Authored by Clare Connolly. Clare is one of a team of Ancestry.co.uk camera operators who have been working on the digitisation of the new Manchester Parish Registers, 1541-1985.
We’ve just launched onsite the new Manchester Parish Records, 1541-1985. These crucial records are the result of months of work behind the scenes to digitise the original registers. I can give you an insight into that work from my point of view as one of the camera operators.
The registers are held by Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives which is the appointed Diocesan Record Office for the area. The registers date right back to Tudor times, and consist of baptism, marriage and burial records.
The role of the camera operator involves entering details about each register onto the Ancestry.co.uk software, including the name of the church and date range covered. Then the register is photographed from cover to cover, with the images saved directly to the computer.
Many of the volumes are fragile due to their age, and careful handing is essential to prevent damage. We use book supports and archival weights to protect the documents and hold pages in place. The camera height can be adjusted depending on the size of the volume – obviously the key is to make sure the writing is in focus. It’s important to get as clear an image as possible as some of the ink has faded and handwriting styles vary greatly.
Different types of register reveal different information. Most of the early registers grouped baptisms, marriages and burials in the same volume. As time went on more information was recorded; the mother’s name was more likely to be entered on baptism records, the parishes of both the bride and groom appeared in marriage registers and the age of the deceased and sometimes cause of death were noted in burials. Then in 1813 pre-printed baptism and burial registers were introduced, recording details of where people lived and their professions.
These professions are one of the most interesting features of the parish registers, and they often reveal the development of local industries. Greater Manchester is well known for its manufacturing, transport and textiles heritage and trades relating to these industries were commonly recorded. For example, spinner, carder, dyer and spindle maker were common occupations for people working in the cotton industry.
When we’ve finished the digitisation process, we send the photographs of the registers to be transcribed, and then the images and the information they hold can be put online. Hopefully you all enjoy them, and find some useful information about your family.
Clare Connolly is one of a team of Ancestry.co.uk camera operators who have been working on the digitisation of the new Manchester Parish Registers, 1541-1985.
©Images reproduced with courtesy of the Manchester City Council
Emma Pulman is a Social Media and digital Marketing Executive for Ancestry.co.uk. Based in Ancestry's London office in Hammersmith, Emma regularly tweets and posts on Ancestry's Facebook page.