[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]

"BEDFORDSHIRE, an inland county of England, bounded on the north-east by Huntingdonshire, on the east by Cambridgeshire, on the south-east and south by Hertfordshire, and on the west by Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. In form it approaches a long oval; but its outline is very irregular. It is about 35 miles in length from north to south, and about 22 miles in its greatest breadth. It has a circuit of about 145 miles, and comprises an area of 462 square miles, or about 295,582 acres. It is one of the smallest counties in England, three only containing a less area, viz., Huntingdon, Middlesex, and Rutland. It is situated between 51° 49' and 52° 21' north lat., and between 0° 10' and 0° 42' west long. This district of South Britain was included, at the period of the Roman invasion, in the territory occupied by the tribe of the Cassii, probably the same as the Cattyeuchlani. Under the dominion of the Romans it formed part of that division of the country which was called by them Flavia Caesariensis." (There is more of this description).

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2013


Archives & Libraries



  • Coroners' Records in England and Wales Second Edition by Jeremey Gibson and Colin Rogers published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 86006 049 8
  • Kelly's Directory of Bedfordshire 1898
  • Samuel Lewis' Topographical Gazetteer of England 1831
  • National Index of Parish Registers Volume 9 Part 1 Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire compiled by Cliff Webb, published by the Society of Genealogists
  • Victualler's Licences Records for Family and Local Historians Second Edition by Jeremy Gibson and Judith Hunter published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 86006 048 X
  • Specialist Indexes for Family Historians Second (2000) Edition by Jeremy Gibson and Elizabeth Hampson published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 86006 125 7
  • Tracing Ancestors in Bedfordshire by Colin R Chapman published by Lochin Publishing ISBN 1 873686 12 9
  • History of Bedfordshire by Joyce Godber published in 1969.
  • My Ancestors Were Methodists by William Leary published by the Society of Genealogists ISBN 0 946789 30 4
  • Militia Lists and Musters 1757-1876 by Jeremy Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 872094 82 1
  • Tudor and Stuart Muster Rolls by Jeremy Gibson and Alan Dell published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 872094 01 5
  • Local Census Listings 1522-1930 - Holdings in the British Isles by Jeremy Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 872094 75 9
  • Land and Window Tax Assessments by Jeremy Gibson, Mervyn Medlycott and Dennis Mills, published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN i 86006 054 4
  • Poll Books c1696-1872: A Directory to Holdings in Great Britain by Jeremy Gibson and Colin Rogers, published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 872094 85 6
  • The Hearth Tax other later Stuart Tax Lists and the Association Oath Rolls compiled by Jeremy Gibson and published by the Federation of Family History Societies in association with Roehampton Institute London ISBN 1 86006 018 8.
  • The Protestation Returns 1641-42 and other contemporary listings by Jeremy Gibson and Alan Dell published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 86006 006 4
  • Quarter Sessions Record for Family Historians compiled by Jeremy Gibson available from the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 86006 009 9
  • Probate Jurisdictions: Where to look for Wills compiled by Jeremy Gibson, published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 872094 69 4
  • Poor Law Union Records - 1. South-East England and East Anglia by Jeremy Gibson, Colin Rogers and Cliff Webb published by the Federation of Family History Societies. ISBN 1 872094 60 0

Business & Commerce Records

  • Details of the Business Records can be found at the Bedford Record Office.
  • Victuallers' Licences
    • Details of the location of Victuallers' Licences can be found in the book "VICTUALLERS' LICENCES - Records for Family and Local Historians" by Jeremey Gibson and Judith Hunter, published by the Federation of Family History Societies, ISBN 1 86006 048 X. This book contains details and descriptions of all records held for the Victuallers' Licences.
  • Extracts specific to Bedfordshire Victuallers' Licences are listed separately.
  • A list of the Bedfordshire Business Records held by the Record Office.


  • Census information was collected in Bedfordshire every ten years starting in 1801, except for 1941 when the Country was at war. The original purpose of the census was to provide population statistics. However, the 1841 Census was the first meaningful one to help family history researchers because this is the earliest to list personal names. From then onwards the records show the names of each person at the address at which he or she spent the night of the census date. Returns become available for public inspection on the first working day of the year following the year in which they become one hundred years old. Researchers should be aware that there is much evidence to suggest that people did not always state their ages correctly. Parishes of birth were not recorded in the 1841 Census, although an indication 'Y' or 'N' was given as to whether they were born within the county. For those under the age of 14 the exact age is given, but the ages of those aged 15 or more are rounded down to the nearest 5 years below - so someone who stated he was 19 would have been recorded as 15. From the 1851 census the information is more meaningful.
  • The dates of UK Censuses were:
    1841 - 7th June.
    1851 - 30th March.
    1861 - 7th April.
    1871 - 2nd April.
    1881 - 3rd April.
    1891 - 5th April.
    1901 - 31st March.
    1911 - 2nd April.
    1921 - 19th June.
    1931 - 26th April.
  • The Bedford Record Office holds the Bedfordshire census material for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 which is available for inspection, of which 1851 and 1881 have been indexed. The availability of census information for the Bedfordshire parishes is given on each Towns and Parishes page, and some can be obtained from the Bedfordshire FHS.

