Monday 28 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 10 Aberystwyth

Aberysywth. A seaport, watering-place and municipal borough on Cardigan Bay, in the county of Cardigan, Wales, situated at the confluence of the Ystwith and Rheidol, 244 miles NW of London on the Cambrian Railway. Some amount of trade is carried on, the exports being lead, flannel and iron. The University College of Wales is established here. In the summer, many visitors are attracted by the climate, and the picturesque surroundings, among which the Devil's Bridge is not the least interesting. The ruins of a castle of Edward I crown a promontory to the SW. Until 1885 Aberystwyth was one of the Cardigan parliamentary boroughs. Pop (1901) 8,013.  
From Cassell's Encyclopedia; a Storehouse of General Information (undated, but apparently early 1900s)

The local record office is Ceredigion Archives/Archifdy Ceredigion but Aberystwyth is better known as the home of the National Library of Wales/Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru. There is more information about Aberystwyth at Vision of Britain and you will find  The New Aberystwyth Guide by T J Llewelyn Prichard 1824 on Google Books.


Olympic torch route - Day 9 Swansea

Very busy and thriving town and port, with a beautiful bay and fine sands. Copper-smelting, tin-plate working, and other industrial activities. The ruins of a castle built about 1330 by the Bishop of St David's are in the midst of the town. The great docks of Swansea are continually being enlarged and improved. 
Neath 8¼, Ammanford 19¼ miles. 
London 212¼ miles. Population 160,000. Market Sat. Early Closing, Thurs

From The Dunlop Book 1920

The Registration district of Swansea has been in existence since 1837, and has changed remarkably little during that time. It includes 33 parishes beyond Swansea itself and like almost every other registration district is based on a Poor Law Union. Records for Swansea are held at the West Glamorgan Archives Service. Digitised and indexed parish registers for Swansea are online at Findmypast. Swansea is also the home of the National Waterfront Museum for Wales. There is more information about Swansea on Vision of Britain. 


Sunday 27 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 8 Cardiff

Cardiff Castle in the 15th century
Cardiff, a county and parliamentary borough on the Taff, and the principal town of Glamorgan. Though Cardiff has been termed the Welsh Chicago, it is a place of considerable antiquity. As Tibia Amnis it was a military station of importance in Roman days, and one of its gateways has been discovered in the grounds of the castle, which was built on the lines of the Roman rampart. The castle itself is an elaborate modern restoration of the medieval fortress, but the ruins of the Norman keep built by Robert of Caen stand on a moated mound in the centre of the court. The curthouse tower is said to have been for 20 years the prison of Robert of Normandy.
Besides the castle the only other ancient building in the town is St John's church, a fifteenth century edifice with a fine Perpendicular tower. The old church of St Mary, which was connected with a Benedictine priory, was destroyed by a flood in 1607. Cardiff also once possessed some habitations of Black and Grey Friars, and the ruins of the house which Lord Herbert built out of the material of the latter still stand near the City Hall.
Though always a port, Cardiff's commercial prosperity dates only from the middle of docks, and it is the largest coal port in the world. The town is well built and its streets are spacious. A fine group of buildings consisting of the City Hall, the Assize Courts, the Welsh National Museum, and the University College have been erected in Cathays Park, and there is a large library in another part of the town. 
From Glamorganshire 1911 one of the many useful resources for Cardiff as transcribed on its Genuki page

The present-day Cardiff Castle is open to the public, and its website includes a timeline of its history, dating back to Roman times. There is more information about Cardiff at Vision of Britain. The website of the Glamorgan Record Office includes a section Cardiff: the building of a capital


