Posted by on 13 October 2010 in Record Collections

St Pauls

All hail the arrival of the indexes to the early London parish registers in our LMA collections. Now all those who claim their ancestors were proper Londoners can check this out and see whether they can push their tree back all the way to the era of Henry VIII, or even earlier.

From Edmonton to Battersea and Richmond to Camden, nearly 500 years of Londoners being hatched, matched and dispatched are now fully searchable by name, parents or spouses’ names, parish and county.

Given the tendency of Londoners to move across the numerous tiny parishes of the city and from the inner to the outer suburbs, the indexes will be a great help in tracking the movements of your families. But it’s the extra details that add the spice – and the registers provide these in their droves. Scattered liberally through the records, you’ll find mentions of what people actually did for a living and what street they lived on, plus occasionally what they died of and whether they were legitimate or not.

As well as your own family, it’s always fun to find some famous Londoners: not just figures like Samuel Pepys (buried at St Olave) and John Keats (baptized at St Botolph’s), but characters like James Summersett – the slave whose legal case signaled the beginning of the end of slavery in Britain – baptized at the age of 30 in St Andrews, Holborn.

You’ll find criminals such as John ‘Sixteen String Jack’ Rann, a notorious London highwayman, who was hanged in 1774 at Tyburn and buried at St Marlebone, near the spot of his execution. The ghosts of the Elizabethan age are also here – check out playwright Christopher Marlowe, friend of William Shakespeare, buried in St Nicholas church, Debtford, after being stabbed in a local pub, supposedly in an argument over the bar bill.

A word of warning though. London has historically been a population sink, sucking in the inhabitants of the surrounding countryside but failing until the middle of the eighteenth century to grow its own populace. Plenty of people were born in the capital, especially with lots of young marriages from the 1700s, but smallpox epidemics, infanticide and the gin craze carried plenty of babies and children off.

It’s a genuine challenge to find a Tudor or Restoration ancestor when so many of their descendents never carried a line into the 21st century, or left the city or indeed the shores of England.


Trevor Rix 

Thank you Ancestry, these early indexes are what we have been waiting for, making researching those elusive London forebears so much easier.

13 October 2010 at 6:20 pm
Moira Fidler 

I’m very grateful that these early records have been indexed but…what I would really like to know is when the gaps in the existing post 1813 records are to be filled. I have several events that I have found on other indexes such as Pallets and IGI which are not included in the collection.I refer in particular St Martins in the Fields Westminster which has a gap of records between 1835 to 1848. Are they still in transcription or have they gone missing?

14 October 2010 at 2:38 pm
NJ Wicken 

I am so pleased these records have arrived online and already I have filled in some really important gaps in my research, so thank you.

However a couple of points on the archive project. Firstly I am confused as to why the birth, marriage and burial records from 1538-1812 are all under the same search database when the later ones from 1813 are separate for baptisms, marriages and burials.

It is a bit frustrating that if you are just looking for a burial for example, you have to go through marriage and baptism records that come up as well. I can’t see a way to just select one record type and if I am missing this please let me know.

But why were the other already existing separate databases for baptisms, marriages and burials from 1813 onwards not just expanded? It would have made a lot more sense to me as if you are looking for a baptism around 1812 you have to look in two different places on the ancestry website.

Secondly there are an awful lot of entries that do not have surnames attached to the transcriptions in the search facility. These are just blank with the first names only entered in the database.

I thought this must be due to a difficulty in transcribing the surnames, but having looked at many of them this is not the case at all. The surnames are perfectly legible in the registers but just have not been entered in the database.

This is a big problem and perhaps this could be reviewed with whoever over saw the transcriptions and corrected.

Aside from these points though, it really is fantastic to have these vast records accessible in this way.

17 October 2010 at 3:57 pm
Suzanne Doig 

What a fantastic resource! I’ve managed to push one line back to the 1600s, and in the process discovered perhaps the oddest name I’ve ever come across – an unfortunate girl christened English Turtle.

I would add to the request to be able to search separately for baptisms, marriages and burials. Is it also possible to add a search field for parish? Putting a parish name in the keyword field does not seem to give those results the highest priority.

18 October 2010 at 9:34 am
Anne Powers 

I echo the welcome above for the arrival of these indexes and would also like a facility to search by a record type and parish. But I am frustrated by the poor quality of many of the transcriptions – it is unforgivable for example to allow through a series of marriages for an ‘Andrew Holbourn’ which is in fact the parish of one of the spouses. Pure carelessness.

18 October 2010 at 10:38 am
Anne Powers 

If that last comment sounded a bit churlish I apologise as I am truly delighted to have the indexes especially of burials, but I would be interested to know what level of London knowledge the indexers had and how the quality checking was done.

18 October 2010 at 12:06 pm
Annabel Bernhardt 

When searching the records by parish, the parish name should go into one of the location fields – not the keyword. In the keyword field, you can insert the record type – such as baptism. It’s also worth checking that you are using the ‘Show Advanced’ option which will show up all the search fields. In order to select one record type, you can enter ‘Burial’ into the keyword field and this should return all the burials to the top of the search results.

In terms of the quality of our record transcription, indexing accuracy is our number one priority, which is why we constantly seek new ways to improve this process. Indexing old records can be challenging as many were hand-written by people with poor literacy levels, which led to errors, and paper originals often deteriorate, making them challenging to interpret. Our aim always is to accurately index the information contained in a record however we do not ‘correct history’ therefore if original records contain errors, they will be included in the indexes we create. To ensure that the accurate information can also be included in the index at a later date, we encourage users to submit changes through the ‘comments and corrections’ facility which allows our members to update or correct a record index.

Thanks all for taking the time to comment.

26 October 2010 at 3:56 pm
Mini bus hire in Tyburn : Coach Hire in Tyburn 

[…] Trial of BigamyMuch ado about nothing : e-petitionsPark Live Festival – less than one month to go!London parish records: the capital laid bareDaily Downloads (Calexico, Kristin Hersh, and more)Corpus Christie – John 6 and St. John […]

1 October 2011 at 8:32 am