  • Free Census UK - Bedfordshire - A project has been started to transcribe the UK Census Returns.
  • There is a variety of Local Census Listings between 1678 and 1915 for Bedfordshire which are listed here.
  • A brief statistical analysis of the census by parish from 1801 to present in 50 year blocks for Bedfordshire.

Church History

  • For information on churches see the National Index of Parish Registers - Volume 9 Part 1 Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire compiled by Cliff Webb and published by the Society of Genealogists.
  • Quakers
    • There were eighteen (18) foundations in the 17th century and two (2) in the 18th century. From the 18th century the Quakers (Society of Friends) were on the decline but though small in number had a great influence. The last meeting house was the Bedford Meeting house opened in 1931. For further reading see Friends in Bedfordshire and West Hertfordshire by Joyce Godber, published in 1975.
  • Roman Catholics
    • Bedfordshire is in the bounds of the Catholic diocese of Northampton. Catholicism only really took root in Bedfordshire when immigration started in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The earliest foundation was of a chapel at Shefford in 1728. Several catholic registers have been deposited at the Bedford Record Office including the registers of Bedford St Joseph starting from 1864.
  • Baptists
    • There were ten (10) foundations during the 17th century, ten (10) more in the 18th century, twenty (20) more by 1837 and a further thirteen 913) up to the 1851 Religious Census. This meant that by the mid-19th century there was one Baptists church for every two Anglican parishes. Baptist records have not survived very well some early registers being deposited at the Public Record Office and church books at the Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service (BLARS). There is a list of BAPTIST MINISTERS IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, BEDFORDSHIRE, HUNTINGDONSHIRE 1811 - 1831 provided by Graham Ward.
  • Methodists
    • There were five (5) 18th century foundations. Bedford Circuit was founded in 1765 encompassing not only Bedfordshire but churches in bordering counties. In 1792 Bedford Circuit was split into Bedford, Higham Ferrers and St. Ives, later St. Neots, Circuits. Luton and Hertford became Circuits in 1808. The Luton Circuit consisted of Markyate, Toddington, Tetworth and Dunstable. The 19th century saw an upsurge of chapels, 45 before 1837 followed by a further 26 in the following fourteen years followed by a further 17 by the end of the 19th century. Virtuall every village possessed a Wesleyan presence by 1900. Further Methodist communities also existed, seventeen (17) Primitive Methodist chapels were founded by 1851 and subsequently a further twenty-one (21) were founded by 1900. The size of the Bedford Circuit was reduced in 1812 by the foundation of the Leighton Buzzard Circuit and then again the Newport pagnell Circuit in 1814. St Neots Circuit was dividied in 1810 to form the Biggleswade Circuit and again in 1812 to form the Huntingdon Circuit. Subsequently the Biggleswade Circuit was divided in 1842 to form the Hitchin Circuit. The Luton Circuit was divided in 1843 to form the Dunstable Circuit.

      The first formation of the primitive Methodist church in Bedfordshire was in 1834 in Bedford followed by another chapel at Luton in 1839. Bedford Circuit was divied into North and South Circuits in 1897. In 1880 Luton Circuit was split into two circuits, Leighton Buzzard under Newport Pagnell and Biggleswade under Baldock.

      Methodist records knew no county boundaries so apart from the holdings at the Bedford Record Office records are to be found in neighbouring record offices. Both Biggleswade Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist Circuits have registers deposited in the Huntingdon Record Office alone with the St Neots circuits. Potton and Tempsford, both bordering on Cambridgeshire, also have records deposited there. Higham Ferrers and Raunds Circuits border Northamptonshire and are deposited in that Record office. Hitchin and Letchworth Circuit records are in Hertfordshire Record Office and Newport Pagnell Circuit Records can be found in the Buckinghamshire Record Office. Records at the Public Record Office

