From the office: Exploring the Surrey Parish Records

By Jon Bauckham, 6 February 2014 - 4:10pm

A major update to one of Ancestry.co.uk's parish record collections encouraged staff writer Jon Bauckham to solve a family history mystery

Thursday 6 February 2014

Jon Bauckham, staff writer
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Jon's great grandparents, Harry and Ida, pictured on their wedding day in 1929

As usual, it’s been rather busy here in the office. Although the deadline for our March issue has now passed, there’s still bits of admin to be getting on with, plus the final preparations for Who Do You Think You Are? Live in a fortnight’s time.

Due to my schedule, I’ve been getting a bit slack with my personal research, so last week I decided that I’m going to try and do a little bit each day. I couldn’t believe my luck when, straight after making this pact with myself, I found out that more than 400,000 new parish records had been added to Ancestry.co.uk’s Surrey collection – the county of my paternal ancestors!

Plugging in some basic details, I was delighted to find that a marriage record for my great grandparents, Harry Bauckham and Ida Allsop, had been uploaded to the site. It didn’t contain anything that I didn’t already know (plus I have a photo of the day itself, above), but it was lovely to see up on the screen.

However, the flurry of Surrey material also motivated me to get to the bottom of an altogether unhappier event in my family's history. While my grandfather was always led to believe that his dad (Harry) had been one of five boys, the release of the 1911 census revealed that there had also been a child who passed away.

Searching the parish registers again soon led me to a burial record for an Albert Bauckham, who died aged just 13 months – a clear match. Although my grandfather knew both of his grandparents growing up, neither of them revealed that he should have had another uncle. Why would they have done, I suppose?

This entry in the Ashtead St Giles burial register revealed the name of Jon's 'missing' ancestor, and prompted him to order a death certificate

After closing the Ancestry.co.uk tab, I went to look up Albert in the death indexes on FreeBMD.org.uk. Noting down the volume and page number next to his name, I then set about ordering the death certificate to find out exactly how he died. Unless you come across a helpful vicar who wrote down the cause of death in the burial register (like the reader who emailed us on Tuesday after breaking down a brick wall thanks to just that), going down the certificate route is the best way of finding out.

However, rather than going to the General Register Office (GRO) website, I changed my mind and decided that I would get the 'local' version of the record directly from Surrey County Council. At £11, the certificate was slightly more expensive than ordering from the GRO (£9.25), but it's always worth doing. As the centralised records kept by the GRO are merely handwritten copies of the originals, the local records tend to be more accurate. Plus, it can sometimes be a bit quicker – the certificate arrived within three working days!

When I opened the envelope, it was revealed that the cause of little Albert’s death was pneumonia, which was sadly not uncommon for a child in 1907. I rang my grandfather last night to tell him about my discovery, which he found both fascinating and moving. While it certainly doesn’t change the present, the research had uncovered the fate of a 'missing' uncle that had been kept from him up until now.

I suppose that it’s these kinds of finds that make all those hours sat in front of the computer worthwhile – especially when you can share them with your loved ones. Having made my new pact, I can’t wait to uncover more secrets and present them to my family. Hopefully there’s not too many skeletons in the cupboard...

 

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