More than three million historic parish records from Northamptonshire - including family of Shakespeare, actress Emma Watson and Princess Diana - have been published online for the first time.
Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource, from original records held by Northamptonshire Archives Service, the Northamptonshire Parish Registers, 1532-1912 detail millions of baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials that took place in the local area over a period of 400 years.
Searchable by name, birth date, parish, baptism, marriage, confirmation and burial date, name of spouse and name/s of parents, these records contain vital information for anybody looking to find out more about an ancestor who lived in Northamptonshire.
This includes Harry Potter star and world-famous actress Emma Watson, whose 4x great-grandfather Clement Walton appears in the baptism records in 1791.
The same can be said for Rothwell-born actor Jim Dale. The marriage of his grandparents George Wells and Alice Gibbs is recorded in the collection in 1892.
In addition, some further famous names feature within the records. From poets to earls, these include:
-John Clare – A celebrated English poet, Clare became known for his literary representations of the English countryside. Born and baptised in Helpston, he suffered from severe bouts of depression in later life and spent his last years institutionalised at Northampton General Lunatic Asylum. It was here he penned his most famous work, ‘I Am’
- Elizabeth Barnard – The granddaughter of William Shakespeare, Elizabeth’s marriage record is included within the collection. Born Elizabeth Hall, the only grandchild that The Bard ever knew had no family of her own – meaning that his direct ancestral line stopped upon her death in 1670
-Vice-Admiral Frederick Spencer, 4th Earl of Spencer – A British naval commander, courtier and Whig politician, Spencer fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the Greek War of Independence. The 2x great-grandfather of Princess Diana, his burial record appears within the collection
Starting in 1532, the collection pre-dates the censuses and civil registration making it a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace their ancestors back before official systems were established.
Ancestry’s Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “Not only does this collection date back to a period in time when record keeping was rare, it also contains a host of famous names with connections to Northamptonshire.”
Councillor Jim Harker, leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Our county’s history helps form Northamptonshire’s current identity and it’s important for people to know the stories behind the place in which they live.
“We’re very keen to make our county archives available to the largest amount of people possible. Researching family and local history is becoming increasingly popular and this latest development of data being much more readily available will mean that this interest will continue to grow.”
To search the Northamptonshire Parish Registers, 1532-1912 and more than 16 billion historical records worldwide, visit www.ancestry.co.uk