The SoG Library now gives free access to 18 million parish records from London parishes dating from 1538 to 1980 published online for the first through Ancestry.co.uk. Ancestry’s databases, usually available to subscribers at home, can be accessed in the SoG’s FREE Family History Community Access area and on the computers in the Lower Library. Information about joining the Society of Genealogists can be found on our website .
Famous names mentioned in these records include Samuel Pepys, Oscar Wilde and Simon Cowell’s great-grandfather. Parish records an essential pre-19th century resource for UK family history researchers and this online collection supplements the many thousands of copies and transcripts of local parish records held in the SoG Library and which are listed on the SoG’s free online Library Catalogue .
The database on Ancestry.co.uk includes name indexes for the christening and burial registers from 1813 and marriages from 1754. Images of the original London records both for the indexed periods and for earlier records are also freely available at the SoG via the Ancestry website.
The records are made available by Ancestry.co.uk in partnership with the City of London’s London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts . The collection details baptisms, marriages and burials which took place in more than 1,000 Greater London parishes between 1538 and 1980 and reveals the names and stories of those who lived through major events in the City’s history including the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. The collection pre-dates Civil Registration – the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate records of citizens’ lives and the point at which record-keeping was both modernised and nationalised. The only way to trace a baptism, marriage or burial before the 19th century is through parish records.
The earliest records date back as far as 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar General, issued an order that each parish was to keep a register detailing every baptism, marriage and burial it performed. This collection will be of huge significance to the estimated 33 million Brits with ancestors who lived in or passed through London at some point in time, enabling them to trace their roots, whether to the City’s slums or its more affluent areas.
Samuel Pepys – The baptism of Pepys is recorded in the registers of St Bride, Fleet Street on the 3rd of March 1633. Pepys’ famed diary of London provides a valuable account of the Great Plague and the Great Fire.
Oscar Wilde – The marriage of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ author to Constance Mary Lloyd is listed on the 29th of May 1884 in Paddington. It was just a year after this marriage that many believe Wilde became aware of his homosexuality after meeting a boy named Robbie Ross
Joseph Allerton Cowell – The baptism of the music producer Simon Cowell’s great-grandfather is listed in the registers of St John of Jerusalem, Hackney, on the 15th of March 1874. Like his father, Joseph was a rope and twine manufacturer by trade
Thomas Hardy – The marriage of the ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ author to Florence Dugdee at St Andrew, Enfield is recorded on the 10th of February 1914
Other famous names in the collection include Charles Dickens, John Keats and English chemist Michael Faraday.
The digitisation and indexing of these parish records allows an insight into the social trends linked to key history events such as a steady increase in marriages recorded from 1754 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act resulted in the abolition of the practise of common-law marriage, thus making it a requirement for couples to marry in a church.
The London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s, can be accessed directly at www.ancestry.co.uk/lma