Stuart A. Raymond has completed his new book ‘Tracing your Roman Catholic Ancestors’, published by Pen & Sword.
The book can be purchased online here
A 25% discount for CFHS members is being offered, to obtain this, quote discount code CFHS25
A reminder about Family Tree Live. The CFHS will be hosting a stall on the day, why not join us there?
All Hallows College, Dublin was a Catholic Seminary which trained Priests for dioceses across the world.
The College was opened in 1842, and from 1892 was run by the Vincentians, like most seminaries, the decline in vocations in the second half of the 20th century led to its demise, from 2008 the College became part of Dublin University.
The College archives have now been digitised and are available online through their website, these include photographic records of former students, and copies of the College Magazine, these will be of tremendous help to genealogists tracing their ancestors who were educated here.
The archive can be viewed here
In April 2019 the Catholic Family History Society will be hosting a stall at Family Tree Live at Alexandra Palace, why not join us there!
Having been researching my family history since my teenage years, largely through Ancestry.com I decided in March, after much deliberation, to undertake a DNA test. The popularity of these tests for genealogical purposes has become very popular lately, particular as a result of television advertising
After paying my fee of £79, I received my DNA kit in the post, the test involves filling a test tube with saliva, I sent the test-tube back on 12 March and had the results within a month.
The results have three main areas.
- DNA Story
This is supposed to pinpoint which parts of the world your DNA markers originate from. The results however are in my view slightly spurious, they undertake this test by sampling a couple of thousand individuals with long proven family backgrounds in different regions of the world, then match your DNA makers to theirs. Although this may seem like a very small sample base for a world population of more than 7 billion, apparently Ancestry has the largest sample base of any of the DNA companies.
Having traced all lines of my ancestry back to at least the 1700s (and many much further), I have found my background to be a quarter Irish and three quarters English.
These are my results from the Ancestry DNA story, the 27% Irish being as expected, however 65% from Western Europe, and only 5% from England, came as something of a surprise, I have found no European ancestry, only English so far, this is presumably suggesting that almost every single one of my English ancestral lines originated in Europe, a fact that I find unlikely.
- DNA Matches
This section matches you up to other people who have taken the test and who share DNA markers with you, delineated by siblings, 1stcousins, 2ndcousins, 3rdcousins etc.
It is in this area that for me the DNA test has been worthwhile, it connected me with four 3rdcousins (meaning we share a great grandparent). I contacted all four of these people, the first two I found were descendants of my father’s paternal grandmother’s siblings, including a line I had previously been unable to work out. The third was a granddaughter of my Mother’s maternal grandmother’s elder sister who had emigrated to America in the 1910s and the family had lost contact with – the family live in Buffalo on the banks of Lake Eerie, the final 3rdcousin turned out to be granddaughter of the illegitimate son of my father’s paternal grandfather’s brother, the discovery of this line has solved many mysteries in both our families.
The downside of this is that your shared matches have made their family trees private, as many people have, it is very difficult to work out family connections.
- DNA Circles
These it seems are linking you with distant cousins around a particular shared ancestor. I am still waiting for these to develop.
In conclusion, while I treat the DNA story with some dubiousness, for me the DNA matches have made the whole process worthwhile, after only a month I have made contact with distant cousins and have filled out some unknown lines of my family tree, and for this purpose I would recommend it.
Catholic Family History Society
Family History Research Conference
Would you like to have some help in finding your ancestors?
Please come and join us Saturday, May 12th2018, 2pm-6pm
Venue – Holy Cross Parish Hall,
370 Liverpool Rd. Patricroft, Eccles, Manchester M30 8QD
2pm Coffee & Registration
2.30 Introduction followed by
How to start your search and carry on further
Presentation by Dr. Brenda Hustler
3.30 Discuss your own research problems with Brenda
Other help desks also available
4pm Afternoon Tea
4.30 How to use the Margaret Higgins Database
(275,000 Catholics in England 1607 – 1840)
Speaker, David Hustler
5-6 pm Return to the search
Book with Mrs Jean Smith,
10 Irving Close, Woodsmoor, Stockport SK2 7DX
Cost for conference p.p £12.00 payable in advance
Cheques made payable please to: CFHS (N.W.Region)
People researching their family trees often came into the Diocesan Archives expecting us to be able to identify the final resting places of their ancestors, and even maybe to find a surviving headstone full of useful information. Invariably these individuals went away sorely disappointed, and in this article, using the town of Manchester as an example, I shall explain why.
