Major Essex Ancestors update: remaining wills now all online

Essex Ancestors, our online subscription service which allows users to view digital images of historic parish registers and wills, has undergone its latest major update.

Our collections include about 70,000 original wills which date from the 1400s to 1858 – images of all of which are now available on Essex Ancestors.

Where wills exist, they can be of great help in establishing family connections and for finding out about people’s property and belongings.  As we have indexed the testators’ occupations and their places of residence as well as their names these images are also a goldmine for social and local history.

This is the third and final batch of the original wills that we have uploaded to Essex Ancestors and represents many months of work by our digitisers, conservators and archivists.

IMG_6250

This batch of wills included some extra large documents which had to be flattened in our Conservation Studio before they could be digitised

IMG_8029

The ERO Digitsation Studio has been hard at work preparing the latest upload

With all the parish registers and wills digitised, the total number of images on Essex Ancestors is now over 750,000. We hope that researchers all over the world will enjoy using this resource to find out about the lives of all the thousands of Essex people past who are included within these fascinating records.

A particularly ornate opening to a will belonging to John Gardener of Little Bromley (D/ACW 25/18)

A particularly ornate opening to a will belonging to John Gardener of Little Bromley (D/ACW 25/18)

You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the ERO Searchroom in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow. Opening hours vary so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you are interested in exist and have been digitised by searching Seax. You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.

We will continue to add to and improve Essex Ancestors, so watch out for more material being added in the future. Happy searching!

Graveyard Shift

North Road Burial Ground in Southend-on-Sea had – like many graveyards – languished somewhat unloved for several years. It has now, however, been the lucky recipient of 12 months of love and attention from the Shared Spaces project.

Shared Spaces was set up by Blade Education, a Southend-based not-for-profit organisation, and involved local volunteers and nearby Westborough Primary School in investigating and preserving the heritage of the cemetery. The project wanted to reconnect local people with the past of their town through the stories of the people buried at the cemetery, and also to show that graveyards can be used as a beneficial educational resource, linking today’s generations with those of the past.

Students from Westborough Primary School searching the gravestones for people's stories

Students from Westborough Primary School searching the gravestones for people’s stories

Over 8,000 people are buried on the site, and the project has not only sought to create a database of all their names, but to research some of their life stories. This information is being made available in a free online database, and will also be deposited with the ERO. Heritage trail boards have also been installed at the cemetery, to serve as a reminder about the real lives lived by the people buried there.

One such story was that of Thomas Kerridge, a hansom cab driver who drove people between the Blue Boar Hotel and Southend Victoria railway station. One day in 1925, Thomas was badly injured when he was kicked in the chest by the horse which pulled his cab. He survived the kick, but the wound became infected, and in an age before antibiotics Thomas died a few days later, aged 46. His wife Sarah was left with little income and seven children aged between 13 years and 6 weeks old. It is believed that Thomas was buried at North Road because his family lived close by.

Photograph of Thomas Kerridge

Photograph of Thomas Kerridge

The school children have been an integral part of the project, and not only have they learned about the history of their town, they have had lessons in the graveyard including gardening, photographer, and nature hunts. They have also had the opportunity to learn about their own family histories, with ancestors from all over the world.

To find out more about the project and to search the database online, visit http://bladeeducation.wixsite.com/northroaddatabase You can also find out more about Blade Education here.

Nature hunt at North Road Burial Ground

Nature hunt at North Road Burial Ground