New Online Resources Archives to publish Canterbury Cathedral Records on the Web


Findmypast has announced its latest archive project to increase access to over a million East Kent  baptism, marriage and burial records dating back to 1538. This is the first time that images of the original parish records from East Kent churches will appear online has announced that it has been awarded a contract by Canterbury Cathedral Archives to publish online for the very first time historic records from the archive. The first phase of the Canterbury Collection project will see a browsable version of the parish registers of the historic Archdeaconry of Canterbury go online in the coming weeks at

An estimated 270,000 images containing over a million entries will be published on the website, covering parish churches from a wide expanse of East Kent, including:

  •  the city of Canterbury
  •  the towns of Faversham, Wye and Elham
  •  Thanet
  •  towns along the east Kent coast stretching from Whitstable in the north round to Hythe in the south

The launch has been timed to coincide with the temporary closure of Canterbury Cathedral Archives for refurbishment, so that family historians and local historians can continue to enjoy access to these fascinating records until the Archives reopens in autumn 2012.

From the initial online launch in February, visitors to the website will be able to browse through the scanned pages of the parish records to search for their ancestors. At the same time, will start to transcribe the records, with a view to creating an index and making them fully searchable on the website later this year.


Canterbury Cathedral Archivist Cressida Williams, added: “Working with findmypast has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to expand access to these records to a worldwide audience. This resource will be a great asset for anyone with an interest in the history of this part of Kent.”

The Canterbury Collection will join an impressive array of UK parish records at and available free in the Society of Genealogists’ Library, including records from Manchester Archives, Cheshire Archives, Plymouth & West Devon Record Office and Welsh Archives, in addition to over 40 million parish records from family history societies throughout the UK in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies.

Anyone wishing to be notified when the Canterbury Collection becomes available can register online at to receive a newsletter.


About Canterbury Cathedral Archives

Canterbury Cathedral Archives collects, cares for, and provides access to, records relating to Canterbury Cathedral, the City of Canterbury, parishes in the historic Archdeaconry of Canterbury, and other local institutions and families. The Archives closes on 31st January for refurbishment work, due to reopen in Autumn 2012. is working with the Cathedral Archives on ‘the Canterbury Collection’, made up of registers of parishes in the historic Archdeaconry of Canterbury.




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The British Newspapers Archives is now available online.

Family and local historians have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the British Library Newspaper Archive since we had a short opportunity to test it a few weeks ago.

Now the site is fully functioning and available to all. The British Library in partnership with Brightsolid (the company behind genealogy websites Findmypast and Scotland’s People) have launched the first phase of a ten year project to digitise 40million pages of newspaper. In the first release some 4 million pages have been made available online at the website

About 200 titles have been made available so far. While the current list of newspapers does go into the 20th century they are primarily for the 18th and 19th century, thus providing a wonderful resource for anyone researching before the census years. The project is concentrating on local papers and in the first release it looks like every county has at least one paper represented so the spread is quite good. In addition the Poor Law Gazette; Poor Man’s Guardian and The Odd Fellow have been included. It strikes me that the coverage is better for the rural counties than urban areas. Hull and Liverpool for example had several papers but each only has one included thus far. There is also some overlap with newspapers previously digitised through JISC academic funding, some of which have also been licenced for the BL’s previous 19th century newspaper online project – but that is to be expected and all the papers digitised with JISC will eventually be in this archive.

Local newspapers are fascinating and throw up such amazing stories. You can search by key words not only through the editorial content but in advertisements and illustrations.

I have found some remarkable information for my ancestors in the Hereford Times and Herefordshire Journal. As poor labouring folk they were often found as victims of petty crimes such as theft. My Great Great Grandmother Mary Churchill gave evidence in 1861 against her neighbour tried at the Petty Session for a brutal assault of their son – something that of course you just wouldn’t know just by looking at the families listed side by side in the 1861 census.

My most interesting find has been the reports of the trial, conviction and transportation at the Hereford Summer Assizes of Mary’s Brother–in-law and My Great Great Uncle John Churchill (born 1819). He was tried in 1846 for the attempted murder of Elizabeth Morris at the Turnpike House in St Weonards in Herefordshire. The story is reported in one of the longest court reports I have ever seen. John Churchill Assault 1846 latestThere was damning forensic evidence as the constable reported measuring and matching John’s boots to footprints found at the screen. John’s brothers James and my Great Great Grandfather William (who the judged called the more “respectable brother”) gave witness on John’s behalf and it is reported that William contributed £5 or £6 to his brothers defence saved out meagre wages of 8 shillings a week. The Defence Counsel tried to prove that there had been a past history of trouble between the Churchills and Mrs Morris claiming this was a false accusation against John as she had once cried “I do hate the set of you. I’ll transport some of you if it lies in my power”. However her evidence and identification was quite clear and accepted by the jury and while John was found not guilty of attempted murder he was convicted of the brutal assault (described frequently in the papers as “cutting and maiming”), which left Elizabeth badly injured and unconscious on the ash heap. John Churchill was transported to Tasmania on the Pestonjee Bomanjee in October 1846, gaining his ticket of leave in 1854/5 and dying there in 1883.

