‘Tracing your Potteries Ancestors‘ was the title of January’s talk given by Michael Sharpe who travelled all the way from Bromsgrove to Biddulph on Monday evening. Mr. Sharpe is an experienced family history researcher, writer and lecturer focusing on Britain’s industrial heartland: Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
The talk commenced with a discussion of the polymorphic growth of the six towns, industrial diversity, the impact of non-conformism, transport and population growth and the effect that this has had on the development of the Potteries. The brief history was followed by a wide and varied discussion of the archives, key online sources and further resources relevant to researching Potteries ancestors.
Mr. Sharpe began with the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives - currently held on an upper floor of Hanley Library, Bethesda Street. An archive service reader’s ticket is required and it is advisable to book a place in advance. Opening hours are limited: all day on Wednesday and 9.30 a.m - 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday. Telephone 01782 238420 email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key sources to be found here include parish records, education records, census returns, directories, newspapers, maps and electoral rolls. It may be necessary to book either micro-fiche or film readers. It is vital that researchers view original documents whenever possible to minimize errors by transcribers and to glean as much information as possible from the resource.
The Staffordshire Record Office, Eastgate Street, Stafford has access to parish registers, nonconformist and Roman Catholic registers, marriage bonds, wills and inventories, census returns, electoral registers, poor law records and a wealth of maps and plans. Telephone 01785 278379 email: email@example.com. It is closed on Monday and open Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and on the 3rd Saturday of the month 9 - 1 p.m. As with the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives, a reader’s ticket is required and it is advisable to book in advance.
Lichfield Record Office was once the repository for tithe maps and awards, bishop transcripts, wills and inventories but these have been transferred to Stafford and the Lichfield office is now closed.
The William Salt library, also in Stafford, holds books, pamphlets, newspapers, paintings and prints relating to Staffordshire history. Telephone 01785 278372 email: firstname.lastname@example.org and opening times are Tuesday - Thursday 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2 - 4 p.m.
Records for all of the above archives can be searched using ‘Gateway to the Past’ www.archives.staffordshire.gov.uk. Guides to sources can also be downloaded free of charge.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Library holds an excellent Local Studies collection as does Keele University. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery may also prove useful when attempting to build a picture of the life of our Potteries ancestors.
Moving on to on-line resources, Mr. Sharpe outlined the collaboration between Staffordshire Archive Services and Find My Past. Having been given access to many genealogical resources, FMP has digitalized many and they are now available as the ‘Staffordshire Collection‘. Free access is available from libraries and archives in Staffordshire. The collection includes Anglican Parish Registers for Staffordshire 1538 - 1900, marriage allegations and bonds, wills and inventories proved in the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Lichfield and the courts of various ‘peculiar jurisdictions‘ 1521 - 1858.
Another very interesting on-line resource is the Staffordshire Name Indexes www.staffsnameindexes.org.uk which brings together archive indexes created by volunteer groups. A copy of the original document can be ordered - costs vary. The indexes cover: quarter sessions 1779 - 1921, Police Force Register 1842 - 1920, wills, apprentice lists, workhouse admission and discharges, Stafford Gaol Photographs Index 1877 - 1916, Sentinel Newspaper Great War Index 1914 - 19 and much more.
Civil registration for the area can be searched for free using www.staffsbmd - part of the Local BMD Project. The county‘s Family History Societies are collaborating with local Registration Services to make the indexes to these records freely searchable via the internet. Although the indexes are not yet complete, what is available is extremely useful. Births, marriages and deaths for Staffordshire can be searched and copies of the certificates can be ordered.
Newspapers and directories can be a rich source of information for the family historian. The Staffordshire Daily Sentinel, The Staffordshire Advertiser and Staffordshire Sentinel, and the Leek Post and Times are all titles we are familiar with. Using the British Newspaper Archives www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk makes searching easier but requires a subscription. Directories can also prove to be a valuable resource and many can be found on Leicester University’s Historical Directories site - part of their special collections.
Pre 1700 sources can be discovered through the printed material of the Staffordshire Record Society www.s-h-c.org.uk where it is possible to explore transcribed subsidy rolls, militia lists and Hearth Tax records.
Mr. Sharpe is involved with ‘Midland Ancestors’ https://www.midland-ancestors.shop - a part of the Birmingham and Midland Genealogy and Heraldry Society www.bmsgh.org.uk . The Staffordshire Burial Index www.bmsgh.org/burialsearch is a brilliant online index. Monumental inscriptions for many of the Potteries graveyards and burial grounds can be purchased also from the BMSGH shop.
Other more general, but equally important web sites include Steve Birk’s www.thepotteries.org which Mr. Sharpe praised highly, the Potteries Heritage Society www.potteries.org.uk, Victoria County History for Staffordshire www.british-history.ac.uk, Staffordshire Past Track which includes photographs, prints, engravings and artworks www.staffspasttrack.org.uk and www.discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk.
Other sources that spring to mind not mentioned by Mr. Sharpe but which may prove valuable to the researcher include: Index to Mining Deaths in North Staffordshire 1756 - 1995 by Mark Casewell, Staffordshire Advertiser Index to Births, Marriages and Deaths 1795 - 1820 by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service and The Distinctive Surnames of North Staffordshire by Edgar Tooth - all should be available in local libraries. The Staffordshire Parish Register Society should also be considered www.sprs.org.uk. It may also be necessary to consider archives in adjoining counties such as the Cheshire Record Office at Chester.
Chairman Roland Machin thanked Mr. Sharpe for an excellent and informative talk.
Publications by Michael Sharpe:
Tracing Your Potteries Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians
Tracing Your Birmingham Ancestors: A Guide for Family and Local Historians
Family Matters: A History of Genealogy
The Next Meeting of the Society will be held on Monday the 17th of February 2019 when the Speaker will be Mr. John Berry who will give a talk entitled “A History of Mossley.”
[Written by Elaine Heathcote]