Online Genealogy: Roman Catholic records for England


Everyone needs a bit of genealogical research serendipity.

For the past few weeks I’ve been researching a family of London ancestors as a case study for a course I’m doing.I already had the bare bones of the family tree – births, deaths &marriages, and censuses including the 1939 Register – and I had also been really lucky in that it was possible to trace the family every year between 1906 and 1939 with the London Electoral Rolls on Ancestry.

There were, however, some puzzles – some of the 11 children were turning up in other record sets, but there was no obvious reason why the other children weren’t there too. For example, I could find baptismal records for two of the boys in an Islington parish church, but none of their siblings were there, including their two sisters who had been born in between. Going through the records for each of the neighbouring parishes didn’t turn up any further records.

I knew that the parents had had a mixed marriage – they were both Dubliners and married there in a Church of Ireland church, but the wife had been raised Roman Catholic. Their first child, born just before they married, was baptised in a RC church, although the priest’s notes make clear that the father was a Protestant and the baptism was ‘sub conditione’ i.e. conditional on this being the child’s first and ‘proper’ baptism.

As this was the case, I wondered if some of the other children might also have been baptised RC. In at least one other instance where there had been a mixed marriage in my Dublin family, the sons had been raised as Protestant like their father and the girls as RC like their mother. Could this explain the two ‘missing’ female baptisms?

I wasn’t very sure where to start, but tried emailing round some of the local RC churches to see if they still had their early C20th records. The response wasn’t great – either the records weren’t available or I didn’t get a reply. I looked at the online catalogue for the Westminster Diocesan Archives, but it was not obvious if the records I needed were there either.

I’d hit a brickwall.


Which brings us to the serendipity… Last night, I saw a tweet from Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine about a new set of RC records which had just gone online at FindMyPast. It even had a nice big picture of Westminster Cathedral to get my attention!

I went straight to the site, and… there they were (the older children at least, as the later records haven’t been added/released yet). Not only were the ‘missing’ girls there, but also one of the boys who I knew would go on to be baptised C of E (‘double’ baptisms are a family trait which deserve a blog post of their own).

The combination of Latinized names and handwriting meant that some of the transcriptions were a little odd. It took me a while to identify ‘Jenny Ada Louisa, daughter of Edwinii’ as Genevieve (or ‘Jenavivia’) Louisa, daughter of Ottywell, but all the children are now present and correct! And like all the best records, they also create new questions to be answered…



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