In 1854 when the government passed the Burial Act, and the Home Office ordered the closure of inner city burial grounds, the twin towns and Manchester and Salford had six Catholic graveyards, these being – Salford Cathedral, St Mary, Mulberry Street, St Chad, Cheetham Hill, St Augustine, Granby Row, St Patrick, Livesey Street, and St Wilfrid, Hulme, and Catholic inner-city dwellers up to this point would have been buried in one of these of these grounds.
Surviving Burial Records – There only exists surviving burial registers from Mulberry Street, Salford Cathedral, and Livesey Street, and none at all from Hulme, Cheetham Hill, or Granby Row. These records, although rare do provide an invaluable amount of information.
Surviving Grave Markers – Only St Chad’s, Cheetham Hill has any surviving grave stones.
Accessible Burial Grounds – All the burial grounds have been levelled and either tarmacked or built upon, with exception to St Chad’s, Cheetham Hill.
19th Century Attitudes to Death and Burial
Catholic burial and the keeping of records was not undertaken in any standardised way and it only through local newspaper reports about incidents in the burial grounds at Hulme, Salford and Granby Row we can actually start to understand what was taking place in this era.
St Wilfrid Hulme
In January 1856, the parish of St Wilfrid, Hulme found itself in the centre of a national media storm when the police began investigating into the death in August 1855 of Mr John Monaghan, of Hope Street, Chorlton on Medlock, under suspicions that he had been poisoned for a £300 life insurance policy. Monaghan had been buried in the graveyard of St Wilfrid’s and on the 24th January 1856, the City Coroner ordered his exhumation, the Manchester Courier explains what happened next:
“Canon Toole, the resident clergyman, afforded every information and assistance in his power; but on going into the chapel-yard a difficulty presented itself as the Sexton could give no information as to where Monaghan was interred…Mrs Eliza King, the daughter of the deceased… was fetched and pointed out as nearly as she could the spot… and the process of exhumation at once commenced…the first grave that was opened contained a number of coffins; but, after they had all been taken out, it was found that Monaghan was not there. Five or six other graves were opened with a like result… the men continued working vigorously until one o’clock in the morning without success…” (Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser 26/1/1856)
“… On Monday morning… Mr Sturges, contractor, of City Road, was employed to take the coffins up from such a space of ground as should settle the fact beyond doubt, as to whether the body had been removed or not. At 11 O’Clock in the forenoon five men commenced taking up the coffins in the vicinity of the place pointed out… and about 20 minutes past three, they succeeded in finding his coffin”
St Augustine’s, Granby Row
In 1854, the Rector of St Augustine’s Church began construction of a new school on a portion of the burial ground, the Town Clerk visited the site and wrote:
“The foundations are being dug for an intended school… and in doing so many graves have been emptied of their coffins, which were so carelessly thrown on the adjoining surface; and a large number of coffins, of which many have only been recently interred, have been exposed to public view” (The Manchester Guardian, 5/7/1854)
The Manchester Courier went into more gruesome detail:
“There has been a considerable amount of excitement in the streets situated at the sides and back of the grave-yard belonging to St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Chapel, in Granby-Row…On Thursday, when our informant saw it, the sight was absolutely sickening… the surface was uneven, but where it was of the greatest depth showed that a thin covering of earth, not in any place thicker than a foot, had been the only covering over the bodies interned, and that they had been packed side by side, one upon another, with the upmost economy of space, until it was impossible to push a pointed instrument into the ground without meeting and adult or infant body. At one point where the workmen had sunk the deepest, thirteen tiers of these coffins had been exposed, and there seemed to be a ‘lower deep’ still, so that probably the original grave pits were sunk to a depth approaching to twenty feet… The trenches had been filled in with the foundation walls, and the space exterior to them packed in, with soil taken out, pieces of coffin, and the bones which they had contained… The term excavation cannot properly be applied to the holes we have named; there was literally no earth to cut into… it was all coffins, some in the last stage of decay, others fresher – one in the top row was not even discoloured…A most noisome smell proceeded from the pits… most of those that were quite uncovered were so tender that they that had been broken by the spades and feet of the workmen and a black unctuous matter oozed out in abundance… here and there one more rotten than the rest had given way…None at which the workmen had arrived remained intact; and wherever the eye rested, some sickening remains of mortality met it. A number of curious men and women were eagerly peering into these receptacles for the dead… a man tore up a portion of a fragile lid, and a bleached and grinning skull rolled to and fro set in motion by the force. In a corner of the yard near to the chapel… a troop of little girls, who scrutinised with keen and searching glance every hole that they could discover and seemed half inclined to venture into the pits for a rummage…” (Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser 24/6/1854)
“The closing of the ground by the side of St John’s Roman Catholic chapel must involve a serious reduction from the revenues of that place of worship, but the place appears to have been managed in a way which does not arouse any sympathy… they had resorted to the system of common graves in its most disgusting form, and interred bodies in a huge hole, yards wide, by yards deep, into which the sacristan might pack five hundred bodies if he were so minded, and which remained open for months”
These three incidents give us a snap shot of Catholic inner-city burials in the first half of the 19th century, by 21st century standards the lack of respect shown for the dead is shocking, but it demonstrates for us why tracing and identifying the resting places of your Catholic ancestors is very unlikely.
