royal Warrant, and founder of the Moorcroft pottery that supplied stores such as Liberty & Co and Tiffany New York. There’s also Thomas William Twyford, inventor of the single piece ceramic flush toilet and co-founder of Twyford Bathrooms, and John Aynsley, the founder of Aynsley China, one of the last remaining producers of bone china in Stoke on Trent.

Manufacturers are not the only famous Staffordians to be found in the records. Admiral of the Fleet and 1st Earl of St Vincent John Jervis, best remembered for his defeat of the Spanish fleet at the 1797 Battle of Cape Saint Vincent and his patronage of Horatio Nelson, was born at Meaford Hall in 1735.

Marriage registers from 1835 contain Burton upon Trent brewer and politician Michael Thomas Bass Jr, whose clever leadership saw Bass become the best known brand in Britain and the largest brewery in the world. Other famous figures include Francis Barber, a freed Jamaican slave, who became the manservant and beneficiary of Dr Johnson; William Thomas Astbury, the pioneering X-ray scientist; and legendary classical composer Havergal Brian.

The Staffordshire Collection adds to Findmypast’s already extensive cache of parish records, the largest available online. These records allow family historians to research as far back as the 1500s, and with more Staffordshire records still to be added to Findmypast, family historians from all over the world can now explore their more distant roots more easily than ever before, and uncover their Staffordshire, Black Country and Potteries ancestors.

The records were launched at an event at the Staffordshire Record Office by Findmypast, Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service and Staffordshire County Council Cabinet member for Children, Communities and Localism, Mike Lawrence.

You can view these exciting new records here: http://100in100.findmypast.co.uk/.

Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “From today, anyone, wherever they are in the world, will be able to go online and discover whether they have Staffordshire roots. These really are fascinating parish records, full of colourful insights, and you might even be able to get your family tree as far back as 1538, when Henry VIII was on the throne!“

Mike Lawrence, Cabinet member for Community at Staffordshire County Council said: “We are very proud of our heritage here in Staffordshire and this is the start of an exciting partnership with Findmypast to bring 6 million names online for people to search through. The project will give family historians from across the world an opportunity to delve into our rich past and learn more about our great county.

“We also want to encourage more people from the county to explore their own family history, and access to the Staffordshire Parish Registers on Findmypast will be free in Archive Service offices and libraries across Staffordshire.”



Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post

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Jersey Marriage Records

Jersey FlagI was doing a bit of research, this week, on a person who had been part of an Army family that moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands, at the end of the 19th century from England.

From the 1891 census I could see that this young girl, aged 14, was listed as a Daughter and was living in the household of a Colour Sergeant and his wife in the Parish of St Saviour. By the time of the next census, in 1901, they had moved a few miles further east, within the island, to the Arsenal in the Parish of Grouville. The head of the household would seem to be listed as a Quarter Master Sergeant, on the permanent staff for the Royal Jersey Militia Infantry and his daughter as a Music Teacher.

Using the various online databases at The Genealogist.co.uk, Ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk, the next time that the daughter appears, in any of their records, was in the probate records for her mother back in England in the 1930s. From this we see that the daughter has married, revealing her new surname. But there seems to be no record for the marriage in any of the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands are British Islands that are not, of  course, part of the U.K. and they have their own administrations and their own marriage registers.

None of the Jersey marriage records are online and so on one of my visits to the Lord Coutanche Library at La Societe Jersiaise, in St Helier, I took the time to consult their copies of the indexes to the island’s marriages. If you have read the guest post by James McLaren on this blog on Jersey BMD records after 1842 as part of the Jersey Family History Section, you will know that this is a somewhat lengthy affair as they are not kept quarterly, like in England, but are simply run until they are filled up. Indexing is alphabetical by the first letter of the surname only, being added to the list in the order that the marriages take place. Each parish runs indexes for Anglican and non-Anglican marriages and in St Helier, the town parish, each C of E church has its own index.

I was faced with the prospect of going through thirty or so indexes, looking for the chance marriage of this couple at some unknown date after the 1901 census. My best guess was to start with the Parish of Grouville, where she had been resident in 1901. Sadly, I had no luck and so I began the trawl through the different parish indexes until I hit St Helier.

There, in 1902, at the main Parish Church of St Helier, married by the Dean of Jersey, G.O.Balleine, was my research targets! It had taken me hours of persistence to find them and, with quite some satisfaction, I now noted down the details on my pad. I would need the Parish, the dates between which the index ran, the Page number and the bride and grooms names to obtain a certified extract from the Superintendent Registrar’s Office in the island, on payment of the required £20.  The time it had taken me to find them, however, meant that this office was now closed for the day. They are only open to the public on weekday mornings and then only when no civil weddings are taking place at the office.

The next day, however, I was able to request the certificate and collect it the day after. A speculative search had revealed the Jersey marriage of this couple in September 1902. A good result and another piece in the puzzle of this family’s research.

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Researching family in Jersey, part 5: Nailing down dates without certificates

Jersey Archive
Jersey Archive

As I mentioned last time, there are occasions where you find something in the BMD indexes and you can’t get to Royal Square in time to see the certificates. But there are two sets of data in the Archive that can help you to nail dates of marriages and deaths down.

The first is what is referred to as the “third copy” of the marriage registers. Individual parishes maintain their own registers and then send copies of the certificates to the Superintendent Registrar to compile the full volumes. However, in between the two the Superintendent Registrar maintains draft registers – and it is this that the Archive now possesses.

