New City of York records available to search at Findmypast

A Yorkshire Witch, the King of the Railways, a host of confectioners and the unfortunate Mr Chicken: over six centuries of life in historic York revealed online for the first time 
  • Findmypast launch new landmark collection spanning 660 years of the city’s rich history in partnerships with Explore York
  • Over 290,000 records dating back to the reign of King Edward I now available to search and explore online
  •  New records shed light on the city’s historic engineering & confectionary industries and document some of York’s most celebrated residents

Leading UK family history website has today, 12th May 2017, published online for the first time hundreds of thousands of historic records in partnership with Explore York.

This landmark publication marks the creation of Findmypast’s York collection, a rich archive spanning the years 1272 to 1932. Comprising beautifully scanned images of original handwritten documents, the collection forms the largest online repository of historic City of York records in the world.

The collection is comprised of a variety of fascinating documents, including:

  • Hearth & window tax records - 1665-1778
  • Lists of Apprentices and freemen - 1272-1930
  • City of York trade directories
  • Electoral Registers 1832-1932
  • City of York school admission registers
  • City of York deeds registers 1718-1866
  • City of York militia & muster rolls 1509-1829
  • City of York calendars of prisoners 1739-1851

The records are full of fascinating details of York life through the ages and will provide researchers from all over the world with the opportunity to uncover the stories of the inhabitant’s one of England’s oldest cities for the very first time. Fully searchable transcripts of each original document are also included, enabling anyone to go online and search for their York ancestors by name, location and date.

Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at Findmypast, said: “Findmypast already has the best collection of Yorkshire records online and we’ve now cemented this with six centuries’ worth of records from the City of York Archives. Apprentices, land-owners, prisoners, scholars, soldiers, tradesmen, and voters; we’ve covered York and its history from every angle, and we’re thrilled to have been chosen as Explore York’s partner on this important project.”

York’s rich history revealed

The collection will be of great interest to local and social historians as the records can provide incredible insights into numerous historical figures and events that shaped the county’s rich history.

Lists of Apprentices and Freemen dating back to the 13th century shed light on the history of trade and commerce within the city and record the details of a number illustrious former residents. During the 19th century, the introduction of the railways and the work of pioneers such George Hudson established engineering in the city and eventually the repair and manufacture of engines and carriages became an important industry. In 1839 a small repair shop was opened on Queen Street and within ten years it was repairing engines to the tune of £15,000 a year. The work on engines continued in York until about 1905 and many carriage builders, painters, trimmers, listers and drivers can be found in the records.

The records also reveal how the railways led to the expansion of the city’s confectionary businesses, namely Rowntree's Cocoa Works. For a number of reasons York became a centre for the production of confectionery and cocoa in the 1800s and by the end of the century, it was second only to the railways as an employer in York. This too is reflected by large number of confectioners listed in the city Freemen records.

Historic prison records dating back to the early 18th century reveal fascinating insights into the history of crime and punishment in England. They reveal many ordinary and extraordinary stories of criminals and victims from the Georgian highway robber, the Victorian murderer and the petty thief, to the common rural poacher, unemployed petty food thief and the early trade unionist. A number of the crimes listed are truly shocking, such as the case of 11 year old Luke Wright, whose entry read: “Luke Wright, late of the parish of Rotherham, in the County of York, shoemaker, committed the 7th day of April, 1810, charged by the Coroner’s Inquest, on view of the body of Matthew Anderson, lying dead at the parish of Rotherham aforesaid, with feloniously stabbing, killing, and slaying the said Matthew Anderson.”

The York collection contains fascinating Militia Muster Rolls dating back to the reign of Henry VIII. During the 16th & 17th centuries, the militia was an important institution in English life and every parish was required to furnish a quota of eligible men. Likewise, each household was assessed for the purpose of finding weapons, armour, horses, or their financial equivalent, according to their status. The records, which list the names of eligible men and the equipment they could provide, show how the militias were mainly comprised of untrained civilians armed with primitive weapons, revealing how ill-prepared for an emergency they actually were. The records also contain the details of men who fought with Colonel Henry Waite’s Yorkshire Trained Band Regiment of Foot. Raised by Sir Henry Slingsby in 1642, this Royalist regiment was responsible for the defence of the city when it came under siege during the English Civil War.