      Records at the Public Record Office
      RG4/307 1812-37 Ampthill (Wesleyan) Births and baptisms
      RG4/308 1810-1837
      Bedford, Harper Street, (Wesleyan)
      Bedford, Harper Street, (Wesleyan)
      Births and baptisms
      RG4/310 1799-1837
      Biggleswade (Wesleyan)
      Biggleswade (Wesleyan)
      RG4/222 1798-1809 Eaton Bray (Wesleyan) Births and baptisms
      RG4/223 1801-1828 Eaton Bray (Wesleyan) Births and baptisms
      RG4/275 1825-1837 Eaton Bray (Wesleyan) Births and baptisms
      RG4/224 1837 Eaton Bray (Wesleyan) Births and baptisms
      RG4/277 1803-1837
      Luton ( Wesleyan)
      Luton & Barnet Circuit ( Wesleyan)
      [Unauthenticated Register RG8/1]
      Births and baptisms
      RG4/230 1816-1837 Soulbury (Wesleyan) Baptisms
      Copy of Registers at the Society of Genealogists
                    1815-1837 Ampthill (Wesleyan) Births and baptisms
  • Independents and Congregationalists
    • The earliest chapels in Bedfordshire went under the guise of Baptists but the Independent church became established and by 1800 four (4) chapels had been founded, by 1851 at least a further 18 existed and a further six (6) or more were founded before 1900. The Independent chapels that started did not always continue as that but were classified as Baptist. Where two denominations needed premises to share saw the creating of 'Union' chapels.
  • Moravians
    • Bedfordshire was one of the main centres of Moravian worship, the Bedford Church was establised in 1745 which was followed by further establishments of chapels at Pertenhall and Riseley in the first part of the 19th century which were followed by six (6) or more by 1900. The Bedford chapel dposited records at the PRO in 1837 and then again in 1857. The Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service has other earlier reecords which include the membership lists.
  • Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion
    • The Bedford Connexional chapel was closed shortly after 1918.
  • Catholic Apostolic (Irvingite)
    • Bedford Catholic Apostolic Chapel was founded in 1875 and closed shortly after 1945.
  • Unitarians
    • The Unitarian chapel in Bedford opened in 1875 and like the Apostolic Chapel closed shortly after 1945.
  • Plymouth Brethren
    • Although meeetings formed in bedford and Luton by 1900 the Brethren were never very strong in bedfordshire.
  • Salvation Army
    • In 1894 Salavation Army meeting places had been established at Bedford, Ampthill, Biggleswade, leighton Buzzard, Luton and Potton. River Street Congress Hall in Bedford was built in 1888 and subsequently rebuilt in the 1990s. By 1914 further S.A. barracks had been built at Arlesey, Dunstable, Eaton Bray and Stotfold.
  • Christadelphians
    • This sect was established in bedford by 1914, and in Luton by 1939.
  • Mormons
    • In 1851 Mormon meeting places could be found at Kensworth, Studham, Thorncote in Northill and Wybosoton. originally intended to encourage emigration to Utah these establishements were all defunct by 1900 although since World War II new mormon missions have been established throughout Bedfordshire.

