Friday, September 28, 2012

Some Middlesex Parish Registers - and why you should check old family trees

Earlier this year I reported that FindMyPast were planning to computerize some Hertfordshire Parish Registers. There is not sign of them yet but they have just announced that a number of Middlesex registers are now available online, and the following could be of interest to any of you who are researching across the county boundary.

Edmonton, Frien Barnet, Harefield, Little Stanmore, Monken Hadley

I don't have any relatives in these parishes but over 30 years ago I researched the Phipson family in depth. To test the facility I decided to see if any of them were recorded in any of the Middlesex registers that are now online. I found four children of a Joseph and Mary Phipson who were baptised at St James, Picadilly, between 1706 and 1718 that I had not known about. In addition a Sarah, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Phipson was baptised at St Martin in the Fields in 1735, and I had picked this one up in my original researches in the Society of Genealogists' Library using a microfiche of the International Genealogical Index (IGI). If Sarah's father is the Thomas baptised  in 1718 at St James my original family tree is wrong!  A peek at the Burials also suggests errors.

There is a lesson here. Old family trees were researched at a time when to get any information at all you had to tramp around records offices (and before that individual churches) and very little of the material was indexed.  It was therefore very easy to miss records, especially when your ancestors moved about so you didn't know which were the relevant parishes - and so errors could easily creep in. Modern research tools make it far easier to track people down - and to identify the errors in earlier research. So if you cone across an old family tree the first thing you should do is to look at the modern online indexes and documents to see if it is correct. 

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