The work of tracing family trees in Yorkshire is about to get a lot easier. A partnership has been launched which means that the county’s parish registers will be available online in the not too distant future.

Parish registers are an important source of information for family historians. They were introduced by Henry VIII and can date from as early as 1538. The vicar in every parish in the country had to keep a parish register. These documents contain all the vital information about the baptisms, marriages and burials.

A group of Yorkshire archives in the East Riding, North Yorkshire, York, Teesside, Sheffield and Doncaster have come together to make it easier for people to search their family tree. They have joined in a partnership with, the online family history web site, to make digital copies of parish registers available over the internet.

Family historians from all over the globe will be able to subscribe to the site and look at the parish registers from the comfort of their own homes.

Ian Mason, archives manager in the East Ridings, said, “Tracing your family tree in Yorkshire can be very confusing because there are so many different local authority and religious boundaries. One of the things this partnership will do is make it simpler for people because they will be able to come to the Treasure House or their local library and see the registers from all of the archives in the partnership.

“There is still a lot of work to go. Microfilm of all the parish registers has to be converted into digital copies. Then all the register entries have to be indexed. It might take up to 18 months to two years to complete all this work. When it’s all done there will be a Yorkshire page on the website from which you will be able to search for the names of your ancestors.”

“This is a vast resource and it will be of inestimable value to people all over the world who want to find out about their North Yorkshire roots,” said North Yorkshire County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for Library and Information Services.

“We are proud and excited to be supporting this initiative through our County Records Office, whose task will now be to convert the microfilm of the parish registers into digital copies, ready for uploading.”

Paul Nixon, content licensing manager at, said, “The addition of these historic records from Yorkshire Digitisation Consortium to will be keenly anticipated by family and local historians alike, and will undoubtedly reinforce the website’s position as the place to go for UK parish records.”

Entries in the parish records of North Yorkshire include:

Essabell, daughter Bartholomew Scaife of Crosby Garret, Westmorland … by traveling over the moores by the tempestiousnes of the wethere was perished and dyed (Burial, Muker, 1641)
Eleanor Hill of Sessay, unmarried aged 20 years. Died of a profligate life (Burial, Sessay, 1804)
Ellen; no other name known – born of some foolish girl of Baldersby (Christening, Topcliffe, 1579)
John, son of John Rawling of Barton le Street; born under the Northfield hedge at Asenby (Christening, Topcliffe, 1612)
John Carr, shot by a king’s cutter on board a smuggler (Burial, Hinderwell, 1769)
Thos Cassildine, a soldier of the 1st Regiment of Dragoon Guards cruelly murdered at Runswick in attempting to seize some smuggled goods (Burial, Hinderwell, 1776)
Richard Sturdy, John Cartman and Richard Sturdy;  all poisoned by neglect of a servant girl in making a pudding (Burials, Kirkby Wiske, 1791)
Thos, son of Thos Lee.  Died with drinking gin, aged 13 (Burial, Thirsk, 1789)
Thos Hill (son of Edward Hill who was infected by the dogma of those commonly called Quakers) (Christening, Kilburn, 1702)

The records reveal the wide and often suprising occupations of those who have lived and worked in North Yorkshire over the centuries.  They include

Thos Tayolor of Rome, murderer (Burial, Giggleswick, 1661)
Amram Foljamb, butter searcher (Burial, Whitby, 1739)
Thos, son of Thos and Catharine Brown of Staithes, umbrella repairer (Christening, Hinderwell, 1830)
Wm Allman, shoemaker and teacher of psalmody (Burial, Thirsk, 1782)
Robt Newby, a famous mathematician (Burial, Thirsk, 1875)
John Martin from Lancaster, a travelling person who mended clocks (Burial, Thirsk, 1771)

As well as proper names, the parish records also frequently give nicknames:

Kateren Ditchborn, called Mother Mydnyght (Burial, Helmsley, 1578)
An illegit child of bouncing Eliz (Burial, Thirsk, 1587)
Eliz Johnson, widow, commonly called Bessy Malt (Burial, Thirsk, 1793)

And in at least one instance, the Vicar felt it his duty to record the severe weather conditions suffered by his parishioners.  The incumbent of Thornton in Lonsdale recorded that March 16 1719, “is memorable for a prodigious quantity of snow falling, which being driven by a violent wind drifted the ways and roads to that degree they were not to be travelled for many days; nay the storm went so high that door neighbours (if they had occasion) could not visit one another without difficulty, nay danger, from six in the morning till eleven; at which time, the wind abating, with boots on their legs and spades in their hands, they made a communication from one house to another.”

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