Olympic torch route - Day 7 Worcester

Worcester Friars Street 
The making of china, vinegar and the famous  'Worcester Sauce' will at one occur to the mind when Worcester is mentioned; but itis a place of many miscellaneous activities.
The cathedral standin beside the Rivern Severn, is a fine spectacular object from many points of vi in length, and has a central tower rising to 170 feet. In general, the exterior, of a dull red-brown sandstone, gives the impression of a 15th century building, but it is in fact of many periods. The crypt, beneath the choir, dates back to 1084 and is, with the Chapter house, the only remaining portion of the Norman Cathedral. The Choir itself, together with the eastern transepts and the Lady Chapel, displays 13th century, or Early English architecture, while the nave is of the 14th century or 'Decorated' period, merging into the Perpendicular style of the next century. In the Cloisters, of 15th century, note a stone in the pavement close beside a doorway into the south side 'Miserrimus.' This covers the grave of a Minor Canon, the Rev T Morris, who died in the time of William III, from grief, it is said, at the ejection of the Stuarts from the throne of England.
The Cathedral has been from time to time restored; notably after the Civil War, when it was left almost roofless. Midway in the choir, in a prominent position of great honour, is the altar-tomb, with a recumbent portrait-effigy of King John, who died in 1216. He was one of the worst of monarchs, but the statue of him is extraordinarily good. Here also is the chantry-chapel to Prince Arthur, eldest son to Henry VII, who died in his sixteenth year, at Ludlow Castle, 1502. There are numerous monuments of bishops and others. 'Edgar's Tower' is the name of a 14th century gatehouse of the Close. Note on the north side of the Close a fine bronze group, representing an angel crowning a soldier with a wreath. Beneath is the inscription: 'In grateful Memory of the Men of Worcestershire who in South Africa gave their Lives for their Country, 1899-1902.'
The 'Commandery' in its origin a hospice for travellers in the Norman period, was re-founded in the 16th century. It is a quaint old building. Here died the Duke of Hamilton, who was wounded in the Battle of Worcester, fought in and about the city, September 3rd 1651. The Royalists, under Charles II, were hopelessly defeated that day, and the King fled, to wander for months, a hunted fugitive, through the land, finally escaping from Brighton to France, October 14th.
Pershore 9, Bromyard 14¼, Bromsgrove 12½, Tewkesbury 15¼, Evesham 15, Great Malvern 8, Ledbury 16, Kidderminster 14¼, Stourbridge 20½, Droitwich 6¾ miles.

London 110 miles. Population 47,982. Market, Sat. Early Closing, Thurs.    
From The Dunlop Book (1920)

The registration district of Worcester was been in existence from 1837 to 1974, consisting originally only of the parishes within the city of Worcester, but expanding considerably during the 20th century. The Worcestershire County Record Office is preparing to move to new premises in July 2012, but in the meantime there is plenty of useful content on its website, including an interactive map.

A General History of Worcester by John Chambers Esq, (1820) can be found on Google Books and the city occupies 5 chapters in Volume 4 of the Victoria County History of Worcestershire. There is more information about Worcester at Vision of Britain


Friday 25 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 6 Gloucester

Gloucester Westgate Street
Gloucester An English town on the left bank of the Severm 38 miles NNE of Bristol. It was made a Roman station (Glevum) by Claudius, and was the seat of several religious houses, of which the last, a Benedictine Abbey, was suppressed in 1530. Two years later the see of Gloucester was founded.It was held by Hooper and Warburton, among others, and was joined with that of Bristol in 1836. The cathedral was begun in the 11th century, and finished in 1498. It is chiefly Perpendicular, but the crypt and the interior of the nave are Norman. The east window is the largest in England, and the building contains the canopied shrine of Edward II, a statue of Jenner and a group by Flaxman. Its fan-vaulted cloisters and fine stained glass are also among its glories. The cathedral was restored by Sir Gilbert Scott. Here, alternately with Hereford and Worcester, is held the Festival of the Three Choirs. Other notable buildings in Gloucester are the Deanery, the New Inn (15th century), the Tolsey (guildhall), and the King's School. It was in medieval times one of the chief places in the West of England, and the repulse of Charles I before it was one of the most important events of the Great Rebellion. It was once the seat of a thriving cloth manufacture, but it is now chiefly a commercial town. The trade of its port has largely grown in recent years. Corn and timber are imported, and agricultural and mineral produce form the exports. Several Parliaments have been held at Gloucester, which now has one member. Taylor, the water-poet, Whitefield and Raikes were natives of the city.
From Cassell's Encyclopedia; a Storehouse of General Information (undated, but apparently early 1900s)

New Inn
 Gloucester was a registration district until 1937, comprising thirteen parishes in Gloucester itself and 20 others from the surrounding area. Records for Gloucester are in the Gloucestershire Record Office whose website includes an online genealogical database of names. There is more information about Gloucester on Vision of Britain, and the section of the Victoria County History for Gloucestershire dealing with Gloucester can be found at British History Online


