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File updated 19/09/04 13:19


I began this research by setting up three separate databases, for baptisms, marriages and burials. All baptisms and marriages in the printed registers for the sixty-year period between January 1560 and December 1619 were entered; burials were included up to 1653. (This was pared down later to those before 1650, and children's burials between 1620 and 1650 were excluded.) The records were entered in date order, as they appear in the printed registers: it was thus possible to check them easily against the printed volumes before they were sorted into name, occupational and alphabetical order. Only a brief look was taken at the original registers to satisfy myself that the printed editions were reliable. Any errors in the printed volumes would of course be reflected in these databases: but overall the transcription appears to have been extremely careful, and is unlikely to be the source of any more than one or two minor errors here. Throughout, dates were "modernised" - the original records used the old-style calendar with the new year starting in April, and this was unchanged in the printed volumes. Maintaining this convention would have placed considerable limitations on how the databases could be used, since calculations involving date sequences would have been considerably more complicated.

Despite the forbidding mathematics which the book includes (see Introduction), Identifying People in the Past provides some commonsense general rules to follow: all of these were carefully obeyed. These rules are worth repeating here: .

  1. Age of death never greater than 100 unless information in the burials records overrides this.
  2. At the birth of a child, mother never less than 15 or over 50; father not less than 15 or over 75.
  3. No two successive birth events to the same mother in under 10 months; no 3 in under 22 months. (There are problems, however, over when the baptism may have taken place in relation to birth.)
  4. Interval between the end of one marriage and a remarriage must be under 20 years.
  5. First marriages when bride or groom over 15 and under 50, unless age information in the marriage records overrides this.
  6. All brides and grooms under 75 at marriage unless information to the contrary.
  7. Ages in different records must connect.
  8. No link should be made when occupations "mismatch in a manner which is thought to be incompatible even with the most extreme assumptions about lifetime occupational mobility". (e.g. Labourer/ vicar.)
  9. Names of relatives must agree between records.

But compliance with these guidelines does not of course guarantee that two entries with the same name would always apply to the same person. As far as the Norton registers are concerned, the headaches were particularly great over the numerous John Bartens and John Parkers resident in Norton during this period; but these were by no means the only occasions when the same name was shared at the same time by more than one adult. There were in all around 15 occasions when the guidelines above were an inadequate basis for decision- making as to whether one or two people were under consideration. A major reason why this number was so small, was as a result of the fairly common (but by no means universal) practice of entering the mother's name as well as the father's in the baptism registers. In particular, there were a number of occasions when this provided clear evidence in the cases of two or more entries for men with the same name but significantly different occupations: for instance William Green, scythegrinder and husbandman; and John Saunderson, striker, husbandman, miller and labourer were both cases where continuity of wife's name showed that it was a single person. Conversely the different wife's names were of considerable importance in disentangling the numerous John Parkers and John Bartens from one another.

Perhaps it is worth naming my "outstanding niggles" in relation to adult men, just in case they are individuals who are of particular concern to anybody.

Barten John: there were a small number of John Barten entries where I was unable to decide on an "owner" from amongst the 7 John Bartens listed.

Biggen Isaac: wife's name suggests some confusion with Gervase Biggen.

Blythe John: there were certainly three John Blythes appearing in the registers during this period, but possibly four.

Bullous/Burrowes John: I have classified these all as one person: may be arguable.

Bullocke James: possibly there were four and not three.

Bullocke John: a confusing number die in the 1640s.

Chapman Richard: Two have been allowed for, but they are very confusing: could be three or one.

Foxe William: I think an entry in 1590 may have "woodman" in error for "wood-collier" in the printed registers. Almost certainly there were two William Foxes, both charcoal burners (or wood-colliers), but possibly there was just one: if so, he had fifteen children from two marriages.

Green Hugh: another occasion when I'm not sure that my division into two is correct.

Hobson William: Note the variations on wife's name: Katherine Davenport, Katherine Samford, and Katherine Damforth, but phonetically these are similar and it would be very odd if two William Hobson, cutlers, lived at Hollogate Head/Four Lane Ends at the same time.

Norris Leonard: Overall I've plumped for there just being one Leonard Norris, but I'm not entirely convinced.

Parker Francis: there's something a little bit odd about assuming there was just one, who had an illegitimate child 17 years before his marriage. N.B. A Francis Parker was a close relation of John Parker of Lees - see wills etc from circa 1608; given differences in social status this is perhaps unlikely to have been the Francis Parker, son of Jerome, born 1577.

Parker Jerome: this one niggles at me in much the same way as Leonard Norris. Jerome was an uncommon name and the balance is in favour of there being just one at the same time, but I'm not entirely convinced.

Townend Thomas: have assumed there were two, the earlier yeoman and the later labourer, but I could be missing out on a radical case of downward mobility through having made this assumption.

There will certainly have been some other cases where I wrongly assumed that there was not a problem over attribution, whether this is a matter of assuming two men where there was one, or vice versa. However, the number of doubtful cases does appear satisfyingly small: it seems unlikely that the mistakes I will certainly have made could seriously affect the overall analysis and interpretation.

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