As part of our 75th anniversary celebrations this year, we want to hear from you.
We always like to hear how searchers are using our collections, whether it’s in the Searchroom or online through Seax and Essex Ancestors, so we’ve decided to ask searchers to nominate their favourite record, and to tell us what it is about it that appeals to you.
Entries can be long or short, medieval or modern, whole volumes or single sheets, parchment or photographs or DVDs or cassettes. All you need to do is to download our nomination form here and either return it in to the Searchroom desk or e-mail it to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk
Nominated documents may be featured on our blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September.
To get the ball rolling, here is one of the favourite documents of Hannah Salisbury, Audience Development Officer:
Bond to Indemnify the parish of Walden agt Ann White’s Child by Mr Rebecca, 1773 (D/B 2/PAR8/35)
Bastardy Bonds were used to protect parish ratepayers from ending up paying to support unmarried mothers and their children if the mother was unable to support herself.
There are hundreds of such bonds in our collection, mostly dating to the eighteenth century, but this one particularly stands out for me because of the story it tells.
Dated 24 April 1773, the bond tells us that Ann White, a servant at Audley End near Saffron Walden, had given birth to a male child, the son of Biagio Rebecca, an Italian painter employed at the house by its owner, Sir John Griffin Griffin.
Rebecca had acknowledged that the child was his, but clearly had no intention of marrying the hapless Ann. To indemnify the parish from ever having to support her and their child, Rebecca had agreed to deposit £100 with Sir John Griffin Griffin, to whom Ann would have to apply when in need of funds to support herself and the child. In paying this lump sum, Rebecca absolved himself of all responsibility to Ann and their child. You can view the document in full on Seax here.
The story continues in the baptism register of St Mary’s Saffron Walden where the child’s baptism is recorded:
*John Biagio, son of Biagio Rebecca & Ann White *(base-born)
N.B. Senior Biagio Rebecca was a most ingenious artist who was employed by Sir John Griffin, at Audley End, to paint the cieling [sic] & Panels of ye little south drawing Room, & several family portraits in the great Room over the eating Parlor!!! [sic]
You can still see Biagio Rebecca’s paintings at Audley End, and read his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Essex Library card holders can access the ODNB for free with their library card number).