Tuesday, April 20, 2010

English Parish Record data and Forrest Gump

One of the really great benefits of blogging about my ancestors is that other researchers know much more than I do about record availability and record access.

For example, in response to my post Who were parents of Susanna Page (ca1611-1691)? yesterday, there were responses from:

1) Martin noted that:

"According to Burke's "Key to The Ancient Parish Registers of England & Wales" 1908, Hawstead, Suffolk registers start in 1558. Assuming they were not destroyed in WWII, the Genealogists Society in London would have them.

"I don't know if you're familiar with this web page, but this is the listing of all the parish registers that have been transcribed into the IGI. Hawstead is not among them. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hughwallis/IGIBatchNumbers/CountryEngland.htm#PageTitle "

2) Sheena noted that:

"...According to the Phillimore "Atlas and Index of Parish Registers" (2003 Edn) the parish registers survive from 1558-1926. The originals are in the Bury St Edmunds branch of Suffolk Record Office. The Society of Genealogists in London has copies for 1558-1857 and Boyd's marriage index has coverage from 1559-1837."

Thank you to Martin and Sheena for this helpful information.

I have very little expertise in English parish records, other than searching some of them on FHL microfilm and visiting the Wiltshire County Record Office back in 1993 to view them on microfilm and typed extractions for Wiltshire. I knew that many parish registers were extracted and put in the IGI by the LDS folks, but didn't have the link that Martin provided. have used the Phillimore Atlas and Index, the closest copy for me is at the San Diego FHC.

I mentioned in my post that the Hawstead Parish Registers, and an index to them, are available from 1668 to 1857 via Family History Library microfilms. However, the records for this page family are probably in the Hawstead records before 1668, so I'm stuck until I can get to England and visit the Suffolk Record Office or the Society of Genealogists. A Google for Hawstead Parish Registers revealed this surname site with a list of Suffolk parish registers, including:

"Hawstead All Saints (Baptisms 1558-1857-Modern Transcript; Baptisms 1813-1901-SBI; Marriages 1559-1857-Modern Transcript; Marriages 1559-1837-Boyd's; Burials 1559-1857-Modern Transcript; Burials 1559-1899-NBI 2nd ed/SUI)"

That's great - there are modern transcriptions of the records, but I'm not sure exactly where they are - probably the Suffolk Record Office. Note that NBI = National Burial Index, SBI = Suffolk Burial Index, Boyd's = Boyd's Marriage Index, SUI = Suffolk Burial Index.

There is a detailed description and many pictures of All Saints Church in Hawstead here. How cool is that page?

I wondered about the Probate Records noted in Dan Page's message board post, so I checked the FHL microfilms and see:

* Original wills, 1429-1857; miscellaneous papers including probate inventories, ca. 1734-1858; act books, 1577-1596, 1842-1858 Church of England. Archdeaconry of Sudbury. However, the list of microfilms does not include the years 1594 to 1657!

* Original wills, 1459-1857 and miscellaneous wills not proved, 1554-1739 Church of England. Archdeaconry of Suffolk. However, the list of microfilms does not include the years 1579 to 1773!

* Probate records, 1354-1857; indexes, 1520-1857; probate inventories, 1573-1817 Church of England. Archdeaconry of Sudbury. This includes the years between 1630 and 1640 in Volumes 51 through 54.

The latter should give me a good start, depending on which Archdeaconry the will was filed in. I saw several Peculiars in the list too, so it may not be as easy as it looks. The bigger challenge may be reading the "secretary" style handwriting of the document. Perhaps one of the other films has a transcription of the will I want.

Now I'm thinking that I need to search my family tree database to see which other ancestors died in Suffolk and may be in the Suffolk wills. This is an opportunity to not miss in Salt Lake City next week at the FHL!

I note that all of this is a pretty good example of the Forrest Gump Principle of Genealogy Research -- "Genealogy research is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to find, but you have to look everywhere your 'genealogy gem' might be hiding."

As I explained yesterday, I investigated an email from a colleague the other day, and totally lucked out finding the will of Thomas Page already transcribed by another researcher. My only work was Googling the names Susanna Page and her husband Thomas Gleason!

Ah, The Genealogy Snowball is growing bigger by the minute, eh?

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