Monday, 12 March 2012

Beyond the Internet Week 10: Church records – the life and times of a parish and its parishioners

Continuing the weekly theme, inspired by Family History Across the Seas.

I believe that we are only limited on where to look for ancestors and their paper trail, by our imagination of where to look for those ancestors!

Poor Law records for one of my ancestral villages of Puttenham shows very clearly that the Budd girls were often pregnant and husband less! Did there parents shake their head and hold their head in their hands as they were informed of another mouth to feed and another absent father? Some things we shall never know, but is true now and I dare say then, if money, and especially other people's money has to be given to someone then there is probably a trail of paper to support the fact.

Within each parish was a wonderful item called the Parish Chest. Within the walls of the box was kept the documents of the parish and contained therein the hopeful details of our ancestors. This included the Poor Law Records which include Bastardy Bonds and Settlement Records.

Here are the details of the Bastardy Records for Puttenham Surrey
1823 Harriet Budd of Puttenham & Daniel Dolly of Ash
1827 Charlotte Budd of Puttenham & Stephen Hall of Farnham
1827 Harriet Budd of Puttenham & Samuel Harding of Puttenham
1839 Sarah Budd of Puttenham & Henry Nicholls of Aldershot

Also contained within the box would be details of the Parish Clerks, those individuals who were of a certain standing within the village who would ensure that the "right thing" would be done by the parishioners. The Church Warden records and other miscellaneous records relating to the village. 

In 1824, the Village boundaries of Puttenham were walked by various parishioners and this record has survived within the confines of the Poor Law records. The date the boundaries were walked was the 9th April 1824 and I can see that several of my Budd ancestors walked. Richard Budd along with others. They were joined at Pond Head by Richard Budd (Richard Budd's father) and George Budd.

The Curate of Puttenham was a curious and interesting chap, by the name of Charles Kerry. During the time he was Curate, Kerry recorded all sorts of details about the parish, its parishioners and various other historical details in a series of manuscripts. The manuscripts have survived and were returned to Kerry's home County of Derbyshire upon his death. Surrey Records Centre have a microfilmed copy of them and I am lucky enough to have photocopies of the manuscripts.

Here is an example of one of the gems, from within the manuscripts

What is wonderful about this pedigree, written by Kerry is the incidental facts that it mentions. Facts that would otherwise be completely unknown to me and fellow researchers. William Budd is recorded as having been bitten by a snake when he put his hand into a rabbit hole. As a result of the bit, William became crippled. Kerry tells us that he attended Sarah Budd (nee Chalcraft) during her last illness and that Richard Budd, my direct ancestor had a fine tenor voice. I can confirm that sometime in the last couple of hundred years, the fine singing voice has been lost within the family! Who says the dead don't speak?

There might be diaries left by land owners, or jotting parishioners? Perhaps people that do not relate to your specific ancestry, but whose lives would have co existed with ancestors. Are your ancestors written within those pages? 

There are so many places to explore within the parish archives, that perhaps go beyond the official records of the time. Did you ancestor pay a tithe? Did the land owner hold lands in nearby Parishes or Counties? Are there diaries, papers and manuscripts of people in those parishes? Have there been books written about your ancestral parish? If so, look through the bibliography as that might reveal a document or a source that has not been looked at.

What treasures exist in your ancestral parishes?


  1. A fantastic post Julie! What wonderful information you've found in the Parish Chest. I've never used/seen bastardy bonds sothat's great. Love the snake story too. You have to love a curious curate. BTW why did they walk the parish boundaries??

    1. Thanks Pauline. I have an earlier copy of a Bastardy Bond for my complicated Harris/Earle/Holt line, I load the record sometime and then you an see a real one!

      I am guessing the walk around the parish boundaries was to agree with parishioners the parish responsibilities for Poor Law, So if you were born within the boundaries then you were the responsibility of Puttenham if you fell on hard times.

      I am in the process of creating a blog for Puttenham ( no material loaded currently. It is a small rural parish, yet I get about an email or two a week.

  2. I'd be interested to see the bastardy bond. Hmm, interesting about the parish walkaround...I knew about the poor law responsibilities but didn't imagine the need to agree the boundaries. Look forward to seeing what you post on Puttenham..let's know when it's active.


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