Book Review: Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians. By Stuart A. Raymond. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2017. 232 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Until the late seventeenth century, every man and woman in England was a member of the Church of England. Legally, that continued to be the case for several centuries, although in practice Non-Conformists and Roman Catholics denied their membership. Even today Anglican priests recognize they have an obligation to serve everyone within their parish. Thus, everyone, at least into the nineteenth century and earlier, can claim Anglican ancestors.

The Church of England is the established church of England and Wales, plus Ireland, but not Scotland. The records of Ireland and Scotland are not included here. This book focusses on the records created within the dioceses and parishes of England and Wales, although other records are mentioned when appropriate.

The first section in the book provides context of the institution. It provides a brief outline of the history of Anglicanism; describes the structure of the church, how clergy and laity operate within it, and why the records that we use were created. There is also a chapter on the preliminaries of research regarding the use of record offices, books, libraries and the internet. This is a good introduction to English research methods and sources.

The following two chapters examine what researchers are most commonly seeking, that is references to the baptism, marriage and burial of their ancestors.  The first looks in detail at the registers themselves, while the second looks at alternative records for the same information such as bishops’ transcripts, banns registers, marriage licence [MELISSA – correct English Spelling for record] records, monumental inscriptions, etc. The next two chapters examine additional records produced by the parish and diocese, such as: churchwarden accounts; vestry minutes; seating plans; tithe records; confirmation registers; visitation records; diocesan courts; records of loyalty; and more, introducing lots of lessor known or utilized records.

The next three chapters take a more in-depth look at specific topics. The church ran the English probate system until 1858, which is explained, along with guidance on how to find what is needed. This is followed by a discussion of Anglican charities, missions and religious orders. Then, for those with Anglican clergy in the family, there is a good chapter on the numerous sources that make tracing these individuals easier than tracing lay family members.

The books final chapter looks at additional sources that might provide clues or information about the clergy or church members, such as: Charles Booth’s interviews; diaries; Compton Census; 1851 ecclesiastical census; Glynne’s church notes; newspapers; Queen Anne churches; school records; and more.

Numerous bibliographic and web link references are included throughout the book, to take the researcher to more in-depth resources. Multiple indexes arranged by place, name and subject also simplify the location of material. This book is up to Mr. Raymond’s usual high standards of a practical, comprehensive, clearly written research guide. It is highly recommended.

Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records by Stuart A. Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors' Parish Records A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond
Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records: A Guide for Family and Local Historians. By Stuart A. Raymond. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £12.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. In Australia from www.gould.com.au. $30.25.  2015. 148 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This is a subject I know something about having written two recent books on English parish registers and the Parish Chest records. Yet, this book was a delight to read adding details and expanding upon what I already knew about the subject.

For many family historians it is the baptism, marriage and burials registers that are first and often only records used to identify an ancestor and put them into a specific time and place. These registers are covered in this book, but in one short chapter in the middle of the book. It is the other records created by the parish that will make our ancestors come alive. Their level in society is irrelevant as they will either be conducting the business of the parish, working for the parish in one of many capacities, or receiving assistance from the parish and its officers. In other words everyone can and should be found in these records, assuming they have survived for your parish of interest.

So what is here? The English parish was an integral part of English life for at least a thousand years, certainly up through the early twentieth century. Order within the country was maintained through the parish its officers and institutions, including: clergy; guilds; vestry; churchwardens; overseers; constables; highway surveyors; parish and vestry clerks; beadsmen; beadles; organists and singers; dog-whippers; and sidesmen all of whom are put into context and all of whom generated records and accounts. The parish itself is governed by the vestry so it is the vestry minutes and account books of the different officers that are often the most voluminous and detailed records within the parish, and unfortunately the least indexed or published. Until the mid-nineteenth century the parish was responsible for the poor and the book explains how and what shape that care took, how it changed over time, and what records were generated along the way. Care needs to be taken of the church buildings and its contents so we find: inventories of church goods; bede rolls; glebe terriers; Easter books; faculties; seating plans; magazines; sermons; registers of services and preachers. The church and its members were often involved in litigation as witnesses, petitioners, or as accused in the church courts, all leaving records. To put ancestors physically on the ground and understand their worth within the hierarchy of the parish look for the tithe records; the enclosure awards and maps; or the details on the parish charities.

Throughout the book the emphasis is on understanding the history of the records, their context and what they provide or tell a researcher. The researcher is pointed towards more in depth resources through annotated recommendations often history books that have used a specific record set to describe a specific place or time period. These histories are extremely valuable in putting ancestors and the places in which they live into a correct detailed historical context, for no parish is an island unto itself. The contents of specific document types are often extracts from published sources, only a few original documents are illustrated or extracted. The reader needs to look at both the citation endnotes and the recommended reading lists within each chapter for rarely will a source be in both lists.