The peripheral information about the witnesses in this case, such as the amount they earned and who lodged with whom, is fascinating and brings a generation of my family history vividly to life, and I would never have known about it if it weren’t for the digitisation of the Herefordshire newspapers. The reports proved some theories I had about the family and answered other questions – notably why I had not found John’s burial or death record. John isn’t directly related to me and his crime was very serious indeed. But I can’t help but be delighted to have discovered it.


The digitised newspapers are full of such stories and will open so many avenues of research for family and local history. Searches are free but you have to pay to view the newspaper pages themselves. The fees start from £6.95 for 2 days access and 500 credits (50 pages views). A month’s subscription costs £29.95 for 30 days and 3000 credits. Annual subscription costs £79.95 with unlimited access. Images can be saved in folders to your account or downloaded as PDFs. You can order an A1 scan of a particular page which may well be useful. Old newsprint is fiendishly small and while a printout onto an A4 domestic printer has come out remarkably clearly I do wish I had a larger printer attached to my computer. I must admit to a small hiccup with trying to download an image of an article that crosses onto 2 pages which still needs to be sorted out but the email support response was very quick and we are working on the problem. The text of the newspapers has been captured by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which captures a transcription of the article on the left of the screen. There is a facility for the public to correct any of the glitches that OCR throws up and as a good collaborative family historian I have edited the text of the article relating to John Churchill and tidied up a few errors so anyone after me who wants to read the entry will at least have all the names and places correctly transcribed and thus findable.

All in all this is a great new adventure in family history and will  enliven all our stories – good hunting.

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The website Connected Histories British History Sources, 1500-1900 brings together 11 major digital resources related to early modern and nineteenth century Britain with a single federated search that allows sophisticated searching of names, places and dates, as well as the ability to save, connect and share resources within a personal workspace. While some of the sites concerned are pay per view or subscription many are free to the Higher Education Community and  all can be searched free by name etc before viewing full entries or images.

Amongst the resources are the following data sets that are very family to family historians but which can now be searched across a single portal –

connected historiesBritish History Online

British Newspapers 1600-1900

The Church of England Clergy Database

London Lives 1600-1900


The Proceedings of the Old Bailey online

The notes for family historians found on the site are worth reproducing here

Connected Histories – Family history: a research guide

Because the names in all Connected Histories resources have been marked up or tagged, genealogical research using this website is easy and rewarding.

Name-intensive resources

Every resource in Connected Histories includes some relevant information, but the most name intensive resources include the following:

Clergy of the Church of England Database: This database includes information about over 100,000 individual clerics, schoolteachers, and patrons who practiced in England and Wales between 1540 and 1835. The level of detail varies, but in addition to records concerning education and ecclesiastical appointments, some information is provided about births (including birthplace and parents), marriages and deaths. The most complete entries allow one to trace entire careers, as clerics moved from one appointment to another across various dioceses.

London Lives, 1690-1800 and the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online: Organised explicitly around name searching, London Lives, 1690-1800 provides access to 3.35 million name instances contained in 240,000 pages of manuscript documents about crime, poverty and social policy, as well as fifteen datasets on a wide range of topics. The workspace and set creation functions allow records relating to the same invididual to be connected in sets and the wiki allows for biographies of the best documented individuals to be written. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, whose records from 1674 to 1819 are included in London Lives, 1690-1800, contains over 1.2 million names of people who appeared at London’s central criminal court between 1674 and 1913, as defendants, victims, witnesses, jurors and judges. A family history website which offers subscription access to a wide range of genealogical records from the United Kingdom and Ireland, many of which are not available online anywhere else. Connected Histories includes abstracts of apprenticeship enrolments from 60 City of London Livery Companies from 1442 to 1850, abstracts of settlement examinations from two London parishes between 1742 and 1868, and abstracts of wills from Surrey and south London, 1470-1856.

