Thanks to Jim Lancaster for the following information. It was in response to a question that appeared on the Manchester & Lancashire FHS Forum – I have edited it slightly.
Catholic nuns (there are Anglican and other nuns of whom I know nothing) are awkward to find because they ‘disappear’. They took a name in religion and generally were not recorded. Priests, on the other hand, are usually recorded in the annual Catholic Directory, etc.
There are two databases listing nuns. The first relates to nuns before
1800. This lists English nuns that entered convents in exile – in Europe.
It is only towards the end of the 1700s that convents were established in
England. This list is the result of an academic project at Queen Mary
College, University of London, The project is called “Who Were The Nuns”
and there is a web-site at http://wwtn.history.qmul.ac.uk/ (NOTE the odd
address, not www, ) There is a search engine that will work on surname
alone and will provide a list of matches and clicking on each name will give
a brief outline of their life.
The second database relates to post-1800 and is probably the one you will
need. This is being developed by the Catholic FHS and its site
(http://www.catholic-history.org.uk/cfhs/ ) has the following note –
INDEX OF NUNS
This is an index of approximately 14,000 nuns who were in the English
Province of their Order. It is arranged alphabetically by the surname of
each nun and usually gives date of birth, names of parents, religious name,
dates of profession, date and place of death and name of Order. There is no
charge for searching in this index at the moment.
The records are being updated to incorporate all additions since 1996 and
the updated index will then be published. This is a long term project and
there is no planned date at the moment.
There is a contact link at the top of the Services page, or you can write to
Mrs M. Butler, 6 Windcroft Close, Enfield, Middlesex EN2 7BJ. Whilst the
note on the web-site states there is no charge, that Society’s journal
suggests a donation of £5. The list is not complete for a variety of
reasons. Some congregations have disappeared over time and their records
lost, others have been reluctant to participate in the past and their
cooperation is being sought.
And some more useful information from our chairman, Sylvia Dibbs:
Jim has covered the best material. Knowing the history of Catholicism in England is a very necessary prerequisite to researching Catholic ancestors.
So you will find Catholics in Anglican marriage and burial records, many of which are on commerical websites. Catholics also appear in ‘Anglican Parish Chest’ records or the local Quarter Sessions records, perhaps becuase they have broken the law in relation to their religious activities.
Some specifically Catholic records have strayed into local archives (for example in Warwickshire) and then been picked up by commercial sites, but for the most part Catholic priests and bishops have been very reluctant to release any archives in their care.
The National Archives at Kew http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/atoz/r.htm# gives some helpful guidance on what records they hold. Many state papers include lists of papists made to collect fines/taxes or lead to prosecution for following the Catholic faith. I have made a transcription of some of these which will be made available for a small fee to download through the Catholic FHS website via GENfair. So ‘watch this space’.
Some free records can be found at http://archive.org where out of copyright books have been scanned and made available to download. Use search terms ‘papist’ , ‘recusant’, ‘roman catholic’ ; with a little patience there is some worthwhile material to be found here.
The Latter Day Saints http://familysearch.org is always worth trying as some Catholic names have strayed here too.
Try http://cyndislist.com.catholic too. It does give details of catholic records on the family search site from around the world and of course many English catholics emigrated.
Access to Archives at http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/A2A gives details of archives arround England including their catalogues. For example Birmingham Archdiocesan Archives has a very good catalogue, which often gives brief details, which may be all a researcher needs.
One of the members of the Catholic Family History Society is compling a data base of as many pre-1837 Catholic names from all manner of documents as he can find. In due course he intends to put his on-line and it will be a very usefull resource. So something to look out for.
Catholic records do provide family historians with a very interesting challenge. It will be a long time before any commercial or free site makes much headway with them.
A follow-on from the previous post giving more information from Jim Lancaster. The enquirer was asking if there is a list of what is available online.
Sadly there is no such list. It would a major task that would need someone
to commit themselves solely to it. Michael Gandy spent several years
compiling his volumes and his task was not as vague. He compiled a list of
all the missions (no mean feat in itself) then contacted all the parish
priests of those churches to find where their registers were deposited. Not
all priests responded and he had to contact some several times. He would
also have contacted the various record offices to check their holdings. A
comparable listing of on-line registers would be much more difficult, given
the unorganized nature of record transcriptions.