Church Records

  • The Quaker FHS have a series of pages on locating Quaker Records in various parts of the UK. There are separate pages for most of the pre-1974 English counties, including Bedfordshire.
  • Pictures of some of the churches in Bedfordshire by Kevin Quick.
  • Bedfordshire is unique in so much as all parishes have had their registers transcribed pre-1812. These are available from Bedfordshire Family History Society.
  • Marriage licences have been indexed for the following periods 1747-1790, 1578-1618, 1791-1812, 1813-1848 and 1848-1885. The indexes are available from Bedfordshire Family History Society.
  • A list of Church of England Parish Registers available at the Bedford Record Office and also a list on Non-Church of England Registers.
  • The National Index of Parish Registers, Volume 9, Part 1, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire compiled by Cliff Webb and published by the Society of Genealogists list most of the parish information required for researching in Bedfordshire.
  • Ancient Parishes and Registers
    • With the exception of a few parishes, Bedfordshire formed the Archdeaconry of Bedford, part of the diocese of Lincoln, until 1837, from 1837-1914 the Archdeaconry was in the diocese of Ely and in the diocese of St Albans from 1914.
    • An exchange of parishes in 1844 saw part of Everton move to Huntingdonshire, Ickleford to Hertfordshire and parts of Meppershall and Studham into Bedfordshire. A further exchange in 1899 saw Swineshead transferred into Bedfordshire and Tilbrook into Huntingdonshire.
    • Bedfordshire contains 131 parishes which are either totally or partially within the county boundary. Seven began in 1538, Arlesey, Eyeworth, Houghton Regis, Milton Ernest, Sandy, Southill and Sutton and five others in 1539 namely Bedford St Mary, Chalgrave, Houghton Conquest and Ridgmont. Before the reign of Elizabeth I nine more registers started and within the first two years of her reign a further sixteen. Forty-three others started in the 16th century and more than half of the parish registers started before 1600. Only 13 parishes started in the first half of the 17th century and a further 40 started in the second half. There were six registers that started after 1700 and none after 1750.
  • Bishops Transcripts
    • These comprise around 25,000 documents from the Archdeaconry and most date from circa. 1602. When transcribing the parish registers of Bedfordshire Dr. F.G. Emmison collated the Bishops Transcripts with the registers before printing. This has result in a lack of effort to list the missing years when Emmison's transcripts end in 1812.
    • The transcripts were originally arranged by year, but starting in 1908, they were steadily sorted into parish groups until after World War 1. Since then the transcripts have been arranged in parish order to 1849 and chronologically thereafter.
    • These transcripts form the main part of the Archdeacon's Registry but there have been accessions from other sources as well. Between 1938 and 1973 deposits were made at the Record Office Bedford of transcripts from the Lincoln Diocesan Registry. There are also miscellaneous transcripts to the mid-nineteenth century. Further transcripts were received from the Bodleian Library in 1929 from Dr. Richmond with his collection and a few others from the St. Alban's Registry. Most of these have not been used in the compilation of the original records by Dr. Emminson.
    • Almost all the series from the Peculiars begin in 1604. Of these several years have been found to be missing, for example 1636-1637. Like most areas there is almost a complete absence in the 1640s and 1650s mainly due to the Civil War. It would appear that some incumbents did complete returns in retrospect for some or all of these years but this still leaves large gaps for most parishes.
    • Most series end between 1860 and 1880 and a few between 1830 and 1850. Only four series continue after 1890 namely Bedford St Mary to 1894, Souldrop to 1895, Meppershall to 1897 and Hockliffe to 1906.
  • Allegations and Bonds for Marriage Licences
    • All surviving bonds and allegations to 1812 were published in two volumes of the Bedford Parish Register series, volume 14 covers 1747 to 1790 and volume 15 1791 to 1812. Original bonds and allegations then continue to 1822 and then solely allegations to 1885. For the records 1813-1885 there is an indexed transcript at the Record Office Bedford.
    • A further card index exists at the record office which covers a few Biggleswade peculiar bonds and allegations which survive for the years 1714-1800 which were not included in the original printed volumes.
    • For those records included covering the Bedfordshire population held by the central authorities of the Faculty Office and the Vicar General see Bishops Transcripts and Marriage Licences by J.S.W. Gibson published by the Federation of Family History Societies.
    • The Bedfordshire FHS published in their Journal Volume 3 Number 2 Bedfordshire Marriage Licences in the Annus Mirabilis 1822-1823 and have an index to all allegations 1813-1849. The Allegations between 1822-1823 were useful because of the amount of content as the various parties were required to supply their baptismal certificates.
  • Transcription and Indexes
    • All parish registers prior to 1812 have been transcribed, mainly due to Dr. Emmison, but a further effort by the Record Office Bedford ensured that all were complete. A further set of transcriptions organised by the Bedford Record Office has resulted in a number of early nonconformist registers and church books being completed.
    • The Mormons have, as in other counties, filmed a large proportion of the Bedfordshire Registers. The printed transcripts have also been used in the compilation of the I.G.I. and contain roughly 90% of the Bedfordshire Registers pre-1812.
    • The pre-1812 marriages that have not been included in the I.G.I. are indexed in the Bedford Record Office. Also at the Record Office is an index to post-1812 burials which mainly covers the towns, and 19th/20th century baptisms within the Methodist Circuits.
    • All settlement papers in parochial collections have been compiled into indexes by the Record Office and these are being complemented with all settlement and bastardy information from the Quarter Session records.
  • Non-conformist
    • Summary of Baptists Ministers in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire 1811 - 1831.
  • A transcript of Ted Wildy's Bedfordshire Wedding Witnesses.
  • A transcript of the late Ted Wildy's Wedding Witnesses for Bedfordshire.
  • A list of the Burial Indexes held by the Record Office.
  • A list of the Church of England Parish Registers held by the Record Office.
  • A list of the Non-Church of England Parish Registers held by the Record Office.

Civil Registration

  • Certificates of birth, death and marriage can be obtained from the Superintendent Registrars at the following Register Offices:
  • When ordering from a the above Offices, please note the following: (a) the cost of a certificate is currently (July 1999) £11.00 - send a Sterling cheque payable to the Superintendent Registrar plus return postage or two International Reply Coupons; (b) the St Catherine's Index references are of no value; (c) for marriage certificates, the precise place of marriage must be given; (d) Civil Registration in England and Wales began on July 1st 1837.
  • In addition to the information above, there is also a list of Districts and those places within them maintained by Brett Langston.
  • There is a listing of marriages for 1849 Quarter 1 for District 6 covering Bedfordshre/Berkshire/Hertfordshire and marriages for 1856 Quarter 1 for District 3b for Bedfordshire.

Court Records

  • Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions records have been available for some years and are very well catalogued, with copious personal names noted. At the moment these names can only be extracted by searching the printed catalogue. However, the Public Record Office is putting the Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions records on the Internet as a pilot project and it will then be easier to search for personal names.
  • Eyres (Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Fordham University) list the Pleas at Bedford in the Fourth Year of the Reign of King John [1202]
  • "Coroner's Records in England and Wales" by Jeremy Gibson and Colin Rogers available from the Federation of Family History Societies, is a valuable source for Coroners' Records, a list of Bedfordshire Coroners' Records is held here.
  • Quarter Sessions Record for Family Historians compiled by Jeremy Gibson available from the Federation of Family History Societies, is a valuable source for Quarter Sessions Records, a list of Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions Records is held here.
  • There are whole series of newspapers available for research. The list of most newspapers for Bedfordshire can be found in the Newspaper section and also the Bedford Record Office Newspaper Holdings.
  • Bedfordshire Coroners Records information can be found here.
  • Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions Records information can be found here.

