Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Glimpse into English History via FamilySearch Indexing

I'm a volunteer indexer with FamilySearch indexing but haven’t been able to do much lately, partly due to computer problems. However, having just bought myself a brand new MacBook I was pleased to discover that their java-based indexing software works on a Mac without any difficulties. 

One of the things I like about FamilySearch indexing is the wide range of projects to choose from. So that you can either work on a project relevant to your area of interest, or alternatively you can choose a type a record you wouldn’t normally encounter during your own research, in order to extend your genealogical knowledge and experience. 

Having had a bit of a break I decided to plump for some relatively familiar English parish registers and this week have been indexing some batches from the UK, Warwickshire - Parish Registers 1538-1900 project. 

I was fascinated, after downloading a batch, to find myself looking at a nearly blank page headed by the following: 

These are to Certifie those th[a]t may make sirch for names Christeninges 
Weddinges or Burialles, in Sheldon Register Book in the yeares of o[u]r 
Lord God 1651 & 1652 th[a]t you find here omitted (for the major parte) 
by reason of the late consumeing inward warres here in England whome 
God deliver us from the like for ever Amen. for this reason I omitt 
the residue of this page. Thomas Dunton junior de Sheldon 

This appears to come from the Parish Register for Sheldon, an ancient parish that has now been absorbed by the City of Birmingham. 

I’ve read about the gaps in parish registers during the period known as the English Civil War and the Commonwealth (1642-1660) but have not come across such a clear reference to it before, or one apparently for the benefit of future genealogists! 

In England in 1653, responsibility for registering births, marriages and deaths was taken away from the church and given to an elected official known as a ‘Parish Register’. However, this was sometimes the former parish clerk who simply carried on making entries in the parish register as previously. This may be the case here, although as I could only see one double-page of the register I am not certain. 

The register does contain entries from 1653 and this was presumably when Thomas Dunton junior of Sheldon became ‘Parish Register’ and wrote the above explanation for the missing years. In fact, despite the warning, this register (with only two years missing) is probably one of the more complete registers for this period. 

I would encourage anyone who’s thought about becoming an indexer with FamilySearch to give it a try. The software is easy to use and you don’t have to commit a lot of time. Just about all genealogists have used the IGI at some point and this is a great way to give something back for all the free information. Not to mention, you never know what genealogical gems you may stumble across!


  1. Great suggestion! We're one the same wavelength, as I blogged about the same topic last week.

  2. I used to do this before but since I've had a MacBook I've not done it as I thought it was only for PC. I'll have a look again later, I used to really enjoy transcribing.

  3. @ Mrs M

    I had no problems installing the software on my MacBook or getting it to work. Like you, I presumed that FamilySearch Indexing was for PC only but when I looked into it was happy to discover that this is not the case!


  4. I am glad to hear that Mac users are able to do whatever they want with Family Search including indexing. I am Kay Stephens and can't find any way to comment except anonymous