Posted by Bryony Partridge on July 14, 2016 in Collections, United Kingdom, Website

A cricket legend, foreign secretary and Christmas card pioneer are among those you can find in our new Somerset collection which includes over seven million historical records containing centuries of details of Somerset residents.

Digitised from original records held by the South West Heritage Trust, the collections hold details of births, deaths, marriages and school admissions from almost 400 years of Somerset’s history, including the Somerset School Registers, 1860-1914 and the Somerset Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812.

Searchable by name, age, type, date and location of crime, the newly digitised records contain vital information and fascinating details for anybody looking to find out more about ancestors who may have lived in the county.

Many notable names appear within the records, including:

Jack Cornish White – Born John Cornish White but known as ‘Jack’ or ‘Farmer’, White was a legend of Somerset cricket, having taken over 2,000 wickets for the county, a record that still stands today. His baptism record is contained within the newly digitised records, as well as the record of his enrolment at Stringston Church of England School.

Ernest Bevin – Statesman, trade union leader and Labour politician Ernest Bevin was born in Winsford in 1881. While the future Foreign Secretary would move to Devon to live with extended family following his mother’s death in 1889, details of Bevin’s admission to Winsford First School in 1884 can also be found in the new collection.

Sir Henry Cole – Pioneering the Christmas card was just one of the many achievements of Sir Henry Cole, who was born in Bath in 1808. The record of his baptism at Walcot St Swithin in October of that year is recorded in the collection – long before he would play a key role in the development of the Penny Post, and become the first director of the South Kensington Museum, otherwise known as London’s famous Victoria and Albert Museum.

Other names that appear include George Williams, the founder of the YMCA, Victoria Cross recipient and hero of the Boer War Henry George Crandon, buccaneer William Dampier and artist Flora Twort.

The records also tell interesting stories of everyday people, such as the marriage record of Anne Holbrook and James Hilliar at Walcot St Swithin in March of 1794, which says that “the man came so drunk as not to be able to repeat the words of the ceremony” – meaning the actual marriage had to take place in April. Another record details the marriage of a very interesting pair in Yatton in 1762, that of Sage and Onion, Samuel Sage and Hannah Onion.

The registers of criminals from three prisons – Ilchester Gaol, Shepton Mallet Gaol and Wilton Gaol – have also been made available online for the first time in the Somerset Gaol Registers, 1807-1879 collection.

The gaol records provide insights into crime and punishment in Somerset in the 1800s, containing prisoner registers and descriptions. They provide specific details of crimes – for example that of Solomon Sparks, who was jailed for six months for “stealing 19 cheeses’”, or William Weare, who was sentenced to nine weeks’ hard labour and a whipping for “stealing two ducks”.

Ancestry’s Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman commented: “These collections provide an amazing insight into the history and people of Somerset. People across Britain and indeed around the world can now research their ancestral links to the county, whether they are descended from famous cricketers like Jack Cornish White or criminals from Somerset’s historic jails.

“These records can help add names and stories from Somerset to your family tree, whether you’re just starting your research or have previously been stumped when looking at your families historical records.”

Janet Tall, Head of Archives and Local Studies for the South West Heritage Trust, said: “We’re thrilled that these fascinating archives in our care are now accessible worldwide. It’s amazing to know that millions of people can now easily explore their ancestral connections with Somerset.”

The Somerset School Registers, 1860-1914 collection, the Somerset Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 collection and the Somerset Gaol Registers, 1807-1879 collection are among several other digitised Somerset-focused record archives being launched online for the first time.

Bryony Partridge

Bryony is the International PR Manager for Ancestry where she implements strategic communications and social media programs that bring increased media awareness for the company.


  1. S M White

    Have you/will you publish a list of exactly which PRs have been published and what dates they cover? Are any BTs in the collection?

  2. judyd

    Thank you very much for these! I found records for baptisms of the six children of my 3rd great grandmother at Hinton Charterhouse, but there is no marriage record there. Also there are no records for Norton St Philip, where she and her parents were born and married. Will there be more records coming? I hope so.

  3. Martin

    The addition of Somerset records is welcome, however without a detailed list of parishes & years covered researching Somerset Ancestors has been more frustrating than it should. You will have a list of what parishes have been added, so would make sense to publish it. #citeyoursources

  4. Barbara Ann Goff

    Hello, I am looking for records of Abraham Goff and proof of his record of two wives . Both polly Manners and Polly Foy. I’ve seen Polly Foys but not Polly Manners. And i know most Pollys were also Mary’s. Can you help? This has tormented me for over 20 years. I have most of the family history; to long to add here. Thank you so much, barb goff Hagy

  5. John Dixon

    When you update a record set you don’t ever give a clue to what you have added/changed. eg you have just added 1000 records to the 1901 census. You must know what enumeration districts or parishes they are in – so why don’t you tell us?
    Do you have any plans to scan the captains registers (master mariners)?

  6. John Dixon

    I have entered a comment & clicked “Comment” as there is nothing else to click but I just get a new empty comment box – so I don’t know if my comment was sent!!!

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