Description & Travel

  • There is an increasing collection of modern photographs of some of Bedfordshire's villages available courtesy of Kevin Quick.
  • There is a collection of photographs from The Francis Frith Collection for Bedfordshire villages on-line.
  • When the photographer HES Simmons went round the country taking photographs of windmills in the 1930s he made notes about some of the mills he visited. Copies can be obtained from the Muggeridge collection at the University of Kent. Notes are kept in the HES Simmons collection at the Science Museum in London. Address; Science Museum Library ( email). The information librarian is a Mr. John Underwood, who will check the collection for you, and for a small charge photocopy any relevant information.
  • The railways in Bedfordshire are covered by a series of articles published in the virtual library by Bedford Library. These are the opening of Bedford to Bletchley Line, an extract from J. Hamson's 'Bedford Town and Townsmen 1845-1895', the opening of Bedford - Cambridge Railway, an extract from J. Hamson's 'Bedford Town and Townsmen 1845-1895' and the opening of Bedford Midland Station, an extract from J. Hamson's 'Bedford Town and Townsmen 1845-1895'






  • Tracing Ancestors in Bedfordshire. Colin R Chapman. iv + 60pp. ISBN 1-873686-12-9.
    • Contains: descriptions of dozens of records, with County Record Office references, and details of where facts may be found elsewhere; addresses and telephone numbers of libraries, museums and country parks; campaigns and battles in which the Bedfordshire Regiment participated; changes to civil and ecclesiastical boundaries; and an alphabetical listing of all Bedfordshire parishes and hamlets giving for each the date of the first entry in a parish register and the hundred and registration district in which it was situated. There is a useful map and index.
  • GENUKI have produced a A Guide for Newbies to help those starting their research in English counties.
  • The LDS Church have produced the International Genealogical Index (IGI) of England which includes Bedfordshire. Researchers should be aware that the IGI contains many errors and also includes Mormon Temple ordinance dates, so the information in the IGI must be used with care, and the original parish records checked to confirm the detail. An easy to use look up of the IGI and link to the Family Search has been provided by Hugh Wallis for Bedfordshire.
  • The Bishop of Ely delegated authority to the parishes in Bedfordshire overseen by the Diocese of Ely as to whether they would permit their parish registers to be filmed by the LDS. Very few have agreed, although the situation is constantly under review and it is hoped that permission will be given for more registers to be filmed for inclusion. In the meantime, the Bedfordshire Family History Society have transcripts of all the parish registers on microfiche up to 1812; available fiche are listed on the Publications List and is described on each parish page (see Towns and Parishes below).
  • Here is a Bedfordshire Surnames interest list.
  • There is a Bedfordshire Newsgroup/Mailing List - this is an unmoderated list.
  • The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives offer a list of members, together with their code of practice, in undertaking professional research within the UK. By employing members of AGRA you can be sure that your researcher is experienced, has proven competence when applying for membership, and has agreed to abide by the Code of Practice.


  • The Victoria History of the Counties of England series for Bedfordshire covers the history, including village, town, social, economic and natural history, of the county in several volumes. An index to the pages for Bedfordshire is available on-line.

Jewish History

  • Bedford was a medieval centre for Jewry. There were expelled and the next record entry for Jews in bedford was in 1803. Offa Street, Bedford was noted in the Religious Census as having a small community of six Jews who met in a private house. The correlation between that community and the one that sprang up in Bedford after World War II seems to be non-existent. The only synagoge in the county is at Luton, serving Luton and Dunstable district.

Land & Property

  • The Deeds Collection of the Harvard Law School Library is a rich and diverse body of over 1,000 English legal documents dating from circa 1170 to 1888. This collection brings together in one group three smaller collections. The largest one is made up of some 820 deeds, originally owned by the English antiquarian Frederick Arthur Crisp (1851-1922). This group of documents was sold to A. T. Butler of the Royal College of Arms, and was subsequently purchased by Harvard College Library in 1923. In 1925 it was transferred to the Harvard Law School.
  • The second part of the collection is a group of documents known as the Hale Collection. This consists of 132 deeds spanning from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century. These documents are part of the records of the Hale family of King's Walden (Hertfordshire). In addition to their family seat in Hertfordshire, the Hales also possessed property in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, and London. The collection documents the history of a wealthy land-owning family from the Elizabethan period to the Restoration. Property transactions in the King's Walden, White Waltham (Berkshire), and Edworth (Bedfordshire) are particularly well represented. The third part of the collection is made up of miscellaneous deeds acquired by the Library through purchase or donation.
  • A list of the Bedfordshire Estate and Family Papers held by the Record Office.


  • Manors are now listed on a separate page.



Medical Records

  • Directory of medical licences issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury 1535-1775 including Bedfordshire (pdf file).