I agree with the descriptive text on the cover, at least for English researchers, that this “is a book that all family and local historians should have on their shelves.” You will not be disappointed as this is a big subject and this book will start you off well.

Side note – my books Discover English Parish Registers and Buried Treasures: what’s in the English parish chest by Unlock The Past focus more on how to find, use and interpret the records,, and provide lots of practical advice. The above book adds more context and history.

Book Review: Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century – A Reassessment by Rebecca Probert

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Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century - A Reassessment by Rebecca Probert
Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century – A Reassessment by Rebecca Probert

Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century: A Reassessment. By Rebecca Probert. Published by Cambridge University Press, The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK. www.cambridge.org. 2009. xii, 358 pp. Index. Hardcover. $113.

 

This book radically changes our understanding of English marriage law, destroying most of what has been taught by historians and genealogists regarding marriage law in the past. This book is one volume in a series entitled Cambridge Studies in English Legal History and is therefore not a light read, but is certainly worth the effort. If you want an overview of Ms. Proberts’ arguments then read her Marriage Law for Genealogists: The Definitive Guide that I reviewed earlier. If you want more details including the specifics on the case law read this volume.

 

Ms. Probert is a genealogist and Professor of Family Law at Warwick University, a leading authority of the history of marriage laws of England and Wales and it clearly shows here. Her arguments in this book for her case are through and backed up by legal, historical and genealogical research which makes the book fascinating to read.

 

A very strong case is made that the 1753 Lord Hardwicke’s Act did not constitute a radical break with the past, but rather it was a transition from canon law to English law. In many ways the new Act focused on enforcing what was already supposed to be happening and as the formal title suggests “Act for Preventing Clandestine Marriages” it was primarily aimed at one particular practice – ending Clandestine Marriages.

 

The book focusses on the decades before and after the Act and how the contemporary people, church and legal establishment viewed marriage. It is vitally important to use contemporary sources for it is the legal establishments in both England and America that have really muddied the waters and led many historians astray.

 

The book examines in detail the misunderstandings around contract per verba de praesenti, clearly defining in the process what constituted a marriage in the eyes of the church and the law. It addresses other perceived marriages practices, tracing the origins of each into the historical literature and destroying each along the way. Ms. Probert moves on to explain what a clandestine marriage is and why it was such a problem for the establishment, and for the people involved. Once defined the book looks at the passage of the Act, what the law said and what effect it had on practice. Examined are the terms of Act; contracts to be unenforceable; preliminaries to the marriage; parental control; the ceremony; registration; penalties; exemptions. It would have been a nice addition if a full copy of the Act had been included in the book.

 

The book concludes by examining the success of the Act, how it was interpreted afterwards by the judicial system and what the response was at the time by the non-Anglicans.

 

For the genealogist three sets of records are used to support her case regarding marriage practices: specific cohorts of couples drawn from baptismal registers in a variety of locations around England and Wales; settlement examinations (Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire); and a rare parish listing (1782 Cardington, Bedfordshire).  

 

The book is heavily footnoted throughout citing numerous legal, historical, genealogical and social texts and studies. These provide lots of alternative viewpoints. However, this reviewer thinks the arguments have been made soundly, are strongly supported, and all genealogists should rethink what they have been taught about English marriage laws and practices in the eighteenth century. This is a good read

 

Book Review: Scottish Catholic Family History by Andrew R. Nicholl

ScotlandsPeople Catholic research
Scottish Catholic Family History: A family historian’s guide to Catholic Parish Registers and Cemetery Records for Scotland and the Bishopric of the Forces by Andrew R. Nicholl

This post came as a result of questions in a lecture I gave this morning on Effective use of ScotlandsPeople Website at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference in Ft. Wayne Indiana.

Scottish Catholic Family History: A Family Historian’s Guide to Catholic Parish Registers and Cemetery Records for Scotland and the Bishopric of the Forces. By Andrew R. Nicholl. Published by The Aquhorties Press, Columba House, 16 Drummond Place, Edinburgh EH3 6PL, UK. www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk. 2011. 115 pp. Illustrations. Softcover.  £10.

The Catholic Parish Registers Project began with a focused plan – to digitize and index all pre-1855 Catholic parish registers that existed. Digitization continued beyond this date because volumes continued beyond 1855, post-1855 registers had been deposited at the Scottish Catholic Archives; plus the records of the Bishopric of the Forces, Dalbeth Cemetery in Glasgow and Mount Vernon Cemetery in Edinburgh were fully available. If the records survive in the Scottish Catholic Archives they have been digitized, though there may be more modern records still in the Catholic parishes around Scotland. The latter have not been sought after to be added to the collection at this stage. This collection is much more extensive that the photocopy collection of Catholic registers that exists at the National Records Scotland (former National Archives of Scotalnd).

