More than three million historic Gloucestershire parish records have been published online for the first time, offering unique insight into the history and people of the area.
Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, the Gloucestershire Parish Registers, 1538-1988 detail millions of baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials that took place across Gloucestershire over a period of 450 years. They comprise digital copies of original records held by Gloucestershire Archives.
Searchable online by name, birth date, parish, baptism, marriage, confirmation and burial date, name of spouse and name/s of parents, the records are exclusive to Ancestry and contain vital information for anybody looking to find out more about an ancestor who lived in Gloucestershire at this time.
The collection contains some famous historical names that were born, wed or buried in the local area. These include:
Dr Edward Wilson – A trained physician and natural historian, Wilson is best known for his part in two British expeditions to Antarctica under the leadership of famed explorer Robert Falcon Scott. It was on the second mission that the men were overcome by bad weather just 11 miles short of a life saving food depot. Born in Cheltenham, his 1872 birth record appears in the collection
Ivor Gurney – Gurney was a talented poet and composer whose studies were interrupted by the outbreak of WWI. In 1917 he was gassed whilst fighting and sent to Edinburgh war hospital to recover. Here, he fell in love with nurse Annie Drummond but their relationship didn’t last and Gurney was plagued with a series of mental health issues following their split. He spent his last 15 years in and out of psychiatric hospitals and his death record appears in the collection in 1937
Beatrice Webb – A prominent sociologist, economist and social reformer, Webb played a crucial role in forming the Fabian Society – an organization whose purpose was to advance the principles of socialism via reformist means. Together with her husband Sidney she also co-founded The London School of Economics. Her baptism record appears in the collection in 1858
Hubert Cecil Booth (Henry Hoover) – A famed British engineer who designed Ferris wheels, suspension bridges and various factories, Booth invented the first powered vacuum cleaner. Born and raised in Gloucester, his marriage record appears in the collection in 1903
Other fascinating stories revealed in the registers include the burial records of six year old James Morris and his four year old brother John who were tragically killed by a haystack on their way home from school and the baptism record of Samuel Charton which details how he was born in an outhouse at the local vicarage after his mother went into labour whilst travelling home to Shrewsbury from Bristol.
At the start of the 1500s, both the English government and the Church of England became particularly interested in record keeping, and a 1538 Act of Parliament required ministers to document the key life events that took place across their parish. In 1812, George Rose’s Act called for preprinted registers to be used for separate baptism, marriage, and burial registers as a way of standardising records.
Starting in 1538, the collection pre-dates the censuses and civil registration making it a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace their ancestors back before official government systems were established.
Ancestry Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “Not only does this collection date back to a period in time when official record keeping was rare, it includes the names of some celebrated Gloucestershire residents and even reveals the West Country links of an international pop star. These records present the perfect opportunity to get online and find out more about the lives of people living in the South West of England over four centuries ago.”
Ray Theodoulou, Gloucestershire County Council Cabinet Member on behalf of Gloucestershire Archives, said: “We’re thrilled that these wonderful archives in our care are now accessible worldwide. Also thanks to this relationship with Ancestry, people in Gloucestershire have free access to Ancestry at their local library, at the Gloucestershire Family History Centre and at Gloucestershire Archives itself. We hope as many people as possible enjoy discovering more about their ancestors and Gloucestershire’s past.”