Military History

  • The Bedfordshire Yeomanry memorial for World war I with detailed information about those who fell is available on the Roll of Honour site for Bedfordshire.
  • The War Memorials for Bedfordshire are being recorded by Bedfordshire Family History Society and the men contained on these are being detailed.
  • Mike Strange has a piece on his web site about Bedfordshire Airfields in World War 2. (now on Archive.org only)
  • Militia
    • Details of the location of Militia Lists and Musters 1757-1876 for Bedfordshire records can be found in the book "Militia Lists and Musters 1757-1876" compiled by Jeremy Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott, 3rd edition 1994 and published by the Federation of Family History Societies, page 11. 'Records of the Miltia & Volunteer Forces 1757-1945' by William Spencer published by the Public Record Offices. Bedfordshire Historical Record Society have published Bedfordshire Muster Lists 1539-1831 which is volume 71, edited by Nigel Lutt. This book contains extensive lists of names of those mustered and is a very good reference when researching family history.
  • Pre-18th Century Cambridgeshire Military History

Names, Geographical

  • There is a book entitled "Place-names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire", the authors are Mawer, A and Stenton, F M and published by the English Place-name Society.

Names, Personal

  • John Bunyan 1628-88, English author. Born in Elstow in 1628. A tinker by trade and a Parliamentary soldier, he became a Baptist lay preacher and wrote to defend his beliefs. Arrested in 1660 for unlicensed preaching, he spent 12 years in prison. There he wrote his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), and other books. Imprisoned a second time, he began his masterpiece, Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (1678, second part 1684). An allegory of Christian's journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, it is written in a prose that unites biblical eloquence with the clarity of common speech. He was imprisoned in Bedford.
  • John Howard, whose statue is in the area near St. Paul's church, Bedford, was a nonconformist who lived in the 18th century, and who denounced the dreadful conditions which existed then in prisons. The Howard League for Penal Reform is named after him.
  • Charles Wells was a sea-captain in the 1860s who, in order to win the girl he loved, abandoned the sea and started his now famous brewery. Four generations later the firm still remains with the family.
  • Sir William Harpur and Dame Alice Harpur lived in the 17th century, and Sir William became Lord Mayor of London. In 1566, he created the original endowment to establish a boys' school in the town of Bedford. Bedford High School for girls was opened in 1882 and there are now four Harpur Trust Schools.Harpur's munificence places the development of education in Bedford outside the mainstream of national educational history. [Further reading ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN BEDFORD 1868-1903 and BEDFORDSHIRE ECCLESIASTICAL CENSUS 1851, by D.W.Bushby, Vol.54 (1975) - ISBN 0 85155 036 3]
  • Samuel Whitbread (1st) (1720-1796) Samuel Whitbread senior was born at Cardington. He was the founder of the Whitbread brewing company. His wealth eventually allowed him to buy Lord Torrington's Southill Estate.
  • Samuel Whitbread (2nd) (1758-1815) The notebooks kept by Samuel Whitbread 2nd of Southill are a rare survival, recording in detail the cases he handled in his capacity as a Justice - or Magistrate - for the County. The pages of this slim volume convey a lively picture of social and economic conditions in the closing stages of the Napoleonic wars. [Further reading SAMUEL WHITBREAD'S NOTEBOOKS 1810-11, edited by Alan F.Cirket, Vol.50 (1971)]
  • Trevor Huddlestone (1913-88) was the Bedford-born Anglican priest, in South Africa from 1943 to 1956, who also served as president of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. In October 1987 he convened the Harare Conference, which brought together a range of resistence groups from South Africa and thus had a direct bearing on the continuing struggle against apartheid.
  • Admiral John Byng born at Southill in 1704 and buried in the church there, was shot for failing to relieve the French blockade of Minorca during the Seven Years' War with France.
  • Worthington George Smith a former resident and First Freeman of Dunstable, antiquary and eccentric was the author of Dunstable, its History and Surroundings and his masterpiece Man, the Primeval Savage?.
  • Commander Frank Wild 1874-1939, the polar explorer and author of Shackleton's Last Voyage was educated in Bedford.
  • Sir William Morgan, son of a Wilstead farmer, was originally a grocer's assistant who emigrated to Australia, made his fortune at the gold diggings there and became Premier of South Australia from 1878 to 1881.
  • Thomas Tompion, son of an Ickwell blacksmith, who was born at Northill in 1639, went on to become a Master Clock and Watchmaker.
