Beware of those family history stories!

Manuscript This week I was researching a case-study to write for a magazine and I came across a local newspaper article that spun a fabulous story about my subject.

I had already traced my man in many of the online records and so I had the basis of my own piece planned and was just doing the usual Google search to see what else was out there.

The story the newspaper had was that the man had put his mother into the workhouse when his father had died. As if that was not extreme enough, he was alleged to have never spoken to her again!

The trouble with this story was that I had already found the death record of the mother two years before the demise of her husband and thus making it an impossible yarn! What was more – the nonconformist minister had very obligingly annotated the entry to supply extra information about the death that I could reveal in my own article. A sad and very different story that I can’t reveal here as its reserved for the advertorial when that comes out around November.

Stoneywell typewriter

 

I once had a client who had been told as a boy that his relative had ‘fallen from his horse’ to his death. This turned out to be a cover for his ancestor dying young in an asylum, something which I uncovered by finding the death index record and then buying the death certificate.

 

Another client asked me to find their great grandfather; who had been an eminent medical man in his time. They knew a fair bit about him, from family stories, but they were actually a generation astray.  When I turned to the actual records I could find that the famous man was not their grandmother’s father at all, but was actually their 2x great grandfather.

 

The moral of these tales are that while you should listen to family stories, you shouldn’t believe everything that you are told and always seek to verify the facts in the records. If possible go to the primary records such as the birth, marriage and death certificates, or the church registers. But always remember that even in these sources convenient white lies may lurk there to throw you off the scent!

People make up stories, sometimes it is to hide something that may have been shocking to our ancestors at the time. The innocent story gets retold and embellished and morphs into something different and gets told over again. Not all these tales will end up being published in the newspapers, but some will, like the mother who was reputed to have been put in the workhouse and forgotten.

There is a saying that ‘you shouldn’t believe all that you read in the newspapers’ – but despite this sage advice a lot of us do just that! We should also keep a healthy dose of scepticism when listening to family accounts. While we should definitely listen to the stories that our elders tell, it is best to check out the details to see if the records back up the story before attaching it to the family tree.

 

I deal with this topic further in my course on English & Welsh family history available online at:

https://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/course

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The fear of the Workhouse – New Poor Law of 1834

 

Poor Law

I wanted to share with you today a little about the Poor Law of England and Wales before I incorporate this into an expanded new module in my English/Welsh family history tutorials.

For years the ecclesiastic houses up and down the country were responsible for looking after the poor and so as consequence of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the problem passed to the government.

The old Elizabethan Poor Law was devolved to the Parish Vestry to administer. This was a council of officials from the parish and an arm of local government with responsibilities that covered more than just the church whose vestry they may have used in which to meet.

While the funds used to support the poor of England and Wales were collected in a standard manner, by charging rates to land holders, the individual parishes had discretion in how to deal with their paupers. This is explained in more detail at the beginning of a fascinating webinar by Paul Carter, from the National Archives, in his online seminar: http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/webinar-people-fear-victorian-workhouse/

The expense of looking after the poor had been growing year by year up to 1834 and as it was being funded by the middle and upper classes in each town there was a real suspicion amongst this section of society that they were paying the poor to be lazy and avoid work.

After some years of annoyance to the rate payers, a new Poor Law was introduced by the government in 1834 and this new Poor Law was meant to reduce the cost of looking after the poor and also bring in a universal system across all the country.

Under the new Poor Law, parishes were grouped into unions and, if they hadn’t already got one, then each union was required to build a workhouse to serve its area. Except in special circumstances, poor people could now only get help if they were prepared to leave their homes and ask to go into a workhouse.

Conditions inside the workhouse were made to be unpleasant and deliberately harsh, so that only those who were so desperate for help would ask to be admitted. Families were split up and housed in different parts of the workhouse, males and females in different wings. The inmates were made to wear a uniform and the diet was monotonous, while breaking the rules could deprive a person of the normal rations as a punishment.

Southwell Workhouse

Inmates, male and female, young and old were made to work hard, often doing unpleasant jobs such as picking oakum or breaking stones. To get an impression of what it was like you can visit the National Trust’s Southwell Workhouse as I did. The damage that unpicking old ropes, to recycle the oakum, did to the hands of people who may once have worked in Nottinghamshire’s silk and lace industry meant that they would not be able to get work again and seems rather harsh. You can see what picking oakum looked like from my picture in the post I wrote after my visit to Southwell.