Wednesday 23 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 5 Bristol

Bristol Cathedral
Bristol, a cathedral city of England, a municipal and a parliamentary borough, situated partly in Gloucestershire, partly in Somersetshire, but forming a county in itself. It stands at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Frome, which unite within the city, whence the combined stream (the Avon) pursues a course of nearly 7 miles to the Bristol Channel. The Avon is a navigable river, and the tides rise in it to a great height. The town is built partly on low grounds, partly on eminences, and has some fine suburban districts, such as Clifton, where the celebrated suspension bridge across the Avon, 703 feet long and 345 feet above high-water mark, unites the two counties. The public buildings are numerous and handsome and the number of place of worship very great. The most notable are the cathedral, founded in 1142, exhibiting various styles of architecture, and recently restored and enlarged.; St Mary Redcliff, said to have been founded in 1293, and perhaps the finest parish church in the kingdom. Among modern buildings are the exchange, the guild-hall, the council-house, the post-office, the new grammar school, the fine arts academy, the West of England and other banks, insurance offices &c. The charities are exceedingly numerous, the most important being Ashley Down orphanage, for the orphans of Protestant parents...Bristol has a number of endowed schools, the principal of which are the grammar-school, Queen Elizabeth's hospital, the Red Maids' school...Colston's hospital, the trade school and the cathedral school. Amongst the educational establishments are the University College, the Theological College of the Baptists and Independents, Clifton College, and the Philosophical Institute. There is a school of art, and also a public library. Bristol has glass-works, potteries, soap-works, tanneries, sugar-refineries, and chemical works, ship-building and machinery yards. Coal is worked extensively within within the limits of the borough. The export and import trade is large and varied.   
From Blackie's Modern Cyclopedia of Universal Information (undated, probably c1890)

Bristol contains 22 parishes, some of them of ancient foundation, which together comprise the registration district of Bristol. This is a geographically small area, so some of your 'Bristol' ancestors may belong to the neighbouring districts of Bedminster or Clifton. Bristol has its own archive, the Bristol Record Office

There is more information about Bristol on Vision of Britain, and historic photographs on the English Heritage Archives site. Bristol Town Duties - A collection of original and interesting documents (etc) 1828 can be found at British History Online


Olympic torch route - Day 4 Taunton

Taunton Old Grammar School
Taunton A municipal and parliamentary borough (one member) of Somerset, is upon the Tone, in the valley called Taunton Deane, 45 S.W. of Bristol. A fortress was erected here in 710, and a castle was built upon its site by a Bishop of Winchester in the 12th century. In times past Taunton was one of the West of England "clothing" towns, and still has some manufactures of shirts, collars, gloves, and silk, and is the centre of an important agricultural district. The church of St Mary Magdalen, built in 1500 and restored 1858-62, is renowned for its noble Perpendicular tower, 153 feet high. Other important buildings are the Elizabethan shire hall, the municipal buildings, the King's College, the Independent College, other schools and the barracks. The town is of much historic interest. In 1497 Perkin Warbeck was in it; in 1644 Blake; Monmouth made a triumphal entry, and in 1685 Judge Jeffreys held here the noted "Bloody Assizes".
From Cassell's Encyclopedia; a Storehouse of General Information (undated, but apparently early 1900s)

Taunton has two ancient parishes, St Mary Magdalen (1558) and St James (1573) in the diocese of Bath and Wells. Parish registers are held at Somerset Archives and Local Studies. Taunton was a registration district until 1974, and a Poor Law Union

There is more information about Taunton on Vision of Britain, and historic photographs on the English Heritage Archives site. Google Books has a History of Taunton by James Savage, published 1822.


Tuesday 22 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 3 Exeter

Exeter Cathedral
Exeter, a city, seaport, parliamentary (one member) and municipal borough, capital of Devon, on the left bank of the Exe, about 10 miles N. of the english channel, and on the Great Western Railway.It is built on the top and sides of a hill sloping down towards the river, which is crossed by a stone bridge at the western entrance of the town, which consists of two main streets at right angles with others branching out from them. Much of the town is very ancient, but there are modern terraces and villas, which are daily increasing as the educational advantages of the town which make it desirable as a residence. The cathedral is cruciform, and 408 feet long, with two Norman towers 130 feet high. The choir is 128 feet long, and there are ten chapels, and a chapter house.  There is much Norman work in the different churches of the city; and parts of the old Saxon walls remain, and the ruins of the castle at Rougemont. The free grammar school has 16 exhibitions to Oxford or Cambridge, and there are libraries, museums, and a diocesan training college, a hospital etc. Formerly Exeter was a seat of the woollen trade, but this industry is now extinct. There are iron foundries, agricultural implement works, paper-mills, corn-mills and tanneries, and some manufactures of gloves and lace. There is a basin to which ships of 400 tons have access by means of a canal 5 miles long. The town was an old British station before being the Isca Damnoniorum of the Roman times. Many coins, statues and fragments of pavement have been discovered. The Saxons called it Monktown for its many ecclesiastical establishments.
From Cassell's Encyclopedia; a Storehouse of General Information (undated, but apparently early 1900s)

Exeter contains several ancient parishes and was a Poor Law Union and registration district as well as the seat of the  diocese of Exeter. There is a great deal of useful information about Devon genealogy in general on the Genuki site where Exeter has its own page. The Devon Record Office in Exeter holds records for Exeter.