  • Robert Bloomfield was the pastoral poet of Suffolk, born December 3, 1766, Honington, Suffolk, who worked as a shoemaker, in London, and spent his last 12 years of life in Shefford. He achieved brief fame with poems describing the English countryside. His first poem, The Farmer's Boy (1800), written after he had left the land to become a London shoemaker, owed its popularity to its blend of late 18th-century pastoralism with an early Romantic feeling for nature. The works that followed, from Rural Tales, Ballads, and Songs (1802) to The Banks of Wye (1811), were almost equally successful. He died August 9, 1823, in Shefford. 'Let his wild woodnotes tell the rest' is carved on his gravestone, which is cared for by the pupils in the school in Shefford that bears his name.
  • Daniel Albone (1860-1906), lived his life in Biggleswade, and is known as the racing cyclist who in the 1880's established the Ivel Cycle Works - named after the River Ivel - where he invented his own bicycles, motorcycles, ladies bicycles (he is particularly famous as the inventor of the first ladies safety bicycle), the tandem and the first Ivel Agricultural Tractor (1902) - the ancestor of all modern tractors. The Ivel tractor changed agriculture at a stroke. Before the Ivel's invention, farming relied on heavy traction engines and horses but suddenly these were made largely redundant. The Ivel could do more work, was stronger, more reliable and quicker. It was a remarkable invention and today's tractors are not that different, such was the greatness of his design. One of his prototype machines is preserved in the Science Museum, London.
  • Sir Joseph Paxton, son of a poor farmer from Milton Bryan, went on to be the Bedfordshire-born architect of Crystal Palace.
  • Henry John Sylvester Stannard was born in Bedfordshire 1870. He was a painter with the Norwich Scchool of Painting as were two of his relatives, Alfred and Joseph Stannard.
  • Lady Margaret Beaufort was born at Bletsoe Castle in 1443. She married Edward Tudor and became mother to Henry VII.
  • George Gascoine a poet. of Cardington Manor, was commissioned in the royal army of Elizabeth I as a war correspondent. His report was entitled The Spoyle of Antwerp.
  • Ernest Edgar Blake 1879-1961, born in Bedford, was a pioneer of motion pictures.
  • Henry Ryland, 1856-1924, son of a Biggleswade draper gained famed as a Pre-Raphaelite painter.
  • Nicholas Rowe, 1673-1718, born at Little Barford in comfortable circumstances, in due course, he was called to the bar, but soon abandoned law in order to devote himself wholly to literature. An ardent Whig, he was able to gain various government posts during the course of his life. His first play, The Ambitious Stepmother, was produced, in 1700, at Lincoln's Inn fields by Betterton, and was well received. It is one of the large group of plays in which the scene is laid in conventionally "eastern" surroundings. This was followed by Tamerlane (1701-2), established his reputation as a popular playwright. Soon afterward he wrote his best plays, The Fair Penitent (1703) and Jane Shore (1714); both are stories of men's cruelty to women that prefigure the domestic tragedies popular later in the 18th century. Rowe is also well known for his edition of Shakespeare (1709), that supplied valuable textual and biographical data and divided the plays into acts and scenes. His life was devoted to being dramatic writer, and from 1715-18 he was poet-laureat to George I.; he was buried with much pomp in Westminster abbey in 1718.
  • The Bassett Family were a family of Quaker bankers who did much to bring prosperity to Leighton Buzzard in the 19th century. They laid out Church Square in 1855 and had The Terrace diseigned by architect W C Read.
  • The Howard Brothers created the Britannia Iron Works in Bedford in 1857 as a model factory.
  • Captain William Peel of Sandy received the Victoria Cross in 1857 for his exploits in the Crimean War.
  • Arthur Hailey, internationally-known writer of American blockbusters, was born and educated in Luton.
  • Herbert Wilcox the famous British film producer was educated at Bedford School. He married the equally famous British actress Anna Neagle
  • Glenn Miller was not born in Bedford, he was the leader of the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He and his band were based in Bedford during the second world war. Many of his broadcasts were made in Bedford. His aircraft was lost on a flight from Bedfordshire in 1944. A bronze bust commemorating his achievements can be found on the facade of the Bedford Corn Exchange. Glen Miller concerts remain a regular feature within Bedford's calendar.
  • George Joye, born circa 1480, clergyman born in Renhold, lived in Blunham. In 1525 and 1526, William Tyndale completed an English translation of the 1519 and 1522 editions of the Erasmus Greek New Testament. Tyndale continued to work on translations of the Old Testament, working from the Hebrew and Latin text and Luther's German translation, but died before he could complete it.In Tyndale's time, George Joye also translated portions of the Bible into English. In 1534, he published a revision of Tyndale's New Testament - with changes of which Tyndale did not approve. Joye also published translations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
  • Polhill Family, the History of the Polhill family includes stories of Arthur Twistleton and his brother Cecil Henry, who were famous for being members of the Cambridge Seven.




