Reliable pre-1700 Source for England?

+8 votes

Would this collection be considered a reliable source for pre-1700 profiles in England?

England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

Description: Index to selected England births and christenings.

in The Tree House by Debi Hoag G2G6 Pilot (291k points)
My first thought is no because I want to look at the original record. However, the requirements I place upon myself may not be the requirements which have been established by the England Project. Hence my question.

The images are said to be available at family history centers and affiliate libraries. Does anyone know of other websites where the images can be reviewed?

Thanks for all the comments and insight. 

If I ever need to use this collection, I will continue with my personal preference when the index is all I can see. That is:

  • add a research note to the child with a citation and abstract of the index information
  • not create a profile for the parent

Others should check the England Project Reliable Sources page and follow the guidelines found there or ask follow up questions here in G2G.

Thanks Debi for your question and everyone else for your input. Speaking as a member of the England Leadership team (and with the disclaimer that the England Project Reliable Resources page is still very much in draft), the England Births and Christenings is a collection of transcribed/indexed baptism records, which used to be the IGI (extracted records). It is an index of just a percentage of the actual baptisms that were recorded in England over the period from 1538 to 1975. As an index it is really valuable, as there currently isn't an index that covers all baptisms across all parishes in England over that period. You will often need to search a number of sites, to find the record you are looking for or which you are hoping exists!

There is obviously no substitute to accessing the original baptism record, or its digital equivalent. Occasionally digital images are available at for baptisms you find on the England Births and Christenings Collection. Most often, you will need to view these records by accessing one or other of the subscription sites, or by visiting a County Record Office or the actual Church. In terms of the subscription sites, the same problem exists, that none of the subscription sites (eg Find My Past, Ancestry, the Genealogist) enable you to access the full collection of baptism records over that period.

So, in answer to your question, as an 'index', the England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 is a valuable and reliable source and resource, and may assist in locating an actual baptism record. From an England Project point of view, we consider that using 'England Births and Christenings 1538-1975' is an acceptable and reliable source on WikiTree, but we are always happier if the actual record is sourced
Thanks, Gillian. I'll let the member that I was working with know.

4 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer

I don't speak for the England project; just a member

The  short answer is pragmatically, I understand why people use it. Sometimes there is no alternative. I don't think its a good source, either before 1700 or after.

It is the old IGI re-badged  and  there are a lot of potential transcription errors . It has companion 'data bases for marriages and burials.

I like you prefer to see the original record and I would suggest that in reality this is just a finding aid to microfilms held by the LDS.  That is all it used to be  when it was a microfiche

 And even then, there are other problems in that the films are sometimes not labelled correctly although I think this is less common than it used to be. ( the film for a place in Dorset, England contained a whole set of marriages from Bugarach in France. Should think it Made for some interesting family trees  

Apart from transcription errors, and the chance of miss-labelled films,  what also worries me is that baptisms are only part of  registers, that also include burials and marriages. At a time when there was high infant mortality,its vital to check whether the child survived otherwise a whole chain of descendants gets linked to a child that didn't survive its first year. FS  doesn't seem to have indexed all  the burials.

To find out what the index covers one  can check what is available for a county, here

 Sometimes one can double check on other transcriptions/indexes i. e. County OPCs  (online parish clerks) or  on Free Reg. Also, some parish registers were transcribed over 100 years ago and appear in published form (and may be on archive books)

 Unfortunately,  there are only images for registers of a few counties on family Search. There are very few alternatives that offer free images (Lincolnshire is the only one i can think of offhand.)

Often, there may be no  alternative than to use subscription sites and sometimes (and this is getting rarer ) , register aren't on online at all one has to visit the archives or rarer still  the church itself 

Edited wording

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (304k points)
edited by Helen Ford
I don’t speak for the project either, also just a member and that was in my opinion pretty much it in a nutshell, well put :-).

I do use it myself in absence of free to view images, especially if it’s backed up with sibling baptisms etc. It has its uses as a source when used with other sources or multiple profiles. And, Helen is right,  cross referencing deaths and burials where they do exist is SO important for not ‘assuming’ incorrect relationships and is definitely one of the challenges with earlier English profiles.

Thanks for that information, Helen. This is the FamilySearch data set that has rankled me for a long time, but I didn't know its history. By comparing the FamilySearch database with the digital images of the parish record book (from circa 1600) that I could see on FindMyPast, I determined that FamilySearch had labeled the entire film with the wrong place name (not even close) and I wrote to FamilySearch asking for a correction. Their reply told me that they were aware of many problems with that database, but they had no intention of making corrections to it. (!!!)

