Tuesday, September 30, 2014


A poet, a cricketer, an abolitionist and death by poisoned pudding: 400 years of Yorkshire parish records revealed online



Leading UK family history website findmypast.com has today, 30 September 2014, published online for the first time almost 4 million parish records in partnership with the Yorkshire Digitisation Consortium. The Yorkshire Collection comprises beautiful scanned images of the original handwritten registers held by six Yorkshire archives and spanning the years 1538 to 1989. Fully searchable transcripts of the originals enable anyone to go online and search for their Yorkshire ancestors by name.

The first phase of this landmark project, released today, includes nearly a million parish records from North Yorkshire County Record Office, Doncaster Archives and Local Studies, East Riding Archives and Local Studies Service, Teesside Archives and Sheffield Archives and Local Studies, as well as over 3 million parish records and Bishop’s Transcripts from the Borthwick Institute for Archives (University of York), which cover the whole of Yorkshire including West Yorkshire.

As the provenances of the records are defined by historical, rather than modern boundaries, areas now outside of today’s Yorkshire are also covered, such as County Durham. On completion this will be the most comprehensive online repository of Yorkshire family history records anywhere in the world.

Famous Yorkshire men found in the records

Covering a wide area and timeframe, many of Yorkshire’s most famous sons and daughters can be found in the records. Poet William Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson in the parish of Brompton on 4 October 1802. The marriage register now online at Findmypast shows both their signatures.

Cricketer and founder of Lord’s Cricket Club Thomas Lord’s baptism on 29 December 1755 appears in the baptism register for Thirsk.

The baptism of abolitionist William Wilberforce, who was responsible for ending slavery in the British Empire, appears in the register for Holy Trinity Church in Kingston upon Hull on 21 September 1759.

Yorkshire’s social history revealed

Findmypast’s Yorkshire Collection also reveals fascinating details of the county’s social history. For example, the burial registers give evidence of the scale of the 1832 cholera epidemic, in which 55,000 people in the UK died, and also details of the deaths of soldiers in the 1645 Civil War.

A mention of the baptism of Thomas Pompey, a youth about 14 years of age and a native of Guinea in Africa, in the Harthill records of 1725 suggests that even back in the 18th century, Yorkshire was the kind of place visitors would want to stay.

Everyday tragedies are captured in the records. For example, over centuries when childbirth was dangerous and miscarriages common, there are instances of children’s first names being recorded as ‘Stillborn’ (Stillborn Sutton and Stillborn Bartendale in the Thorpe Bassett baptisms, for example).

Bizarre deaths and comedy names

These church records also provide some unexpected insights into events in Yorkshire’s colourful history. The parish burial register for Kirby Wiske records that on 7 July 1791, Richard Sturdy, John Cartman and Rich’d Sturdy were “poisoned by neglect of a servant girl in making a pudding”.

The burial register for Birkin records the death of Richard Darley, struck dead by lightning at the age of 25 on 5 June 1836, while the burial register for Thirsk includes Thomas Lee, son of a shoemaker, whose death on 27th May 1789 aged 13 appears alongside the explanation “Died with drinking Gin.”

A quick look through Findmypast’s Yorkshire Collection reveals some extraordinary names. Mary Christmas was buried in Hutton Cranswick in 1689, while Fortune Chimney was laid to rest in Hornsea St Nicholas in 1727. The marriage register of Bramham records the 1837 marriage of Robert Duck to Catherine Peacock.

Findmypast historian and writer Myko Clelland said ‘These records are full of fascinating details of Yorkshire life through the ages. We're utterly thrilled to be able to tell the stories of the inhabitants of ‘God's own county’ for the very first time online and to give family historians around the world the opportunity to discover their own family’s stories.”

Chris Webb of the Yorkshire Digitisation Consortium added “We are delighted that Findmypast have worked with the Yorkshire Digitisation Consortium in an innovative partnership to make these unique records for a uniquely important (and beautiful) part of the country available in this way. Every release of digital records is an event, but this one, covering about 10% of the English and Welsh historic population, really is important.”

All of these records can be explored at findmypast.com. Further records will be released in 2015.

About Findmypast

Findmypast has been a leading family history website for more than 10 years. It’s a searchable online archive of over 1.8 billion family history records, from parish records and censuses to migration records, military collections, historical newspapers and lots more. For our members around the world, Findmypast is a crucial resource for building family trees and doing detailed historical research.

In April 2003 the company was the first to provide access to the complete birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Since that time, Findmypast has digitised family history records from across the globe, including major collections from Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the United States. In partnership with the British Library, Findmypast is part of a project to safeguard the future of the world’s greatest newspaper archive – allowing digital access to more than 40 million newspaper pages. Recently, The National Archives awarded the company the exclusive rights to put the 1939 Register for England and Wales online.

About the Yorkshire Digitisation Consortium

The Yorkshire Digitisation Consortium is a partnership of local authorities which has pledged to make its parish records available online. It is made up of local authority and university archive services based in Beverley, Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Sheffield and York.