Find­my­past re­cently in­creased its Na­tional Burial In­dex cov­er­age – so here’s a timely re­minder from Nell Darby of what the in­dex can of­fer the fam­ily his­to­rian

Your Family History - - Contents -

As Find­my­past ex­tends its cov­er­age, we lookat what this in­dex in­cludes, and howto ac­cess it.

We don’t all have the time or re­sources to go trav­el­ling the coun­try in search of our an­ces­tors’ last rest­ing places; and even if we did, we’re not guar­an­teed to find them. Even with those closer to home, it can be tricky. For ex­am­ple, I know my 4x great-grand­fa­ther, John Harper, is buried in St Cross church­yard in Ox­ford, but it is so over­grown that I haven’t a chance of find­ing the cor­rect grave, and if I did, would the head­stone be in a good enough con­di­tion to read? Even so, I am still in a bet­ter po­si­tion than many, in that I know where he is, and when he was buried. But if you only have vague de­tails about your an­ces­tor’s death, or you want con­fir­ma­tion of when he or she was buried, and where, then the Na­tional Burial In­dex can help, and you can search many of its records on­line.

The first thing to point out, how­ever, is that this is a burial in­dex only cov­er­ing Eng­land and Wales – it does not in­clude Scot­land or North­ern Ire­land ( YFH cov­ered Scot­tish burial records in is­sue 173, though). It started to be col­lated in 1994, with the first edi­tion – con­tain­ing over five mil­lion records – be­ing pub­lished in 2001. A sec­ond edi­tion fol­lowed in 2004. Orig­i­nally in hard copy, parts have since been put on­line, and this sum­mer, Find­my­past added over 173,000 records to its col­lec­tion of Na­tional Burial In­dex records, cov­er­ing 190 burial grounds, ceme­ter­ies and church­yards across Wilt­shire. This brings its in­dex to over 12 mil­lion tran­scripts, and the lat­est records will be use­ful to those with Wilt­shire an­ces­tors who died be­tween 1530 and 1839. It’s im­por­tant to note that Find­my­past’s records still do not con­sti­tute all that is in the Na­tional Burial In­dex, which cur­rently con­tains over 18.4 mil­lion en­tries, cov­er­ing 50 coun­ties.


The Na­tional Burial In­dex pri­mar­ily cov­ers the pe­riod 1813-1850, although, as Find­my­past’s lat­est re­lease shows, it can in­clude both older and more re­cent records (one record, for ex­am­ple, re­lates to Charles Pa­trick Bryce, who died in 1958; but an­other record, also re­lat­ing to a Bryce, dates back to 1610). It gath­ers to­gether in­for­ma­tion from par­ish reg­is­ters, bishop’s tran­scripts, ear­lier tran­scripts and printed reg­is­ters, which have been tran­scribed by vol­un­teers from lo­cal his­tory so­ci­eties. The Fed­er­a­tion of Fam­ily

His­tory So­ci­eties (FFHS) has pointed out that the Na­tional Burial In­dex should be seen as a find­ing aid – to help you find burial records - rather than a full copy of the records, and that if you find a record rel­e­vant to your fam­ily his­tory, it’s still worth try­ing to ob­tain the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment in or­der to check the ac­cu­racy of the record, and see if there are ex­tra de­tails recorded in it.

The sources used for the Na­tional Burial In­dex in­clude not only par­ish reg­is­ters and tran­scripts of printed reg­is­ters, to­gether with bishop’s tran­scripts, but also ceme­tery and cre­ma­to­ria records. There­fore, be care­ful with your search­ing, as if your an­ces­tor’s burial is recorded in, say, both a par­ish reg­is­ter and an­other source, it might be listed as two sep­a­rate en­tries, so there may be a bit of du­pli­ca­tion.

The Na­tional Burial In­dex, which is now in its third edi­tion, has over 200,000 records re­lat­ing to the City of Lon­don alone, and over 700,000 for Cam­bridgeshire. Hav­ing said that, it’s im­por­tant to note that it does not have every record, of course, and TNA has pointed out that this might be due to in­di­vid­ual fam­ily his­tory so­ci­eties not be­ing able to join the project to tran­scribe such records lo­cally, per­haps due to a lack of vol­un­teers or re­stric­tions on ac­cess­ing orig­i­nal records. It’s still worth check­ing, though, to see whether the an­ces­tor you’re look­ing for is one of the 18 mil­lion in­cluded in the in­dex, or one of the 12 mil­lion in­cluded on Find­my­past.

