For many years I tried to find a link between my Worcestershire Gwinnetts and the Gloucestershire family without success. Then, thanks to an index to Gloucestershire Overseers of the Poor documents, I located a settlement certificate from the overseers of Painswick to their colleagues in Bewdley, stating that they did ‘own and acknowledge’ Richard Gwinnett of Painswick and his wife Ann and their issue. This meant that, should Richard fail to support himself and his family once he settled in Bewdley, Painswick parish would pay any costs incurred in supporting him and removing him to his home county. Read more about settlements and removals in my latest book.
The parish chest included vestry minutes. The vestry was the name given to the early equivalent of the current parish council and was the main body for administering the parish in days gone by. It would appoint the parish officers who were the churchwardens, the overseers of the poor, the highway surveyor, the petty constable, and the parish clerk and would oversee their work and their accounts. The many tasks of the vestry included setting a rate for the parish (sometimes done by the overseers of the poor), and ensuring its collection, caring for the poor, sick and elderly, upholding the law, maintaining the roads and keeping the church in good repair. Anything that occurred in the affairs of the other parish officials could also be discussed in the vestry meetings. The topics dealt with can be seen from the various vestry minutes that have survived. Whilst the vestry minutes are not generally as informative of family affairs as other parish chest documents may be, they should not be ignored in the search for more information on your ancestors, you may find a fascinating entry relating to your ancestor. For instance, in the Painswick vestry minutes, you could discover that, on 17th March, 1771, the vestry ordered that the two children of Joseph Scott be removed to the isolation of the local pest house because they were suffering from smallpox.
There’s more in the parish chest than baptism, marriage and burial registers. Back in the 16th century, each parish was required to purchase a strong oak chest, with three locks and keys, to hold the church silver, the parish registers and other documents necessary for the administration of the parish. This followed on from the Poor Law Act of 1522 which had ordered a similar chest to be bought to hold securely the alms collected for the poor. The three keys were to be given to the bishop, the minister and a religious layman.
If you have finished searching the registers and want to know more about your ancestor’s life in a parish, look at the settlements and removals, the apprenticeship records and the bastardy bonds (We’ve all got some of those!). Check out Chapter 1 in my latest book, Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors, Volume 2.
Whilst looking for information on Alney Island on the outskirts of Gloucester yesterday, I came across an early map of the area, c. 1750. It was beautifully drawn, showing the western end of the city of Gloucester, where the River Severn separates into the Upper and Lower Parting. It shows other streams, the outlines of the fields, which are all named, and even little gates in the hedges. To one side of the map runs what was called Over’s Causey – the causeway leaving the city and heading to Over and the Forest of Dean. It even shows the arches underneath the causeway which were left to allow the flood water to pass through – they knew about the flood plains in those days!
The map is very clear, neat and precise and includes The Island with tiny houses drawn on it, between the West Gate Bridge and, what was called on the map, Fording Bridge, which later became Foreign Bridge and which now no longer exists.
I have no idea why the map was drawn. It may be over 250 years old but this is a little gem of a map – I wish I had found it before I wrote my chapter on Gloucestershire Maps as I would certainly have included it. For anyone with ancestors living in the Alney Island/The Island area of Lower Westgate Street, Gloucester, this would really bring your house history to life. You can find the map at Gloucestershire Archives; Reference GBR/J4/2.
I recently found a source of information that I hadn’t come across before – maybe because not many seem to exist for Gloucestershire – sexton books. The duties of the sexton varied; usually he was the grave-digger, possibly the bell-ringer and general odd job man associated with a church. He was employed by the church, often for many years, and therefore his appointment, pay, etc., should be included in the parish chest records. He recorded the burials in the churchyard and usually noted the name, date of burial, age of the deceased and a location for the grave. In some cases, there may even be a map of the churchyard.
So far, I have found 8 sexton registers – for Blockley, Cirencester, Minchinhampton, Newnham & Parkend, Painswick, Rodmarton, St Mary de Crypt in Gloucester and Cheltenham Methodist Church.