To access the draft registers, you need to use the Reference search facility on the OPAC. The collection reference you need is D/E: this will get you to the top of the collection. Reference D/E/B covers the third copy, and you will find that it’s divided into individual collections from specific Church of England churches and general collections of nonconformist and civil marriages from 7 parishes. It’s not quite a complete set, but the vast majority of material is there and you will find that most of the time there is at least some degree of correlation between the indexes and the draft registers.

As far as recording deaths goes, the simple answer is that there will almost always be a burial shortly afterwards. There are two ways that you can attack this problem: one is to look at the records kept by the cemeteries, and the other is to check the funeral directors. Cemetery records exist for two of St Helier’s major burial grounds – Almorah and Mont à l’Abbé – between about 1860 and 1950, and there are also records for some of the other burial grounds around the island including Macpéla, the non-conformist cemetery at Sion Village. These are all in folders in the reading room. One cautionary word: women are indexed by their maiden name only (although the married name is given).

The Archive also received a major deposit from a local funeral director the other year, containing records of seven of their predecessor companies, some of which go back to about 1820. Again, you’ll need to use the OPAC’s Reference Search, and this time the collection reference is L/A/41. Be aware that for any given period you may have to look at two or three different companies’ books – but feel free to enlist the help of the volunteer from the Channel Islands Family History Society if you need advice. These records are fascinating, because they will tell you not only who was buried when, but how – the relative spends on funerals vary from parsimonious to lavish – and also who paid for it.

Death is one of the great certainties in life: taxation is the other, and we’ll take a look at that next time. Until then – À bétôt!

Guest blog by James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society

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Family Search and the Family Historian

I have been on my own family search quest for several years now. Some of the foremost websites that I have used in this time include the world famous familysearch.org, run by the Latter Day Saints and often referred to as LDS; Ancestry, operated by the Generations Network;  The Genealogist.co.uk;  Genes Reunited and   Findmypast.com. (Disclosure re these links: Compensated Affiliate.)

FamilySesarch, however, is one of the biggest genealogy organizations in the world and as such is an important on-line tool for any family historian. Countless millions of us will search the records, resources, and services of this website to learn more about our family history each year. For more than a century the people behind it have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide. Today, the users of the site are able to freely access the database, including the International Genealogical Index as well as church member contributed material, on-line at FamilySearch.org, or through over 4,500 family history centres in 70 countries.

The Internet resource is provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whom you may be more familiar with as the Mormon Church. Their commitment to helping people make a connection with their ancestors comes from their belief that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue into the after life. From this they therefore believe that all family members including those living, past, and those from the future, share an enduring bond which stretches across the generations.

Their website does not require you to share their beliefs at all, but is open to all of us to use what ever our creed, or culture is. It is a very useful resource for anyone engaged in the detective work involved in tracing one’s family tree.

The International Genealogical Index and Hugh Wallis.

Once you have keyed in your ancestor’s name into the search box you will be accessing a compilation of entries from baptism and marriage registers drawn from parishes and their equivalent from all over the world. Although it is a site run from the USA, for those of us with UK roots it still very relevant as it represents us well with index records. Some English counties in particular having excellent coverage.

The site, however, has certain issues in the way that you can search it. One of which is it is not always simple to find your ancestors even when they are there to be found in the IGI – which, of course, is not always the case. The reason why you may not find them is because to search by last name only is not permitted by the site’s search engine, unless you search within a single batch of records at a time or, across the entire country! You will probably understand that a search for a last name across the whole of England is a very tall order indeed. Remember it is not even a search of a single county, let alone a town that we are talking about here. If you have a rare name then perhaps it might be OK to do, but if you are looking for a Smith or a Jones then you are asking the impossible.

I have learnt that there is a way around this problem. It is to use a really handy website set up by an enthusiast to aid the family history researcher find their way around the FamilySearch site. What is more, it helps us know what registers are available on the IGI. The secret weapon to crack open the Family Search site is the website maintained by Hugh Wallis: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~hughwallis/IGIBatchNumbers.htm

The possible ranges he allows you to access are the Births/Christenings and Marriages for the British Isles, Canada and the USA. I really cannot recommend this tool highly enough to you. With it you may select a geographic location, see the churches and chapels for that area and then, by typing in the last name of your ancestor, it will use the search engine on FamilySearch to allow you to easily examine all the batches for that surname in the town or area that you are concentrating on.

Some Issues With the IGI.

Please remember, when doing your research, that the International Genealogical Index:

is incomplete – and this applies not only on a parish by parish basis, but to within parishes as well where gaps may also be found to confound you

– is compiled from several different types of record including information submitted by members of the LDS church supplying information that can sometimes be plain inaccurate and not having come from the original parish register

– has countless mistakes caused by problems associated with interpreting handwriting and also the previously noted member submitted entries

– does not, except for a few cases, cover burials;

– is only an index and so you really should not ever considered it to be a substitute for looking at the original record.

A short while ago, as I tried to get back a generation from where the census records on line had stopped in 1841, I found I was having to turn to the Parish Records. For my Scottish line I was able to use the easily accessed old parish records (OPR) on Scotlandspeople.gov.uk website, but for my English line the lack of scanned records meant the challenge of learning how to break into this area of family history research was a fascinating test for me.

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