The following announcement was written by FindMypast.com:
UK family history website www.findmypast.com today announced that it is adding another major new acquisition to its existing online collection - the Great Western Railway Shareholders index. This new online resource contains the details of over 290,000 people including 77,000 shareholders in the railway company along with related parties, such as executors or spouses.
Findmypast.com has been working in partnership with the Society of Genealogists to publish online the index to this fascinating set of records held at the Society's London headquarters. Records date from when the GWR was created in 1835 and the series continues through to 1932. This first online release covers the ledgers for the period 1835 to 1910. The indexes to the registers for the period 1911 to 1932 will follow in due course.
The Great Western Railway, also known affectionately as "God's Wonderful Railway", was built to link London to the West Country, South Wales and the South West of England. Bristol merchants were desperate for effective transport links to London, to prevent the emergence of Liverpool as the country's second port. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the engineer on the project, personally surveying the route. He was also a shareholder, and appears in the index following his death in 1859.
Brunel isn't the only famous name to be found; Charles Dickens, William Ewart Gladstone and Lewis Carroll are also included. Carroll can be found under his real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
In almost all entries, the name of the shareholder is given together with an address, the names of the other parties (executors or legatees for deaths; husbands for marriages) and dates of death, probate, marriage or other event. Some 90% of the events recorded are deaths, since the purpose of these registers was to record change of ownership of the shares, and the death of the original shareholder was the most likely reason for this to happen.
Each of the original volumes held at the Society contains between 450 and 600 individual entries, which may relate to an event occurring up to 20 years earlier than the making of the entry.
Visitors to the findmypast website will be able to search the index to these records by entering the name of their ancestor, which will produce a free list of results showing the full name, year and place of the event. To view the full details, customers will need to register on the site and either purchase pay-per-view units or an Explorer subscription. They will then be able to view the exact date of the event, the full names of the executors or other related parties as well as the reference number to the original source documents for that person. Customers will then be able to contact the Society of Genealogists quoting that reference to order copies of the original documents for a fee of £10.
Elaine Collins, Commercial Director at findmypast.com said "We're delighted to be working in partnership with the Society of Genealogists to make these little-known records easily available through the findmypast website. Now for the first time anybody can access these hidden gems wherever they are in the world, giving them the potential to fill in even more pieces of their own family history jigsaw puzzle."
Else Churchill, Genealogist at the Society of Genealogists added "The Society is delighted to have taken in these unusual registers and to make them available to family historians. Such partnerships with our volunteers and findmypast will enable the Society to continue to look after other rare and under used genealogical records."