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Somerset

Somerset, maritime county in SW. of England, bounded N. and NE. by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the Severn, and from NE. round to SW. by the counties of Gloucester, Wilts, Dorset, and Devon; greatest length, N. and S., 43 miles; greatest breadth, E. and W., 67 miles; area, 1,049,812 acres, population 469,101. The coast line is generally low and marshy in the E., but lined with lofty slate cliffs in the W. The interior consists of ranges of hills separated by valleys, or by extensive low marshy flats. The principal ranges are the Mendip Hills, the Polden Hills, the Quantock Hills, the Brendon Hills, and Exmoor. The chief rivers are the Avon and the Parret (with its tributaries the Yeo or Ivel, Isle, and Tone), the former forming the boundary on the NE., the latter traversing the centre of the county; the other streams are the Yeo, Ax, and Brue. Both soil and climate are well adapted for agriculture, particularly in the low alluvial tracts; and in the Vale of Taunton heavy crops of the finest wheat are raised. The rich meadows rear large numbers of cattle, and the hilly grounds are pastured with numerous flocks of sheep. In the E. of the county are some small isolated coalfields, the most southerly in England, the quarries which furnish the famous Bath stone, and a large development of magnesian limestone; the W. of the county consists chiefly of slaty rocks, forming the wild moorlands of Exmoor. The chief minerals worked are lead, iron, and slate. The principal manufactures are woollen and worsted goods, gloves, lace, linen, crape, silk, paper, glass, and bath-bricks. There are salmon, herring, and other fisheries in the Bristol Channel. An important chain of internal communication is formed by the Yeo and Parret navigation and the Glastonbury Canal. The county contains 40 hundreds, 2 liberties, 489 parishes with parts of 3 others, the parliamentary and municipal boroughs of Bath (2 members) and Taunton (1 member), and the municipal boroughs of Bridgwater, Chard, Glastonbury, Wells, and Yeovil. It is nearly co-extensive with the diocese of Bath and Wells. For parliamentary purposes it is divided into 7 divisions - viz., Northern, Wells, Frome, Eastern, Southern, Bridgwater, and Western or Wellington - 1 member for each division; the representation was increased from 6 to 7 members in 1885. (Transcribed from Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887. -C.H.)

Archives and Libraries

  • The South West Heritage Trust  - Somerset Heritage Centre, Brunel Way, Norton Fitzwarren, Taunton, Somerset TA2 6SF. 
    In its Somerset Archives and Local Studies section its Somerset Archive Catalogue lists the following collections of material held there
    • Ecclesiastical Records – Diocesan; Non conformist; Other; Parish; Roman Catholic; Societies or voluntary organisations
    • Private Records – Armed Forces; Business; County Council; District authorities; Education; Landed estate and family; Manorial; Newspapers; Other; Parish; Private family;Probate; Societies or voluntary organisations; Solicitors and land agents
    • Public Records – Armed Forces; Assizes; Coroners; County Council; County Court; District authorities; Education; Government agencies; Hospital and Health Executive; Inland Revenue; Newspapers; Other; Petty Sessions; Probate; Quarter Sessions; Societies or voluntary organisations; Utilities
    • Records of Statutory Authorities – see site for details

Bibliography

Cemeteries

  • Somerset Monumental Inscriptions on Find My Past."Discover your ancestor across four centuries of monumental inscriptions from Somerset, England. Find where your ancestor is buried, death date and additional family names to add to your own family history." Fee Payable
  • Grave Matters - Jill Muir's site on transcribing memorial inscriptions

Census

  • NHS 1939 Register Service - National Archives site. "The 1939 Register, taken on 29 September 1939, provides a snapshot of the civilian population of England and Wales just after the outbreak of the Second World War. The information was to produce Identity Cards and, once rationing was introduced in January 1940, to facilitate the issuing of ration books. Information in the Register was also used to administer conscription and division of labour, and to monitor and control the movement of the population caused by military mobilisation and mass evacuation."
  • Carry out initial searches on all censuses 1841-1911  on  LDS Family Search  - using basic data supplied by Find My Past (subscription site) and all follow up searches are directed there

