Saturday, 15 March 2014

The early register of Bromley Parish and the effect of "the wars among ourselves"

As I am working through the earliest parish register to transcribe births marriages and deaths it occurred to me that although microfilm is a wonderful media for preservation it has pitfalls for the transcriber.
I have just had the experience of seeing images obtained from Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock after FamilySearch Indexing treatment of the early parish register for BLAYDON entries. Imaginatively these have been rendered as a number of names PARDONE being but one example. The comparison between a digital image from microfilm and the permitted ultra violet image of the same entry from the damaged original parish register clearly yields BLADON entries.
I work from original parish registers and have used Ultra violet lighting for many years. Microfilm is a flat one dimensional image; handling the original and being able to control light sources and magnification enables the experienced transcriber to produce a consistent transcript. FamilySearch does not seem to realise the limitations of volunteers seeing only a handful of images. It appears that the margin for error in their material is therefore increased. The search for the correct surname is fruitless; the original parish register yields dozens of results.
Bromley has an original register which is a composite register in which Baptisms marriages and burials are mingled in a series of pages in a sort of chronological order which becomes more established when it is rebound into three sections in 1652.
The original purpose of the parish register was set out in 1538 by Henry VIII as part of his Reformation of the Church.Elizabeth I further ordered that a Register Book be provided in every parish to record the births death and marriages in the parish. Thus the first volume of the Bromley Parish Registers bears the title:
"The Register of Bromley in Kent,begun Anno Domini 1558,was all new bound w[ith] addicons of new leaves,Anno Domini 1652".
here the transcriber handling the volume has an immediate advantage of the context of each sequence of pages ; the microfilm view has limited context.
Also within the heading there is an entry:
Baptisms, 29 November 1558-13 January 1715
Burials, 13 November 1578-27 July 1678
Marriages,24 January 1575-31 January 1734.
The register is remarkable in recording events during the anarchy of record keeping during the Commonwealth and I know of no recorded history of conflict in the town. The baptismal register contains an entry on the only page apparently affected by upheaval.The Minister of Bromley Parish from 1640-1646 was Richard Antrobus, The year which contains fewest entry is 1644 and a 1646 entry has been inserted into a page which had been drafted for that year. The 7 leaves of the Commonwealth years baptisms are with the exception of 1644 and 1645 reasonably consistent and may represent all baptisms; in 1844 there are only 7 entries including the christening of  Richard Antrobus' own son given the name Richard. The page contains an entry "this was the register in the wars among ourselves". The last months of the year maintain an order and 11 entries are recorded for the following year 1645; 1646 has 22 entries and thereafter the record appears to represent a full record of baptisms.
In 1646 Richard Antrobus was replaced as Minister. According to Lambeth Palace records on 18 April 1646 John Harvey replaced Antrobus who had presumably drafted a page for entries for 1644; the 1646 insertion of  a baptism onto the 1684 page is presumably the hand of Harvey.
On 22 August 1648 Harvey is replaced by Joseph Jackson; in the same year Henry Arnold begans his ministry which runs from 1648-1662.
Bromley is unusual in maintaining greater consistency in records than other parishes in the district and therefore offers greater record sources than other parishes nationally.
I am also indebted once again to the work of Arthur Gresley Hellicar one of the 19th century long serving Vicars of the parish for his description of the contents:
"There are eleven leaves of the Register filled with Baptisms in Queen Elizabeth's reign,over 850 in all,as there is an average of 39 on each side of a leaf. The Baptisms in James I's reign fill 8 leaves(making 624): those of Charles I 7 leaves (546); those of the Commonwealth 7: and those of Charles II,12 (936)"
The transcript is undergoing several stages of proof reading to resolve some issues in the marriage register and will be available later this year at Kent Online Parish Clerks. The marriage register has some entries in the 1600's which need context to narrow the year of the event. It is interesting to see the variant spellings of the surname which becomes fixed as JEWEL[L] in different hands and to see that surnames can shift in different hands within a few years difference.