Initial Research was based on Birth and Marriage Certificates, which were obtained from the local Registrars, where possible, having identified the year and quarter that an event took place, from the G.R.O. Index (General Register Office). As many of you will know, this can be a costly business, especially when certificates arrive and prove to be for the wrong people. Researching using Certificates can take you back to 1837 when Civil Registration began. For baptisms, marriages and burials prior to this date the only records were kept by the church. Parish Registers were and still are maintained by each church, the earliest records dating from 1538 when Registration was introduced by King Henry VIII. Many of the early registers were recorded on poor quality paper and have not survived. Many others have succumbed to fire, flood or civil war and been destroyed.
We can count ourselves very lucky, that not only did Farnworth Chapel begin keeping records in 1538, one of only three churches in the whole of Lancashire to do so, but a very diligent Curate, William Sherlock, copied all the earlier entries onto parchment in a vellum binding in 1598. Tribute is due to William Sherlock for the admirable care with which this task was carried out. It is obvious from the quality of the manuscript and the various uncommon features, that he took great pride in his work. It is executed in neat and legible script, with ornate month headings and it is solely due to this man's efforts that we are able to trace our ancestors back so far.
A great deal of our early research was done using the IGI (International Genealogical Index), on fiche at our main library in Nottingham. The local Latter Day Saints Church had the IGI on CD Rom in those early days, but access was difficult and had to be booked weeks in advance. We located another CD copy at Sheffield Archives and made a great deal of use of this wonderful facility. All records found using this marvelous search tool have been double checked in Parish Registers. Of course, thanks to the efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah, the IGI and other sources can now be searched on-line at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/default.asp
Census Records and Parish Registers were consulted at St Helens Local History Library, Wigan History Shop, Bolton Archives and the Lancashire Record Office in Preston, Lancashire. Many hours have been spent in these places and many miles have been traveled in pursuit of this family history.
It was whilst struggling with the Latin text and dates in the film of the original parish registers of Farnworth Chapel, at St Helens Local History Library, that the Archivist, in response to a question I asked, introduced me to the printed volumes of the Lancashire Parish Register Society transcriptions. These really speeded up the research process because they were easily readable and best of all they had an alphabetical index. We have purchased a number of these volumes on microfiche and have many reasons to be grateful to the LPRS and are pleased therefore to provide a link to there publications site, both here and on our Links page.
Census records provide amazing snapshots of the family at 10 year intervals from 1841 right up to the 1901 census which has just been made public. They contain some very interesting occupational information and often provide links across the generations like the 1881 Census did for us. They can also set puzzles of their own. The birthplace of Martha Longworth shown as Bolton in the 1881 Census was shown as somewhere quite different in the 1871 Census.
It was discovered that some churches have not handed their registers over to the archives for safe keeping and in these cases requests for information have to be addressed to the present clergy. St. Mark's church in St Helens was such a church, but having searched the registers of all other local churches, enquiries were eventually made, which proved to be fruitful. Three of my wife's uncles were baptised there between 1899 and 1903.
Some churches have additional records which can yield useful information. There are often records of church meetings and records of 'alms' handed to the poor under the 'Poor Laws'. There are often grave registers which record all burials in each grave and cross reference these to the Burials Register. These records when available can be invaluable for tracing family members, but need to be studied with great care.
Monumental Inscriptions are also very useful to the genealogist as they often record relationships between people in addition to ages and dates. Sometimes they provide the only clues to tracing ancestors. Visiting cemeteries may not be everybody's favourite pass-time, and some old gravestones are badly worn and difficult to read. Luckily some M.I's have been recorded and are available on microfiche.
We would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank those who have helped us in our research