For genealogists, the United Kingdom Census records are probably the most valuable records presently available. At the moment the census records from 1841 to 1911 are available searchable online at various commercial websites.
The next census, which was taken on Sunday 19 June 1921, is due to be released in 2022, this is despite efforts by various bodies to have it released earlier, as had happened with the 1911 census. However the official government position remained that “its intention to release the entirety of the 1921 Census returns in 2022, in accordance with the non-statutory ‘100 year rule’ which was adopted to reflect this undertaking of confidentiality”. The census when released will provide full details of the 42,767,530 individuals living in the United Kingdom at the time.
This however will sadly be the final census that genealogists will see for more than thirty years for a variety of reasons.
The 1931 census has been destroyed – it was being stored in an Ministry of Works warehouse that on the night of the 19th December 1942 caught fire, not as is commonly believed as a result of the blitz, but simply due to an accident. An archivist from the General Register Office who surveyed the ruins after the fire reported:
You will regret to hear that in a fire last Saturday evening which gutted the Office of Works store containing our Census records at Hayes, the whole of the 1931 schedules, enumeration books, plans of division and miscellaneous material stored in cupboards etc were completely destroyed. Mr Farrow and I went down to inspect the remains yesterday and we are both satisfied that it would be useless to attempt any sort of salvage operation; we are leaving the Office of Works to clear and dispose of the debris in any way they think desirable.
The fire was not occasioned by enemy action and how it achieved such dimensions in a store in which special hydrants had been fitted and said to have been in charge of a fire guard of 6 paid watchers, is a mystery which will need investigation. It is hardly possible to imagine a more complete state of devastation than the scene presented to us in which it was impossible to see where some of the racks had stood and where the remains were nothing more than shapeless mounds of paper rubbish dragged outside the building by the firemen who tackled the fire and where even the least damaged sheets that were recognizable were charred to the depth of two or three inches on all edges.
The next census, due to have been taken in 1941, didn’t happen due to the War, although in 1939, the government department tasked with issuing National Identity Cards did construct a register of every person in the country at the time. Parts of the 1939 register is available online at Find My Past, but only the entries related to individuals born over 100 years ago, or who had died prior to 1991, however if you can prove the death of an individual since 1991, you can request their record to be opened.
Thus the next available census will be that taken in 1951, which not be available until 2052, another 34 years, leaving a massive gap for genealogists, that we will never be able to fill.
Since 12 October 2017, the General Register Office (GRO) has been piloting a new service for genealogists ordering birth and death certificates online.
Previously the only option available was to order the certificate and wait for a paper version to arrive in the post, the cost being £9.25 for standard delivery, or £23.40 for express next-day delivery.
The pilot service gives the option instead for a PDF version of the certificate to be made available online for a lower cost of £6. When your order is available from your GRO account, you will receive an email, and you will then able to view and download the certificate on your computer.
This example shows a PDF I ordered last week of my Irish Great Grandfather’s death.
The original plan was to pilot the service for three months and then to assess the demand. The pilot has now been extended, and hopefully it will become a permanent service and will extended to include other certificates, such as marriages.