In the collection there are the usual parish registers of births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials/funerals, each with 100, 75 and 50 years closure periods respectively to protect privacy. Other items in the collection, all with a 100 year closure, include: confirmations; confessions; converts; communicants; status animarum (“state of souls” – often a list); seat rents; and sick call. The book begins by describing all the different record classes, itemizing what they are likely to contain and showing an example.

The largest section of the book is the detailed lists of the records.  The lists are arranged by location of the parish and the saint to which it is dedicated. For each location it identifies the type of register, dates covered and the collection reference at the Scottish Catholic Archives. There is the Missions and Parishes Collection, plus the Individual Missions Collection and the researcher needs to check both lists for complete coverage of any given locality.  For the three major Catholic cemeteries in Glasgow and Edinburgh that are included there are internment registers, owners’ registers and lair registers, all of which can provide different information. The Bishopric of the Forces records are the Catholic records from the British military all over the world, unfortunately many of these still fall under the time closure rules.

The last section in the book is a directory, with maps, of Catholic parishes in Scotland. The directory in table format provides: name of the town and dedication of the church; the unitary authority; diocese; date the mission was founded; date of the church building. For most researchers, unfamiliar with Scottish geography, it is the maps locating the churches that will help us identify the parish records worth investigating for our ancestors. One additional aid included is a comprehensive Latin-England forename glossary with all case endings making it easy to distinguish the Latin variants for Patrick and Patricia or Terence and Teresa or other similar male and female names.

If you have searched ScotlandsPeople and found your Catholic ancestors you are fortunate. The bigger problem is if you have searched and not found them – is it because they are not there, the records have not survived, or you are just looking under the wrong name. It is this book that will help you identify the time or record gaps in any specific parish. This book is therefore very important for anyone working on Scottish Catholic ancestry.

Book Review: Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Kathy Chater

I gave four lectures last weekend in Rochester, New York and got a number of questions about tracing Huguenots in England and Ireland, thus I thought appropriate to share this review.

Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Kathy Chater
Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Kathy Chater

Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Kathy Chater. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK. www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £12.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishing, 1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. www.casemateathena.com. US$24.95. Australia sales from Gould Genealogy and History. www.gould.com.au. AUS$29.95. 2012. 152 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries many thousands of Protestants fled religious persecution in France and the Low Countries (modern day Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg). They settled in the German Protestant States and the British Isles, some permanently while others later migrated to North America, the West Indies, South Africa and Australia. The book opens with a very good summary of the wars and religious conflict that led to these migrations, reminding us just how important religion was in the lives of our ancestors.

The book focusses on the communities within Great Britain and Ireland. It clearly identifies and summarizes the history, development and decline, of the specific Huguenot and Walloon communities in London, Kent, East Anglia, the West Country, Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Ms. Chater continues by suggesting a research plan with issues to consider. This is not necessarily easy for the wealthy tended to choose to assimilate joining the Church of England, seeking business and education opportunities, while the poor needed the support of their own community. The Huguenot communities could easily be connected with the Church of England or the Dissenting Churches (Congregationalists, Baptists, English Presbyterians) and often with specific occupations so a broad research perspective is required. A nice research checklist is provided of both specific and general sources, with chapters for each. The chapter on specific resources is very valuable addressing: denizations and naturalisations; returns of strangers; Huguenot church records, going beyond the church registers; poor relief and charity records; schools; charity apprenticeships; friendly societies; wills; other foreign churches. What is nice is that these records are not usually high on the priority list for researchers and so their importance and specificity for this community is valuable. The chapter on general sources points to more commonly used records, but again highlights what to look for that might clearly identify people from this community.

The closing chapters address how to research Huguenot communities with individual European countries, and the rest of the world, including briefly North America. The bibliography includes a complete listing of all titles in the Huguenot Society Quarto Series and New Series, plus how the titles have been combined and reissued on CD-ROM, along with a select bibliography.  Compared with other volumes in this series the bibliography and guidance for further research is one of the weaknesses in this otherwise up to date research guide. For example, though the chapter on the religious wars and Edicts in Europe that created this migration is well summarized there is no guidance in the chapter or the bibliography for researchers who want to know more. It should also be pointed out that when discussing the European Huguenot churches mention is made when the records have been microfilmed by the Family History Library, while no mention is made of which British Huguenot church records have been filmed.

This is a useful, up to date, practical guide for anyone who has, or thinks they have, Huguenot ancestors in the British Isles. It provides social and contextual assistance along with guidance on what records have survived, where to find them and how to use them.