Users' Guide to the Branscombe Parish Registers Database

(You may wish to print this guide for reference while searching the database)

1. Persons Folder

This is the most useful reference tool in the database. It lists under each person's name all the baptisms, marriages or burials in which his or her name is mentioned in the registers. It is both a source of information in itself, and an index to the registers. Further details can sometimes be found by looking up the event, by date, in the Registers Folder, and between 1786 and 1812, in the Puddicombe Folder.

Names in the Persons Folder are listed alphabetically in eleven files, as follows: Anon - Bartlett, Bartlett - Bunt, Bunt - Collier, Collier - Eveleigh, Eveleigh - Ham, Ham - Lacy, Lacy - Michell, Michell - Perry, Perry - Scarborough, Scarborough - Vele, Venn - Yule.

NB Bartlett, the commonest name in Branscombe, straddles two files.

NB The spelling of surnames varied over the centuries, and the database groups together all the variants.

Begin by opening the file which contains the name you are interested in. For example, for Dowell open 'Collier-Eveleigh' and scroll down until you find the Dowells, who are listed by alphabetical order of first names, and then by date.

You will see that there are five columns: Keys, Names, Details, Trades, and Abodes. The headings Names, Trades and Abodes are self-explanatory, but in earlier centuries Trades and Abodes were often not recorded.

Keys (column 1) consist of a prefix (e.g. cb or mm) and a number. The number is an index number which you can ignore. The prefixes are very important, as they indicate the role in which the person under Names (column 2) appears in the record listed under Details (column 3) as follows:

cb = as child baptised

mm = as a spouse

bb = as person buried.

pb = as parent of a child baptised

fm = as father of a spouse

pbb = as parent of a person buried.

sbb = as spouse of a person buried

Details, in column 3, always includes the year of the record. The other details will look different, depending on what sort of record it is.

Baptisms. Take as an example the baptism of John Collier in 1791. John Collier can be found under Names, with the key cb under Keys to show that he is the child baptised, and the names of his parents appear in Details in square brackets, like this:

cb John Collier [James Collier] [Sarah Collier] 1791

The same baptism record can be found by looking up the father, James Collier, under Names, where he has the key pb (parent of child baptised). The Details show the mother’s name, and then the child’s name in square brackets. So pb entries look like this:

pb James Collier Sarah Collier [John Collier] 1791

Marriages. The same record of John Collier's baptism may also appear under the mother’s name, but not under 'Sarah Collier'. To find it, first find James Collier’s marriage, which is listed in the same group of John Collier's entries under Names. Here James Collier has the key mm (person married) and the Details give the bride’s maiden name. So mm entries look like this:

mm James Collier Sarah Bartlett 1786

All the records that mention Sarah Bartlett are grouped under her birth name in the file Bartlett-Bunt. Here, under Sarah Bartlett in Names, are both her marriage and her parental role at John Collier's baptism:

mm Sarah Bartlett James Collier 1786 pb Sarah Collier James Collier [John Collier] 1791

NB All the records that mention a woman who married in Branscombe are grouped under her birth or maiden name, but using her married name — i.e. Sarah appears first as Sarah Bartlett, but after her marriage as Sarah Collier. If a marriage was not registered at Branscombe but a child of the marriage was baptised there, the baptism appears under the father’s name only, because the mother’s maiden name is not recorded.

Marriage records sometimes contain the bride’s or bridegroom’s age, in which case her or his probable year of birth is indicated in the details, after the year of the marriage, like this:

mm Eliza Dowell Thomas Williams 1874 (26) 1848

From Eliza Dowell's baptism (cb) you can find her father’s name, John Tucker Dowell, and under his entry in Names is another record of Eliza's marriage, as her father’s daughter (fm). So fm (father of person married) entries look like this, with the bride or groom in square brackets in the details :

fm John Tucker Dowelll [Eliza Dowell] 1874

Burials. Burial records may record age at death, in which case the probable year of birth is shown in the Details after the year of burial and age at death. So bb (person buried) entries may look like this:

bb Eliza Williams 1937 (89) 1848

All too often, parents had to record burials of their children. James Collier, for example, had buried a baby called John Collier in 1790 before the birth of the boy who was baptised as John Collier in 1791. A pbb (parent of person buried) entry looks like this, with the name of the other parent, followed in square brackets by that of the child buried, in the Details:

pbb James Collier Sarah Collier [John Collier] 1790

or, of course, under Sarah Bartlett in the Bartlett-Bunt file, like this:

pbb Sarah Collier James Collier [John Collier] 1790

The key sbb indicates that the person listed under Names is the spouse of a person buried, who is named in Details, like this:

sbb Richard Bartlett Ann Bartlett 1665

2. Registers Folder

If you are looking for the baptism, marriage or burial of a named individual

at a known date, the Registers folder can be consulted by opening the file you need. The files, like the registers themselves, list events in chronological order, and can be scrolled through to the date you are interested in.

Baptisms are listed in 8 columns:

1. Date of baptism (from 1539)

2. Date of birth of child (given in 1794-1812, 1874-1920 and 1948-2002, otherwise rarely)

3. Child's first name(s)

4. Father's first name(s)

5. Mother's first name(s)

6. Surname

7. Abode ('Branscombe' to 1813, thereafter by name of farm or part of village — e.g. 'Vicarage', 'Bank' 'Dean', etc. — otherwise 'Outside Branscombe')

8. Father's trade (rarely given before 1790, fairly complete thereafter).

Marriages are listed in 9 columns:

1. Key (allows cross-reference to Persons folder)

2. Date of marriage (from 1545)

3. Names of spouses

4. Age of spouses (not before 1837, then 'full age' until 1862, thereafter by age in years)

5. Condition (marital status — unmarried or widowed — from 1813)

6. Trade (occupations given from 1837)

7. Abode (parishes outside Branscombe are generally listed. Branscombe is indicated by a blank to 1837 and between 1861 and 1910. From 1837 to 1861 and 1910-2003 abode in Branscombe is indicated by name of farm or part of village — e.g. 'Vicarage', 'Bank' 'Dean', etc.)

8. Father's name (given occasionally before 1837, complete thereafter)

9. Father's trade (none given before 1837, complete thereafter)

Burials are listed in 5 columns:

1. Date of burial (from 1578)

2. Date of death (given occasionally, but complete 1794-1812 and 1994- 2003)

3. Name

4. Abode (parishes outside Branscombe are generally listed. Branscombe is indicated by a blank to 1813 and thereafter abode in Branscombe is indicated by name of farm or part of village — e.g. 'Vicarage', 'Bank' 'Dean', etc. — and by more precise addresses in recent times)

5. Age (rarely listed before 1786, thereafter fairly complete)

3. Some words of warning

Parish registers are an unparalleled resource for family history, but they can be incomplete or misleading for a variety of reasons, such as failure to have infants baptised, poor record-keeping, the loss, destruction or obliteration of pages, deliberate falsification of entries, unrecorded burial of suicides in unconsecrated ground, etc.

Errors in transcription cannot be ruled out.

The secure identification of individuals whose names appear in different registers is difficult, especially when, as in Branscombe before the 20th century, there is a limited number of surnames and the same few first names are used repeatedly. Links between register entries have been made cautiously In the database, to minimize misidentification, so more links can probably be made than appear in the Persons Folder.

For reasons of privacy, people who might have been living in 2002-4, when the database was made, are omitted from the Persons Folder. But all entries in the registers up to that date are included in the Registers Folder, as these are already in the public domain.