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06 February 2019

Fenland parish registers from the Museum go online for family historians to use

By Julie Williams

Fenland parish registers from the Museum go online for family historians to use

Records of christenings, funerals and marriages in the Fens around Wisbech dating back 500 years were taken from church vestries for safekeeping at Wisbech and Fenland Museum.

Now digitised pages of these registers from 32 parishes dating back to the 1500s are being made available so anyone worldwide with ancestors from the Fens can find online and buy copies of the pages that bear their family's details.

You can check if your own family's are among the names already digitised, matched with a transcript and uploaded, through this link with the relevant page on Cambridgeshire Family History Society's website: Ancestor Finder


Cambridgeshire Family History Society in partnership with the Museum

The painstaking work of scanning each page with a specialist scanning machine on loan from the County Archives Service has been ongoing in the Museum's basement archive since May, 2018.

There are roughly 50,000 register pages in total and classical history graduate Tristan Goodfellow, from Murrow, has already scanned and sent more than 40,000 to be checked and matched to transcripts by Cambridgeshire Family History Society volunteers before being published by the Society, which pays Tristan's salary and also contributes to the Museum's running costs through its Re-Founders Scheme.

Society chairman David Copsey said of the project: “Our partnership in this venture with Wisbech and Fenland Museum means for the first time we can offer people an online view of the actual pages their ancestors' lives were recorded on. There are no nationally kept records before 1837 – so this really is a first.”


These parishes have had records wholly or partially scanned so far:

Friday Bridge, Gorefield, Guyhirn, Marshland, Murrow, Newton, Outwell, Parson Drove, Southea, Terrington St Clement, Tydd St Giles, Upwell, Wisbech St Peter


Why digitise?

Tracing your ancestral line back through history can be pursued with the help of nationally kept birth, death and marriage certificates online as far back as 1837.

But for details of individuals living before national registration began, professional historians and amateurs alike need parish registers which have become delicate and vulnerable because of age and handling. Most are now kept in museums or county record offices.

While Cambridgeshire Family History Society volunteers have transcribed details from many registers countywide, everyone prefers to see the actual page where the relevant name is written.

This project will save what could be the only original record available of a person's existence from further damage by over-much handling. Some of the records are in Latin and the old-fashioned handwriting can be shaky and hard to read. Finding pictures of the pages online enables people to decipher for themselves.

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