GE­NEAL­OGY MAS­TER­CLASS

In the first of a se­ries of mas­ter­classes, ex­pert ge­neal­o­gist He­len Os­born looks at what she terms ‘gapol­ogy’ – the miss­ing en­tries in PR col­lec­tions

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Un­der­stand gaps in parish reg­is­ters

Are you search­ing for peo­ple in parish reg­is­ters on­line and not find­ing them? Are some mem­bers of a fam­ily found in a lo­ca­tion while oth­ers are just not there?

This is a com­mon and frus­trat­ing oc­cur­rence. The well-read re­searcher knows that some­times peo­ple are not in parish reg­is­ters be­cause they or their par­ents were non­con­formists. It is a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem for the later 17th cen­tury, when non­con­formism was grow­ing, and into the 18th cen­tury. But if you are sure the fam­ily were bap­tised, mar­ried and buried in the Church of Eng­land, are you cer­tain that the records you need are ac­tu­ally com­plete, or equally im­por­tantly cov­ered by the in­dex or web­site you are us­ing?

The fail­ure of an in­dex to cover what you think it cov­ers must be one of the main causes of un­suc­cess­ful searches in ge­neal­ogy.

On­line gaps

In re­cent years, more and more in­dexes to parish reg­is­ter bap­tisms, mar­riages and buri­als have ap­peared on­line on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent web­sites, de­rived from a va­ri­ety of sources.

If you have only ever done your re­search on­line and par­tic­u­larly if you only have a sub­scrip­tion to one web­site, and have not vis­ited a record of­fice to pore over the orig­i­nals, your un­der­stand­ing of th­ese im­por­tant records and the in­dexes to them may need broad­en­ing.

Those who have been re­search­ing since be­fore any­thing was on­line are bet­ter versed in what I term ‘gapol­ogy’. The ge­neal­o­gist who is a good gapol­o­gist finds out abo out record gaps be­fore they start a search h.

Ge­nealog­i­cal in­for­ma­tion n comes from orig­i­nal records, tran­scrip­tions of orig­i­nal records and in­dexes to the orig­i­nal records. In­dexes and tran­scripts are rarely 100 per cent ac­cu­rate – there will be things misin­dexed or wrongly tran­scribed and there will be events that fail to get in­dexed d at all. It is equally im­por­tant to be able to dis­tin­guish whether the in­dexes you are search­ing have gaps be­cause the un­der­ly­ing records them­selves also have gaps.

Orig­i­nal parish reg­is­ters are not per­fect ei­ther. They have never been con­sis­tently kept and safe­guarded across the many dif­fer­ent parishes and over the 475 years or so they have been in ex­is­tence. In gen­eral, the more mod­ern the reg­is­ter book, the more con­sis­tent and gap-free it’s likely to be. But there is wide vari­a­tion across parishes. Gaps in the orig­i­nal reg­is­ters oc­cur for two main rea­sons: Reg­is­ter bbooks or por­tions of books lost thr rough civil war, damp, verm min, ig­no­rance, wil­ful de struc­tion, or none

de­positedd in the ar­chives.

FACT

In 1831, the first and only govern­ment sur­vey on the lo­ca­tion and state of parish reg­is­ters, known as the Parish Reg­is­ter Ab­stract, found that huge losses had al­ready oc­curred. The

Ab­stract is avail­able in

full on hist­pop.org

In­di­vid­ual en­tries lost ddur­ing the writ­ing-up ppro­cess or poor record­ing; thh­ese gaps are hard to spot andd may never be no­ticed. Be sus­pici­ious if there are years with­out evvents or with few events, when sur­round­ing years are busy. Bish­ops’ Tran­scripts can help with some of the gaps, al­though they have a patchy sur­vival rate them­selves, and very rarely cover the miss­ing parish reg­is­ter en­tries ex­actly. There are also gaps in the records used to pro­duce the in­dexes we com­monly search. In other words, not all parishes are cov­ered by in­dexes, and not all reg­is­ters within a parish are cov­ered, even though the orig­i­nal reg­is­ter may ex­ist.

