Parish Register Newsletter: August 2007

Dear Subscriber

Hello and welcome to the August newsletter. It's been a while since last we mailed a newsletter - hopefully you've kept yourselves amused in the meantime.

Online Searchable Databases

Transcriptions that have been completed since June:

St George in the East 1837-1848
St George in the East 1770-1794
St George in the East 1809-1815

Christchurch, Spitalfields 1819-1842 has also been completed and will be uploaded once Simon gets back from his holidays around the end of the month.

Coming next will be:
St Dunstan Stepney 1734-1745. This transcription, by John & Beryl, is well underway and shouldn't be too much longer.
St Mary Whitechapel 1823-1832
St George in the East 1794-1809
Both of these represent the missing, and final, chunks of these parishes.

Before you go charging off to search the databases, and whilst I've still got your attention, we've made a change to the search procedure.
You've now got to enter the 6 letters that are displayed in the box above the search button. This tiresome procedure is a security measure that has been forced upon us as a response to someone trying to bring our site down.
The image cannot be clarified any further, as that would defeat the object of not making it machine readable. A sign of the times I'm afraid.
The upside however is that, together with a change of hosting company, the site loads an awful lot quicker and site downtime , ( fingers crossed ) seems to have been virtually eliminated.

Ok, you can go and search the databases now.

Click here to search the databases now

New Docklands Ancestors Series CDs

ImageVolume 42, St Paul Shadwell 1813-1827
Volume 43, St George in the East 1835-1837

Please note that these are priced at £7.95 and not £6.95. This is not due to blatant profiteering on our part, but to an increase in what we're charged by our production company. The price of all our single parish CDs will be going up to the new price on the 1st September, so buy now to avoid the increase :)
Compendium and multi parish CDS are not affected.

Volume 44, St Paul Shadwell 1828-1852 and Volume 45, St Dunstan Stepney 1757-1770 are just about to go off to the production company and should be released towards the end of September.

Click here for new Docklands Ancestors CDs

Who Do You Think You Are? Live

I know this event was a while back, but I would like to say that it was a pleasure to have met so many of you at Olympia. It was nice to put faces to names, many of you who have been talking to me for many years now.
Yvonne, Jason and myself were also amazed at the sheer number of people there who had visited our website.
We had a great weekend, staying as we were at the salubrious Travelodge at Heston Services. They won't forget us there in a hurry.....

New Thames Watermen CD

My chum, young Rob Cottrell, has been beavering away at Waterman's Hall recently on another jolly useful project. He's got access to the bindings indexes that cover the period 1908-1925.
The previous indexes on CD went up to 1908, so hopefully you'll find your next generation of waterman ancestors. I found two of mine. The first of these two is my grandfather. The 8 year gap between binding and freedom obviously being due to the War.


There are 3164 entries on the CD, which is modestly priced at £4.95.
Note that these entries are transcribed directly from the registers at the Hall, and not available at the Guildhall Library.

Click here for new Waterman CD

Company of Watermen

I'm grateful to Ian Whaley for pointing out this article by Clare Titley, from the newsletter of the Guildhall Library:

The records of the COMPANY OF Watermen and Lightermen - Exploring beyond the apprenticeship records.

The records of the Watermen and Lightermen's Company are some of the most
consistently popular records held in the Manuscripts Section. Watermen and
lightermen carried people and goods up and down the River Thames, and the
Company had control over their activities on the River. The records are
well-organised, very detailed and can provide more information about the
company's members than those of many other City of London livery companies.
Consequently they are very popular with those searching their family

Rob Cottrell's informative indexes to the apprenticeship records of the
company have made access simple. The indexes are available at Guildhall
Library, many other libraries, and at the Society of Genealogists, and are
available to purchase in CD ROM format from family history societies. As a
result readers tend to be well informed about the collection, and have
frequently obtained the key biographical and genealogical facts about their
ancestors before they visit.

Widening the search

I have been looking at some of the less frequently used parts of the
Watermen and Lightermen's Company's records, to see how we can extend
readers' searches when somebody asks "What else can I look at?".

The main focus of my attention has been the Company's complaints books (Ms
6301), where disputes between individuals were aired and punishments meted
out. When asked whether they were worth a look by an enthusiastic reader, I
had to confess I wasn't sure. These records are rarely used because they are
unindexed, so I thought I should investigate further.

