To extend my family history back in time beyond the information in the Family Bible and the National Census, I pieced together coherent families from parish records of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and from some tombstones. This involved numerous visits to the Public Records Offices in Stafford, Chester and Lichfield during the latter part of the 1980s, and to churchyards. Some of the evidence of who might be related to whom is circumstantial, and possibly wrong. But in the absence of other documentary evidence there seems no alternative. At the outset I had available copies of the records of marriages and baptisms collated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Records). That led me to concentrate initially on collecting information on burials to make best use of precious time in the Records Offices. It turns out that the Mormon Records were collated from Bishop's Transcripts, copies of the Parish Register sent from the Parish to the Bishopric. These did not include Hamlet of residence, and that turns out to be important in collating family histories.
Brieryhurst and Stadmorslow
In the 1841 Census there were two townships on the Staffordshire flanks of Mow Cop: Stadmorslow, which [in 1861] included Mow Cop Parsonage, The Land in Mow Cop, Harriseahead (p[ar]t), Ashes Farm, Stone Trough, Hollin House, Wain Lee (pt) and Brown Lees, and Brieryhurst, which included land westwards to the Cheshire border (Dales Green, etc). This is important because Stadmorslow and Brieryhurst are the only townships mentioned in connection with my Ford family in earlier parish registers for Newchapel, where most Births, Deaths and Marriages were recorded (the church at Mow Cop was a later construction). Newchapel also includes the twonships of Thursfield, Ranscliff, Oldcot, Tunstall, Chell and Wedgwood.
The Parish Records are books containing lists of names in date order of baptism, marriage or death. The entries were completed by the parish priest and may have been stored in the church when in use. Many of the early books are missing, some are in poor condition (or were so before conservation) and are quite difficult to read. In some case separate books were kept fo Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths. In other cases, one book served for all three. The earliest books were in latin, or used latinised names. Eventually, the books were deposied with the County Record Office for safe-keeping. The outcome is that browsing the parish records is a difficult and error prone task. It is easy to miss entries and to misinterpret name and place information.
The information on tombstones is of similar variable quality, many inscriptions having weathered or been overgrown with lichen. More importantly, very few families went to the expense of a tombstone. Those that did were typically the more affluent farmers. The families of miners and agricultural labourers could only afford tombstones at the end of the 19th Century.