Get to grips with the IGI

The big­gest coun­try-wide cov­er­age of parish reg­is­ter in­dexes is within the In­ter­na­tional Ge­nealog­i­cal In­dex (IGI) main­tained by the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints (LDS Church) on Fam­i­lySearch in­dexes are or­gan­ised by batch num­ber and it is pos­si­ble to find the num­bers for each parish and work out whether all the pos­si­ble reg­is­ters are cov­ered by the Fam­i­lySearch in­dexes. Very of­ten you will find they are not. More im­por­tantly, the date ranges as­signed to the batches of­ten con­ceal miss­ing books, thus Batch No C070001 for chris­ten­ings in Al­bourne in Sus­sex gives a date range of 1550-1771 and you would as­sume that this is what you search. Not so. The far more com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional In­dex to Parish

FreeREG is at­tempt­ing to pro­vide new in­dexes to the orig­i­nals

which is pub­lished by the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists, pro­vides more de­tail on in­di­vid­ual reg­is­ters. The orig­i­nal reg­is­ter for Al­bourne runs 1550-1580, then there’s a gap un­til 1601-1900. Mar­riages for Al­bourne start in 1605-1757, then noth­ing un­til 1813. Bish­ops’ Tran­scripts cover some of th­ese gaps, but cer­tainly not all, and have many years miss­ing them­selves.

Sub­scrip­tion web­sites can give the im­pres­sion they have all the pos­si­ble avail­able ma­te­rial, and that reg­is­ters are com­plete – they don’t and they are not. There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent sorts of ma­te­rial avail­able on­line, now with du­pli­ca­tion on more than one web­site mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion very con­fus­ing. Th­ese com­prise: In­dexes made by fam­ily his­tory so­ci­ety vol­un­teers work­ing from the orig­i­nal parish 5 reg­is­ters. Some so­ci­eties have placed their in­dexes with find­my­past.co.uk, oth­ers may have them avail­able via their own web­site. The IGI and other col­lec­tions held by the LDS Church, avail­able on fam­i­lysearch.

org, and also now on ances­try.co.uk. Some of the IGI is de­rived from Bish­ops’ Tran­scripts rather than orig­i­nal reg­is­ters. Ma­te­rial di­rectly from an ar­chive, in­dexed by a data provider with orig­i­nal im­ages, such as the Lon­don Metropoli­tan Ar­chives’ col­lec­tion on ances­try.co.uk. In­dexes based on tran­scripts made pri­vately, and printed tran­scripts pub­lished in the 19th and early 20th cen­tury, such as those by Phillimore and the Har­leian So­ci­ety. Ances­try has digi­tised some of th­ese, some can be found for free on ar­chive.org while

the­ge­neal­o­gist.co.uk bases some of its parish records on th­ese printed tran­scripts. In­dexes made by the ge­neal­o­gist Boyd, and other in­dexes such as Pal­lot’s in­dex. Boyd’s in­dexes are on find­my­past.co.uk and Pal­lot’s on ances­try.co.uk. Nei­ther of th­ese is fully com­pre­hen­sive. Each of th­ese sorts of ma­te­rial can have its own prob­lems of er­ror and misin­dex­ing, as well as never hav­ing been com­plete in the first place. You still need to de­ter­mine how com­plete the in­dex is, and whether or not the date ranges shown are ac­cu­rate.

FreeREG ( freereg.org.uk) is at­tempt­ing to pro­vide new on­line in­dexes to all parish reg­is­ters in Eng­land, Wales and Scot­land. Check the cov­er­age be­fore you start be­cause it is an on­go­ing pro­ject. Un­for­tu­nately, it is not record­ing orig­i­nal gaps in the reg­is­ters it has in­dexed as far as I can see, so you could still search a parish reg­is­ter over a range of years and not know that the reg­is­ter it­self was in­com­plete. Be­ing able to drill down into the on­line sources and work out what is ac­tu­ally avail­able on­line is key to suc­cess with on­line search­ing, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to parish reg­is­ters in Eng­land and Wales.

In all in­stances, you must fol­low up what you find in the in­dexes in the orig­i­nal reg­is­ters or in the im­ages of orig­i­nal reg­is­ters where they are mi­cro­filmed. Usu­ally, this still means a visit to the lo­cal record of­fice, or at least to the on­line cat­a­logue of the record of­fice. Then you will be a gapol­o­gist!

The gaps in this parish reg­is­ter from St Cle­ments,Cle­ments Cheap­side (part of the LMA col­lec­tion on An­cestr Ances­try),) were ere d due e to the Great Fire of Lon­don

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