Posted by on 22 June 2011 in General, Record Collections

 West Yorkshire

Today sees the launch of the new West Yorkshire parish collection at Parish records are a key resource for anyone wishing to trace their ancestors prior to the introduction of civil registration in 1837 and can help bridge important gaps in our ancestry. They are a mine of information for the family historian and often provide information to whet the appetite for further research.

The West Yorkshire parish registers provide over 500 years of history and not only provide information about your ancestors but also contain a wealth of information about the people of West Yorkshire from artists to engineers, soldiers to politicians, and novelists to brewers!

For example you can find records relating to Percy Shaw, the creator of the cat’s eye; Barbara Hepworth whose work is on display in Wakefield’s new art gallery; Sir Thomas Fairfax, a native of Otley and parliamentary Civil War General; Charlotte Bronte and her siblings; and Harry Ramsden the ‘Codfather’ of the fish and chip business!

These records not only help to fill the gaps in your family tree but also give details of the society they were living in, adding to the story of their lives.  If you delve further you can find references to murder, flood, fire, excessive weather, plague and disaster.

Parish register

Registers for Leeds, Wakefield and Pontefract all contain evidence of the English Civil War. There are references to the Battle of Marsden Moor, the siege of Pontefract Castle and the burials of soldiers in Leeds and Wakefield following battles for control of those cities.

Just two years later bubonic plague hit Leeds in 1645. The first cases were discovered in Vicar Lane and quickly spread throughout the town. Within a matter of weeks 1,325 people had died – an estimated one third of the entire town’s population. The records released today include the tallies kept of plague victims and record the closing of churches to burials and services due to this catastrophic event.

Later records show West Yorkshire involvement in the rise of the Luddite movement, which began in 1811 in Nottinghamshire and quickly spread to West Yorkshire and took hold amongst the working populations in Leeds, Huddersfield and Wakefield.

The Luddites rejected the advance of technology which they felt threatened skilled craftsmen’s way of life. Mills were often attacked or destroyed by organised Luddite forces. The burial records list a number of people who were executed for leading Luddite forces, including John Ogden, who was hung for his attack on a mill in Huddersfield in 1812, during which the mill owner was murdered.

Also recorded are the ordinary men and women who died doing their job whether it was building the railway near Harewood or working in the coal mines that covered the whole of West Yorkshire as embodied by the 110 men buried at Thornhill parish church after the pit disaster in 1893. 

The records give a wonderful series of snapshots of life in West Yorkshire over the last 500 years and are of great value whether you wish to fill gaps on your family tree or discover more about the world in which your ancestors lived – and the good and the bad of West Yorkshire history!

Search the records now

Posted on behalf of Catherine Taylor of the West Yorkshire Archive Service


Paul Towse 

Wow! I’m impressed.

Another Parish Records collection barely three weeks after the Dorset one has been posted. I do have quite a few people on my tree in West Yorkshire so am looking forward to tracking them down in the registers once I get home from work!

Being unfamiliar with West Yorkshire registers I do wonder whether it has parishes split across more than one Archives office which would mean some parishes may not be included in the set of records you have released?

The records for East Yorkshire for example can be found at the East Yorkshire Archives in Beverley, the Borthwick Institute Archives in York and the Archives in Doncaster.

I wonder whether this split is the case with other counties too? Perhaps the Borthwick Institute also holds some parish records from West Yorkshire?

If so it might be useful for each new release to include a list of parishes covered by the release which would help researches know precisely which areas are covered in whatever set of records they are using.

22 June 2011 at 1:12 pm
Catherine Taylor 

Hi Paul,

These registers cover the whole of Metrpolitan West Yorkshire thats the area covered by the Metrpolitan Boroughs of Bradford, Calderdale (Halifax), Kirklees (Huddersfield), Leeds and Wakefield. they cover more than one Diocese but all the parishes are included. The Borthwick has most of the relevant Bishop’s Transcripts however!

22 June 2011 at 2:33 pm
Paul Towse 

Hi Catherine,

Thanks for your reply.

I do think a detailed list for what parishes are included in each collection that Ancestry put records up for would be useful, especially for perhaps the less experienced researcher.

If and when Ancestry put up the records for East Yorkshire I can see there being some confusion, especially if they don’t put the Beverley, Doncaster and Borthwick records up at the same time.

In the Driffield registration district for example registers such as Foston, Naffeton and Driffield are held at the East Yorkshire Archives in Beverley whilst the Borthwick Institute hold registers for Weaverthorpe & Helperthorpe etc.

I can see people wondering why they can’t find entries from the Driffield area if the collections are not released at the same time and obviously a detailed list of what parishes are included in each collection would help people to see exactly what areas are covered in each collection.

22 June 2011 at 3:22 pm
Ken Kenzie 

Let’s not forget that many families didn’t use the Parish Church except where they had no choice. The West Riding was a very strong ‘Non Conformist ( ie non aglican) area whose places of worship and records precede many of the anglican parishes set up in the mid 1800’s. As the saying goes ‘Youcan always tell a Yorkshireman…But you Can’t tell him owt!

23 June 2011 at 4:12 pm
ann wright 


23 June 2011 at 8:46 pm

Thank you Ancestry, especially so soon after the Dorset registers.
I notice the Sheffield parishes are not included. Are there any plans to include them in the future?

24 June 2011 at 12:19 am

Can I congratulate Ancestry for another brilliant addition to their many records, I am enjoying searching through the West Yorkshire Parish’s,and getting all answers I need for my family from Yorkshire.
This has put new life into my family tree, (and me).

Thanks again.

25 June 2011 at 8:52 pm
Jan da Luz Vieira 

Wow I’m speechless. The new West Yorkshire Parish Records are amazing.

I’ve done in a few hours what I didn’t managed in several years.

Keep up the good work.

29 June 2011 at 1:31 pm
Johnnie Casson - Celebrity Radio 

[…] ever! He's the West Yorkshire comic who's been in the business for nearly 50 years. Johnnie Casson Johnny is one of Belfield's favourite comedians ever! He's the West Yorkshire comic who's been in th…">Johnnie Casson WordPress […]

14 September 2011 at 9:44 am