Prior to 1837 there were no central records of citizens kept by the government. The only comparable records to the later registration of births, marriages and deaths are the parish registers which were kept by each local Anglican Church and into which the vicar recorded every baptism, marriage and burial performed in the church. The earliest registers date from 1538 although substantive record keeping was often not begun until the seventeenth century.
Parish registers are one of the most useful sources to use to trace your family history, as well as revealing people often marginalised in historical sources. For example we see:
“Maria Mandula “Advena et aethiops” Stranger and aethiops. Burial 1586, Calne St Mary parish register”
“Elizabeth the Blackmoor lived at the White Hart, buried 26 Jan 1653. Salisbury St Thomas parish register”
Although we have very useful indexed transcripts here (created by the Wiltshire Family History Society and covering baptisms and burials up to 1837), and microfiche copies of the original registers for perusal, it becomes a very time consuming process to look for ancestors if you do not have an idea of which parish they lived in. Bit of an ancestor needle in a parish haystack!
However, we are excited to announce that staff from Ancestry are currently undertaking the digitisation of the baptism, marriage and burial registers held here. These will then be available to view online at Ancestry, and searchable by name, location and date. There are thousands of volumes to digitise, but the team are now well over 25% complete! ‘Don’t count your ancestors before they are indexed’ though – it will be some time before all the digitisation, and subsequent indexing and transcription is complete. An exciting prospect for the future!
We are a partner in this project and would like to share the latest new relating to the lead partner in the project with you. It provides a picture of what will be available for Wiltshire in the future.
For the first time, historical maps of South Gloucestershire are now freely available online thanks to the Know Your Place West of England project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Know Your Place is a free digital mapping resource that enables you to explore your neighbourhood online through old maps, archive images and linked information. Know Your Place West of England is an ambitious extension of the Know Your Place Bristol website, which launched in 2011.
South Gloucestershire has now been added to the resource, more than quadrupling the area currently covered. Historic Environment Record data is available alongside the maps, providing a valuable research tool for everyone; from school children to family historians, planners to enthusiasts of community heritage.
You will also be able to upload and share your own information about the area, helping to build a rich and diverse community map of local heritage for everyone. From Severn Beach to Thornbury, Wickwar to Marshfield, Yate to Kingswood, and Warmley to Filton – you can now discover how South Gloucestershire has been transformed over time.
Over the coming months, the Know Your Place West of England project will extend to include the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset. The website will continue to grow as more resources, including enclosure and tithe maps, as well as drawings and photographs from archive and museum collections, are added.
To start exploring South Gloucestershire’s maps and heritage information visit the new The Know Your Place West of England website www.kypwest.org.uk. The website also features an accompanying blog where you can follow the project’s progress.
Communities Chair Cllr Heather Goddard said: “There will always be new things to discover and share on Know Your Place and anyone can help contribute to this fantastic resource. We invite everyone in South Gloucestershire to view the maps and share information about your own local heritage – whether it’s the well at the bottom of your garden, a family photo of your street during a Jubilee party, or an unusual feature of your favourite building in your hometown.”
Nerys Watts, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Know Your Place West of England will be a fantastic resource, bringing together the history of this area so people can discover the ever-changing make-up of the places where they live and work. If you have bought a National Lottery ticket recently, you have helped to support these types of projects that are preserving the precious heritage of our communities for future generations. Thank you.”
The Know Your Place West of England project was awarded £379,800 be the Heritage lottery Fund, with generous match-funding and in-kind support from local authorities and heritage groups within the region, including £5,000 match-funding from lead partner South Gloucestershire Council.
Project partners include: Avon Industrial Buildings Trust, Bath Record Office, Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Bristol and Avon Family History Society, Bristol City Council, Bristol industrial Archaeological Society, the British Library, Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, Gloucester City Council, Gloucestershire Archives, North Somerset Council, Somerset Heritage Service, South Gloucestershire Council, South Gloucestershire Mines Research Group, Thornbury Museum, Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council, and Yate & District Heritage Centre.
I am delighted to report that as of January 2016 we have a new catalogue for the archive service, which uses weekly extracts from our in-house database, so is far more up to date than our previous system. It contains catalogues for the majority of our catalogued collections, (with a few notable exceptions such as school and some local government records, and non-conformist records.) These will be added to the catalogue in due course, however, and the new catalogue is a lot more user-friendly than our old one. Please bookmark: http://calmview.wiltshire.gov.uk/CalmView/
The catalogue includes two large estate collections which have never before had on-line catalogues – these are: 1946 – the papers of the Earls of Radnor, and 2664 – the archives of the Lacock Abbey estate. The Radnor papers were catalogued with the help of the National Archives’ Cataloguing Grant Fund, and the Lacock Abbey papers with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Friends of the National Libraries. We are delighted to be able to make these collections more accessible.
Please note that it is best to use the Advanced Search rather than the Basic Search, and to select ‘Any Text Field’ to get the maximum number of ‘hits’. The results are listed in numerical order rather than order of relevance.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on this revamped catalogue, it is still possible to search many of our collections at: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/advanced-search and select ‘Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre’ in the drop-down box at the bottom, under ‘Search other archives’. However please note that Discovery has not been updated since the early 2000s so will not contain more recent accessions.
Once the digital image georeferencing has been completed and checked, the maps can be uploaded to the Know Your Place website and the aim is to have the Wiltshire material available for testing by the end of April 2016, all being well. There will then be a whole raft of further work to promote the use of the site and show people how they can contribute to it themselves.
We will update you or you can follow @KYPWestEngland on Twitter
We will be closed for the last week in January 2016 for essential work on our collections. We will close at 5.00 p.m. on Saturday 23rd January 2016 and re-open at 9.30 a.m. on Tuesday 2nd February 2016.
Look out for updates on the work we are able to complete!