AROUND BRI­TAIN

Jonathan Scott re­turns to the an­cient County Pala­tine of Durham to see what’s new for ge­neal­o­gists

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

Trace your County Durham an­ces­tors

County Durham has a rich in­dus­trial her­itage, par­tic­u­larly coal, iron and lead min­ing and steel pro­duc­tion. At its height in the 1920s, it is es­ti­mated that about 170,000 coal min­ers worked in the county. It was also home to the world’s first pub­lic rail­way to use steam lo­co­mo­tives – the Stock­ton and Dar­ling­ton Rail­way, which opened in 1825. To­day, tourism and other trades have re­placed much of the heavy in­dus­try, but you can still re­search ev­i­dence of the county’s work­ing past through the record of­fice.

The records that sur­vive at Durham County Record Of­fice doc­u­ment not only pro­cesses and pro­duc­tion, but also the work­force. The coal min­ing col­lec­tions, for ex­am­ple, con­tain in­for­ma­tion on the pro­duc­tion, sta­tis­tics, open­ing and clo­sure of mines, along­side trade union ma­te­rial and other records re­lat­ing to work­ers. The Min­ing Durham’s Hid­den Depths in­dex to Durham Min­ers As­so­ci­a­tion records (which you can search via durham­record­of­fice.org.uk) has con­tin­ued to ex­pand since our last visit and now con­tains 209,605 names.

The wider record of­fice ar­chives re­flect life and work in County Durham and Dar­ling­ton go­ing back some 900 years. County Ar­chiv­ist Liz Bregazzi says: “They give an idea of how peo­ple worked, the land­scape they lived in, what they wore, what they ate, how they spent their leisure time, what the state of their health was like, their at­ti­tudes and be­liefs, pol­i­tics and re­li­gion.” And since our last visit to the record of­fice in 2010, sev­eral projects and vol­un­teer-led drives have come to fruition.

But first, if you’re plan­ning to in­ves­ti­gate your County Durham roots, make sure you do a lit­tle ground­work be­fore you set off. Keep in mind that thanks to the pesky lo­cal govern­ment shake-up of the mid-1970s, some ma­te­rial (es­pe­cially some use­ful lo­cal his­tory sources) re­lat­ing to ‘an­cient’ County Durham may be found in the Tyne and Wear Ar­chives and Mu­se­ums (for the Gateshead, South Shields and Sun­der­land area) and the Teesside Ar­chives (for Stock­ton and Hartle­pool). The largest set­tle­ment in the cer­e­mo­nial county is Dar­ling­ton, which is ad­min­is­tra­tively in­de­pen­dent from County Durham, as are the bor­oughs of Hartle­pool and Stock­ton-on-Tees. There are also sev­eral lo­cal his­tory li­braries across the re­gion that may hold vi­tal doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing school records, non­con­formist church records, plus parish and state sources on mi­cro­fiche.

Mean­while, Durham Univer­sity’s Palace Green Li­brary has pro­bate ma­te­rial re­lat­ing not only to County Durham, but also the wider North-east, along­side an

At its height in the 1920s, it's es­ti­mated 170,00 coal min­ers worked in the county

im­por­tant col­lec­tionll off Bishop’sh Tran­scripts and tithe records.

Durham County Record Of­fice is the of­fi­cial repos­i­tory for the Dio­cese of Durham, and its parish hold­ings in­clude the richly de­tailed ‘Bar­ring­ton’ reg­is­ters. Th­ese were kept be­tween 1798 and 1812, fol­low­ing an or­der from the in­cum­bent bishop that more de­tails should be recorded in both bap­tisms and buri­als. Burial en­tries from this pe­riod, for ex­am­ple, give not only the name and abode of the de­ceased, but also his/her parent­age, oc­cu­pa­tion, date of death, date of burial and age.

An evolv­ing ar­chive

Liz says: “We are adding to our col­lec­tions all the time, so keep an eye on our lat­est news and search our on­line cat­a­logue.

“We have just started the sev­enth in­spec­tion of parish records un­der the Parochial Reg­is­ters and Records Mea­sure 1978, where we in­spect each

church in the dio­cese once ev­ery five years. This al­ways turns up new reg­is­ters and records.”

The record of­fice is home to the vast Durham Light In­fantry col­lec­tion. As with most reg­i­men­tal ar­chives, this does not cover of­fi­cial ser­vice records, but does fea­ture all kinds of ma­te­rial re­lat­ing to of­fi­cers and men, in­clud­ing some 40,000 pho­to­graphs that can be ex­plored via the web­site, plus a col­lec­tion of war di­aries from the First and Se­cond World Wars. Liz says: “Al­though they don’t nec­es­sar­ily men­tion sol­diers by name – on the whole, it is just of­fi­cers who are named – if you know the bat­tal­ion in which your an­ces­tor served, you can get a pic­ture of what their life was like and where they were fight­ing.”