Famous folk found in the records

Covering a wide area and timeframe, many of the city’s most famous sons and daughters can be found within the records, including;

  • Joseph Aloysius Hansom (26 October 1803 – 29 June 1882) - the prolific English architect, inventor of the Hansom cab and founder the eminent architectural journal, The Builder - In 1834 Hanson registered his design for a 'Patent Safety Cab' with a number of distinctive safety features including a suspended axle, larger wheels and a lower position of the cab, features that resulted in less wear and tear and fewer accidents. He went on to sell the patent to a company for £10,000; however, as a result of the purchaser's financial difficulties, the sum was never paid.

  • George Hudson (1800 –1871) – the  English railway financier and politician who became known as "The Railway King" - Hudson played a significant role in linking London to Edinburgh by rail, carrying out the first major merging of railway companies (the Midland Railway) and developing York into a major railway junction. Hudson’s success was built on dubious financial practices and he lost everything following a series of enquiries in 1849. He was declared bankrupt and, after losing his seat in Sunderland, was forced to live abroad to avoid arrest for debt, returning only when imprisonment for debt was abolished in 1870.

  • Richard Chicken - Initially an actor, and then a clerk at various establishments, Mr Chicken is believed to have provided Charles Dicken’s with the inspiration for David Copperfield’s Mr Micawber, whose recipe for happiness – ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery’ – is often quoted. A well-known figure on York’s Victorian scene and a father of twelve, Chicken spent his career struggling to stay afloat and lived his domestic life, just as Wilkins Micawber did, in the expectation that something would turn up – sadly it never did!

  • Anne Ward – early female printer and proprietor of the York Courant - Ann took control of the paper following the death of her husband Caesar in 1759 and moved the press to a house next to the George Inn, in Coney Street. According to Robert Davies in his 1868 Memoir of the York Press, the Wards turned the York Courant into‘a journal of superior class to that of any York newspaper that attempted to compete with it.’ The first two pages of the York Courant were devoted mainly to foreign and national news culled from despatches arriving in London. On pages 3 and 4 city and county news, opinion, notices, letters and local gossip rubbed shoulders with a variety of advertisements.

  • Mary Bateman (1768 – 20 March 1809), also known as the Yorkshire Witch can be found within the prison records - After being dismissed as a domestic servant for petty theft, Bateman became a minor thief and con artist who convinced her victims that she possessed supernatural powers. By the late 1790’s, she had become a prominent fortune-teller in Leeds who prescribed potions which she claimed would ward off evil spirits as well as acting as medicine. She was also responsible for a hoax known as The Prophet Hen of Leeds, in which eggs laid by a hen were purported to predict the end times. In 1806 she was approached by William and Rebecca Perigo who believed they had been cursed. Over the next several months, Bateman fed the pair pudding laced with poison. Rebecca soon succumbed but William continued to pay Bateman for more than two years until he finally grew suspicious and went to the authorities. In March 1809, Bateman was tried in York and found guilty of fraud and murder. Sentenced to death, she attempted to avoid her execution by claiming she was pregnant, but a physical examination disproved this. She was finally hanged alongside two men on 20 March 1809. After her execution, her body was put on public display and strips of her skin were tanned into leather and sold as magic charm to ward off evil spirits.

  • Various members of the Tuke & Rowntree families including, Henry Isaac Rowntree, the brand’s founder, and his brother Joseph - Having served his apprenticeship in his father's shop at The Pavement, Henry went to work for the Tuke family at their shop in Walmgate. In 1862 he bought out the chocolate, cocoa-making and chicory departments and ran the business himself employing around a dozen people, following Quaker principles and insisting on the highest quality. In August 1864 he bought a disused foundry at Tanners Moat and built a new factory there. Henry eventually became distracted by his mission to produce, edit and print the Yorkshire Weekly Press and his chocolate business suffered as a result. In June 1869 he took on his brother Joseph as a full partner in the business and renamed it “H. I. Rowntree & Co”. The brothers continued in partnership and the business went from strength to strength until Henry’s death in 1883.

All of these records can be explored at 

About Findmypast

Findmypast (previously DC Thomson Family History) is a British-owned world leader in online family history. It has an unrivalled record of online innovation in the field and 18 million registered users across its family of online brands, which includes Lives of the First World War, The British Newspaper Archive and Genes Reunited, amongst others.

Its lead brand, also called Findmypast, is a searchable online archive of over eight billion family history records, ranging from parish records and censuses to migration records, military collections, historical newspapers and lots more. For members around the world, the site is a crucial resource for building family trees and conducting detailed historical research. 

In April 2003, Findmypast was the first online genealogy site to provide access to the complete birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Since that time, the company has digitized records from across the globe, including major collections from Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the United States. Findmypast, in association with The National Archives, recently launched the 1939 Register, a record of 41 million lives on the eve of World War II.