Ivan Hurst's exploration of Genealogy

John Bowditch - Section 3 - Parish Records - General

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Parish Records - General

Let us explore the parish records. I have been collating the parish records for Broadwindsor, Dorset using information from Dorset Online Parish Clerks (OPCs) . I will share that work back to them once it is complete.

Broadwindsor Parish Baptisms Pivot Graph 1


 I know it looks like an interactive excel spreadsheet but unfortunately it is only a screenshot of surnames used in baptisms over the centuries. Unfortunately there is so much information on the x axis that it only shows a selection of the names. Less than one in ten names are shown.


Follow the link for another view


The spreadsheet above is interactive and the sliders do adjust the data shown on the graph and table.

Why is the number of instances of a surname of any significance I hear you ask? 

Top ten surnames for all baptisms included in the collated register, Parish of Broadwindsor, Dorset.
PAUL 148


 The adjacent table shows the top ten surnames for all baptisms included in my collated register, for the Parish of Broadwindsor, Dorset, across all dates included. This is not necessarily very helpful but may be of general interest.

However, by looking at a particular surname plus variances and focusing of particular decades of interest, taking into consideration the constraints of childbearing age, it can give an initial indication of how many families there are of that surname in one Parish at any one period of time. This is not precise as people can go outside the Parish for baptism, names can be misheard, misspelt, mis recorded, incorrectly transcribed, or alias used.  Infants can be buried before they are baptised. Looking at the whole picture gives a different feel to focusing on a single record. 

The focus can then proceed to an individual, say John Bowditch. Is there more than one John Bowditch in the area during a particular period? If not there seems to be a reasonable probability that all children baptised with John Bowditch, and perhaps variations of Bowditch, as father are of the same family. Once the mother is also recorded in the records, family groups can be more accurately ascertained.

However, if there are more than one John Bowditch named as potential fathers, further data has to be obtained to be able to make reliable correlations. Sometimes they can be cousins with just a few years between dates of birth, and very similar locations. Common names for both Father and Mother, such as John and Elizabeth further exacerbate the problem.


Bowditch is not in the top ten, but neither is it uncommon. Bowditch is number 46, with a total of 34, in the list of 1501 different surnames recorded in 8387 baptism records, in the Parish of Broadwindsor alone.

Once I have a feel for the environment as it were, I can then use the tables, such as the Baptisms below, together with marriages and burials, to build a better picture and understanding of the family unit being researched. Taking into account both physical and social mobility of the time, as well as their occupation, once it started to be recorded, and apparent wealth.

Another thought comes to mind, looking at some of the records, and recalling that Family Planning was not high in everybody's agenda, is that following a marriage, a child was popped out every year until the mother died in childbirth. Not all the children survived with a very high infant mortality. Some of the burial records just record the father's name as having buried a child, or sometimes, a son or a daughter. Times were very tough for a large proportion of the population, particularly in the agricultural community. 

Time progresses and more information is recorded in the parish records. Better data equals greater certainty.


  Baptism Dataset

Marriage Dataset


Burial Dataset



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