Children or the poor may have been hired out to work in factories or mines by the Board of Guardians of the workhouse, something that we find hard to understand today.

As many of our ancestors would have been poor, it is a sobering thought that this feared institution was a huge threat hanging over a worker should they became unemployed, sick or old. Not surprisingly the new Poor Law was hated by the poor as it seemed to punish people for falling on hard times even when it was through no fault of their own.

 

A well recommended website for doing more research is Peter Higginbotham’s http://www.workhouses.org.uk/

 

If you would like to learn more about English and Welsh ancestor research then you may be interested in taking a look at my family history course.

English/Welsh family history course on tablet computer

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Family History records for Portsea Island workhouse ancestors

 

Portsmouth Library and History Centre

Last week I was in Portsmouth and took advantage of an opportunity to pop into The Portsmouth History Centre which is on the second floor of the Portsmouth Central Library near the Guildhall.

It comprises of the City Records Office Archive as well as holding the library resources on Portsmouth family, local and naval history plus the Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens collections.

My interest was in the Portsea Workhouse, an institution in which my 3 x great-grandmother, Martha Malser, had died as an inmate in February 1870 aged 70. While the History Centre have the workhouse Creed registers from 1879 to 1953, which served as admission registers, the earlier records have very sadly not survived. This being the case meant I was unable to do any personal family history research this time.

Portsea Workhouse
© Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

I was, however, able to call up the Board of Guardians minute books for the time that my ancestor was living under their care in her old age. While not giving me any direct references to Martha it was an extremely interesting bit of research as it gave me a flavour of the organisation and an insight into its operation. For others, this could be a goldmine of family information.

These Board of Guardians minute books are a very name rich set of documents for those with ancestors who were officials, or who worked for the workhouse. Names were also recorded for suppliers to the institution of food, clothing, coal etc. This could be another opportunity for some researchers to find their family members mentioned, although often the supplier was simply noted by his surname alone. So you may see Jones £2 3s 6d, or Smith £0 4s 8d.

 

I read about the appointments made for named schoolmasters, matrons and various other officials to the workhouse. The records detail the taking of references for these people and the salaries that the Union would pay the successful candidates.

There was an interesting entry where the Board set out the duties they expected of the new clergyman. The number of days he was required to attend to the inmates spiritual needs, inside the workhouse, and the Eucharist services that he should provide for the workhouse inmates on the Sabbath.

Perhaps the most useful information for family historians, contained within these Board of Guardians minute books, was the records of people receiving “out relief”. Those who had become sick and were able to get some parish relief while not having to enter the workhouse. If your ancestor had fallen on hard times then these entries would give you both a surname and a first name, a place, the amount of out relief and also the reason for receiving the payment.

Most of the sicknesses that I read were general, such as “confinement”. I did read of some injuries such as back and leg, which would be expected of working men and women, though I did note one case of syphilis! Presumably this person was considered to be worthy of the care of the parish, so perhaps they were innocently infected with the disease.

To read more about the workhouse I recommend Peter Higginbotham’s site:
http://www.workhouses.org.uk/

There are also some modules on the workhouses and the Poor laws within the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History See the special Trial Offer running currently by clicking this link: http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer.

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Twiggy’s Family History on Who Do You Think You Are?

 

wdytya2014_twiggy  In the last of the present series and in a show that was the 100th from the BBC of the gripping genealogical programme, we were treated to 60’s icon, model and fashion designer Twiggy.

And what a great show it was.

Twiggy’s Who Do You Think You Are? research revealed that she has a family history story filled with colourful characters, leading lives as eventful as her own has been.

The story of her great-great-grandmother who turned to crime “uttering forged coins” (passing them in payment) and spending time in a Victorian prison. The same woman and her daughter who were prosecuted for stealing a significant amount of money from the girls employer. The mother, having taken all the responsibility and being convicted, doing hard labour.

Others who ended up in the workhouse and the tale of the parish, when faced with having to support the inmates of this harsh institution, prosecuted the husband for abandonment of his wife and children and had him committed to jail with hard labour.

