Fascinating new ancestry collections online

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A total of 4,096,794 new records have been added to Ancestry.co.uk for West Yorkshire collections in December as part of West Yorkshire’s on-going programme of digitisation of popular sources, with over 37 million records now on-line.

The latest launch added West Riding Coroners’ notebooks 1852-1909, and selections of land tax records 1704-1932, bastardy and offence records 1690-1914, West Yorkshire rate books and pre-1841 census 1705-1893.

More than 200 handwritten registers kept by Thomas Taylor, who served as the coroner for the Honour of Pontefract from 1852 until his death in 1900 are now available. He was Deputy County Coroner and later became the County Coroner and he kept notes on all the cases with which he was involved. Select registers created by other coroners for later years are included as well. All told, more than 19,000 deaths are recorded in the registers, with coverage from 1852 through to 1909.

These notebooks record details of the inquests into sudden deaths, accidental demises and mysterious ends. Eyewitness accounts and details of people’s lives are recorded, providing an amazing insight into life and death in 19th century Yorkshire.

·Be careful what you eat! In 1868 wealthy Eliza Coulson died after eating bad beef and dubious dumplings!

·Keep away from trouble! In 1870, Sarah Hughes died from natural causes but her death was “accelerated by fright occasioned by riotous proceedings of a mob”!

·Love your neighbour! After a row with a neighbour over of all things a washing line, Sarah Ann Koyton died suddenly in 1889 from “excitement and passion”!

·Choose carefully! In 1864 the verdict at the inquest on 19 year old Keziah Booth suggested foul play. Keziah’s deathbed statement, written up in the notebook, accused her lover, William Dawson of poisoning her as she was “in the family way”.

Other records launched in December include some pre-1841 census records for selected parishes, towns, and townships in West Yorkshire, including Holmfirth, Wapentake of Claro, Sandal Magna, Thornhill, Hipperholme-cum-Brighouse, and Spofforth 1801-1837; selected land tax books (introduced in England in 1692 to raise government revenue and only discontinued in 1963), of great use to family historians with details such as who occupied the house, who owned the house, the name or situation of the property, and how much tax was collected; and selected bastardy records reflecting attempts from the 17th-20th century to deal with one aspect of the social problems of the day.

Coun Bill Urry, of the Archives, Archaeology and Trading Standards Committee, said: “Making four million more records available on-line at Ancestry enables the history of West Yorkshire and its people over the centuries to be accessed by people all over the world, unlocking answers to questions and enabling new research. There is also something very appealing about a single series of coroners’ records written by one hand stretching over almost half a century. I commend this really exciting development.”