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Berkshire Family Historian
September 2001

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, September 2001 Contents

Society projects

Daphne Spurling

The objective of Society projects is to make past records concerning people in Berkshire more accessible. The end products are sold as fiche or a search service is provided. Details are given in the booklist, on the Society website or under postal search services in the Berkshire Family Historian (see page 6o). Many of you will have noticed new publications on the bookstall and the subsequent increase in parishes or periods available for searching. In addition, the Research Centre has in the upstairs library reference items such as not-yet-published Monumental Inscriptions and fiche of parish registers, and downstairs there are several commercially available computer based indexes covering Berkshire or Berkshire people.

Berkshire parish registers

The largest on-going project is transcribing, computerising and checking entries (some going back nearly 500 years), of Berkshire parish registers deposited at the Berkshire Record Office. Transcribing was started by the late John Brooks and now continues under Irene Littleby and her volunteers with Brian Edwards compiling the computer database. The task is enormous due to the number of records and the detail available for each baptism, marriage and burial. Moreover, skill is required in interpreting the written entries. Because of the magnitude of the work only a few parishes have been completed and published to date. We are regularly issuing fiche of new parishes, so keep an eye open for the ones you want.

The Marriage Index

This index now lists over 17,000 marriages. All the pre-1837 Anglican parishes in 'new' Berkshire have been transcribed for the period 1700-1837 and about half have been checked for the 180 to 1837 period. This project is under the leadership of Sue Matthews and the Vale Branch. Sue and her team are making great strides but more volunteers are needed to cheek parish registers on a regular basis at the Berkshire Record Office. When more complete, the index will be available as a search service and on fiche. A job that can be done at home by someone on the internet (and with a good ISP deal) is to download certain parish register entries from the IGI. These are then used for checking purposes. Full instructions will be sent to any volunteers. Oxfordshire Family History Society has completed the old Berkshire parishes that are now part of Oxfordshire.

Burial Index

David Wright and his team included over 75,000 burials from 68 parishes, non-conformist churchyards and cemeteries in the initial issue of the National Burial Index CD-Rom. David reports elsewhere that the database now contains 104,800 entries. The work continues rapidly for inclusion in future NBI editions. Regular updates of the burials covered are given in this journal (see page 21) and details of the search service elsewhere on this web-site

Berkshire Overseers Project

Abbreviated transcripts are being made of the 10,000 plus papers of the Old Poor Law period (mid-seventeenth century to 1830s) by the Berkshire Overseers Project under Brian Hunt. The papers variously cover Settlement Certificates and Examinations, Removal Orders, apprenticeship, bastardy orders and militia service. Twenty-one of the 26 Unions are now available on fiche. The survival rate of records is variable with virtually nothing from some places. However, the movement of people between parishes means that many associated parishes, including some far from Berkshire, are included in place name indexes. Only the papers from St Mary's and St Giles in Reading remain to be entered, and then the final summary and combined index will be produced.

Monumental Inscriptions

MIs tend to be recorded by those with a special interest in the village or church. As the years pass, the inscriptions on tombstones become more illegible and few churches have detailed plans to locate graves and even fewer have the inscriptions written down. A very active group from the Society recorded the inscriptions of about 50 churchyards in the iggos. Many need mapping, indexing and updating to make them ready for publishing. If you are interested in helping with a particular church or cemetery, or one that has been recorded by another interest group (such as a local history society), please let us know. Mike Roberts is the MI co-ordinator for East Berkshire.

1851 Census

Geoff Mather is beavering away at the 1851 Berkshire Census that he hopes to finish this year. Full transcriptions and indexes are being put onto fiche. Most of the main population centres have been covered and the Booklist gives details of what is currently available on fiche or in booklet form. Geoff also provides printouts of individual folios.

Berkshire Strays

A new project under Margaret Young is the Berkshire Strays Index of people who appear in the records of other counties or countries. A typical example is my mother who was born in Theale, married in Lincoln and died in Bedford. This index can be very useful in tracing your ancestors' movements. Please send Margaret details of any strays that you find. This project is being developed alongside the Berkshire Name Index and will directly feed into the BNI. A separate search of the Strays Index will be introduced in the future.

Police records

A re-activated project concerns the records of the Police Museum at Sulhampstead. John Bowley is now computerising records of Police Constables joining the Reading force transcribed in the iggos. Further details, such as the appearance (height, eye colour) of the constables, are available at Sulhamstead. Errol Page is starting to transcribe other registers.

Berkshire Name Index

The major new project is the computerisation of the Berkshire Name Index. Searches at present are of the 100,000 or so cards or paper slips in the Research Centre. To these we will add names that emerge from other projects, such as those mentioned above. In the long term we aim to include as many as possible of those people who have appeared in records in the county. As an index, it will inform the researcher in what records the name can be found. The minimum data will be, for example, 'Smith, John, 1879, Aldermaston, Marriage'; in this example the Parish Register or the Marriage Index can be consulted for more details. Greater detail will be provided for records that are not published elsewhere. Many volunteers will be required soon to help Sandra Grist to input the current names index which is maintained on record cards.

New projects

We have other possible projects. Perhaps someone would like to photograph all the churches and chapels, or village high streets in the county and write a short piece on the village. The Berkshire Record Office and Society members hold other records that can be transcribed. Do you have any interests or ideas for projects?


These projects and the publication of the results depend on our many volunteers. The process of transcribing and checking is well established, but necessarily time-consuming for the sake of accuracy. The shortage of volunteers to work at the Record Office in Reading is seriously delaying both the parish register and Marriage Index projects. Some of our volunteers live far away (one even in Australia) and so are unable to get to Reading. You will all have benefited from indexes and similar information made available by this and other societies. Please remember that and offer to help when you are able, and wherever you are able. Contact me at the Research Centre or by email to. If you have a laptop that would be a wonderful bonus as it cuts down some stages thus reducing time and potential errors.

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Berkshire Family History Society 2001

updated 27th November 2001