The fact that the convicted man’s occupation was that of a Slater, a hard job dependent on seasonal employment and from his death records we discover that he had a strangulated hernia. All of which point to another era when the welfare state did not exist to provide the safety net that we all so much take for granted today.

So why did the Workhouse exist? Why was there such fear on the part of the administrators of the Parish Poor Relief that they made conditions harsher than those that a labourer on the outside had to endure?

Workhouse tasks
Picking oakum (pulling apart old rope) was a punishment in prison for Twiggy’s 2x great-grandmother. It was also the task given to Workhouse inmates.

 

 

For centuries in England, those who fell on hard times would become the responsibility of their parish. The old poor law system had coped well enough until around 1800 new demands on the system caused the government to think again.

Unemployment had risen to new heights, a consequence of the growing industrialisation of the country that now needed less men to make the goods that previously had been created in the old cottage industries.

Another pressure on the poor law came from the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves.

Then, on top of this, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars caused a great many soldiers to return from France with no work to go to.

In today’s United Kingdom, we often refer to a North South divide with the balance being towards the richer South. In the 1800s the industrial north, with its large cotton mills and other factories, fared better than the South where fewer industries existed to employ those people who had previously worked on the land and were no longer required.

As the situation got worse for the government, by 1832 they believed that they had to overhaul the poor law system and the way in which the poor relief was distributed. A Royal Commission was asked to look into it and as a result parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

A belief was widely held in the country that the poor were often undeserving of the money. That they were idle if they had no work. Under the new Act Parishes were compelled to ban together into Poor Law Unions that often covered a 20 mile radius and each Union a Board of Guardians were chosen to administer the new system.

The biggest result of this change that could have affected your ancestors was the provision of a workhouse in each Union.

Five hundred plus of these Union Workhouses were constructed during the next 50 years with two-thirds of them having been built by 1840.

Although workhouses were not a new phenomenon, under the old system most of the unemployed would have received poor relief while continuing to live in their own homes (so called “out relief”).

Any parishioners, now needing help after the passing of the new law, were compelled to live inside the workhouse, where conditions were made as harsh as possible so as to discourage all but those who were desperate from applying.

Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.

On admission the poor would have to undress, have their clothes taken away from them until they were discharged. They would have had a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform of rough shapeless material. This stripping away of identity was all part of the discouragement from claiming indoor relief.

 

I have more on the Poor Laws, the Workhouse and Crime and punishment as just some of the many topics covered in my comprehensive Family History Researcher Academy course for anyone researching their English/Welsh family history. At the moment there is a Special Offer trial from the link on this page of £1 for the first two weeks!

Read what some of my past members have said:

“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years.  Kind regards. ” H.Stephens

“You communicate in an understandable way! Thank you for the modules that I have had so far” P.Martin.

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Who do you think you are? Family history programme delights many fans.

Mary Berry

This week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC was a bit more traditional in tracing Mary Berry’s family back through various record sets. From what I can see, on the forums and on facebook, this has please many people who don’t like the recent trend of just one ancestor being looked at in a programme in more depth.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this week’s, with Mary Berry being a great choice to investigate with some interesting  ancestors that made use of a large number of resources from the family history researcher’s tool box.

In defence for those other programmes, with the single subject, I would just like to say that one of the points that I was taught (and which I myself now teach in my own family history course) is that family history involves looking at the social context of our ancestors, as well as collecting names, dates and details.

We need to understand the world in which our ancestors lived and what was happening to make them be the people that they were. Perhaps these editions were simply trying to show this and in the confines of an hour long programme this naturally excluded all the other generations that  would appear on the celebrity’s family tree.

That said, it would seem that the popular vote is for the later type of WDYTYA? Viewers from the genealogy pages on facebook  would prefer to see a family tree being traced back and a little bit of detail being fleshed out on the poor unfortunate person who had fallen on difficult times or who had shown great grit.

As long as when we come to research our own family tree that we don’t make the mistake of simply collecting names, dates, perhaps an occupation and place or two and then move on to the next generation without thinking a little about the social context of our ancestors, then my vote is also with the Mary Berry type of programme, but only narrowly in favour!

 

As I wrote this post today I was casting my mind back over the show and counting off the data sets and resources used for which I have modules in my Family History Researcher course.

There was her ancestor who was the baker with the contract for supplying bread to the Workhouse and the Outdoor relief paupers (not really made clear in the programme as to what each were, probably because of time constraints). My module on the Poor Law explains the difference between indoor and outdoor relief.

There was also Christopher Berry Junior’s wife and 6 children who ended up in the workhouse with some of the children dying while inmates, but the segregation that would have taken place between children and parent was not mentioned. See my module on the Workhouse.

Mary Berry was shown the Trades Directory and especially the one that her ancestor had published. In my course I have a module on Trade Directories written by Mary Bayley of TheGenelogist that uses that website’s great resources to explain their usefulness to the family historian.

Mary Berry had an ancestor of the same name as her who was identified in the GRO vital records as having had a number of illegitimate children. The Parish Registers also confirmed this fact. I delve into these three areas in separate modules on the Birth Marriage and Death certificates (lesson 2), the Parish Records (5 and 8) and Illegitimate children (21).

Then there was old newspapers (lesson number 42), Bankruptcy (lesson 29), apprentices (lesson 15), death records (lesson 25) and probably more!

If anyone is new to our fascinating subject, or is a seasoned family history researcher who would like to be refreshed on English/Welsh researching then I have a £1 trial for two weeks on offer at the moment.

Click the image below to find out more.

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Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

 

Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Its here!

The largest family history show in the world!

 

This week (Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd) Who Do You Think You Are? Live comes to Olympia with stands from all the major genealogical websites, family history suppliers, expert advice, talks from celebrities from the TV programme and a myriad of workshops.

The Nosey Genealogist will be there too on stand 56 showcasing our Family History Researcher Beginners English & Welsh Family History Course. As a special show offer we have re-introduced the popular £1 trial membership of our course that gives you two weeks lessons and some free bonus content.

To take advantage of this either come along to our stall, number 56 on the ground floor, or head over to our special trial webpage at http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/WDYTYAcomp/

The Nosey Genealogists has gathered together in one fixed-term-membership site a collection of 52 weekly lessons that will aid the beginner in English & Welsh family history to become a more knowledgeable researcher.

Also of great value to the more advanced, the course explores the different resources, data sets and documents that can reveal more about your English or Welsh ancestors.

 Nick Thorne

Written from the practical point of view by Nick Thorne, an advanced beginner (as even the most experienced researcher is always learning more) and, with the aid of some lessons penned by professional genealogists, this course is delivered by email to your inbox to do at your own pace.

 

Topics covered in the 12 months include:

  • The census collections
  • The Parish records
  • The Parish Chest
  • Dade Registers
  • County Record offices and what valuable treasures they contain
  • Nonconformist
  • Religious records
  • Clandestine marriages
  • City and Town Directories
  • Census substitutes
  • Apprentices
  • Professionals
  • Army
  • Royal Navy
  • RAF
  • Merchant Navy
  • Illegitimacy
  • The Workhouse
  • Poor Law
  • Death records
  • Burial
  • Wills
  • Rural ancestors
  • Bankrupts
  • Black sheep
  • Genetics and DNA
  • Occupations
  • Maps and Charts
  • The National Archives
  • Other depositories
  • Family Search Centres
  • Passports
  • Manorial records
  • Newspapers
  • and more!

 

If you are attending the show then do please come over and say hello and tell us that you read this blog. You will then be able to enter our competition to win a free copy of our next product due out soon!

 

WDYTYA?LIVE Olympia 2010

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Workhouse Ancestors

 

After last week’s post about the Workhouse and my visit to the National Trust’s property of Southwell in Nottinghamshire, I was really pleased to have feedback from some of you about finding your own ancestors in the workhouse.

Then on Tuesday night there was the first part of  the “Secrets from the Workhouse” programme on ITV. Fantastic timing for me. And I also had the chance to recognise that much of the interior and exterior of Southwell House had been used in the filming of the show, to add atmosphere.

102_0370 On my visit I had been struck at how much smaller the rooms were than I had somehow expected to find. Also shocking was the basic lack of privacy that the inmates would have had to suffer in the confined space that they would have found themselves.

 

I could quite understand how, being on top of each other, that these people could end up fighting with each other as was evidenced by examples of records on display in the museum.

102_0377

The food was not of the highest quality, but for someone who had no other means to feed themselves, was at least available to them inside the institution. Breakfast was Milk Gruel and bread. The amount each inmate got depended on if they were an adult male, adult female or a child.

Lunch on a Sunday, Tuesday and a Thursday included 5 oz of meat for the adults and 4 oz for the children. To this was added 16 oz of potatoes and 5-6 oz of bread for the adults and less for the children. Supper was yet more Gruel and bread.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the hapless inmates had no meat or potatoes, but simply a broth for lunch and on  Saturdays they had Suet pudding instead!

That was, of course, unless part of it was stopped as a punishment.

Workhouse Punishment

In the records on show it was possible to see that certain inmates were stopped their meat or broth as a punishment for fighting and given 8 oz of bread or 1 lb of potatoes instead. You really do have to feel sorry for them.

 

There is much more on workhouse records in my new course on English Family History Research at: www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

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The Idle Poor and the Deserving

 

Southwell WorkhouseI have just been to Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire to look over an actual workhouse that is now run by the National Trust as a museum.

By doing this and seeing the layout of the accommodation, with its day rooms and exercise yards, my understanding of how these institutions worked has become clear.

 

In past times, before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the care of the poor members of the community fell to the monks in the various religious houses throughout England and Wales. With the reorganisation that the dissolution brought, those poor ancestors of ours who had the misfortune to fall on hard times, would then have become the responsibility of their parish.

Under this parish system, the old poor law had coped well enough until around the year 1800 when, under increasing demands being made on the system the authorities were forced to review the process for supporting the poor.

The situation was that unemployment had risen to new heights, as a result of the burgeoning industrialisation of the country. Britain now required less men to make the goods that had previously been manufactured by workers in the cottage industries.

On top of this the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves, added to the demand placed on the poor law system as it had been constituted.

As if this was not enough for the Government, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars had meant that a great number of soldiers now had come back from France and they had no work waiting for them at home.

The Deserving Poor.

In my family tree I was, at first, surprised that none of my ancestors seemed to have ended up in the workhouse. As I found more and more forebears I had become complacent that all my lot seemed to make it in the world without having to “Go On the Parish” and then I found one.

It was a sad shock for me as the lady in question had been the wife of a Master Mariner, the mother of several children who had all married and were making their way well in the world. But there she was in one of the census spending the end of her life in the workhouse!

Her husband was nowhere to be found in the census and so I speculated that he must have died abroad, not being able to find his death record. She, poor woman, had nowhere to go but into the workhouse.

But the workhouse was also a place where medical care could be given to those with little means in a time before the availability of free hospitals or medical insurance. So perhaps this explains why she was there? The deserving poor were segregated from the idle poor having different quarters and exercise yards.

The Idle Poor.

The number of workhouses had grown after the enactment of the Workhouse Test Act of 1723. The thinking behind this was that this new Act would help to prevent irresponsible claims being made on a parish’s poor rate. Something that concerned those who had to find the money to run the system as the funding of it was paid for by the wealthier members of the parish.

By the 1830s, in England and Wales, most parishes had at least one workhouse to send its poor to.

So what would any of our ancestors, unlucky enough to have found themselves in this position have faced? Those poor unfortunates who had no option but to seek “indoor relief” would have to endure unpalatable conditions inside the institution. It was designed to be thus so as to put people off from entering the workhouse unless they had run out of alternatives for survival outside.

Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.

On admission they would have to undress, surrender their own clothes until they were discharged, have a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform which was usually made of rough and shapeless material. This was all aimed at discouraging people from entering the system by stripping away part of their identity.

The belief, at the time, was that the undeserving poor were idle and so they were made to do tedious jobs. Inmates who were not aged or infirm would have to work for their keep. The jobs given to them were deliberately chosen to be monotonous and boring. At Southwell they would grind corn, pick oakum or, for the females, do laundry work.

Workhouse tasks

The picture to the left is of an old rope from the docks that the inmates would pick apart so that the fibres could be sold back to the docks to be used in the caulking boats and ships.

 

 

So what about the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and how this shook up the system?

There will be more detail about the workhouse inside my course on English and Welsh family history at: http://www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

 

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Rate Books for Family History Research

Ancestors in Thorne Family treeFollowing on from the last article here I got a comment posted by James McLaren of the Channel Island Family History Society regarding using Rate books both in his specialist area of Jersey family history research and also for London by using the Land Tax assessments and the Electoral Registers on Ancestry.co.uk.