Undertaking an experiment

I decided to examine a sample of the records based on 20 apprentices bound
on the same day, their names taken from the apprentice binding books. I
selected a list of 20 apprentices bound in July 1828 (in Ms 6289/16) and
searched the complaints book (Ms 6301/5) for these from August 1835 to
August 1860. Of the sample, six individuals featured in the complaints book.
Half of the six appeared only once, but the other half appeared on multiple
occasions, the highest number being 9 separate complaints relating to one

Some of the complaints recorded included:

* working a boat with the wrong number on it
* abusing another member of the Company with foul language
* apprentices failing to display their master's number on their boat
* members employing non-members to work for them
* working on a Sunday when not permitted by the Court
* failing to have their boat number clearly displayed
* carrying too many passengers in a boat
* plying and taking a fare that should have been another member's

The records show a variety of long-running complaints between particular
individuals, even families, and give you an idea of the status of certain
members (i.e. some members appear to take on the mantle of registering
complaints, and some seem to bear the brunt of the complaints of many

Of course, someone's appearance didn't necessary mean they were being
complained about; they could be the complainant airing a grievance.

The books are also a useful resource for examining the relationship between
masters and apprentices as the latter seem to have used the complaints
procedure to voice complaints about masters.

It is not always clear what action was taken once a complaint had been
lodged, but fines do appear to have been levied.

Taking another sample

Given the high number of complainants in the sample, I tried another sample
of the same size, but for an earlier period (in case my results were the
result of good fortune). Starting in 1808, I traced another 20 individuals
through the complaints books up to 1823 (GL Ms 6301/3-4). This was
proportionately a smaller sample because the number of entries in the
complaints books was much greater in this earlier period.

From this sample of 20, nine individuals appeared in the complaints books.
There was a wider spread than in the first sample, but with more of the men
only appearing once or twice, and the maximum number of appearances being

The types of complaint were similar, but more varied, and also included:

* neglecting to attend a summons at the Hall
* trying to navigate more than one craft at once
* taking the boat of another member
* complaining about a master's failure to reassign an apprentice to another

One entry of interest, not from my sample, but noted in passing, records an
incident in June 1817 where passengers were drowned after falling from a
boat belonging to a member of the company.


The two samples show that a significant proportion of members of the
Watermen and Lightermen's Company appear in the complaints books, both as
complainants and as defendants. The differences between the two samples hint
that there may be a higher proportion of occurrences in the earlier

For readers who are keen to find out more about an individual's working
life, or for those who want to explore further, searches of the complaints
books can yield a potentially high success rate as well as plenty of colour.
However, you need to be persistent as there are a large number of entries
written at speed in a variable hand, and no indexes. A search of at least
two years after the date of freedom is recommended.

And then...

The account books of payments to pensioners date from 1794 to 1910 (Ms
6400/1-6). These also are rarely consulted, but I would encourage readers to
check these too. They can be checked quickly and easily as they are arranged
roughly alphabetically. In the period before Civil Registration began in
1837, they can provide useful clues as to the date of death and place of
burial of a Company member.

One last thing!

Those interested in the Watermen and Lightermen's Company may have read The
Secret River by Kate Grenville, a novel about a waterman who is convicted of
theft and deported to Australia with his young family. Kate Grenville did
some of her research here at Guildhall Library, and describes the experience
in a new book which has been published to accompany the novel, called
Searching for the Secret River. Part memoir, part genealogical guide, it
follows the path of her research and her experiences along the way,
including chapters based at The National Archives, Watermen and Lightermen's Hall and Guildhall.

I would of course add a mention of my own scribblings on the matter, entitled My Ancestors were Thames Watermen: A Guide to Tracing your Thames Watermen & Lightermen Ancestors , now in it's 2nd print run and with a 2nd edition coming out shortly, ( shortly being defined as when I get round to it ).

Click here for the fabulous Waterman Guide Book!

Ramblings of an Urban Shed Dweller

Okay, time to confess a few things as to what's been going on these last few months. Sadly, the wife and I have parted company. I don't want to dwell on this too much, except to say that it's amicable, there's nobody else involved and we're both still working together, from the Shed as usual.
I'm actually Esme's lodger right now, which means I no longer work from home, hence the reason why it takes me a bit longer to reply to emails etc these days.
I've also spent the last 3 months struggling to give up, successfully so far, the demon nicotine, by taking the drug Zyban. Having been a smoker for 28 years this has not been easy, with my ability to concentrate suffering the most. It wasn't a great help that I had one of my periodic bouts of severe back pain. The cocktail of Zyban and painkillers and muscle relaxants produced some weird side effects, not the least of which were some extremely vivid nightmares.
Anyway, everything seems to have settled down now.

London Parish Map

Free Tower Hamlets BMD Indexes

London Maps Through the Ages

Thames Riverside Series Parish Registers

Docklands Ancestors Parish Register CDs

East End history/photo books

Kind regards,
James and the ParishRegister team


-A Passion For Family History-

© Docklands Ancestors Ltd.