The following announcement was written by the Parish Register Transcription Society:
The Parish Register Transcription Society (PRTSoc) is excited to announce its data archive service, which will publish on-line many of its records which currently are only available on CD. The service, hosted by Frontis Archive Publishing, provides an on-line searching facility which allows users to find their ancestor’s baptisms, marriage, burials and other valuable information. As a non-profit making organisation The PRTSoc will donate all surplus revenues from the service to a charity. This year they are working with Rethink, which is helping everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life.
Parish registers provide an invaluable resource for family historians to trace their family back before civil registrations started in 1837 and the first census in 1841. Parish Registers were started back in 1538 during the reign of Henry the Eighth when Thomas Cromwell who governed the Established Church through the unique posts of Vicegerent for Spirituals and Vicar General, ordered that every baptism, wedding and burial be recorded.
The records from this time contain a variety of information about the subjects including parents, occupations, residence, and provide a potential goldmine of unofficial knowledge which cannot be provided by names and dates alone. This extends in some cases to personal judgements from the vicar, many of which have been reproduced in these transcriptions.
By 1812 an Act of Parliament decreed that entries were documented in standardised forms which specified the information to be recorded, leading to considerable conformity to the parish registers. All these periods of registers have until now only been provided on CD-ROM by the PRTSoc, however they are now available on-line.
“This is a big step forward for The Parish Register Transcription Society,” said Pete Steward Chairman of The Society. “We can now make these register transcriptions available for searching over the internet. We shall be working hard over the next few months to publish an increasing number of the registers, so that our online facility will grow to be a major web resource for genealogists and family historians”.
John Kendall, Managing Director of Frontis Ltd, agreed saying “Frontis is proud to be working in partnership with The Parish Register Transcription Society, a leading organisation for providing resources for family history research in the UK. The new Frontis service provides The Society with an advanced web publishing capability”.
As well as publishing this first tranche of transcriptions from over 300 parishes in seventeen counties, The Society will continue to use a small army of volunteer transcribers to continue to provide content for the new service. Much of this information is not available elsewhere on-line and will provide a fascinating insight into the lives of our ancestors that cannot be achieved by looking at names and dates alone.
The details given in the burials are a testament to the hard and tragic life that many people lived. For example in 1807 Ann Haslar from West Thorney “in a fit if despondency, precipitated herself into a well and was drowned”, whilst Mary Lambourne from Stoughton, “having mixed arsenic with butter to poison rats, put it on to bread and eaten it, her fourth child being born dead on the morning of her decease”.
Many people were found dead in fields, barns or by the side of the road, mostly unidentified, and causes of death are many and varied including: visitation from God, natural decay, putrid fever, dropsy, childbearing, cancer, dysentery, palsy, smallpox, drowned, cholera, run over by cart, crushed by wagon, one farmer died of mortification (gangrene), and many more.
Along the south coast many accounts of bodies washed up on the beach, some having been in the sea for weeks or months. In the East Wittering and the Selsey register for 1878, there are many entries of seaman washed ashore from H.M.S. Eurydice which capsized off the Isle of Wight during a heavy snow storm. Only two of the ship's 378 crew survived, most of which died of exposure in the freezing water. A witness to the tragedy was a three year old Winston Churchill, whose family was living at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight at the time.
For further details please visit The Parish Register Transcription Society web site at http://www.prtsoc.org.uk.