Essential information for genealogists using the CCEd resource
- Vital Dates in CCEd
- Split personalities, multiple personalities
- Scenes from Clerical life
- Questions and answers
The CCEd is an extremely useful resource for anyone researching ancestors that they believe were clergymen in the period covered by the database (1540-1835). Even if all you know is the name (or indeed surname) you will be able to gain access to records which might relate to the person you are looking for, and through the database discover those places where they may have served, as well as the names of the patrons who may have helped advance their career, and of the bishop(s) who ordained them. The records may also reveal details of their educational career, their date and place of birth and/or baptism, and we may also have some indication of the date of death and in a few cases a record of burial.
There are a few basic points to be aware of concerning the information in the database before you begin searching (and we would always recommend that users consult the guidance provided in ‘How to use the database’ before beginning their researches).
- The Database only covers clergymen of the Church of England: those of other denominations will not be present.
- As long as some part of the career of a clergyman falls within the date range covered in the Database, he will be present: but those records relating to events outside the range will not be present.
- The Database is a record of clerical career events, and does not set out to include vital dates or other information unless it is easily recovered from the records relating to these events.
- Therefore the date range associated with a name in CCEd is not intended as a lifespan, but records the years for which we have records associated with that person.
- It is quite possible that records associated with an individual may be divided between several CCEd persons whom we cannot as yet confidently pronounce to be one and the same person; they may also have been incorrectly attached to the wrong person who shares your person’s name.
Vital dates in the CCEd
As we have indicated, the CCEd may be able to help you establish the vital dates of the person you are interested in, but it is important to be aware of its limitations in this respect. Where we have a date of birth or of baptism (the latter is more common), this will probably be accurate, as it will be drawn mostly from ordination records, recording an occasion when the candidate for orders had to establish that they were of the age required before these could be conferred. Sometimes these records will simply record how old a candidate for orders was, and in these cases we may have offered an estimated year of birth (but not day or month).
The case of dates of death is more complicated. In a relatively small number of cases we have a date of death recorded on a gravestone or in other records, but in many cases the date offered in Death events is derived from a record of a vacancy for a living the person held in which the reason for the vacancy was specified as ‘death’. In these cases, the date is the date of the next appointment to the living, not that of the vacancy itself, and can consequently record an occasion perhaps several months or even longer after the vacancy occurred. Where several such records are associated with a person, the career modelling process selects the earliest, but this may still represent a date some time removed from the actual date of death. Users should therefore beware of citing the date given in Death events as a date of death before checking the evidence from which it derives concerning the nature of the source. The codes for certainty and date visible once you have the mouse hovering over the date in question can give you a good indication of its reliability – for more on the codes see ‘Interpreting Career Narratives.’
As already noted, the date ranges associated with names in the CCEd are not vital dates, but record the years for which records are available for that person.
You may well already have more accurate vital dates than we do for your individual. If you do, please let us know (and the nature of the evidence for them), and we will try to incorporate them into the database.
Split personalities, multiple personalities!
It is important to remember that the team behind the database are responsible for linking records to the personified individuals in the database, and in doing this rely chiefly on internal evidence, external sources such as Venn and Foster’s accounts of Oxford and Cambridge alumni, and strong but circumstantial evidence. As work proceeds, we find it easier and easier to make connections between the records we have recovered, but when it comes to common names, such as ‘John Smith’, it is inevitably very difficult to be confident in assigning records to specific individuals. Variations in spelling, changes of name and the occasional transcription error either in the source or by our researchers only serve to complicate matters still further. In researching your ancestor, you should therefore be alert to the possibility that their career may be recorded under more than personification in the database, so you may want to look at people with the same or similar names at roughly the same date in the database. Conversely, especially where fathers and sons share a name, we may inadvertently have ‘crushed’ two individuals into one.
Genealogical researchers, of course, may well be in a position to identify where such mistakes have been made from the sources that they have access to that the database team do not, such as family papers, wills, local history sources and correspondence etc (they can also sometimes identify cases where a record has been linked to the wrong parish). We regularly hear from researchers who are able to suggest corrections to the database, and we are enormously grateful to those who take the trouble to help us improve the resource in this way. If you do find a mistake, please contact us and tell us; please also tell us why you think there is a mistake and the evidence for it. We will then amend the database at the next upgrade, and credit you with the help.
Scenes from clerical life
Genealogists and family historians sometimes assume that the life stories they uncover are of very limited interest outside their immediate family. Often, however, the detailed research and access to family papers and possessions give family historians a considerable advantage in uncovering in fascinating detail the experiences of people in the past, and such information can be invaluable not only to fellow genealogists but also to professional historians who might otherwise never encounter the material genealogists have brought to light. A good example of this is the story of Sarah Reveley’s ancestor Samuel, retold in our Notes and Queries of the CCEd journal. Sarah contacted us when she was researching Samuel’s story through the database, and was able to add to the barebones of his career this revealed the fascinating background her other sources enabled her to put together. Working with us she wrote this up for Notes and Queries, and her fascinating article is the result. On another occasion, RIchard Palmer was inspired by his research on James Mayne for Patsy Kensit’s Who Do You Think You Are? to offer us an account of James’ equally fascinating career. If you have a similarly interesting story to tell, or even just wonder whether it might be interesting, why not let us know? We would love to be able to post other such accounts of the detail of clerical life in the Notes and Queries pages.
Questions and Answers
L. P. Hartley famously wrote in his novel The Go-Between that ‘The Past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. As churchgoing declines, and the churches themselves change their practices, structure and geography, this is nowhere more true than of the clergy of the Church of England. Hardly surprisingly, family historians can often feel at sea as they try to make sense of the records the Database reveals in connection with their ancestor. Don’t worry: help is at hand! We hope in the future to add significant new material to the Database website to help people make sense of their findings. In the meantime, however, as well as much useful guidance in our How to use the database, Reference and About the Database sections of the website, you can also consult Peter Towey’s My Ancestor was an Anglican Clergyman (London: Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd, 2006). Many users, however, contact the Database team for advice on particular issues or problems, and wherever possible we try to respond to such enquiries. In the new version of the website, our blogging facility means for the first time that we will be able to post our responses in a form where they will be accessible to other users with similar questions. So it will be worth checking the blog as it gradually expands; and of course, it may be that the question that is bothering you is one that would be ideally suited to an airing there! See the project’s contact details on how to get in touch.