There is more information about Exeter on Vision of Britain, and historic photographs on the English Heritage Archives site. Google Books has The History of Exeter by the Rev George Oliver, published in 1821


Sunday 20 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 2 Plymouth

Plymouth, a seaport, municipal and parliamentary borough 9returning two members), situated on the Sound of the same name in the extreme S.W. of Devonshire, England. With Devonport and Stonehouse it forms "The Three Towns". The Sound, protected by the famous breakwater, affords anchorage for the whole navy of England. Mill Bay, where the Great Western Docks are placed, and Sutton Pool accommodate many mercantile ships, and are divided by the leafy promontory known as the Hoe, where stands Smeaton's reconstructed lighthouse and Boehm's statue of Drake. The Government Dockyard in Devonport with Keyham factory and the arsenal make up one of the most complete naval establishments in the world. The church of St Andrew, dating from 1430 and restored in 1874, is the only remnant of antiquity. There are but few local manufactures except sail-cloth, rope, biscuits, soap and gin;but a large foreign coasting trade is carried on, the exports being chiefly minerals, ores and marble. Plymouth is an important centre of traffic for goods and passengers. The names of the explorers Cockeram, Gilbert, Hawkins and Drake will for ever be associated with the place.
From Cassell's Encyclopedia; a Storehouse of General Information (undated, but apparently early 1900s)

War memorial at Plymouth Hoe
Plymouth was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War and contains a number of war memorials to the fallen in both World Wars and other conflicts. The Poor Law Union and registration district contained several parishes in the diocese of Exeter. Digitised and indexed parish registers for Plymouth have recently been released on These and other records are held at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office

There is a good deal of genealogical and historical information, and links to useful websites about Plymouth on its GENUKI page.  There are population statistics and maps of Plymouth on Vision of Britain, and historic photographs on the English Heritage Archives site.


Shopping Saturday - Arthur Lasenby Liberty

Arthur Lasenby Liberty was born in Chesham in 1843, the son of Arthur Liberty, draper and lace manufacturer. When he was young the family moved to Nottingham, a major centre of the lace industry, but after leaving school he worked for a while in Nottingham, then moved to London to work at Farmer and Rogers Oriental Warehouse. This was the premier outlet for the goods from the far east, which were becoming very fashionable in the later 19th century. He rose to the position of joint manager there, and remained with Farmer and Rogers until 1874.

London Gazette 14 February 1913
He founded his own small business in Regent Street in the following year, called East India House, which eventually became the famous Liberty's department store on the same site. The store is still there today, with its distinctive black-and-white building displaying the Royal Arms. The business is entitled to do this as the holder of a Royal Warrant to supply goods and services to Her Majesty the Queen. True to its origins, the name Liberty remains associated with a particular decorative style, the 'Liberty print' and the designs of William Morris.

Arthur Liberty continued to be very successful in business and counted among his friends a number of artists and designers including William Morris. He also held a number of public offices including deputy lieutenent and high sheriff of his home county of Buckinghamshire. He was knighted in 1913 and retired from business the following year to his home at Lee Manor, near Chesham.

Printed sources, including his entries in Who's Who and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, state that in 1875 he married Emma Louise Blackmore, daughter of Henry Blackmore of Exmouth in Devon. The couple had no children, but the department store business remained in the family, passing to his nephew and great-nephews after his death in 1917.

Divorce file TNA Ref: J 77/87
What is much less well-known is that his marriage to Emma Blackmore was not his first; on 8 June 1865 he married Martha Cottam at St Pancras parish church, but this marriage ended in divorce in 1869, on the grounds of Martha's adultery with one Augustus Glover. When he married Emma Blackmore he is described on the marriage certificate as 'bachelor' but he had made no attempt to conceal the existence of his first marriage from the church authorities. On the contrary, the record of the marriage licence he obtained from the Bishop of London two days before the marriage gives full details of his marriage to Martha Cottam and their subsequent divorce.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Olympic torch route - Day 1 Land's End

Land's End
The most westerly point in England, looking out upon the wild waters of the Atlantic, with no land between it and America except the Scilly Islands, some 20 miles off-shore,They are clearly seen on clear evenings, when they take on the likeness of black spots on the sun as it sinks below the horizon,
The granite cliffs of Land's End are only some 60ft in height, and the scenery there is not so impressive as at Cape Cornwall, to the north, nor as the grand cliffs and rocks at Chair Ladder, Tol-pedn-Penwith and St Levan, to the south. But the spot is always visited in summer by crowds of excursionists. 
Penzance 10, John o'Groats 876 miles
London 303¾ miles 
          From The Dunlop Book 1920

Land's End is in the parish of Sennen, Cornwall. It is part of the Poor Law Union and registration district of Penzance, and the diocese of Exeter. There are browsable (but not indexed) images of the parish registers online at FamilySearch. These and other records are held at the Cornwall Record Office.