Meanwhile, I have tangled with another WikiTree member who has accepted the images of the parish registry and the peer-reviewed genealogical journal article (obtained from paid websites) that I sent, but still wants to believe the totally erroneous location on the FamilySearch site because it's free data.

Based on Helen's report and my experience, that FamilySearch database should be treated as a source to be consulted, but used with caution.
Oh dear. There will be similar indexed collections at FamilySearch for Sweden, with similar problems (and worse). We'll need to check.

In the Swedish case, though, the original images will be available online free of charge at the National Archives, since about a year ago.
+5 votes
Not much use as a stand-alone source. However the person is probably already sourced as someone's spouse or parent, so I'd say such a source should be added as an interim measure, provided the location is good. If you're talking about a child for an already sourced couple it's different but a whole clutch for a family in the same place is probably okay. Seems like many images are disappearing from the net.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (255k points)
+2 votes

Interim measures don't seem to be allowed now.  The new rule says

Do not create a [pre-1700] profile unless the source you are using is on the appropriate project's list of reliable sources

A source is on the list or it isn't, so whoever controls that list is now the Goddess.

by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (565k points)
Those lists of reliable sources are inevitably incomplete, in some cases drastically so. They will always be incomplete, because that is the unavoidable nature of things. I fully appreciate the desire to make sure pre-1700 sourcing is as good as possible but Wikitree guidance has jumped ahead of where things really are. And not all pre-1700 profiles come under projects at the moment. The guidance needs to be followed flexibly, with a substantial amount of common sense.
I assume the plan is for the Rangers to check new profile creations in the Pre-1700 Feed to see if the cited source is listed.

If it isn't, presumably the profile will be a fait accompli, but the perp will get a reminder.  Emergency badge removal is an available option.

So if your source isn't listed, the only thing to do is post the request and wait until it's added.
Even if you think this new intended-to-be-hard-and-fast tightening-up is sensible - I believe in flexibility - how can Rangers begin to check if sources meet criteria for a project until the lists of reliable sources for projects are much more complete than they are now? And will they really go through any discussions of other sources in G2G etc? Nobody, but nobody, expects any list of reliable sources to be comprehensive.
They don't have to check if the source meets criteria, they only have to check if the source is on the list.

Personally, I'd expect any list of reliable sources to be quite short.  Of course it won't provide comprehensive coverage of the territory.

Except for a few projects like PGM, Mayflower, Presidents.  They have good secondary and tertiary sources that cover their whole territory.  But the new rule is hardly relevant to them, because most of their profiles already exist and there aren't many still waiting to be created.
I hope the lists of reliable sources do stay quite short. If they aim to be fairly comprehensive, they will become too long to be usable, and are likely to include sources that are germane to only one or a handful of profiles. But this means that anyone who tries to check if the latest version of the pre-1700 sourcing policy is being followed will have a fiendishly difficult task - all the more so if there is an increasing volume of discussion in G2G etc relating to sources for particular profiles. Incidentally at least some projects have a policy of not including primary sources in their lists - they take it for granted that these are OK. If Wikitree Rangers or anyone else just check against listed reliable sources, they will frequently go wrong - and will unnecesarily antagonise people if they pick up every case where a source is not on a project’s approved list. It cannot just be a question of seeing if a source is on a reliable sources list.
You're thinking "Do not" doesn't really mean that?  It seems very firm, coming soon after a "must not" in bold, and replacing the previous vaguer wording.

I'm not taking it to mean "Well on the whole we'd like it better if people didn't, but in the circumstances, taking one thing with another, being as it's you..."
I am doing my best to interpret the tightening of the policy in a way which is not clearly nonsensical. And I am struggling.

It seems to me blindingly obvious that the tightening cannot apply consistently in a world where some projects’ lists of reliable sources are blank, and other projects’ lists are very very early stages of work in progress - and where projects differ as to whether they think it necessary to include primary sources in their lists, or whether to take it for granted that these are acceptable, confining their lists to secondary sources.

If everyone follows the revised guidance strictly and to the letter, I do not envy project leaders and others who have to approve sources not on project lists. They would be likely to have a big extra workload. In practice, I imagine experienced Wikitree members will use a degree of judicious common sense.

I am of course a Bear of Very Little Brain.

But I emphasise I do agree about the need for reliable sourcing.

Valid ( well I think so) .Unlikely to appear on a list. 

