Findmypast.co.uk have been steadily adding parish register transcriptions to their website, but until now there hasn’t really been much to get me excited. That was until last night when I read the news that they had added over 1.4 million Hampshire parish records.
This is great news for my research, having online access to these records is going to be a great boost to my research and especially for tracing my MITCHELL ancestors. Of course these are only transcriptions and would need checking against the original parish register entries, but they represent a great finding aid and starting point.
These records are the work of the Hampshire Genealogical Society and I suspect they are the same records that they publish on CD, which I have previously used at the Hampshire Record Office. Ironically I was very close to buying a couple of the CDs at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last month, but decided I couldn’t justify the cost.
According to the website the collection features:
- 574,192 baptisms (covering the period 1752 to 1851)
- 153,011 marriages (covering the period 1754 to 1837)
- 720,468 burials (covering the period 1400 to 1841)
Links to lists of the actual parishes included can also be found on the announcement page on the website. The cost to view the full entry appears to be 5 credits each or free for those with a subscription.
I have met this situation several times, a family has several children baptised at a traditional Anglican church but then for some reason they switch to a non-conformist church. Some times they will then return to the Anglican church for the baptism of later children.
The latest occurrence of this concerns my 2x great-grandparents Thomas and Ellen DRIVER. At East Sussex Record Office I confirmed that two of their six children were baptised as Wesleyan Methodists.
I had initially found these records on the SFHG Data Archive where it appeared that they had been baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Lewes, Sussex. On checking the original baptism register last week I discovered that the baptisms weren’t necessarily in Lewes itself, but within the Lewes Circuit, something that wasn’t clear in the data archive entries.
As usual this information provides more question than answers. The big one of course is why? Why did they decide to switch to Methodism? It is difficult for me to imagine that this was an important decision for my 2x great-grandparents, the church means nothing to me other than a place where my ancestors once stood and where most of them were baptised, married and buried, but it doesn’t mean that my ancestors didn’t consider it important.
I need to find out where the nearest Methodist Chapel was and see if there might be any record that they were members of that chapel, a quick scan of a few county directories should hopefully help me answer that first bit and then it will probably be a question of visiting the archives again.
There is still the question of where their other children were baptised. There were six in all, and I only have baptism details for three of them:
- Kate DRIVER (baptised 28 March 1880, Framfield, Sussex)
- Asher DRIVER (born 1882, baptism unknown)
- Minnie DRIVER (baptised 26 May 1884, Lewes Circuit)
- Ambrose DRIVER (born 1885, baptism unknown)
- Herbert DRIVER (born 1888, baptism unknown)
- Anna DRIVER (baptised 8 November 1891, Lewes Circuit)
So I need to learn a bit more about Methodist records, the local Methodist “scene” at the end of the 19th Century and then search the all the parish registers for the local churches regardless of denomination.
One of the most outstanding features inside St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London was the beautifully carved white marble font.
The font is said to have been installed in 1686 and to be the work of Grinling Gibbons, and is described on the church website as:
an ovoid bowl raised on a stem realistically carved to represent the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent entwined about it, Adam standing on one side and Eve on the other. The bowl is decorated with three kidney-shaped panels carved in low relief to represent (a) the Baptism of Christ, (b) St. Philip baptising the Eunuch of Candace, (c) Noah’s Ark afloat
I mentioned yesterday that four of the children of my 3x great grandfather Thomas KINGHORN were baptised in this church, they were:
- 29 Apr 1851 – Eliza KINGHORN daughter of Thomas and his second wife Eliza WARREN
- 30 Jul 1854 – Dorothy Isabella KINGHORN daughter of Thomas and his third wife Isabella GRAHAM (my 2x great grandmother)
- 22 Jun 1856 – Abraham Graham KINGHORN son of Thomas and his third wife Isabella GRAHAM
- 26 Dec 1858 – Isabella KINGHORN daughter of Thomas and his third wife Isabella GRAHAM
Most of the fonts that I have come across previously have been in country churches, and whilst many of them are a lot older than this one, none of them have been quite so beautifully carved. It is wonderful for me to think that such a beautiful piece of sculpture was probably used during the baptism of my 2x great grandmother and of her siblings.
One of the curious records that I transcribed at the West Sussex Record Office a couple of weeks ago was the baptism of Vernon Alphonso GASSON. He was the son of John and Alice Catherine Maud GASSON and was baptised at the parish church in Slaugham, Sussex on the 8th September 1907.
Now don’t get me wrong, but the name Vernon Alphonso doesn’t strike me as an English name, let alone a Sussex one. So where did he get it from?
I thought that Alice Catherine Maud might not have been from England, but her name doesn’t sound particularly exotic. This was further confirmed when I checked FreeBMD for a marriage, Alice’s maiden name was MITCHELL (they were married in Q3 1906 in Cuckfield Registration District).
So I have no idea where the name Vernon Alphonso came from, it certainly doesn’t appear to be a family name. Sadly Vernon Alphonso died in 1910 and was buried in Slaugham on the 26th November.
There must have been some confusion when it came to filling in the 1911 census because Vernon is included with his parents and their other son, Jack. The entry clearly shows that John and Alice had two children, one of whom had died.
I guess I will never know where the name Vernon Alphonso came from, but the one thing I must find out is who John GASSON was, or rather which John GASSON this is. He is probably the son of my 3x great uncle Edward GASSON, but I need to get a copy of the marriage entry/certificate to make sure.
Today I made an impromptu visit to the West Sussex Record Office. I had nothing else planned for today, the weather forecast was not too good so I had decided not to go walking, so last night I printed off my to-do list ready for a visit.
My to-do list has been growing rapidly as I go through my digital files, and although I hadn’t planned on doing any more research until I had got most of my digital files sorted out, I felt it would be beneficial to get to an archive and do a bit of proper research, if not for my research then at least for my sanity.
The record office closes for lunch on a Saturday, so it split the day quite nicely. In the morning I worked on parish registers and in the afternoon I worked on wills.
The morning went quite well. I was able to pick up several baptisms and burials that I was after from Slaugham, Sussex (mainly GASSONs) and several others dotted around the county that I needed, including the baptism of my mother, but curiously not those of her younger brothers.
The afternoon wasn’t too bad, but I continue to be disappointed by the number of my ancestors that didn’t leave wills. I did however have some luck with my direct PIERCY ancestors. I found wills for both George PIERCY (my 6x great-grandfather) and Thomas PIERCY (my 7x great-grandfather).
Although I wasn’t really prepared for a visit, with my growing to-do list it wasn’t likely that I would come away empty handed, but I was pleasantly surprised at how successful my visit was.