As the three microfilms that I had ordered from the LDS all arrived together last week I thought I'd better get stuck into loking at them, so last Tuesday I went to my local Mormons' Family History Center.
I decided to start with the film that contains late c18 to early c19 baptisms at St Peter Monkwearmouth, searching for Heppell events. See my previous posts re my Heppell research if you wonder what on earth I'm on about!
As I started searching I noted that the events were listed as births, rather than baptisms, and were grouped by family. In other words, you saw all the births for one family, all recorded together, then all the events for another family and so on. Thus, the events relating to "my" Heppells were all recorded in a cluster. In twenty years of treeing I've never seen baptisms/births recorded in this way. After a while the reason for this became clear.
The parish register for contains an annotation written by the vicar, which states that on 16 October 1785 there was a fire at the clergyman’s home, which destroyed the previous original registers. The records that had been lost were listed as follows:
Marriages up to 16 October 1785
Baptisms up to 2 September 1779
Burials up to 3 January 1768
The register of births (sic) was reconstructed by advertising for people who had been involved in baptisms at the church to bring the relevant documentation to the church, where it was re-recorded. Thus, births were listed by family. This certainly makes it easier to search the register, as once you find the first entry you find the lot. Anyway, after each family’s entries the informant signed a declaration as follows:
“The above details taken from a copy in my possession so witness my hand this 27 Day of June 1791 (signed) John Heppell"
John Heppell was the ancestor of my mother's cousin - Alice (Heppell) Wren, and he had a very fine signature indeed. If you can judge from the signature he must have been quite well educated. I discovered that he earned his living as a coal fitter, and, curious to find out what this term meant, I googled it. I discovered that a coal fitter was a “middle man” who arranged the sale of coal between the coal mine owners and the purchasers. As such, he was probably a bit above the ordinary working man.
I think I have now pushed my Heppell research back to the marriage of John Heppell to Mary Abbs at Monkwearmouth St Peter’s on 19 December 1768. Although I have only seen this record on the IGI I feel confident that this is the correct entry, because "my lot" seem to have been the only Heppells in the parish. Naturally, I looked on the IGI for a baptism of John Heppell, and here things became a bit trickier, as there were a number of candidates, none of whom were baptised at Monkwearmouth. My favourite would be John Heppell, baptised 28 Feb 1737 at Chester le Street – about 20 miles from Monkwearmouth, but I am probably wrong. The reasons why I favour this man are twofold, and highly suspect. Firstly, I note that John Heppell's son George Bryan Heppell’s first wife – Mary Fish – came from Chester le Street, and their marriage took place there. Secondly, of all the candidates listed on the IGI, the date of this man’s baptism best fits my idea of when I would expect our man to have been born.
I’m not sure how much further I shall pursue these Heppells. I’m very pleased with what I have achieved, and may decide to call it a day at this point. However, Durham is a beautiful county, and if Jan and I should once again go there for a holiday I would certainly not rule out a visit to the repository that holds the records for the county.
I shall return to the Family History Library on 7 June, to continue looking at these microfilms.
See you next week.