Family History Collections Archives


Index of Catholic nuns 1598-1914

A recent addition to the Society of Genealogists’ Members Area is an index of Catholic nuns covering the period 1598-1914.

In the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) all religious houses of women and men were closed. There was a small revival under Queen Mary (1553-1558) but at her death the few nuns who wished to remain so went abroad.

In 1598 a congregation of specifically English nuns was established in the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium). Many more followed and for nearly two hundred years Catholic nuns lived out their lives in the Catholic countries of Europe. Many of their records have been published by the Catholic Record Society and the relevant volumes contain more detailed histories. All these orders were enclosed and the ladies within them lived lives of prayer.

With the advent of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792 most of these convents were expelled. Fortunately they were able to return to England where Catholicism was now legal.

Nuns 244x300 Index of Catholic nuns 1598 1914

With the great expansion of Catholic numbers in the United Kingdom, and especially of poor urban Catholics from the 1840s, many new Orders came to England from the continent to do active work – mostly teaching or nursing. By 1900 there were over 90 religious orders of Catholic women working in the UK.

In the early 1990s the Catholic Family History Society circulated all the organisations of Catholic religious women working in England to ask about the records of individuals. A great many lists were received and computerised and this index (which lists over 12,000 individuals from about 60 orders) is the result. The Catholic FHS has no further information about the women listed here.

In many cases religious orders had a centralised structure and an archivist for the whole order was able to supply a copy of a complete list. The Carmelites and the Sisters of Mercy, however, had no such central structure. Lists were received from particular houses but not from others.

Note that England, Wales and Scotland, with which this index is concerned, formed a quite separate province from Ireland. This index contains a great many Irish women but they have all joined the English Province, not the Irish Province, of their Order. The cut off date was entry in 1914 so very few women born after about 1895 will be found here. However a very few orders sent later material with permission to incorporate it.

Further information on individuals may well be available from the Religious Order concerned. The address of the current religious superior will be found in the Catholic Directory. Most orders have archivists and many of those are members of the Catholic Archives Society. Many have published articles describing their holdings in that society’s journalCatholic Archives of which the Society of Genealogists has a complete run.

To search the index go to the Members Area.

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Was your ancestor a Baptist?

If so ybaptists Was your ancestor a Baptist?ou may find information about them in the Society of Genealogists’ family history library, which holds registers and gravestone inscriptions from many Baptist chapels as well as publications such as the Baptists’ Handbook. The Society has also published a book on how to trace your Baptist ancestry.

Recently however a new resource has been  added to the Members’ Area of the Society’s website to help you in your quest. This lists several thousand births, marriages and deaths occurring in the Baptists’ Magazine from the 18th and 19th centuries.

A significant number of the entries relate to Baptist ministers, deacons and their families, and many women are listed. Some of the entries are particularly useful genealogically eg. Edward Foster’s father and grandfather are shown, together with the year in which they were born. Some of the entries do not appear in the Baptist registers deposited at the National Archives (class RG4), so this may be the only record of a vital event.

Each entry gives a reference to the year of the Baptist Magazine (BM) in which the notice appears. Sometimes (but frustratingly not always) the page number is also given. A complete set of the Baptist Magazine for 1809 – 1890 (except 1856) is held at Spurgeon’s College in South London. The Angus Library and Dr Williams Library also have good coverage of the title.

To search the Baptists’ Magazine index go to the Members’ Area. A basic name search is free but to view the record you will need to be a member.

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Was your ancestor in the British Army?

If so the Society of Genealogists’  family history library may contain details about his time in service. Our collection includes copies of Soldiers’ documents from 1760-1900, a run of the Army Lists from 1740 onwards, many records from the First World War and a good collection of regimental histories to shed background information on what his regiment was doing.

Now the Society’s Members Area has added a new resource to help you in your family history research. Member Nicholas Newington-Irving has gone through the Society’s library collections noting references to Military people mentioned in Journals, local and family histories etc.

The resulting index only includes biographical articles relating to individual soldiers (therefore the contents of works such as the army lists are not included) but it may lead you to information you would not otherwise have found. It relates primarily, but not exclusively, to commissioned officers in the British Army and the pre 1947 Indian Army.

The shelf mark for each item is given but if a visit to the library is not possible a photocopy of the article can be ordered through the Society’s ‘Search and Copy’ service.

A free basic search in the index can be made by going to the Members’ Area and entering the surname you are interested in into the ‘Quick search’ box. To view the full reference you will need to be a member of the Society.

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Find your ancestors in the 17th century

The Society of Genealogists’ family history library has a large number of resources to help you find your 17th century ancestors.

The protestation oath returns of 1642 are one such type of record. The protestation was an oath of allegiance to the King and the established church. A bill was passed in Parliament in July 1641 requiring those over the age of 18 (normally only men) to sign the protestation, and no one was allowed to hold office in the church or the state unless they did so.

A letter was sent by the Speaker of the House of Commons to the Sheriffs of each county, instructing them and the Justices of the Peace to take the protestation. The incumbents of each parish then read it to their parishioners who were also asked to take the oath. This took place in February and March 1641/2, after which the returns were sent back to Parliament.

The 1642 Protestation Oath Return for the city of Coventry has recently been added to the Members’ Area of the Society’s website. The return (which also includes some hamlets and villages surrounding the city) lists 1451 men over the age of 18. At the end are the names of those who have not taken the oath, including two men identified as Papists.

The original returns are kept in the House of Lords Record Office and the Society would like to extend their thanks to Eben W Graves of Norwalk, Connecticut for allowing his transcript to be placed on the Members’ Area.

The Society’s library also contains returns for many other parts of the country.

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Was your ancestor poor?

If so the Society of Genealogists’ family history library may contain records relating to their life.

One particularly useful type of record for tracing poorer ancestors is the Settlement Examination. Under the laws of settlement which were introduced by the Poor Law Act of 1601, people were only entitled to claim poor relief in their legal place of settlement (ie. The parish where they had been living for at least one month).

After the Settlement Act of 1662, people could obtain a settlement in any parish through marriage, apprenticeship, domestic service for over a year or by occupying property worth more than £10 per annum. Anyone not fulfilling these criteria was liable to be removed to their original parish.

After 1697, poorer people had to carry a settlement certificate with them to show that their parish of legal settlement would take them back if necessary. If they requested poor relief, the parish they had moved to would examine them to see where their legal right of settlement lay. The resulting settlement examination books are a rich source for researchers.

The entries might include details of a person’s birthplace and working career as well as the names and ages of dependent children. They may also include details of their recent whereabouts and other incidental detail about their life.

Recently a name index to the Settlement examination books for 1708-1750 for St Martin in the Fields, a large parish in Westminster, has been added to the Members’ Area of the Society of Genealogists website. These books have been indexed by a group of dedicated volunteers at the Westminster Archives Centre, and Society of Genealogists’ volunteers have helped with the project by typing up some of the index cards.

Search the index for 1708-1731 or 1732-1750. If you find an entry relating to your ancestor you can order a photocopy of the original from Westminster Archives for £4.00 by clicking here (quoting full reference)

The Society is most grateful to Westminster Archives for permission to include this index on the Members’ Area.

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