GENUKI Maintainers' Pages
The GENUKI Church Database Project
Finding that Church
At some point in our researches, most of us find ourselves needing to search church registers to find the baptism/marriage/burial record of that elusive ancestor. But which churches? Sometimes that's straightforward enough, but often we find ourselves researching unfamiliar parts of the country and not having the local knowledge can be a real problem, especially with documents relating to times past.
For a start, some places just don't seem to appear under the place-name we're expecting. Occasionally this is because there's been a simple change of name down the years. Sometimes it's because what today is quite a large town, was once only a hamlet; and the area you're looking for appears under the name of an ancient parish. Often that Parish takes its name from what is now just an obscure hamlet that - understandably - you'll never have heard of!
And if you start to consider non-conformist chapels, things get even more confusing. Many people are astounded to discover that many even quite small villages once had two - or even three - different 'flavours' of Methodist chapel; and occasionally at least one Baptist chapel too! Of course, these days there's frequently not much trace of any of them.
So how can you get to grips with which churches you should look at? That's where the GENUKI Church Database comes in!
The Church Database Project
The GENUKI Church Database Project started off life as a simple list of the parishes that were in existence in about 1837, as compiled by Gerry Lawson. But this is now being greatly expanded to become a complete list of churches (and cemeteries) in the British Isles, together with a lot more information about those individual churches.
In this article we're going to concentrate on the Cheshire part of the database, but we'll firstly take a brief look at the wider picture. Whilst the Church Database aims to cover the whole of the British Isles, it is actually being compiled on a county-by-county basis by volunteer 'Maintainers'. As a consequence some counties (including Lancashire & Cheshire) are already very-well advanced, whilst others (like Staffordshire) still await a volunteer 'maintainer'. You can get an idea of the current county-by-county coverage from the Statistics page.
Searching the Database
Finding out the churches and cemeteries near to where your ancestor was living becomes much easier using the GENUKI Church Database and its integral maps. To search for the 'possibilities':
- Open the main Church Database Search page.
- Enter the name (or Grid Reference) of the place where your ancestor lived.
- Select 'Show churches plotted on a map'.
- Click 'Search'.
The web page then opens up with a map, centred on the place your ancestor lived and showing markers at the locations of all nearby churches, which themselves are colour-coded to indicate each church's denomination.
On the map, markers that are balloon shaped indicate the exact location of that church. Markers that are square-shaped are showing an approximate location for that church (say to a few hundred yards), whereas those that are cross-shaped show only that the church was SOMEWHERE in this area!
Below the map (scroll down!) you'll find a set of 'search' boxes to let you refine your search in various ways. You could use these, for example, to widen the search area, or to limit the search results to churches of a particular denomination (or dedication).
Details for a Church
So having brought up a map of all the churches in the area you're interested in, how do you find out more details about one of the churches? For that, just click on the map-marker for that particular church, and then click on the church's name in the pop-up box that appears. The detailed web page for that particular church will now open; in a new window or tab depending how your web browser is set up.
The extent of the information that appears varies from church-to-church. There's a typical more-or-less completed entry for a Cheshire church (in Lymm in this case) on this web page; though not all entries have this degree of detail as yet. In general, what we're aiming-for is the following detail:
- The church's Dedication (e.g. "St. John").
- The original Denomination.
- The church's street and/or locality.
- One or more photographs of the church.
- The current congregation's website.
- Whether or not this church has/had a graveyard.
- A potted history of the congregation & church building.
- The location & extent of the available Church Registers.
- A 12-digit Ordnance Survey Grid Reference.
- Links showing that location on various on-line mapping websites.
- A link opening a map showing ALL nearby churches on one map.
Of course, if you're checking-out an area you are familiar with, you may notice that a church is not shown in the correct location on the map. If so, don't keep it to yourself!
Simply click on the map-marker with the left button on your mouse and, whilst still holding the left mouse button down, slide the map-marker to the correct location, then release the mouse button. You may find it helps if you switch between 'map view' and 'satellite view' (using the buttons to the top right of the map) whilst you do this. When you do release the mouse button, a box will open giving you instructions on what to do next to report the corrected location.
Similarly, you well may notice that there's a church or cemetery that we don't seem to know about. Nobody said we were perfect! If so, you can easily tell us about it by moving one of the other map markers (any of them) to the location for the missing church; then selecting 'Report a missing church' from the pop-up box that appears.
Don't worry about accidently moving the map-markers, as you can't mess-up the underlying data. If you need to, pressing the Refresh button on your web browser (or Function key F5) will return all of the map-markers back to their original positions anyway.
If you do notice any other missing - or incorrect - information relating to an individual church (or cemetery) you can easily contribute by clicking on the link at the bottom left of the web page. Alternatively - for Cheshire & Lincolnshire churches only - you can email me directly at email@example.com. As you can imagine, collating information for all these churches is a mammoth task; and there are over 1500 churches & cemeteries listed for Cheshire alone - so far. So your help in this - no matter how small in the greater scheme of things - would be very welcome.
We've only had space here to touch upon just a few of the features of the GENUKI Church Database and, naturally you'll learn most by exploring the database web pages yourself. If you do need any further guidance, you'll find more detailed information about the database, and how you can make use of it, on this web page. Or you could always drop me an email!
GENUKI Church Database Maintainer for Cheshire & Lincolnshire