The British Isles have always been seen by Rome as three distinct entities,
no matter what the politics of the day stated. The Church in Great Britain
is divided into two, England and Wales, and Scotland; and Ireland North and South) as a separate entity. All three are separate with their own hierarchies, etc. I have little knowledge of Catholic history in Scotland or Ireland. A major source for the chronology of the development of Catholic missions in Great Britain is the Catholic Directory, an annual publication. This started in the early 1800s and
covered London initially and developed to cover Great Britain (England,
Wales and Scotland). The Catholic Directory are now two separate volumes
one for England and Wales and one for Scotland. Ireland has its own
I referred to Gandy’s books because these list all the known chapels and
their registers, IF they exist. If a register is not listed, there is no
point in looking for it on the internet. Canon Law requires each parish
priest to maintain his registers in a safe condition. Most dioceses issue
advice as to how this is done, but the dioceses often differ in this advice
according to their circumstances. Some dioceses collect the registers no
longer needed for religious purposes into the Diocesan Archives (I think
Northampton is one such) whereas others recommend that the old registers are
deposited in the local County Record Office. The three Lancashire dioceses
(Liverpool, Salford and Lancaster) have agreed that parishes in Lancashire
use the Lancashire Archives in Preston as the place of safety – except for
parishes in the City of Liverpool and they use the Liverpool Record Office.
Ancestry, FindMyPast, etc., have been active in acquiring access to
deposited registers. Some of the Diocesan Archivists have agreed to this
and have made transcripts. etc., available to one or more of these groups.
As far as I know there is no listing of these.
At the time civil registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths commenced in
England (Scotland is different) the Registration Commissioners requested
that non-parochial chapels submit their registers for authentication so
that the information (pre July 1837) could be used in courts of law. Most
Free Church chapels submitted their registers for authentication, many on
the understanding that the registers would be returned, but very few RC
chapels submitted their registers (I think, mainly from north-east England).
The only Lancashire chapel to submit its registers was Blackburn (St Alban).
The registers were not returned and have eventually found their way into the
National Archives. They are listed in TNA catalogues as Class RG4. There
was a repeat request made in 1858 and these registers are in Class RG5 or
RG8, I think. These deposited registers are now available on both Ancestry
and FMP .
Many local family history societies have transcribed some Catholic registers
but these are not usually available on line as the sale of the transcripts
help to support the FHS. Some societies are selling information on the
internet through one of the major sites. Most of these are listed in the
GenGuide site I mentioned in my earlier note.
It must also be remembered that the civil law between 1756 and 1837 required
all marriages to be solemnised in a licensed Anglican church before an
authorised Anglican minister if they were to be recognised in law. Except
is very rural areas there were no Catholic burial grounds and Catholics were
usually buried in the local Anglican church. Often the fact that the
persons involved were Catholics (Papists) is not mentioned in the register.
As the various transcribing agencies each has its own aims and agenda, there
is little coordination of the activity. Even within one team there may not
be a planned program of transcribing. It usually depends on what the
volunteers can access easily. As an example, I have attached a listing of
the RC material that is currently available on LancashireOPC.
FamilySearch has a listing of the records it includes. Searching that list
for a specific church will show if any of its registers have been
transcribed for FamilySearch.
We often get asked about children’s homes and this new site by Peter Higginbotham is particularly useful.
The Children’s Homes website aims to provide information on all of the many and varied institutions that — for whatever reason — became home for thousands of children and young people in Britain. They include a wide variety of establishments ranging from orphanages, homes for those in poverty, and children with special needs, through to reformatories, industrial and approved schools, training ships, and hostels.
It has a small list of Roman Catholic homes, but there were many more than these. If the site gets updated regularly then it will become a very useful resource.
This first volume covers the period of the rise and fall of the Commercial Business School 1876-1891, with the first chapter detailing the background of Catholic Secondary Education in Manchester & Salford 1850-1876.
The book can be purchased for £10 from the website shop
The MIDLAND CATHOLIC HISTORY SOCIETY was formed in 1996 by the merger of the Staffordshire Catholic History Society and the Worcestershire Catholic History Society. They have a program of events through the year and produce Midland Catholic History which contains articles on post-Reformation Catholic History, of interest to the general reader as well as to historians and antiquarians, and is an essential aid to the local Catholic historian.
You can find more details on their website by following this link.
The English Catholic History Association encourages interest in the Catholic history of England and Wales. They organise visits to places associated with the Catholic faith, and arrange conferences on subjects relating to our Catholic history. They also support research into subjects of Catholic interest and seek to prevent the destruction of Catholic archives.
More details are on their website here. You will also find talks which have been recorded and can be downloaded and listened to.