In terms of my own genealogical research there are several churches that feature repeatedly. Not just in terms of being used more than once, but also across the generations.
To be in a church and know that generations of my family saw the same font that I now see, or walked the same pathway into Church that I just used is very special – Linking the past and the present.
This church font is from Puttenham in Surrey. It was used to baptise generations of my maternal family from 1724. The church was an important institution and part of life. It was where people would meet others, and very likely it was the only opportunity to do something other than work.
In the case of this Church, Puttenham is well recorded thanks to the dedication of a former curate, Rev Charles Kerry. Kerry spent considerable time in the parish and produced a series of manuscripts for which the originals are located in the the library of his home county, Derby and not in Surrey, although there is a series of microfilms at the Surrey Heritage Centre. You can read an earlier post about Kerry HERE
The Clergy of the Church of England Database is a useful resource, whilst focusing on former incumbents, it enables us to see who was active in the Church of our forebears and who might have produced a record of their time there. It also enables us to produce a timeline for the church if we are examining the history of the church itself.
The search feature of the database is a little clunky but nonetheless, it is a fantastic resource. The best method of searching is by browsing for the individual or the parish, although be mindful, as the database itself goes up to 1835, which misses for me the material relevant to Charles Kerry. The name search is useful for those working on a One-Name Study. I first heard of the database at a Guild of One-Name Studies seminar in Plymouth around 2005, and it might be worth Guild members looking in the members room (under past seminars) to see if there is any details there.
Here are a few sites to get started:
- Irish History Online. It adds context and includes material for Ireland, which includes all of Ireland
- British History online also provides some useful context for the parish
- History of Parish Churches in the British Isles
- Researching Church History (aimed at Devon, but useful nonetheless)
- The Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association has a useful bibliography
- Methodist Heritage
- Researching Catholics – Guide from the National Archives
- Papar Project – For those researching in the Western Isles of Scotland
- Churches Conservation Trust
- Polish Hill River Church Museum (South Australia)
- Scottish Redundant Churches Trust
For those just thinking about starting to research a Church or religious venue, the starting place would be the archives for the County in which the church is located. I would always suggest that you check out if there is a local history group and archaeological society with a library and hopefully a catalogue online, so you can begin investigations.
If the church has now been sold and turned into a residential dwelling then a letter to the property can sometime yield some fascinating information, especially if there are still headstones in the garden!
By exploring the history of the building or the details of the former incumbents of a particular church, we are adding to the context of our ancestors or the folk in our studies. In former times, the church was the centre of the parish.
Taking part in the A-Z Challenge for 2020