Church History

  • Church Plans Online - the Lambeth Palace Library holds a database of the Incorporated Church Building Society's images of the plans of various churches (use the onsite search facility)
  • The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 - "launched in 1999 and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, makes available and searchable the principal records of clerical careers from over 50 archives in England and Wales with the aim of providing coverage of as many clerical lives as possible from the Reformation to the mid-nineteenth century........."
  • References in the British Library
    • The parish church towers of Somerset their construction, craftsmanship and chronology 1350-1550 by Peter Poyntz Wright with a foreword by Aehred Watkin. 1981
    • Some church towers of Somerset, etc. (Prepared by R. P. Brereton.) [The introduction signed: J. Hamlet.]. [Taunton, ca. 1912]. Pages not numbered; illus.
    • The Church Bells of Somerset, to which is added an olla podrida of bell matters of general interest.. Exeter, 1875.
    • The Celtic church in Somerset. With a chapter on North Devon. Bath: Morgan Books, 1971. pp. 146. 22 cm.
    • Traces of the British Church in Somerset. With special notice of some local dedications.. pp. xii. 32. E. Goodman & Son: Taunton, 1910.

Church Records

  • The Somerset & Dorset Family History Society has a "number of official Projects which aim to collect, transcribe and make available data which will be of assistance to members and other researchers engaged in studies of family history"
    • The Society's volunteers can search any of all of these databases,  research charges apply, these projects include;
      • Indexes to the Parish files held at their Family History Centre:  Somerset
      • Somerset Baptisms, the first baptism is 1538 and the latest 1996, but the majority cover the period approximately 1700-1812.
      • Somerset & Dorset Marriages,  pre-1754 and 1754-1837
      • Somerset & Dorset Burials 
      • Monumental transcriptions
      • Pedigrees
      • Wills
      • The Somerset & Dorset Photographic Project
      • Strays
  • See UK Genealogy Archives for Phillimore Marriages 1538 - 1837  "This database contains transcripts of Marriage records extracted from many parish registers, and published by Phillimore & Co. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries under the title: "Phillimore Parish Registers - Marriages series"."  It has Somerset coverage

Civil Registration

  • The UK BMD web site "provides 2558 links to websites that offer on-line transcriptions of UK births, marriages, deaths and censuses. A wide range of other indexes and transcriptions are also available for most counties, these may include parish records, wills, monumental inscriptions etc. "
  • Barbara Dixon has produced a very comprehensive description of birth, marriage and death certificates and each field to be found on them.

Correctional Institutions

  • The Prison Service Museum near Rugby houses HM Prison Service's historical collection of exhibits, illustrating the history of imprisonment from medieval times to the present day. Housed in a converted stable block, the museum contains reconstructions of Victorian prison architecture, and exhibits include the last set of Gibbet Irons used in England. Smaller items include bone carvings and paintings made by prisoners in their cells, and a nineteenth century sampler embroidered by a female prisoner from her own hair. [Information compiled from "The Penal Lexicon Home Page", formerly at www.penlex.org.uk/pages/index.html.])

    Admission to the museum is by appointment only, please contact:-

    The Curator,
    HM Prison Service Museum,
    Newbold Revel,
    Rugby,
    CV23 0TH

    Tel: 01788 834168

Description and Travel

  • A Vision of Britain Through Time. "This site contains information about your home area from the 2001 census -- and from every earlier British census back to 1801. It can present this information both as maps of the whole country and as graphs showing change over time in your area. It truly offers a Vision of Britain through time"

Directories

Gazetteers

Genealogy

  • Somerset & Dorset Notes and Queries, 1890-1980 on Find My Past.  "Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset was first published in 1888 and has continued unbroken publication ever since. The first 30 volumes, covering the period from 1890 until 1980 is available exclusively on Findmypast. A valuable resource of genealogical information, you can find articles on local history, folklore and literature as well as valuable information like family trees, parish register extracts and copies of documents in private hands." Fee payable

See also under Church Records above

Heraldry

Historical Geography

  • Here is a map of Somerset Hundreds as shown in Greenwood's 1821/29 county map.
    • And here is a listing of the "40 historical hundreds in the ceremonial county of Somerset" on wikipedia showing names of parishes contained in each.
  • Historic England Archive "Search over 1 million catalogue entries describing photographs, plans and drawings of England's buildings and historic sites, held in the Historic England Archive."
    • Including photographs dating from the 1850s to the present day
    • Ranging from architectural details to archaeological landscapes, from country houses to coal mines

