Parliamentary Archives Online – great source for genealogy research. You may think that your ancestors wouldn’t feature in any of the millions of documents held at the Parlimentary Archives, but you could be very wrong about that. This source of information is just what genealogists look for to widen their knowledge of their family history and as it is free to search it seems foolish not to take advantage of it!
Parliamentary Archives Online – great source for genealogy research – the website
The website ( CLICK HERE to access ) is run by the Institute of Historical Research on behalf of the British government and the The History of Parliament Trust. You don’t have to register to use the site and all the information is free. Of course if you wish to buy one of the publication that are featured at the top of the site then I am sure they will be very pleased to take your money and post the book to you! The website is very much a work in progress so if you don’t find what you are looking for first time round make a note to revisit in a few months and search again.
There are five tabs at the top of the page.
Research – this tab offers biographies of members of parliament, articles on constituencies, short history of parliament through the centuries and an introduction to surveys of the published history of parliament. The biographies of members of parliament are quite impressive as it would seem that there is a write up for every member 1386 – 1832 so if you have an MP in your family history this is the place to dive into, but see my advice below.
Explore – this area is under development, but appears to cover the history of parliament and MP’s from the medieval period to modern times. There is also sections on politics, economy, religion, war & diplomacy and warfare. I can see this area being of great use by school and university students.
Gallery – The gallery is a collaboration with National Portrait Gallery and the Palace of Westminster Collection to place online the images of as many MP’s as possible. Again this is an area to search if you have political ancestors as it would be wonderful if you found a painting of them.
Schools – This area offers information for students.
About – This section tells of the ongoing project which publishes books on the history of parliament.
The research and gallery pages are those of greatest interest to family historians and I found the best way to start a general search is by using the small search box on top right hand of the Home Page. This gave a better result than jumping straight into the biographies. I give an example below of the information I found when typing in my family surname Pottinger. I know that at one time that a lateral Pottinger was MP for Reading, Berkshire. The name can be spelt in a number of ways so I tried them all.
Parliamentary Archives Online – great source for genealogy research – an example
Three entries came up
- Co Down
- Glover, Richard c.1750 – 1822 of St James, Westminster
- Jenkins, Richard 1785 – 1853 of Bicton Hall, Shropshire & Middlesex
Clicking on each entry took me to another page. Each page was dauntingly long, but using the Find facility on my browser I could find the refernces to Pottinger.
1. Co Down, Ireland – 5 references to Pottinger. The information was regarding the political situation in Co Down, Ireland in the early 19th century.
- 21 October 1812 Eldred Curwen Pottinger lost the Co Down, Ireland election. Eldred got 13 votes and the winner Viscount Robert Stewart of Castlereagh had 55 votes. In fact poor Eldred didn’t do very well at all as he was last of 3 with the runner up Hon. John Meade received 52 votes!
- Eldred Curwen Pottinger was a wealthy Belfast merchant and radical Whig
- Eldred is described as “an old campaigner” so obviously had been involved in politics for quite some time
- In 1812 Pottinger tried his luck again at another election, but because of some political tricks behind the scenes he declined to stand after the first day of the polls.
- A footnote giving details of where the original documents are held.
2. Glover, Richard c.1750 – 1822 of St James, Westminster – 1 reference to Pottinger
In a letter to the Secretary of State,the Duke of Leeds, in 1798, Richard Glover wrote that he had been promised the position held by Mr Pottinger when he left this world. This promise was not kept and Richard goes on to say that the Duke had promised him much over the years, but never made good on any of the promises. This is an interesting insight to the political world of the time. Further research is needed to discover which Mr Pottinger this refers to.
3. Jenkins, Richard 1785 – 1853 of Bicton Hall, Shropshire & Middlesex – 1 reference to Pottinger
Richard Jenkins applied for the position as envoy to China in 1843. The vacancy had come about because Henry Pottinger had been appointed Governor of Hong Kong. It seems that the disappointed Mr Jenkins died ‘somewhat impoverished’ in December 1853.
This entry was for my lateral ancestor Richard Potenger 1690 – 1739. He was MP for Reading, Berkshire 1727 – 1739. The information gave details of his parentage, marriage and education. Offices other than MP that he held and then a brief history of the family and his personal history as an MP. I learn two facts that I didn’t know before which made the time spent on the website worthwhile. I didn’t know that Richard had been a Welsh Judge and that the family had acquired the manor of Maidenhatch, Pangbourne. I knew that they had land at Pangbourne through some probate records, but not that they held the Maidenhatch manor. This gives me a new set of records, Manorial Records, to locate and search.
Parliamentary Archives Online – great source for genealogy research – Summary
This website is a good example of the broad range of records that are now coming online and are available freely to genealogists. Google searches are going to become more and more important as time goes on as it is impossible to know of all the sites that might hold family history data.
You can see from the example I gave that this website offers information that may not be easily found elsewhere. As I mentioned it is very much a work in progress and can only get better. Your ancestors don’t have to have been a member of parliament to appear in the data so it is well worth undertaking a quick search using all the variations of the surname you seek.
A side note – Go to the Institute of Historical Research website and take a look around there they have created and look after a number of sites of interest to genealogists. CLICK HERE to access the Institute of Historical Research website
So many website and never enough time to look at them all!
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