After I had written my article for the December 2016 Journal, the General Register Office (http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/) made an unexpected announcement. Some years ago, the GRO began a project to reindex and digitise its records in order to ensure that the available indexes were as accurate and useful as possible, and to enable the supply of certificates online. For various reasons, the project was not completed and the work that had been done was not made public.
At the beginning of November, the GRO announced that the new indexes were available, and that they had three projects for the supply of registration data online which would run for limited periods as a trial. The new indexes cover births from 1837 to 1915 and deaths from 1837 to 1957, but the major improvement from previous GRO indexes is that the entries for births include the maiden name of the mother (previously only available for births after June 1911) and the entries for deaths include the age at death (previously only available for deaths after 1866). This is a very useful development, and will help knock down many brick walls.
You need to register to use the new indexes, but you will already have done this if you have ordered certificates online. The search screen is shown above, and is a bit restricting. You have to specify the sex of the person you are looking for, and the date range is a specified year ± up to 2 years, i.e. 5 years in all. You can specify a registration district, and there are other search options, such as mother’s maiden name in the case of births.
The first of the three trial projects ran in November, and was for the supply of the details from certificates in pdf form which were e-mailed to purchasers. These documents were “unofficial”, in that they were uncertified and could not be used for legal or official purposes like passports or probate. They cost £6, as against the £9.25 cost of an official certificate, but were supplied in the same time frame. The second project will also have finished by the time you read this. It is for the supply of a pdf copy which will be supplied the same day if ordered before 1 p.m. Copies cost £45, and this option is clearly aimed at solicitors and heir hunters rather than family historians. The third project will be for the supply by e-mail of any certificate, even those which have not yet been digitised. Altogether, these are some very interesting and useful projects, which we can hope will be developed further and made permanent.
The records at Deceased Online (https://www.deceasedonline.com) now include the nearly 160,000 from Highgate cemetery. Those buried at Highgate range from Karl Marx to Jeremy Beadle, and also include Douglas Adams, George Eliot, Michael Faraday and Jean Simmons. To quote from the website:
Opened in 1839, Highgate Cemetery in north London is designated Grade I on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. It is arguably the UK's most celebrated cemetery with stunning architecture and hundreds of memorials dedicated to notable people buried over the last 180 years.
Highgate is one of the 'Magnificent Seven' London cemeteries, a term applied to some of the finest 19th century historic cemeteries in the capital originally built by private developers to alleviate over-crowding in existing parish and church burial grounds. With Highgate, Deceased Online now has four of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries' records exclusively available; the other three being Brompton, Kensal Green and Nunhead with records for another arriving in 2017.
Highgate Cemetery's website describes this wonderful place as follows:
"One of England's greatest treasures; Highgate Cemetery has some of the finest funerary architecture in the country. It is a place of peace and contemplation where a romantic profusion of trees, memorials and wildlife flourish."
Like Arnos Vale Cemetery, Highgate has a Friends organisation, and their website is at http://highgatecemetery.org/..
The number and coverage of burial and memorial websites has increased in recent years, and I recently made use of Gravestone Photos (www.gravestonephotos.com) to get a photo of a memorial in the church at Norton Malreward. The Adams family were wealthy Clifton landowners, but they also had a connection to Norton Malreward, which I found through Ron Lewin’s monumental inscriptions database on our own Society website. A Google search led me to Gravestone Photos, and I requested a high definition photo of the memorial, which covers three generations.
As you will see, the memorial is high up on a wall, so the image is distorted. However, I was able to enlarge it and easily transcribe the details.
Another set of memorial inscriptions that some may find useful are those for Dorset which are now available on Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk). Also recently added to Findmypast are Gloucestershire apprentices 1595-1700 and Ireland dog licence registers. The apprentice records are taken from the Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeology Society. They are the result of OCR scanning, so they can be rather laborious to search, but do contain some Bristol names.
On 19th March 1863, Mary Casely, servant, appeared before the Keynsham magistrate and was sentenced to one month hard labour, which was served at Shepton Mallet prison. Her crime was:
These Somerset criminal records are one of the latest additions to Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk). Others are Dorset bastardy records and Dorset transportation records. For some time, Ancestry has included links to external sites like Findagrave in their search results. Recently, I discovered that they also include links to content on Fold3, which requires an additional subscription.
The British Newspaper Archive (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/) has continued its steady release of new titles, but none of the recent ones have been of particular local interest. However, they have recently included Lloyds List, which will be of value to anyone researching which ship left port when and who the master and broker were. An ancestor of mine emigrated to Australia from Winchelsea in East Sussex in 1838, and I have long known that the name of his ship was Coromandel and the date it sailed. I became confused by a record that Coromandel was the name of a convict ship, as my ancestor was a free settler, travelling with his sister and other people from the same home village. Study of Lloyds List and other contemporary newspapers shows that there were in fact two ships named Coromandel which left London on virtually the same day, one bound for Sydney and the other for Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales. There was even a third Coromandel recorded at the same time. This was a coastal trading vessel, mainly travelling between South Wales and London.
One of the other recent additions to the British Newspaper Archive is Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper. This was published on Sundays and took advantage of rising literacy to achieve a circulation of 1.5 million. I found an interesting article about a boiler explosion on the River Avon in 1851, as well as the following advertisement on 26th July 1891 which might have come from a family historian.
There is an interesting history of Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper on Wikipaedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/).
I doubt if anyone reading this is now using any other vehicle than the internet to search the GRO records of births, marriages and deaths. However, even with all the information that is now readily available, it is easy to misinterpret what one sees, and I recently came across a situation with the names of registration districts that may be news to some. The names of Registration Districts can be confusing, although you are all probably aware by now that the Bristol Registration District from 1837 onwards referred only to quite a small area around the city centre. The area to the west, north and east, which actually had a larger population for much of the time was known as Clifton R.D. from 1837 to 1877, and Barton Regis R.D. thereafter. Later, much of this area became part of a new Bristol R.D. Bedminster R.D. existed from 1837 to 1899, and included not just parts of Bristol but the rural area as far south as Yatton. After 1899, some was included in the new Bristol R.D. and most of the rest became the new Long Ashton R.D.
Information about the various boundary changes that have taken place over the years can be found on GENUKI (www.ukbmd.org.uk/genuki/reg/), although it can be accessed more simply through the “Information” option on the FreeBMD home page (www.freebmd.org.uk/). What I was previously unaware of is that Whitchurch was part of Bathavon R.D. from 1936 to 1974, having previously been in Keynsham R.D. Keynsham R.D. was abolished in 1936, but previously covered Kingswood, Mangotsfield, Hanham and other local areas. From 1936 to 1974, Weston super Mare R.D. covered everywhere from Burnham on Sea to Long Ashton, and included Bishopsworth until 1951. The lesson to take from this is that the registration district name is an administrative convenience, and should not be thought of as synonymous with the placename.
Finally, Gloucester Road in Bristol has acquired a certain status of late as an example of a busy location with a variety of thriving businesses and a loyal following from local residents. It now has its own website at http://thegloucesterroadstory.org/ , and you are invited to contribute your own memories of the street as well as the results of your historical research.