Durham at war

Staff re­cently launched the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund-sup­ported cen­te­nary pro­ject Durham at War ( durhamat­war.org.uk), which charts the im­pact of the First World War on the area. Liz says: “Vol­un­teers are car­ry­ing out a range of tasks – such as re­search, tran­scrip­tion, in­dex­ing and data pro­cess­ing – to un­cover amaz­ing sto­ries from the Home Front as well as the front line. The web­site also pro­vides the fa­cil­ity for any­one to log in and add a story.”

The ba­sic lay­out of the record of­fice web­site ( www.durham record­of­fice.org.uk) hasn’t changed much since our last visit (al­though a re­design is in the pipe­line), but it re­mains a use­ful place to start your re­search. New search tools and cat­a­logues in­clude an in­dex to land tax records com­piled by the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Ge­nealog­i­cal Stud­ies.

Un­til elec­toral re­form in 1832, th­ese an­nual land tax as­sess­ments had to be de­posited with the Clerk of the Peace to form a record of free­hold­ers el­i­gi­ble to elect mem­bers of Par­lia­ment for the county. They record names of pro­pri­etors, oc­cu­piers and sums as­sessed.

Liz says: “Land tax records are of value to gge­neal­o­gists be­cause they of­ten list both prop­erty own­ers and ttenants, plac­ing them in both a pparish and a year. Since the aassess­ment was writ­ten out in tthe same or­der each year, it is ssome­times pos­si­ble to work bback­wards us­ing the in­for­ma­tion oof the owner or oc­cu­pier, from the ttithe or en­clo­sure map, and the aamount of tax levied to iden­tify tthe prop­erty.” You can search the nnew in­dex via the on­line cat­a­logue uus­ing a sur­name in the ‘Site SSearch’ box and se­lect­ing the qquar­ter ses­sions cat­a­logue.

The afore­men­tioned Durham Univer­sity Palace Green Li­brary is cur­rently mark­ing the 800th an­niver­sary of the sign­ing of the Magna Carta with a spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tion run­ning un­til the end of Au­gust fea­tur­ing the only sur­viv­ing 1216 is­sue of the char­ter. The li­brary also looks af­ter some en­clo­sure, tithe and land tax records, and via the ded­i­cated ge­nealog­i­cal por­tal at fam­i­lyrecords.dur.ac.uk you can find in­for­ma­tion and lat­est news on th­ese and other sources.

Its Bishop’s Tran­scripts col­lec­tion, for ex­am­ple, has tran­scripts of County Durham and Northum­ber­land parish reg­is­ters from 1760-1840. Th­ese record bap­tisms, mar­riages and buri­als, du­pli­cat­ing the orig­i­nal parish reg­is­ters and in some cases fill­ing gaps. Im­ages of the tran­scripts are all avail­able at fam­i­lysearch.org.

The li­brary has mar­riage li­cence al­le­ga­tions and bonds, and pre-1900 ex­am­ples are also on fam­i­lysearch.org. Th­ese were usu­ally cre­ated when peo­ple did not wish to be mar­ried by the pub­li­ca­tion of banns – as was the usual prac­tice – and typ­i­cally con­tain in­for­ma­tion about mar­i­tal sta­tus, age, res­i­dence, sta­tus and oc­cu­pa­tion. If an in­di­vid­ual was un­der­age, there would also be de­tails of the con­sent­ing par­ent or guardian.

Fi­nally, if you’re re­search­ing a for­mer mem­ber of staff or stu­dent at Durham Univer­sity it­self, there are records go­ing back to its foun­da­tion in 1832. While much pre-war ma­te­rial has been lost, there are still sub­stan­tial col­lec­tions of records of gov­er­nance, col­leges, ad­mis­sions, ex­am­i­na­tions, clubs, pub­li­ca­tions and ephemera. One un­usual sur­vivor is the ac­count book of the Univer­sity Col­lege Bea­gles Club (1851-76), which lists masters and their bea­gles, of­ten with notes on the bea­gles’ ori­gin, mis­ad­ven­tures and fate.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The High Force wa­ter­fall at Up­per Tees­dale, County Durham

A poster for the Lon­don & North East­ern Rail­way ( LNER) pro­motes rail

travel to the his­toric city of Durham

County Durham's Spring­well Col­liery En­gine No 2, which was built by

Robert Stephen­son in 1826

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