British History Online: Several of the sources in this extensive collection include large numbers of names, particularly those from the elite classes. The Calendars of State Papers include information about individual appointments, titles, inheritance, and marriages, while the Catalogue of Ancient Deeds and Feet of Fines provide information about relationships within and between families. Wills are listed in the records of the Lincoln Record Society (1272-1532), London Hustings (1258-1688) and London Consistory Court (1492-1547). Woodhead’s Rulers of London, Bevan’s Aldermen of London and the Oxford alumni records, Fasti and Alumni Oxonienses, provide biographies. Tax listings, including the Tudor Subsidy Rolls, London Inhabitants within the Walls 1695 and the Registers of York Freemen, as well as several collections of apprenticeship records from the London Livery companies, provide more extensive listings of names.

Strengths and weaknesses

With the exception of, none of the resources included in Connected Histories is explicitly designed for genealogical research, so while there is rich relevant material available about individual lives, it needs to be selected from other less useful results. Many name instances found in these sources, for example in London Lives, 1690-1800, come with very little contextual evidence, making it difficult to determine whether the document is referring to a known individual. It is also important to note that in many of the resources names have been marked up using natural language processing, which is only around 75 per cent accurate, as explained in About this project. Finally, Connected Histories does not provide a comprehensive collection of genealogical information for any locality, so family historians will need to supplement what they find here with other internet and archival sources.

Search strategies

As with any genealogical research, the more contextual detail you include in your search, by using place names and date ranges, the better. Connected Histories includes a wide range of sources covering more than four centuries of British history, so searches for most names will produce an excessive number of results. The Advanced search page allows you to search by full name, given name or surname.

Given the fact that some names are missed by natural language processing, where precision is required in search results it is advisable to search for names using keyword searching, using a phrase search where both forename and surname are known.

I understand that The National Archives Catalogue will be incorporated into this resource – bring it on I say!

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Burke’s peerage updates in the Society of Genealogists’ family history library

Family historians with aristocratic ancestry will know how useful Burke’s Peerage can be as a finding aid. However the printed version can become dated very quickly as people mentioned in its pages have children, are married, divorced or die.

Society of Genealogists’ member Nicholas Newington-Irving has therefore produced 12 volumes of updates to the 1999 and 2003 editions of Burke’s Peerage that list over 57,000 births, deaths and marriages that have occurred between 1999 and 2010. The information has been gleaned from collections of newspaper cuttings in the possession of the compiler.

An online index to these updates has now been made available for the first time on the Society of Genealogists’ Members Area. This contains the surname and forename of the person concerned, together with a note of which volume and page number the updates can be found in. Non members can do a free name search here but it is necessary to become a member to view the full references.

This is just one of a growing number of family history resources to be found on the Society’s Members Area.

Tim Lawrence

Head of Library Services

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Devon wills in the Society of Genealogists’ family history library

Anyone researching their family history in Devon will regret the loss of much of the county’s probate material in the 2nd world war. However the Society of Genealogist’s family history library in London holds indexes and transcripts of a number of Devon wills that were made before the loss, and some of these have now been made available on the Members’ Area of the Society’s website.

The Fothergill collection is a typical example. It was compiled in the early 1900s by Gerald Fothergill (1870-1926), an eminent genealogist and historian who lived in London. It is not clear why he compiled abstracts of sundry Devon wills, but he evidently went to Exeter and Taunton to study and abstract them, since almost all were proved and kept in one or other of those places. The abstracts can be found in the Middle library and an online index can be searched here.

Another book at the Society lists wills and administrations proved or granted at the Peculiar Court of the Dean of Exeter, from the 1630s to 1857.  All the original probate copies of wills proved in this court were destroyed in 1942.  This list therefore presents (with a few exceptions) the only surviving evidence that well over a thousand Devon individuals did in fact leave wills or had their estates administered.

The jurisdiction of the Dean’s Court covered the parish of Braunton (north-west of Barnstaple) and the Cathedral Close.  The latter area seems not to have been an actual parish, but merely the area immediately around the cathedral in Exeter.  Many of those who lived in the Cathedral Close worked in or for the cathedral in some way. The index can be searched here.

A third work lists wills and administrations proved or granted at the Peculiar Court of the Vicars Choral of Exeter, from the 1630s to 1857.  How and why the singing men in the choir at Exeter Cathedral came to have their own court is not known. Woodbury, the only parish which came under their jurisdiction, is a large one, not far south-east of Exeter.  An average of about four wills/administrations per year were dealt with, though this varied depending upon the time period. The index can be searched here.

The Devon Wills Project is seeking to gather details of as many Devon wills as possible and the Society is grateful for their help in compiling these indexes..

Tim Lawrence

Head of Library Services

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