History

  • References in Bath University Library
    • The tale of Gordano : a history of the Gordano region of Somerset, by Eve Wigan, 2nd ed., Publ. Chatford House, 1971, ISBN: 095008364X
  • Somerset & Dorset Notes and Queries, 1890-1980 on Find My Past.  "Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset was first published in 1888 and has continued unbroken publication ever since. The first 30 volumes, covering the period from 1890 until 1980 is available exclusively on Findmypast. A valuable resource of genealogical information, you can find articles on local history, folklore and literature as well as valuable information like family trees, parish register extracts and copies of documents in private hands." Fee payable
  • The Victoria History of the Count of Somerset  "The first Somerset volumes of the History were published in 1906 and 1911 and were general volumes. Work on the History was revived in 1967 and volume III, the first topographical volume covering the Ilchester, Langport, and Somerton areas, was published in 1974. Since then eight more volumes have been published covering areas in south, west, and east Somerset, Bridgwater and the Quantocks, the Poldens and Levels, and the area around Glastonbury and Street. ..."

Land and Property

  • Pat Johnson has a large collection of original Family Deeds. Abstracts, with name and parish indexes are provided onsite, with transcriptions of the full documents available for a modest fee. In addition, the original deed may also be available for purchase if required.
  • The Domesday Book - Somerset section.  "includes Domesday place-names and landowners, and beneath some are links to websites containing the local history of that place."

Merchant Marine

  • Shipping Lists. A selection of items compiled by Steve Keates from various sources during his study of 18/19th century coastal shipping links between South Wales ports and the English counties of Devon and Somerset.

Military History

  • Somerset Remembers   "The Somerset Remembers Community Archive is a place to share your stories and research on the First World War in Somerset."
  • Roll of Honour - Somerset

Military Records

Roy Parkhouse has provided a list of 10,987 names of the fallen in the 1914-18 War. It was derived ( by scanning) from a leather-bound book called the Somerset County War Memorial. It was published by E. Goodman and Son, The Phoenix Press, Taunton, 1923. It has no author. The bulk of the book is taken up with the Roll of Honour which is an index to the Memorial Book held, I understand, in Wells Cathedral. About 8000 of the names are of men who were Somerset born. The remaining (approximately 3000) men were not Somerset born.
From the first page, it is:

  • Report of administration of Fund
  • Order of dedication service
  • List of subscribers
  • Roll of Honour

Names, Personal

  • Some names (22k) taken from the Journal of a Somerset Rector 1803/34 by John Skinner, mainly from his own parish of Camerton (nr Bath) and places around. There are also a few extracts from the book. The book is published by Kingsmead, ISBN 0 901571 57 1.

Newspapers

  • Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser viewable on the British Newspaper Archive site (use search box) -  period 1800-1999.   
    Quote - "In partnership with The British Library, we’re home to the largest online collection of British and Irish historical newspapers." 
    Searching the site is free, but to view the newspapers, you have to pay a fee

Occupations

  • Coalmining Somerset Coalmining Life - A miner's memories, by Fred Flower, Millstream Books, 1990, 141pp, ISBN 0948975237
  • Parish Apprentices For Somerset on Find My Past "These records include names of people from Somerset who were apprenticed to a master, usually a member of a London livery company, within the period 1575-1800." Fee payable

Periodicals

Probate Records

  • Printed indexes of Somerset Probate Inventories and of Somerset Estate Duty Office Wills and Letters of Administration (1805-1811 and 1812-1857) are available from Harry Galloway Publishing.
  • See under Genealogy for Wills

Schools

Social life and Customs

  • Somerset Remembers   "The Somerset Remembers Community Archive is a place to share your stories and research on the First World War in Somerset."
  • Somerset & Dorset Notes and Queries, 1890-1980 on Find My Past.  "Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset was first published in 1888 and has continued unbroken publication ever since. The first 30 volumes, covering the period from 1890 until 1980 is available exclusively on Findmypast. A valuable resource of genealogical information, you can find articles on local history, folklore and literature as well as valuable information like family trees, parish register extracts and copies of documents in private hands." Fee payable

Societies

Taxation

  • The E 179 Database (on the National Archives website) contains detailed information about over 26,000 documents relating to the taxation of lay people in England and Wales between c.1200 and c.1700. These documents are likely to contain many names.

Voting Registers

  • Somerset Electoral Registers, 1832-1914 on Find My Past "The Somerset Electoral Registers can provide you with unique information about where your ancestors lived. Find out if they rented or owned their homes and businesses and trace changes of address year by year. You can even find clues to the nature of their business and how prosperous they were." Fee payable