Discover Gloucestershire Ancestors, Vol. 1 – Contents

The areas covered in volume 1 are:

1. Gloucestershire Born and Bred

This chapter provides a very basic introduction for beginning your hunt for your ancestors. It gives you the background knowledge that you need concerning the way the area has been organised over the centuries for different purposes. It should help you to locate the wide range of resources that can enhance your research.

There is an explanation of the difference between the County of Gloucestershire and the City of Gloucester, neither of which equate with the Diocese of Gloucester which is essentially an ecclesiastical area of the county. The Diocese of Bristol is also discussed. The diocesan deaneries and the four ‘peculiar parishes’ are listed with an explanation of why and how they differ from all the rest. The ancient hundreds are named with details of what records were organised by these divisions.

These pages include three original maps showing the ancient parishes of Gloucestershire, specially drawn for this book by Geoff Gwatkin. Topics included in Chapter 1 are:

  • What to look for at home
  • Organisation of work, recording
  • County of Gloucestershire
  • Dioceses of Gloucester and Bristol
  • Gloucestershire parishes
  • Hundreds
  • Gloucestershire Archives
  • Victoria County History series

2. Civil Registration

This chapter necessarily relates more to national records that to those specific to Gloucestershire but, nonetheless, it gives useful knowledge that should help in locating the birth, marriage and death certificates needed to develop your family history.

  • Background to civil registration
  • Gloucestershire registration districts
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Death certificates
  • How to order a certificate
  • Gloucestershire Register Offices
  • Available indexes

3. Censuses

The first national census was taken in 1801 but the early versions, taken every ten years, were statistical and gave no family information. However, some personal information does exist in local archives, gathered during the counting process. From 1841 to 1911, the censuses are extremely useful in helping you trace your ancestors and their origins. In 2022, the 1921 census will be available online; the 1931 census was destroyed by fire; the 1941 census was not taken due to the Second World War. This chapter includes:

  • Background information
  • Censuses 1841-1911
  • Pre-1841 Gloucestershire censuses which include personal names

4. Parish Registers

This chapter on parish registers gives you vital information to help you trace your ancestors back beyond civil registration and the censuses. If you are lucky, you may be able to trace them back to 1538 when the parish registers began. The chapter includes:

  • Background information
  • Background to English parish registers, baptisms, marriages and burials
  • Information on Gloucestershire parish registers, the diocese they are in
  • where the gaps are in the registers
  • Which Gloucestershire parish registers date back to 1538
  • which Gloucestershire parish registers are missing or badly damaged
  • Different register formats and what they tell you
  • Changes from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar and how it affects family historians
  • Problems with some parish registers; samples given
  • Ages of consent for boy or girl marriages
  • Affidavits for burial in woollen
  • Bishop’s Transcripts and their organisation; where to find them
  • Dates of the early Bishop’s Transcripts
  • Problems caused during the Civil War and Commonwealth period
  • International Genealogical Index and parishes not covered by it
  • Gloucestershire Family History Society Indexes to baptisms, marriages and burials
  • Bristol and Avon Family History Society Indexes to baptisms, marriages and burials
  • Other indexes

5. Nonconformist Records

Nonconformists followed a religion other than the Church of England so you will rarely find any mention of them in the parish registers. The chapter includes:

  • A brief history of nonconformity
  • The nonconformist denominations which have left Gloucestershire records such as, Baptist, Church of Christ, Congregational / Independent, Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, Jewish, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Society of Friends / Quaker, Unitarian and undenominational
  • Huguenots
  • The practices of each denomination i.e. did they baptise infants?
  • The records each denomination has left, with examples
  • Available indexes

6. Probate

The chapter on probate concentrates on Gloucestershire probate documents, both those found in Gloucestershire and those of Gloucestershire people found elsewhere. It includes:

  • Types of probate; e.g. wills, nuncupative wills, administrations and intestacy
  • Reasons for leaving a will
  • Women’s wills
  • Ancient rules of inheritance – Primogeniture, Gavelkind and Borough English
  • What you can expect to find in a will
  • Different probate courts – Prerogative Courts of Canterbury and York, Bishops’ Courts, Archdeacons’ Courts, Peculiar Courts
  • Wills before 1858 – PCC and PCY wills for Gloucestershire
  • Wills proved in the Consistory Court of Gloucester and Bristol, where and how to find them
  • Wills from Peculiars and disputed wills
  • Wills since 1858 – National Probate Calendars; how to get a copy
  • Letters of Administration
  • Inventories

7. More on Births

This chapter on births and infancy will help you to understand what records exist for stillborn babies, foundlings and orphans as well as the more common group of illegitimate children. Sample documents help you to appreciate what information you might gain to enhance your family history. Topics include:

  • Still birth
  • Foundlings
  • Orphans and orphanages
  • Adoption
  • Illegitimacy
  • bastardy bonds
  • maintenance orders
  • Where to find information relating to these subjects
  • Available indexes

8. More on Marriages

This chapter on marriage covers the documents necessary to enable a marriage to take place, such as licences and banns, as well as the problems that can occur when a marriage breaks down. It includes:

  • Marriage Banns
  • Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations
  • Peculiar, Irregular and clandestine marriages
  • Marriage settlements
  • Adultery
  • Divorce
  • Bigamy
  • Marriages in newspapers
  • Marriage indexes

9. More on Deaths

Do you know where your ancestors were buried? This chapter covers burials, cemeteries and crematoria, undertaker’s records, monumental inscriptions and memorial cards, newspaper reports, death duties and Inquisitiones Post Mortem.

  • Burials
  • Nonconformist burials
  • Burial Grounds
  • Cemeteries and Crematoria
  • Monumental Inscriptions
  • Memorial Cards
  • Undertakers’ Records
  • Newspaper announcements
  • Death Duties
  • Inquisitiones Post Mortem

10. Coroners Records

Did your ancestor die a sudden and unexpected death? Does the death certificate indicate that an inquest was held? This chapter covers the coroners’ records available in Gloucestershire that may help you to discover what happened to him or her.

  • Coroners’ districts
  • Periods of coverage
  • Types of records
  • Inquests
  • Post Mortems
  • Accidents
  • Suicide
  • Murder and Execution

11. Sessions and Assizes

Was your ancestor involved with the courts?  Maybe he was a Justice of the Peace, a juryman, the complainant or even the defendant?  Maybe he owned a pub?  Were he and his family nonconformists or just not religious so preferred not to attend the parish church each week?  Are you seeking the father of your illegitimate ancestor?  Or even the details of a settlement and removal order?  If so, you should explore the wealth of information held in the Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions and Assizes records.  They cover these and many other aspects of everyday life. These records are too often ignored by researchers but they hold a wealth of information of interest to family historians. The chapter includes.

  • Background Information
  • organising and holding court cases for minor offences
  • overseeing Poor Law issues of settlement and bastardy
  • enforcing laws relating to nonconformity
  • dealing with local highways and defence
  • supervising trade and commodities
  • issuing alehouse licences and dealing with infringements
  • hearing Oaths of Allegiance
  • dealing with major crimes
  • Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions, Assizes
  • Judges and Juries
  • Calendars of Prisoners

12. Gaols and Houses of Correction

Many of our ancestors committed crimes, some minor in the hope of surviving from one day to the next and some more serious. Was your ancestor sent to a House of Correction or to gaol? What was life like in prison in the 18th century? Perhaps he was transported across the seas? Or maybe even executed? On the other hand, was your ancestor a member of the county police force? Many records exist to help you fill in details of your ancestor’s life. This chapter includes a variety of records on:

  • Houses of Correction
  • Gaols
  • Admission registers
  • Lists of Prisoners
  • Governors’ Journals
  • Surgeons’ Journals
  • Punishment Books
  • Photograph Albums
  • Reformatories
  • Transportation
  • Executions

And much more to come in Volume 2!