As my interest was piqued I have done a bit more research on the subject and share some of my findings here.

A rate book is a document that was used to record the payment of property taxes that was applied to both residential and business properties in the U.K. until its replacement with the council tax during the 1990s.

As a resident of Jersey I am well aware that, in our island, Rates are still levied by our civil Parish administration along with a recent addition of an island wide rate collected at the same time. Some part of that rate pays for the upkeep of roads, lighting, bins emptied while a small part of it is still used to upkeep the ancient Parish Church in each of the twelve parishes of Jersey.

I was, therefore, interested to find that rates in England and Wales were originally a levy for the parish church that, by the time of Henry VIII’s Reformation, were also being used for non ecclesiastical purposes such as repairs to bridges and local goals. Many rates collections were to support the Poor Law to maintain the workhouses and provide money for the elderly or incapacitated parishioners.

The theory of rates was that a property would be assessed at what its annual rental value was and each year I am intrigued to see what my house in St.Helier has been deemed to be worth in rent – if I didn’t need to live in it, that is!

Returning to my look at rates collected in bygone England and Wales, some householders will no doubt have objected to the level of assessment of their property. Appeals were then heard by the Justices of the Peace.

The collection, of these land taxes, would have been the responsibility of the parish constable, until the establishment of professional police forces when a full or part-time rate collector would have done the job. It was up to the constable to record the payments, and any arrears, in rate books which were then perused by the parish officials.

My investigation revealed that the earliest rate books stretch back as far as the 16th century, but you would be very lucky to find one from then. Most seem to begin in 1744, which was the year when ratepayers were given the right in law to inspect the rate records. Needless to say not all will have survived the passing of time and so gaps will occur.

So where does one look for rate books? The answer is in the County or City Record Offices and also at local history studies libraries.

The websites that I use the most at the moment are Find My Past and The Genealogist.co.uk. To Take your family history further I recommend that you too consider a subscription to these websites. Take a look now and see what great data sets they have to offer:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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London Family Tree? Westminster Parish Records Go Online.

WESTMINSTER PARISH RECORDS PUBLISHED ONLINE BY FINDMYPAST.CO.UK

.       Over a million baptism, marriage and burial records that date back as far as 1538 are now available
.       For the first time you are able to see images of the original parish records from the City of Westminster online

Leading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk has published online for the very first time today 27th March 2012 the parish records that are held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre.  What they have dubbed “The Westminster Collection” is to be found on the net at findmypast.co.uk and comprises of fully searchable transcripts together with scanned images of the parish registers of this part of London. What is great for people searching for their ancestors in this area is that some of the records are over 400 years old!

Coming from over 50 of the churches from Westminster and including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand, St Paul Covent Garden, these 1,365,731 records, that are launched today, extend over the various years between 1538-1945.

Debra Chatfield, the family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said today: “The Westminster Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections we have ever published online and contains some truly wonderful gems. Family historians, wherever they are in the world, can now search this historical goldmine and uncover the fascinating stories of their London ancestors.”

Today’s launch is only the beginning of this exciting project, whose aim is to digitally preserve the City of Westminster Archives Centre’s collection. It is the first tranche of  Westminster records containing the city’s baptisms, marriages and burials. The remaining records are scheduled to go live on the site over the coming months, along with other records such as cemetery registers, wills, rate books, settlement examinations, workhouse admission and discharge books, bastardy, orphan and apprentice records, charity documents, and militia and watch records.

Adrian Autton, Archives Manager at Westminster Archives commented: “The launch of the Westminster Collection is of huge significance making Westminster records fully accessible to a global audience. This resource will be of immense value to anyone whose ancestors lived in Westminster and to anyone wishing to study the rich heritage of this truly great city.”

If you are interested in this part of London then the records can be searched free of charge by visiting the Life Events (BMDs) section at findmypast.co.uk. From there you should select parish baptisms, or marriages, or burials. Transcripts and images can then be viewed with either PayAsYouGo credits, vouchers or a full subscription to findmypast.co.uk.

The new Westminster Collection at findmypast.co.uk joins a growing resource of official parish records from local archives, including Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, Manchester City Council and Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, with many more in the pipeline and due to go live in the coming months. In addition over 40 million parish records from family history societies can be found at findmypast.co.uk in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies.



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