The parish contains a number of listed buildings, including the First and Last House at Land's End.  There is more information about Sennen on Vision of Britain, and historic photographs on the English Heritage Archives site. Cornwall is one of the counties with an Online Parish clerks site, where Sennen has its own page.


Friday 18 May 2012

Early Civil Registration - registrars at last for Huddersfield

Huddersfield was one of the places most actively hostile to the imposition of the New Poor Law in 1834, and this in turn delayed the implementation of civil registration there. By 1837 Huddersfield had already held out for three years, and it was not until early in 1838 that a Clerk to the Guardians was finally appointed and the business of the Union and the Registration District could begin at last. The delaying tactics of the Huddersfield guardians did not take the form of mere passive resistance. Time and time again the guardians met and adjourned their meetings without electing a clerk, but the participants did not merely shuffle their papers and file out, the meetings ended in uproar.

At the meeting in June 1937 when a Clerk to the Guardians was due to be elected, a large hostile crowd assembled outside the Druid's Arms. Fearing a riot, the High Constable had applied to the magistrates for the military to be called in, but the application was refused. The protesters were addressed by Richard Oastler, a leading figure among the opponents of the new law. Another speaker, Mr Buchanan, suggested that they all march to the workhouse, where the meeting was being held, to confront the Poor Law Commissioner who was due to attend, then return to the Druid's Arms. This did not turn out well. The crowd forced open the workhouse gates, missiles and abuse were thrown, and some of them tried to force the chairman of the Guardians into the river. Others searched part of the house, looking in vain for the Commissioner, and when they were unsuccessful removed a quantity of food instead.
Mr Oastler tried to restore order and get them to return to the Druid's Arms, without success.

Meanwhile inside the meeting, the Guardians again voted not to elect a clerk, which news elicited a cheer from the crowd. They also agreed to adjourn yet again, to ask the Poor Law Commissioners if they could elect a clerk and divide the Union into districts for registration purposes only. Eventually the crowd dispersed, reconvened in the Market Place, and brought the day to a conclusion by burning an effigy of the chairman of the Guardians, Mr Swaine.

In the event the Clerk to the Guardians, who was also Superintendent Registrar, was not appointed until the following year. This was not by any means the end of all opposition to the New Poor Law, as testified by the Clerk, Cookson Stephenson Floyd, in his long and detailed account to the Poor Law Commissioners of the meeting held in May 1838. One man tried to pull the chair out from under the chairman, and the minute book was pulled from the clerk's grasp, and at the time of his writing was in the custody of the Constable of Huddersfield. Mr Floyd wrote
'My situation as Clerk is anything but a Bed of roses as you must be aware for in addition to a heap of round abuse I am now charged by the opposition of gross partiality, and consequent unfitness for the office'           
The account of the first meeting appeared in the Leeds Mercury of 10 June 1837, and Cookson Stephenson Floyd's letter is part of the second volume of Poor Law Union Correspondence for Huddersfield (MH 12/15064), which also contains the poster above.


Sunday 13 May 2012

Early Civil Registration - the Huddersfield registrars

In my last post I mentioned a letter from an aspiring candidate, hoping to be appointed registrar of births and deaths for Holmfirth. At the time I had only looked at the first page of the letter, so I didn't know the man's name, and whether or not he was appointed. Well, the wait is over, and I can report that the man in question was Richard Harrison, a grocer - registrars often combined registration duties with their existing occupations, which in his case was that of grocer. He had previously written to the Guardians offering his services in June 1837.

There is a great deal of correspondence in the file (Ref MH 12/15063 - Poor Law Union Correspondence: Huddersfield 1834-1837) including several letters regarding registrars' appointments. Quite a number of people were keen to become registrars, especially for the sub-district of Huddersfield itself. The file contained some letters from the applicants themselves, and many testimonials with long lists of signatures from local residents in support of the candidates. Richard Harrison had written his first application in June 1837, but the Guardians had refused to elect a clerk at their meetings in June and September so may have thought that a reminder was in order when he wrote for a second time in November.