Helen - just so. :-)
I think that the unreliable sources section is what will be enforced to ensure that online family trees or Uncle John's research won't be used as if they were acceptable sources. They haven't been acceptable before this either, but now the help pages are being reworded to emphasize this.

It is only fair when you list unreliable sources, to also list at least some reliable sources as well.
+4 votes
I use it all the time.  I am fortunate enough to have a subscription to FindMyPast and be working mainly in Devon, so I can see the original images because that is one of the counties FMP have scanned.  I have also been fortunate enough not to come across any glaring errors.  

And, by the way, it is NOT just the IGI 'rebadged'.  Yes, it may contain some stuff from the IGI, but it is not only the IGI.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
Of course the IGI still exists. It can be useful.

But in the end, the only real source is the original parish register, and that can be wrong especially with regards to spelling. I have had real problems convincing people in the US, who have copied Mary Jennels from a register, that her real name was Jennings.
Same Ros, also although I don’t speak for the project we do allow this source on all pre 1837 profiles? New members of the England Team participating in the Orphan Trail are allowed to add this source on profiles pre GRO index?

Michael and RJ discussion has a point though, I don’t see it referenced on our sources list for pre 1700, i’ll mention it to Vivienne... as FAG is on there as a secondary source and I definitely hold more weight with England Births and Christenings than I do with FAG! Lol!

Orphan Trailers in the 1700-1837 and 1500-1699 groups are encouraged to use the FamilySearch site.  Those births-and-christenings are the same on paywall sites - it's just that they are free.  I am bewildered as to why people are thinking they are 'not reliable'.  The old IGI had two 'prongs': user-submitted trees, which contained errors, and extracted records, which came straight from the parish registers themselves.  I think that what is in the England Births and Christenings from the IGI are the extracted records.

FamilySearch is on the England Project's 'Reliable Sources' already.  It's in the 'Primary Records - Parish Records' section.

Great stuff, sorry I was looking for England Births and Christenings rather than Familysearch LOL... maybe this is some of the confusion

Ros, they continued (and continue) to use the same methodology for data extraction for the index today as in its  previous incarnation. Indeed tthe batch numbers of most entries I have checked are those from the IGI. I agree that they have removed the community submitted entries. They are an aid to finding an event but they are no substitute for register itself and they are certainly not a primary source.

Notwithstanding transcription errors, the amount of information extracted is limited.

2 examples from my own family (I could give several others even though I tend not to use it)

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch( : 11 February 2018, Hannah Linnet, ); citing yr 1813-1957 p 4, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 6,127,027.

Hannah Linnet baptised 1824, Clay Coton only she wasn't The marginal note makes clear that this is registering her previous baptism (or more accurately her public admission to the Church) "Privately bapt by chaplain of Northampton Goal Jan 1816"

Free Reg, having a place in their index for notes gets it right. 

Most of us are aware that baptisms were not always that close to the birth. Nevertheless, there are some muddled family trees on ancestry stemming from this error.(which is daft because the image is available on ancestry)

How about this one? 

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch( : 11 February 2018, Joseph Cock, 22 Apr 1828); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 554,754.

If you search you will also find a Joseph Satchell, and an Esther Cock 

Three children from 2 families baptised on the same day?

Fortunately Family Search has the images available for these baptisms It was an entry where the children's names were mixed up and then afterwards corrected by the clerk but both the correct and one of  the crossed out entries has been indexed.

Just two children: Joseph Satchell and Esther Cock.

As some light relief, I have today been researching and amending the profile of someone who has a definite christening record from the 1830s, with childhood census information to match, but for whom all census records following her marriage, and her death record, cut about 6 years off her age. She married a younger man, and that no doubt is the explanation. Not the first time I have found this sort of thing.

On the island where I live, a Russian princess who died in exile in relative poverty is buried and her tombstone inscription cuts a couple of years off her age - for rather different reasons. She was illegitimate at birth and the tombstone ascribes her a birthdate of the year when she was legitimised.

These things remind me that all primary sources can be wrong, let alone transcriptions and indexes on the web. For older records difficulties of decipherment and variations in orthography can add to the fun, as can abbreviated forenames and occasionally creative Latin forms of names.(One large lot of relatives of my family did not have their surname spelling settle down until the 20th century, with in some cases siblings opting for different forms of the name and four main variants in current use.)

Incidentally, when I spot errors on Familysearch or any other major genealogical site, I try to remember to mention them on profiles, to help others.

Related questions

+43 votes
9 answers
+1 vote
2 answers
+4 votes
4 answers
+1 vote
1 answer
+3 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright