Trace your Bed­ford­shire an­ces­tors

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Peo­ple from Bed­ford­shire are some­times re­ferred to as ‘Clangers’ – a tra­di­tional nick­name de­riv­ing from a lo­cal pasty-like dish, com­pris­ing a suet crust pas­try with savoury fill­ing at one end, sweet at the other. And if you’re re­search­ing a Bed­ford­shire­born in­di­vid­ual, the County Record Of­fice – based in the River­side Build­ing, Bor­ough Hall, Bed­ford – is the place to visit.

One of the most valu­able de­vel­op­ments since our last trip to the county in 2011, is the com­ple­tion of the Na­tional Cat­a­logu­ing Grant-funded ‘Paths to Crime’ pro­ject – cat­a­logu­ing quar­ter ses­sions rolls for Bed­ford­shire from 1830 to 1900.

The Bed­ford­shire Quar­ter Ses­sions Rolls up to 1831 had been cat­a­logued be­fore, in 1905, al­beit in a rather idio­syn­cratic man­ner, re­ordered by year and bound into enor­mous vol­umes. By con­trast, the quar­ter ses­sions rolls af­ter 1831 had been largely for­got­ten, partly be­cause many were closed to the pub­lic for long pe­ri­ods to pro­tect the in­di­vid­u­als con­cerned.

The new on­line cat­a­logue, launched in 2014, is in­dexed by all names that ap­pear in the records, in­clud­ing wit­nesses who gave ev­i­dence, so it isn’t just crim­i­nal an­ces­tors that you may fifind among the records.

Bed­ford­shire and Lu­ton Ar­chives and Records Ser­vice's Ser­vice Man­ager Pamela Birch says: “This has re­vealed lots of back­ground in­for­ma­tion on fam­i­lies in Bed­ford­shire, such as the boy who played clar­inet in the church band and had to come home to col­lect his in­stru­ment only to find that the house had been robbed!”

Of course, if you are in­ter­ested in an an­ces­tor who ac­tu­ally spent time be­hind bars, there’s also the on­line data­base of tran­script en­tries from Bed­ford­shire gaol reg­is­ters ( apps.bed­ford­shire., which con­tin­ues to grow and is nearly com­plete for the whole of the 19th cen­tury.

A lot has changed at the ar­chives since our last visit. There’s an im­proved book­ing sys­tem, a learn­ing of­fi­cer em­ployed to open up the ar­chives to schools and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, plus in 2014 the re­cep­tion was re­ar­ranged to cre­ate an ex­hi­bi­tion space, each dis­play cu­rated by an ar­chiv­ist in turn. Be­tween April and De­cem­ber this year, the three ex­hi­bi­tions are all on the theme of ‘Power to the Peo­ple’, deal­ing with democ­racy, ri­ots and protests as well as Bed­ford­shire’s links with this year’s an­niver­saries of fa­mous con­flicts. For more de­tails, go to bed­

Peo­ple from Bed­ford­shire are some­times re­ferred to as 'Clangers' – it's de­rived from a lo­cal pasty-like dish

Who Do You Think You Are? Sun­set at Dun­sta­ble Downs in the Chiltern Hills, Bed­ford­shire

Woburn Abbey in Bed­ford­shire c1880. This is the fam­ily seat of

the Duke of Bed­ford

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