Trace your Bedfordshire ancestors
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. gov.uk/grd), 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 bedford.gov.uk/archiveevents.
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