When you enter England as the location in the Ancestry.co.uk Card Catalogue and leave all other boxes blank it comes up with 991 entries. There are the well known and well used censuses, civil registration indexes, the London parish registers and the Army records, but what are the other hundreds of datasets for England?
As there are no major releases today from the likes of Ancestry or FindMyPast I thought I would pluck out one or two of the more unusual datasets, take a look and report on what I find.
Suffolk Committees for Scandalous Ministers, 1644-1646
This dataset is a scanned copy of a book edited by Clive Homes, Assistant Professor at Cornell University and published in 1970 by the Suffolk Record Society.
The description attached to this book tells us that during the English Civil War a committee was set up to seek out Scandalous Ministers and these were defined as those who were “non-resident, incompetent or idle, scandalous either in life or in doctrine, or in any way ill-affected to Parliament” I suspect that there were a few of those around as anyone who didn’t agree with the Presbyterian viewpoint that parliament took was likely to be put under the heading of Scandalous Ministers.
The book has details of the cases brought against 38 ministers, including the wonderfully named Maptid Violet who was curate of Aldeburgh plus an index of witnesses which runs to five pages, so plenty of names that will feature on someone’s family tree. The book has been indexed so names should come up when a search is undertaken under the Stories & Publications tab on the main Ancestry page.
Index to Bristol Wills 1572 – 1792
This book is part of the extensive British Record Society series and was compiled by Edward Alexander Fry, it was published in 1897. The book has not been indexed (which seems odd as it is an index) so will not come up on any search, you have to know it’s in the Card Catalogue and then browse through page by page. Browsing page by page is easy enough as it is obviously arranged alphabetically, but you have to first know it is there before you can browse.
The front page tells me that it is Bristol Wills 1572 – 1792 that is wills proved in the Bishop of Bristol’s Court so there will be people included here who didn’t live in the city of Bristol, but came under the jurisdiction of the court, but also included in the book is an index to Wills in the Great Orphan Books 1379 – 1674. There is a good introduction that thankfully explains what the Great Orphan Books are, these are wills where the testator left children who were minors at the time of their death and the city authorities acted as guardians until the child became of age.
The index for the wills is naturally arranged by surname, then Christian name and finally date of probate.. Sadly there is nothing else given to identify the person so if a popular name such as Thomas Smith is sought you may have some difficulty identifying which Thomas Smith is yours unless you know the date of death.
Administrations (where the deceased didn’t leave a will) are indexed from page 108, this index gives the name of the deceased, the name of the administrator and the date of probate so you are more likely to be able to quickly identify an ancestor.
From page 125 the index for the Great Orphan Books starts. This index is much fuller than the first two, a typical entry will give the surname, Christian name, occupation, which parish the deceased lived in at the time of death, probate date and a reference number. It also note if the will was proved through the Provocative Court of Canterbury not in the Bristol Bishopric Court. Below is a scan of the first page of the Great Orphan Book Index.
This book is a great resource for those with ancestors who lived within the diocese of the Bishop of Bristol, why it hasn’t been index by Ancestry so that it comes up when a search is undertaken goodness only knows. I will be adding it to my section on Records by County on www.teachyourselffamilyhistory.com which is the sister site to this one. Hopefully this will let more people know what is available hidden in the depths of the Ancestry Card Catalogue.
I have written an earlier post explaining how to use the Card Catalogue and here is the link http://www.madaboutgenealogy.com/ancestry-card-catalogue-hidden-genealogy-secrets/.