The four men who competed for the Huddersfield registrarship were Joseph Battye, parish clerk, William Reed, linen-draper, Thomas Pitt (occupation unknown) and the successful candidate William Bradley, auctioneer. William Bradley and Richard Harrison were also appointed as the two registrars of marriages for the whole of Huddersfield registration district.

There were nine other sub-districts in Huddersfield, and when the Guardians finally appointed registrars of births and deaths, the following men were the successful candidates:

Almondbury - Joseph Dean, master of the poorhouse
Kirkheaton - George S Dyson, schoolmaster
Kirkburton - James Binns, clothier
New Mill - John Ibberson, wool weaver and spinner
Honley - Charles James Lancaster, relieving officer
Meltham - Joseph Taylor, clothier
Lockwood - Rev Francis William Dyer
Slaithwaite - John Roberts, surgeon
Golcar- John Wilkinson, clothier


Wednesday 9 May 2012

Civil Registration in Yorkshire - update

TNA Ref: MH 12/15063
I haven't had time to do any real research on this yet, but yesterday I mentioned what I had found to some colleagues, including the wonderful Dr Paul Carter, who knows a thing or two about the Poor Law! If you haven't already discovered this for yourself, try listening to his podcasts. He confirmed that Huddersfield was one of the places kicking hardest against the imposition of Poor Law Unions. Once they had been forced to set up a Union, they simply refused to elect a Clerk to the Guardians, which effectively meant that the Union could not conduct any business. It seems that there was nothing in the Act that compelled them to do so. Ingenious.

I managed a quick peek at the first volume of Poor Law Union Correspondence for Huddersfield (Ref: MH 12/15063) and I immediately came across this letter from an applicant for the post of registrar of births and deaths for Holmfirth:
'Understanding that it is your intention to appoint Registrars of Births and Deaths for the Districts within the Huddersfield Union, I beg leave again most respectfully to offer myself as a Candidate for the Holmfirth District'
The letter is dated 29 November 1837! I only had a few minutes to spare so I just had time to make a quick copy of the letter - I didn't even have time to turn it over and find out the name of the writer, or whether he was successful - oh, the suspense! I will go back and have a proper look as soon as I can.

As an addendum to my previous post, when I checked my notes I found that for the March quarter of 1838 there is only ONE birth entry for Huddersfield, but that has the volume reference 19, while Huddersfield is in volume 22. This is quite clear in the index page itself (the indexes for this quarter are typed) but I think it is probably a mistake, either on the part of the typist, or of the clerk who wrote the original index page in 1838. Volume 19 includes the registration district of Macclesfield, and the page reference (99) does indeed relate to Macclesfield. According to FreeBMD, there are nine entries on that page giving Macclesfield as the district, and since there can be up to 10 entries on a page, my theory is at least plausible. There is also a rogue entry for Bolton, but I don't know what explanation is for that!


Monday 7 May 2012

Civil Registration - early problems in Yorkshire

York - Bootham Bar
Every new system takes some getting used to, and as new systems go, the introduction of Civil Registration in England and Wales was a pretty big one. Most of us know that a number of births went unregistered in the early years, for a variety of reasons. There was some under-registration of deaths, too. People went to church to get married just as they had always done, and may not even have been aware that the paperwork was different from 1 July 1837 onwards. Going to a registrar to give details of a birth or death was a completely new experience, however, and it took a while before everyone got the hang of it.

Some people actively refused to register the births of their children, claiming that a Church of England baptism would suffice, and the law was certainly a little unclear on this point. This disobedience was encouraged in a few places by parish clergy, and the registers of Home Office correspondence contain many letters from exasperated registrars complaining about them. They usually emphasised that these were isolated cases, and that they had no problems with other parishes in their districts.

Whatever the reasons for the low rate of registration at first, things picked up after a shaky start in the first two quarters, as this table from the First Annual Report of the Registrar-General shows:

