Those with Wiltshire ancestry will be pleased to learn that Findmypast ( have released a set of over 5 million parish records. These include banns as well as baptisms, marriages and burials, but there are no images of register pages, only a transcription. Some of the entries come from Phillimore’s marriage indexes. The other good news is that Knowyourplace ( has recently been expanded to include the whole of the present county of Somerset. North Somerset council area should be included soon – perhaps before this journal is published – and maps of the whole of our local area, together with the neighbouring counties, will then be available.

There have been no other releases of relevance to our area in the past few months, so this article is mostly a catch-up on other developments, and accounts of some oddities that have recently become known.

This is also the time for an apology. For some reason, I failed to spot that Ancestry ( had released a large collection of parish records for Somerset, many of them with accompanying images from the original registers – the current gold standard. This means there are now three online sources of parish register information for Somerset – FreeReg ( , Family Search ( , and Ancestry. Soon there will be another, since Somerset is on Findmypast’s list of county registers to add in the next six months.

Having used FreeReg and Family Search in the past, I wanted to see how the Ancestry offering compared. At first, I thought Ancestry might be using the same information as Family Search, but that is not the case, and the attribution is to Somerset Heritage Service, the name for the Somerset Archives. Looking at them in detail shows that the Ancestry and Family Search data are different.

FreeReg is a nationwide project offering indexing done by volunteers. It is not comprehensive since it is a work in process and although it appears to produce very accurate results, it does not offer an image of the original so that you can check. I have yet to find an obvious error in FreeReg, but that is not the case with the other two datasets. These errors extend beyond the inevitable ones caused by handwriting which is difficult to decipher, and the existence of the image and a linked index show the extent of the problem.

Bertram Sage was baptised at Milton Clevedon on 9th September 1906. Although the parish register is very clear, the index entry on Ancestry has Bertha Sage, rather than Bertram. The register entry above is for Bertha Dunn, but she is not included in the index at all, perhaps indicating that the transcriber has confused and conflated the two entries.

 Bertram Sage baptism

 The second example concerns the baptism of Charles Toghill in 1828. Charles was born at Latteridge near Iron Acton, but the family moved to Keynsham soon after his birth, and he was actually baptised at Saltford, where his grandparents lived. Here is the parish register entry:

 Charles Toghill baptism

 FreeREG has a correct transcription. Family Search has a correct transcription, although not an image on this occasion, but mistakenly attributes the entry to the parish of Williton, nearly 60 miles away in west Somerset. The other entries on the page are similarly mistakenly attributed to Williton. Ancestry mistranscribes the surname as Joghill, but links the index to the register image.

The lesson to learn here is not to rely on just one interpretation of an original record, especially if the first one you see does not accord with what you already know. If you cannot find a record in one source, look in another. Also, don’t forget that Bristol Archives have microfiche copies of parish registers for the Diocese of Bristol, and the Society Research Room has similar for the rest of the old Avon area. Sometimes the problem is different information for what is the same event, and I shall return to some instances of that later in this article.

Local newspaper websites can be very useful when tracing recent deaths, and I recently discovered that the Bristol Post also offers this feature. The search screen is at, and the example I found mentioned various family members, confirming that I had the right person, and also revealed other personal details. There are no comprehensive indexes of deaths after 2006, so any source is helpful.

Philip Yeates obituary

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names was published recently with a price tag of £400, although you can currently buy it through Amazon for a mere £360. For those without that sort of money, it can now be accessed free of charge through the online resources section of Bristol and South Gloucestershire libraries.

If you have an interest in nineteenth and early twentieth century heating engineers and the products they developed, then the Heritage Group website for the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers at may help you in your study. It contains a mass of material including biographies, drawings, photographs and advertisements which reveal a lot about the history of the buildings we now live in.

 Gurney stoves

If you use Findmypast to search the UK census, you may have noticed that the transcription page lists not only the person you have searched for but the names of what it states are other family members. There are separate lists of first and last names. When Pam Bishop looked for the name of a sailor who was on board ship for the 1861 census, she noticed that the list of names of “family members” bore no relation to the other names on the census page. I checked and one name was on page 4, while another was on page 16. Can anyone explain?

I have been doing some research recently into the FRIPP family, who were wealth Bristol soapmakers, and came across some unusual items, errors and inconsistencies. For example, James FRIPP died in Bristol in 1850, and FreeBMD ( lists his death in the last quarter of that year. To check his age, I looked at the new GRO index which now has that field, and was surprised that he was not listed. Investigating further, I found that he was listed as James TRIPP. I think what happened is that the FreeBMD index was compiled from the original alphabetical index of deaths, so the transcriber knew that he was looking at an F, not a T. The new GRO index has been compiled from the certificates themselves, so without any point of reference the transcriber read a T, not an F. The entirely separate probate index has the name correctly as James FRIPP.

Many of the Fripps were Moravians, the nonconformist sect with links to George Whitfield and one which still has a congregation in Kingswood. The Bristol Moravian chapel was in Upper Magdalen Street, roughly opposite where the BRI is now, and had its own burial ground. It can be seen on the 25” First Edition O.S. map on Knowyourplace. The baptism and burial registers are available on both Ancestry and Findmypast, but with different details. Lydia Downing Fripp, who was the wife of the James Fripp mentioned above, died in 1814. The Ancestry version of the record of her burial is shown below, and you will see that it is wrongly attributed to a Primitive Methodist chapel in Bedfordshire. Findmypast uses the same image, although displays it sideways and without the misleading heading. The Findmypast transcription identifies the burial as being at the Moravian chapel in Bristol, which it says is called “Grace Acres”. The Memorial Inscription on the BAFHS website states that there is a memorial to Lydia Fripp at the Moravian chapel in Kingswood, but this could mean that the memorials, and perhaps the remains, were transferred to Kingswood when the Bristol chapel was demolished. On Findagrave (, Todd Whitesides, of Louisville, Kentucky, also reports that Lydia Downing Fripp is buried at the Moravian burial ground in Bristol. I had always understood that Findagrave listed memorials that were still standing, but that is obviously not always the case. The Moravian burial ground in Upper Maudlin Street has now been built on, so nothing is visible. All very confusing, and an indication that you should never rely on one source if others are available.

Lydia Downing Fripp burial

Another inconsistency that I came across recently, and cannot explain, concerns the death of Elizabeth Hill, who was tried for bigamy in 1860, and whose first husband petitioned for divorce in December 1861. On 21st January 1862, the court decided not to proceed further, presumably because Elizabeth was ill, and it was reported in the Bristol Mercury on 1st February that she had died on 27th January. So far, so straightforward. Except that her death was registered in the December quarter of 1861. I can understand if an event is registered in a later quarter, perhaps because of a delay in it being reported to the registrar, but how can it be listed before it happened? Answers in an e-mail, please.

Having cheered you all up by writing that any information you find in your researches could be wrong, I think it’s time to close.