  • The Coprolite Industry - In the second half of the 19th century many hundreds of men, women and children across Bedfordshire in England were engaged in a new type of extractive industry - digging "coprolites". Although thought by many to be fossilised droppings they included the fossils of an assortment of creatures that lived in this area during Jurassic and Cretaceous times. They were extracted from pits, in places up to five metres deep, where the seam occurred along the slopes of the Greensand Ridge where it lay above the clay.
  • Rosalind Dunning has kindly provided transcripts of the list of apprentices who came from Bedfordshire that has been extracted from Guildhall Library London.
  • A list of the Bedfordshire Solicitors Collection held by the Record Office.

Poor Houses, Poor Law

  • Details of Poor Law Union, Workhouse and Lunatic Asylum Non-Ecclesiastical birth and death registers can be found at the Bedford Record Office.
  • Further reading: Poor Law Union Records - 1. South-East England and East Anglia by Jeremy Gibson, Colin Rogers and Cliff Webb published by the Federation of Family History Societies. ISBN 1 872094 60 0.
  • A list of Bedfordshire Poor Law Union Records can be found here.
  • Details of Poor Law Union, Workhouse and Lunatic Asylum Non-Ecclesiastical birth and death registers can be found at the Bedford Record Office.
  • A list of the Bedfordshire Poor Law Unions Records held by the Record Office.

Probate Records

  • A guide to where to look for wills in Bedfordshire can be found in Probate Jurisdictions: Where to look for Wills compiled by Jeremy Gibson, published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 872094 69 4.
  • A list of Bedfordshire Probate Records can be found here.


  • Details of the School Records can be found at the Bedford Record Office.
  • A list of the Bedfordshire School Records held by the Record Office.




  • Church Taxes
    • Church Commissioners. The body that manages the temporal affairs of the Church of England. Created in 1948 by the amalgamation of the former Ecclesiastical Commissioners (first appointed in 1836) and the commissioners of Queen Anne's Bounty, the Church Commissioners are responsible for the administration of church properties and finances and for the reorganisation, when necessary, of parishes. These include the tithes due on church owned land; this was a common occurence throughout Bedfordshire and the tithes were levied by a system whereby a landowner had to collect the money from other landowners in the parish), whether he managed to collect it or not, he had to pay it for the patish. Each landowner was nominated in turn each year. As can be seen by the various Twons and Parishes listed here much of the property was owned by the church.
    • Tithes a tenth part of the produce of the land paid from quite early years of the Church to maintain the Clergy. In England, when the lord of a Manor built a Church on his estate, he often enforced payment of tithes to its priest as its endowment, and in time such allocation of tithes became general law. A Synod in 786 strongly enjoined the payment of tithes, which was enforced by law in 900. Tithes were of three sorts - 'praedial', of the fruits of the earth; 'personal', of the profits of labour; and 'mixed', partly of the ground and partly of the industry of man. They were further divided into 'great' (tithes of wheat, oats and other major crops) and 'small' (tithes of lambs, chicken and other minor produce). A Rector had all the tithes, but a Vicar only the small tithes. Gradually many landowners substituted annual cash payments instead of tithes. The Tithes Commutation Act (1836) converted tithes into rent charges dependent on the varying price of corn, but in 1918 the value was fixed, and in 1925 and 1936 further acts were passed (Tithe Redemption Act) to extinguish tithes. There are now no such things as tithes in England.
    • Ecclesiastical Commission a permanent body, consisting of Bishops and certain lay members appointed by the Crown and the Archbishop of Canterbury, created in 1835 by Act of Parliament through the efforts of Sir Robert Peel to hold much of the property of the Church of England and make better use of it. The Commission abolished sinecures, diminished the chapters of cathedrals brought the incomes of bishops nearer to equality and increased the endowments of poor parishes. In 1948 it was united with Queen Anne's bounty to form a new body, the Church Commissioners for England.
    • Queen Anne's Bounty. A fund established by Queen Anne in 1704. She surrendered her revenues from first fruits and tenths to the fund, which was to be used for the benefit of poorer beneficed clergy. In the 19th century the fund also received parliamentary wants and private donations. In 1948 the administration of the fund passed to the Church Commissioners.

      First fruits and tenths were payments made to the Pope by beneficed clergymen. In 1534 in England these were acquired by the King under Act. Various exemptions were made in 1535, 1536, 1558, 1706 and 1707. In 1703 an Act was passed enabling Queen Anne to employ these moneys in augmenting poor benefices, and since then they have been known as Queen Anne's Bounty, and have been administered by commissioners, first appointed in 1704. Existing legislation regarding Queen Anne's Bounty are Acts of 1703, 1716, 1777, 1780, 1801, 1803,1805, 1830, 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840, 1846, 1865, 1870, 1874, 1875, 1881, 1890, 1894, 1908. The Acts known as Queen Anne's Bounty Acts are those of 1703, 1716, 1803, 1838, 1840 and 1870.

  • The Hearth Tax, other later Stuart Tax Lists and the Association Oath Rolls compiled by Jeremy Gibson and published by the Federation of Family History Societies in association with Roehampton Institute London describes the records of taxes during the reign of Charles II (1660-1685).
  • Two forms of taxation which applied to Bedfordshire were Land Tax and Window Tax. Details of these can be found in Land and Window Tax Assessments by Jeremy Gibson, Mervyn Medlycott and Dennis Mills, published by the Federation of Family History Societies ISBN 1 86006 054 4.
  • Taxation between 1641-42 was in the form of the Protestation Returns and some other contemporary taxes. Details of these can be found in The Protestation Returns 1641-42 and other contemporary listings by Jeremy Gibson and Alan Dell published by the Federation of Family History Societies.
  • A list of Bedfordshire Hearth Tax Records can be found here.
  • A list of Bedfordshire Land and Window Tax Assessments can be found here.
  • A list of Protestation Returns, etc for Bedfordshire can be found here.

Towns and Parishes


Voting Registers