The 'difficult' parishes were spread around the county, although Yorkshire had its fair share, but there was another problem that was particularly relevant to Yorkshire; registration districts were based on the Poor Law Unions that had been established in 1834, but in some areas the unions had still not been formed by 1837, many of them in Yorkshire. Home Office correspondence also includes the following:
'Draft of proposed letter from S M Phillipps, Home Office, to each of the magistrates of the Huddersfield Division about the non-implementation of the legislation for the registration of births, marriages and deaths, resulting from the failure to elect a clerk to the guardians. The Registrar General will ask the Poor Law Commissioners to appoint registrars and assign registration districts and he will put the created districts under neighbouring superintendent registrars. The Home Secretary wishes the magistrates to act in their ex officio capacity as guardians and participate in the election of a clerk (Ref: HO 73/54 ff29-32)'
As it happens, Huddersfield was also one of places where the registrar, once appointed, had problems with a number of people refusing to register. In fairness to the clergy, he does not mention that the opposition had anything to do with the Church, but it certainly was organised, with a number of men defying the law, because '...and several others, now believe nothing can be done to compel them' . One of them, Charles Horsfall, even threatened him:
'Horsfall G-d d--med the Act and those who made it - d--med my soul to Hell, threatened to knock my d--m'd soul out of me, and to throw me neck and heels out of his Castle and held his fists in my face &c &c &c...I think he, of all the refusers, ought to be persecuted, for he is quite a great man among the disturbers of this neighbourhood' (Ref: HO 39/5)
Now that parish registers from the West Yorkshire Archives Service are online at I thought that it would be interesting to compare baptisms with entries in the GRO birth indexes to see who didn't register births, and to see if there was any pattern to it. Yes, this is the kind of thing I think is a fun pastime for a damp bank holiday weekend, sad but true. I had barely started on this when I discovered something rather surprising - there are some registration districts for which there are NO ENTRIES in the first one or two quarters of Civil Registration, and nearly half of them are in Yorkshire. This is probably due to the late formation of Unions, enforced by the Registrar General for registration purposes, but it will take quite a bit more research to find out for certain. I also noted a few districts where only a tiny number of events were registered. Here are the details of what I found for Yorkshire registration districts:

Huddersfield - no births or deaths for Sep or Dec 1837
Rotherham - 1 birth and no deaths for Sep 1837
Sculcoates - no births or deaths for Sep or Dec 1837
Skirlaugh - 4 births and 8 deaths for Sep 1837
Thorne - 2 births and 10 deaths for Sep 1837
York - no births or deaths for Sep 1837

There were five districts in the rest of England:

Kensington - 1 birth for Sep 1837
Matlock  - no births or deaths for Sep or Dec 1837
Seisden - no births for Sep 1837
West Ward - 1 birth for Sep 1837
Wolstanton - no births and 1 death for Sep 1837, 1 birth and 3 deaths for Dec 1837

The remainder were in Wales:

Corwen - no births for Sep 1837
Knighton - 2 births and 3 deaths for Sep 1837
Longtown  - no births or deaths for Sep or Dec 1837, no deaths for Mar

There are  no problems with marriages - well, actually there are, but that's a different story altogether. But marriages were recorded from day one, and copies were collected by Superintendent Registrars to be sent on to the GRO. They did not involve the registrars of births and deaths,  the absence of whom seems to be at the root of the missing quarters detailed above.    


Sunday 6 May 2012

Shopping Saturday - Fortnum and Mason

This seemed like an appropriate choice for 'Shopping Saturday' this week, since the podcast of Selling history: the role of the past at Fortnum and Mason has just gone live on The National Archives website. The talk was given by the company's archivist, Dr Andrea Tanner, who has researched Fortnum's history extensively. Fortnum's is one of several businesses that can claim to be the oldest department store. Their foundation date of 1707 certainly beats all comers with regard to date, but it traded as a high-class grocer for more than three centuries, only adding clothing and household departments in 1925.

Of course, the first this the genealogist wants to know is 'Are there any staff records?', and, sadly, the answer is no. This is not particularly unusual, as you may already know if you have ancestors who worked in the retail trade; it is much easier to find out about the kind of work they did than the details of any individual person's service. But shops and shopping have always been a part of everyday life for everyone, or at least for someone in their family, so we all have some connection with shops. Realistically more of us are likely to be descended from the servants or employees of Fortnum's customers than from the customers themselves - it is a little on the exclusive side.

If you are in London the distinctive building on Piccadilly is worth a visit - even if you don't go inside, the building's exterior is very attractive, and when the magnificent clock chimes the hour, the figures of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason come out, give each other a dignified bow, and then retire. You will find a brief history of Fortnum and Mason on their website, where you will learn that they were the first British retailer to stock Mr Heinz's exciting new product - baked beans! You can also see a video of Fortnum's world record-breaking scotch egg, and follow the progress of the Fortnum's bees in their roof-top hive via the Bee-cam.

Friday 4 May 2012

Those Places Thursday - an early census of Macclesfield

Cheshire is a good county to research from a distance, because there are already so many good online resources for the county. These include tithe maps and apportionments are on the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies  site; you can search and download a number of records from FindMyPast including parish registers and wills; additionally, there are indexes to Land Tax Assessments and school records at FamilySearch.

