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Berkshire Family Historian
June 2003

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, June 2003 Contents

Berkshire Name Search (formerly called Berkshire Search Suite)

The Berkshire Family History Society has published and sold transcripts and indexes as fiche and, recently, as CD ROMs. However, we are all reluctant to buy publications unless we are sure that it contains information for those individuals we are researching. Moreover such publications are not available until the transcription and checking is completed. The Berkshire Name Search is a new initiative that will enable you to search in and obtain information from various Society records, including those for which the transcription and checking is not yet complete.

The Berkshire Name Search will comprise most BFHS records that we have in electronic form and will thus contain a wide range of information, from hatches, matches and dispatches to the books in the Research Centre library. Standard search criteria are surname alone or with forename, place, and year/range. Censuses can also be searched by birthplace and age. A search of the master index, the Berkshire Name Index, will show the number of entries of that name in the individual datasets. The amount of information available depends on the date and type of record (see below) and are full transcriptions of the census entries and lesser transcriptions for burial and marriage indexes. Burials and marriages derived from early parish registers have minimum information. At present all records are in transcription form and none are a ‘picture’ of the register or page from the census.

The reliability of the records is indicated. Records obtained from third parties have the lowest, Grade 1, those transcribed by BFHS volunteers but not checked is Grade 2 and those checked against original records, Grade 3. Unchecked records are included because most individual entries within them will be correct. We feel that, providing the limitations are known, people would rather have access to something than nothing.

The following datasets are now in the Berkshire Name Index with an indication of the information available.

  • Berkshire 1851 Census (Grade 3). Complete checked transcription of the 170,000 persons within Berkshire on 30 March 1851. Printouts of either the schedule (whole household) or the page. Also available on CD ROM.
  • Berkshire 1871 Census (Grades 2 and 3). All districts transcribed and will be upgraded as they are checked. Printouts are complete transcriptions of schedule or page.
  • Berkshire 1861 Census (Grade 2). Transcription just started.
  • Berkshire Burial Index (Grade 3). Work in progress transcribing from parish registers. Includes 250,000 burials to date, see the Berkshire Family Historian or BFHS website for the parishes and periods covered. Print outs of name, age, parish and date with an indication if more information is in the register. This extra information is being incorporated into the entries. 210,000 burials available on CD ROM.
  • Berkshire Marriage Index (Grade 3). Work in progress transcribing from pre-1837 parish registers. See the Berkshire Family Historian or BFHS website for the parishes and periods covered. Early entries have only names of bride and groom, but later include if from other parishes and by licence. Witnesses not included.
  • Berkshire Miscellaneous Index (Grades 1, 2 and 3). This dataset is based on the old Berkshire Name Index and includes records that were extracted and submitted by individuals. When possible running sets (such as baptisms from parish registers) will be placed in specialist datasets leaving the disparate individual records and small datasets in this Miscellaneous Index. Information available depends on the record.
  • Berkshire Name Index Master index of above indexes to include name, date, event and place. Printouts will show number of entries in above individual datasets but not the detailed information.
  • BFHS Library Catalogue can be searched by key words.

Records to be added in the future include parish registers, monumental inscriptions, overseers’ papers, birth briefs, Berkshire police records, Berkshire strays and political records (such as electoral rolls and poll books). Extra entries will be added to incomplete datasets. If you note the date of your searches, only later additions will be included and charged for in future searches. For details of how to search and the charges see the Back pages of this magazine.

Search difficulties. Indexes depend on transcriptions; these cannot be 100% accurate. The writing styles and condition of older records can make transcribing difficult. At times it is a best guess and more than one possibility may be included. Variations in spelling occur. BFHS volunteers transcribe the records as they appear, we have not attempted to modernise or standardise the spellings of names or places. So Wokingham may appear as Oakingham. Searchers will have to use their initiative when specifying the names/variants to be searched. While we endeavour to be as accurate as possible, you are encouraged to refer to the original document whenever possible.


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Berkshire Family History Society 2003

created 29th May 2003