If you can’t find a re­sult for your an­ces­tor us­ing all the in­for­ma­tion you have in the search fields, try broad­en­ing the search. Find­my­past sug­gest tick­ing the ‘vari­ants’ check­box to find other spellings of the sur­name;

or try us­ing wild­cards to see if the spell­ing of your name has been recorded dif­fer­ently (es­pe­cially prior to the 19th cen­tury, there was lit­tle stan­dard­i­s­a­tion in terms of spell­ing). You can also try search­ing by county rather than a spe­cific place. We’d also rec­om­mend omit­ting a year of birth, or search­ing for a cou­ple of years ei­ther side of a known year, as this could be es­ti­mated, and so be a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent in the tran­scrip­tion.


The Na­tional Burial In­dex con­tains sev­eral pieces of in­for­ma­tion, as our box sug­gests. Firstly, and most ob­vi­ously, the in­di­vid­ual’s name is listed – you can search on Find­my­past by first name and sur­name. The birth year of the in­di­vid­ual is of­ten given, although this is pri­mar­ily de­ter­mined by the age the in­di­vid­ual was when he or she died, if it hasn’t been pro­vided by other means. The year of death, date of burial and place of burial are given, to­gether with their place of wor­ship and re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tion. In some cases, no birth year can be as­cer­tained, such as with the case of Elizabeth Dag­ger, who was buried on 13 July 1789 at St Swithin’s in Bath. With some of the 17th cen­tury records, de­tails are more sparse – sev­eral have no first name recorded, or birth year, so with th­ese older records, don’t ex­pect too much. How­ever, if you have an un­usual sur­name, the records can help you pin­point where

In­di­vid­ual fam­ily his­tory so­ci­eties might not have joined the project, due to a lack of vol­un­teers or re­stric­tions on ac­cess­ing records

your fam­ily were liv­ing in the 17th cen­tury, and give you some clues to go and re­search them fur­ther.

There are some well­known in­di­vid­u­als listed in the Na­tional Burial In­dex. No­table in­clu­sions are members of the lit­er­ary Brontë fam­ily: Emily Jane Brontë is recorded as be­ing buried on 22 De­cem­ber 1848 at the church of St Michael in Ha­worth (its full name be­ing St Michael and All An­gels), hav­ing died aged 30 (although her age is recorded as 29 in the in­dex). This record shows the im­por­tance of dou­blecheck­ing the tran­scripts against orig­i­nals, as Brontë was ac­tu­ally 30 when she died. Other members of her fam­ily recorded in the in­dex are her older sis­ters Maria and Elizabeth, who were both buried in 1825, trou­bled brother Pa­trick Bran­well, who died in 1848, and their fa­ther Pa­trick, who out­lived all his chil­dren. He died aged 84, and was buried on 9 June 1861 at the church where he had been the in­cum­bent for decades. His best-known daugh­ter, Char­lotte, also has her burial recorded in the in­dex, un­der her mar­ried name of Char­lotte Ni­cholls. She was buried on 4 April 1855 at St Michael’s.


Of course, you can ac­cess dif­fer­ent num­bers of en­tries from the Na­tional Burial In­dex from other sources other than Find­my­past. Ge­nesRe­u­nited has nearly 12 mil­lion records, avail­able to search at http://www. ge­nesre­u­nited.co.uk/ar­ti­cles/ world-records/full-list- of-unit­ed­king­dom-records/ births-mar­riage­sand-deaths/deaths-and-buri­als/ na­tional-burial-in­dex-for- eng­lan­dand- wales. If you’d like to look at it off­line, the FFHS has de­tails of how to or­der a phys­i­cal copy of the in­dex at http://www.ffhs.org.uk/ buri­als/ nbi-buy­ing.php, and a search on­line will also give you fur­ther re­tail­ers. The Na­tional Archives also sells the in­dex on CD for £26 – see http:// book­shop.na­tion­alarchives.gov. uk/9780956472106/Na­tional-Buri­alIn­dex-for-Eng­land-%26-Wales-3rdEdi­tion/. How­ever, do note that a new edi­tion of the in­dex is pub­lished roughly every four years, so a hard copy or CD may be su­per­seded at some point.

All Saints Church, High­week, from the grave­yard

The Na­tional Burial In­dex in­cludes de­tails of the burial of nov­el­ist, poet, and fa­mous sib­ling Emily Brontë (left) in 1848

The Na­tional Burial In­dex now con­tains more than 18.4 mil­lion en­tries

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