Which records appeared in Jonnie Peacock's episode of WDYTYA?

By Jon Bauckham, 21 August 2018 - 12:28am

Jonnie Peacock’s episode of WDYTYA? featured a number of different sources that allowed him to trace both his rural and city-dwelling ancestors. We look at some of the most important documents seen on screen...

Karen Sayer Who Do You Think You Are
Professor Karen Sayer tells Jonnie about the life of his 4x great grandmother, Louisa Voss, in rural Cambridgeshire

Star source

Bastardy records

In the second half of his episode, Jonnie Peacock discovered that his 4x great grandmother, Louisa Voss, gave birth to several illegitimate children during the mid-19th century.

Although the names of the children’s fathers were absent from the birth certificates, records of local bastardy examinations provided tantalising clues. Taking place in local magistrates' courts, the examinations were a series of interrogations heard at petty sessions, in which the paternity of the illegitimate children were determined with a view to securing maintenance for their upkeep.

According to Who Do You Think You Are? series genealogist Sara Khan, bastardy records can be found often at local archives and record offices, with an increasing number also available online on commercial genealogy websites Ancestry (e.g. West Yorkshire, Dorset) and Findmypast (e.g. Lincolnshire).

Other key sources

Liverpool hospital records

Founded in 1898, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) boasts a large number of historic records, some of which are held on-site at its Pembroke Place premises and as part of the University of Liverpool Special Collections. It was at LSTM that Jonnie Peacock discovered the sad plight of his great great grandfather, Isaac Roberts, who died of anthrax.

However, if like Jonnie, you’re looking for the records of a specific Liverpool hospital, you should consult Liverpool Record Office, which holds an incredibly wide array of staff and patient records for medical institutions across the city – including Fazakerley Hospital.

At a national level, the whereabouts of records for more than 2,800 hospitals are listed in The National Archives’ Hospital Records Database (created in partnership with the Wellcome Library), although this is no longer maintained.

Local newspapers

As Jonnie discovered, local newspapers proved to be a highly valuable resource, carrying detailed reports about the tragic death of his great great grandfather, Isaac Roberts, as well as the criminal activities of his 4x great grandmother, Louisa Voss.

Although not mentioned in the episode, local newspapers may also carry reports about bastardy examinations (see above) and the names of men suspected to have fathered illegitimate children.

To date, more than 27 million pages of local newspapers held by the British Library have been digitised and made available at the British Newspaper Archive (also accessible via Findmypast), while the free Welsh Newspapers Online service is also a goldmine of information.

Workhouse records

Towards the end of his Who Do You Think You Are? journey, Jonnie found his 4x great grandmother, Louisa Voss, listed in the St Ives Workhouse admission and discharge register.

Like bastardy records (see above), many local archives and county record offices will hold material relating to the former Poor Law unions, including creed registers, settlement/removal orders and other administrative material, with an increasing number of documents also being made available online.

For example, one of the largest digital collections currently on the web is Ancestry’s London Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records (1738–1930), which features millions of records held by London Metropolitan Archives.

However, your first port of call should be Peter Higginbotham’s excellent workhouses.org.uk website, which not only provides a history of each institution, but indicates which material has survived and where it is likely to be held. The entry for St Ives is a perfect example.


Where does Jonnie Peacock visit in his episode of WDYTYA?
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Where does Jonnie Peacock visit in his episode of WDYTYA?
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