My book, Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors, lists the 10 pre-1841 censuses which include names as opposed to the merely statistical data that the government of the day required. They are from Arlingham, Aust, Bisley, Great Badminton, Hawkesbury, Horsley, Kemerton, Naunton, Stratton and Stroud.
Today, at Gloucestershire Archives, I discovered an 11th pre-1841 census – this one for Rendcomb. Dated 1831, it mentions 30 inhabited houses, the number of families in each and how many families are involved in agriculture, trade or other occupations.
Two columns identify the number of males and the number of females in each household but of most interest to the family historian are, of course, the names of the heads of each household. The surnames are: Reeve, Cox, Harding, Orchard, Price, Chappel, Hayward, Guise, Jayne, Williams (2), George, Trotman, Preston, Potter, Munday, Golding, Neal, Crump, Gegg, Barradine, Painter, White, Tayler, Griffin, Line, Newman and Burrows. Two properties did not have a head of household but were just called Barn Field and Marsden Farm but both had residents.
So – having found an 11th early census, I am wondering if there are more out there for the county – can anyone tell me of others?
I came across a very sad entry in the Coroner’s Records today. Dated 4th February 1904, it stated:
At Whaddon, on George Leonard Salt, aged 1 year and 8 months, son of George Henry Salt of The Brickyard, Whaddon, ridge tile maker, died on the 2nd day of February from phosphorus poisoning (secondary cause convulsions) caused by sucking England’s Glory matches.
Jury 12/-, Room 2/6d, Med. Wit. £2-0-0d, Wit. 2/-.
Gloucestershire Archives Reference: CO3/2/3
England’s Glory matches were made in Gloucester by S.J. Moreland and Sons. The story reminds me of my school history lessons when we were taught about ‘phossy jaw’ and the strike of the London Match Girls in 1888.
You can find out more about Gloucestershire Coroners’ Records from my book Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors, Volume 1. You can only purchase it through me or the GFHS Family History Centre. You can order online now, at:
My latest book, Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors, Volume 1, is now available for purchase
- online, with payment via Paypal, ONLY from MY website
- directly from me, with payment by Sterling cheque
- from the Gloucestershire Family History Centre in Gloucester
Details of how to order can be found on my website at:
My book is NOT available from any of the online book stores such as Amazon, The Book Depository, etc., despite the adverts you may find there.
Order your copy now!
Due to the rocketing number of scams from people trying to part you from your money, I have been asked by the heir hunters, Fraser and Fraser, to point out to those of you seeking ancestors and living relatives that the company do NOT contact people by email and that, if contacted in that way, you should not part with any money up front. Most genealogists are wise enough to spot the scam but you can never be too careful.
After more than two years, my book, Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors has finally gone to the printers! At least, Volume One has. There turned out to be far too much to go in one book so I have split it into two – and begin to wonder if there might even be a third volume. I have thoroughly enjoyed the research process and learnt a lot about layout and design during this, my first, self-publishing experience.
The book fills a gap in the family history market because there is no other book in print today that refers specifically to Gloucestershire and the records you can find in our beautiful county. Although necessarily the book includes mostly documents to be found at Gloucestershire Archives, it covers other sources as well.
To help the beginner get started with their family history research, the book covers basic chapters on civil registration and the censuses. Did you know there were ten Gloucestershire parishes for which a pre-1841 census with names exists? Maybe your parish of origin is one of them?
The book then leads the reader through chapters on parish registers and nonconformist records before looking in more detail at records relating to births, marriages and deaths, such as adoption, illegitimacy, irregular marriages, divorce, monumental inscriptions, suicide, etc..
Finally, this volume covers the justice system, looking at petty sessions, quarter sessions and the assizes followed by the given punishments, the inevitable incarceration in gaols and houses of correction or transportation ‘to foreign parts’.
The book, Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors, ISBN: 978-0-9571440-0-2, will be available from 1st March 2012, price £14.99 plus p&p. Check out the details on my website at: