Tracking your past in Todmorden easier thanks to historian's research

IN an age where people have become keener to find out more about their past, the latest work by a local historian will help make the task of tracing the family tree easier.

With television programmes such as BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are? and increasing on-line availability of key documents such as census returns, tracing your roots has never been more popular.

But someone has to compile much of the research in the first place, and Todmorden historian Douglas Wilson's latest book is the third he has published for the Lancashire Parish Register Society.

It is titled The Registers of Todmorden 1813 to 1837, covering baptisms, marriages and burials from the Church of England parishes of St Mary's, Todmorden, and Christ Church, Todmorden, burials taking place at the former church to 1837 and at the latter from 1825. The Christ Church baptisms are taken to 1839.

They have been published by permission of the former Vicar of Todmorden, Canon Peter Calvert - work began in Peter's tenure - and the Parochial Church Council.

Douglas explained that back in 1978 he published for the Lancashire Parish Register Society (LPRS) the registers for St Mary's for 1666 to 1780, in many ways the most interesting part of the continuing story.

"Henry Krabtree, the curate in the 1660s, added astrological notes to certain entries, something I have not seen in any other parish registers. Astrology was then an accepted science and Krabtree was a noted practitioner," he said.

Next, inn 1996 and aided, as in the case of the new work, by his friend Keith Fielden, Douglas published through LPRS a second volume covering 1781 to 1812.

"Keith then took charge of the remaining prepatory work and produced the current and final volume, covering 1813 to 1837 which I pushed through for publication just in time for my 70th birthday last December. The first years of Christ Church are included in this volume.

"The year 1837 is the accepted cut-off year for all such publications because the state register of births, marriages and deaths began in July 1837.

"I took the view that LPRS was the right body to publish because at all times before 1880 Todmorden was in Lancashire," said Douglas.

That said, much of what became Todmorden was always in Yorkshire, he said, served by Cross Stone and Heptonstall churches.

In the 1970s, helped by members of Todmorden Antiquarian Society, particularly stalwarts such as Betty Savage and Dorothy Dugdale, he began to transcribe the registers of Cross Stone which he found to be unusually and even chaotically mixed together with the Heptonstall records, resulting in a joint publication of the two records.

The support of Elsie Read in particular allowed this scheme to be completed by 2004 when the 12th and final volume was published. All the publications are available from Todmorden Tourist Information Centre.

"Yorkshire and Lancashire have thus had equal treatment and there are few towns whose Church of England registers have been put into print so fully," he said.