Now a new free site provides details of a rare early 'census' in the form of a survey of freeholders and tenants in the Forest and Manor of Macclesfield around 1611. There are 700 names, indexed, and also an address index of 64 house names. There is also a bonus in the form of an Index of Extracts from Escheators Books containing 37 names from much earlier periods, the earliest dating from 1362/63. This will be of interest to local historians, and to family historians who have been lucky enough to trace their ancestors this far back in the Macclesfield area.

These names come from the records of the Office of the Auditors of Land Revenue (Ref LR 2/200) in The National Archives.


Wednesday 2 May 2012

Tuesday's tip - what does it look like, what does it sound like?

When you are searching in indexes, sometimes you don't find what you are looking for because the spelling isn't what you expected it to be. If you haven't already discovered this for yourself, go back and write out the first sentence 100 times before proceeding any further!

OK, having established this principle, how do you deal with it? There are several strategies, and the best one to employ depends on the source you are using. You have to think about how the information was recorded in the first place, and how it has been copied since then. For example, was the name written down as it sounded? This would happen when an illiterate farm labourer registered the birth of a child and the registrar wrote it down. An illiterate person would have no way of knowing whether the registrar had spelled the name correctly; registrars had some guidance on the standard spellings of forenames, but surnames can be much trickier. A registrar, or anyone writing down an unfamiliar name  without any way of checking the spelling, will do the best they can, but he result may look quite different from the more usual spelling of the name, and often begins with a different letter. Sometimes it helps to say a name out loud in the local accent. This worked for me when I had trouble with the surname Aveyard in Yorkshire, and the person I was looking for sometimes appeared with the surname Halfyard. If you don't know what a Yorkshire accent sounds like this will make no sense, but trust me, it works.

Then there is the question of copying. Details of births, marriages and deaths were copied by local registrars and clergy and sent to the General Register Office, where they were copied again by GRO clerks (twice - once on transcription slips and again on the index pages themselves, up to 1865). At all stages the names were hand-written in cursive script, so the writers sometimes mistook one letter for another because they looked similar. Letters that look similar when hand-written are not the same as those that are similar in block capitals, or printed. Pairs of handwritten capital letters that can be easily mistaken are F and T, L and S, M and W and more, depending on individual handwriting styles. Another danger area can be combinations of lower-case letters  i, m, n, u, w which can be indistinguishable when written quickly, and look like a zig-zag line. You can add a, e, o, v and r to this list with some handwriting styles, and a t where the cross is faint can look like l. Just think of the possibilities! Sometimes a name will be mis-copied as a more common one that looks similar; Hubert has never been a common name, but the similar-looking Herbert used to be very popular and is often worth a try if your Hubert is proving elusive. I have also found David appearing as Daniel - Daniel was  much the more common of the two in 19th century England (although the reverse was true in Wales).

Once typewriters and computers are involved, you need to look at the kinds of mistake you make with a keyboard, which are quite different from the ones you make with a pen. I once spent ages looking for the death entry of someone with the unusual surname Quarmby, in the Olden Days when we only had index books, no snazzy databases, fuzzy matches and the like. In the end I found it by accident, only because it happened to be at the top of the page - as QQUARMBY. This was a 1975 entry, and the GRO indexes had been prepared using computer technology since 1969. There seems to be no automated procedure to identify improbable letter combinations like this, which are clearly the result of keying errors; even in the most recent GRO indexes that you can see online (2006 births and deaths on FindMyPast) you will find a number of people called WILLLIAMS (sic).

Of course you then find an extra layer of errors when records are transcribed for websites. Indexers are often working from film or fiche versions of records, which may be hard to read. I don't want to worry you, but by the time you search for a birth, marriage or death online, the name might have been written or keyed up to five times, with five opportunities to get something wrong. But, bad as it sounds, only a small proportion of names are wrong in records and indexes; in my years of experience of researching my own family history and helping other people with theirs, I have fonnd that most people find most of what they are looking for, most of the time.


Tuesday 1 May 2012

Mappy Monday - Collections on a map

This is the latest feature to be released on The National Archives Labs and you can use it to locate several kinds of local history resources. You can search by place or by document type to get the full reference, and in the case of the Early Maps and the two photograph collections you can see an image too. The collections you can search are:

This illustration shows the result of a search with 5km of Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, revealing some tithe maps, school files and a few photographs, including two of Henley-in-Arden. One of the school files is a Building Grant Application for Wootton Wawen National School (Ref ED 105/53/19 p397); I may have a look at it one day, because I attended that school for a year in the early 1960s.

These records are local history rather than obvious family history resources, but my justification for including them in my family history blog is that good family historians should be interested in local history too. There are some useful guides on a number of local history resources, including schools, villages, monastic lands and more on The National Archives Looking for a place page.