I was interested in the article on civil registration during the Commonwealth in the Summer edition. Jenni Dobson was spot-on with her comment that it’s worth reading every page of a register. Imagine my amazement and delight upon opening the second of the surviving volumes for the parish of Hemington, near Frome, as I slowly deciphered two faded, blotchy inscriptions written on its frontispiece relating to the appointment of my own 8x great grandfather as its Parish Register (the official recordkeeper).
It was an incredibly poignant moment to be holding in my hands the book in which Thomas had registered the births, marriages and burials of his parish in a rather untidy scrawl, leaving me with a real feeling of contact with the everyday life of my direct ancestor during such a seminal period in our history. His distinctive handwriting continued to record the vital events of Hemington after the Restoration, when he reverted to his former office, right up to his death early in 1673 (when he was succeeded by his son).
During the Civil War, the area to the south and west of Bath was generally of a staunchly Puritan persuasion. In several of its church registers (now available as digital scans on Ancestry) I have found that births, civil marriages and burials continued to be recorded with hardly a break, despite the change. Indeed for three parishes, their earliest surviving registers commence with the volume first used by its Register in 1653, which, rather than being discarded when the old system returned in 1660, continued to be used after the Restoration until they had run out of room for any further entries. Andrew Hayes, by email Editor replies: I suspect they didn’t want to waste the parchment. How wonderful to see an ancestor’s handwriting from this time!
Our feature on 17th- century civil registration prompted much discussion