The Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel. Part 2 – The Baptismal Register

Part 1 of this post can be found here.

The typed transcript of the Baptismal Register of Dodd (1983) is a copy of a handwritten transcript, that has itself been significantly amended. This was in turn a copy of the original register.  The Baptismal entries from 1845 to 1887 are given, with the following information.

  • Date of baptism
  • Christian name(s) of baptized child.
  • Christian name(s) of father and mother, and surname
  • Address – usually given by a broad area location
  • Occupation of father
  • Name of officiating minister
  • (Date of birth of child)

In total there were 777 entries over the period of 42 years, with 514 different couples represented. The Register can thus be seen to contain a great deal of potentially interesting information.  However, it must be admitted that that the typed transcript of the register is a bit of a mess – which either reflects the original register, or may be partly due to its transmission history.  Entries are not always in the correct date order, with some being significantly displaced. Names on the original were clearly difficult to read, and some of the guesses thus made are meaningless. The spelling is in general variable, which probably reflects the abilities of the officiating minister in transcribing names given orally.  

To analyse the register in detail, I transcribed all the entries to an EXCEL spreadsheet, which was not one of the more exciting experiences of my life. To enable the data to be ordered to reveal its various aspects more clearly, some cleaning up was needed. This involved adopting common spellings for addresses, occupations and names. The latter had to be done with care, so as not to use essential information, but most name changes were trivial – for example to standardize on “Henry” rather than “Henery” or “Henary”. In other places a greater degree of interpretation was required.  Whilst these changes may have resulted in minor errors that affect the statistics presented below, these should not be significant.

Table 1 shows the number of baptisms in five-year periods. It can be seen that these increase from 50 between 1850 and 1854 to a maximum of 132 between 1870 and 1874 i.e. from 10 to 26 / year on average. After that there is a slight fall off. KMAP shows that the population of the Shut End area followed a similar trend, peaking in the 1860s and then decreasing, and whilst the number of baptisms possibly reflects this, it also reflects the age distribution of the chapel congregation. Baptisms usually took place between 2 and 4 weeks after birth, but there were exceptions. For example, sometimes double family baptisms are recorded in the register. Whilst a few of these were baptisms of twins, for most of those where children’s birth dates are given,  they are for a baby and an older sibling who had clearly missed out on baptism after birth for one reason or another.

Table 1 Baptism by year

Table 2 shows the number of baptisms by area of residence. To compile this table, the register entries have been consolidated somewhat – for example in the few cases where streets are given, these are included in the relevant area. In the table, the Pensnett area refers to the area of the new developments, mainly centred on the Hollies area, but extending as far west as New / Swan St. It is not clear to me how Shut End and Tansey Green were distinguished by residents, and there may well be some confusion between them. These uncertainties aside the vast majority of baptisms were of those in the 1845 ecclesiastical parish of Pensnett (Pensnett, Commonside, Shut End, Tansey Green and Bromley – 83.1% in total) and most of the rest from closely surrounding areas (Kingswinford, Coopers Bank, Oak Farm, Brockmoor, Brierly Hill and Wordsley – 13.8%). The remaining entries were wide spread, from as close as Dudley to as far away as Wigan, and probably indicate married children returning home for the baptism of their child at their home chapel.

Table 2 Baptism entries by area of residence

Table 3 shows the Register entries grouped by father’s occupation. Here again some cleaning of the data was required. The major change was to re-label a range of entries as “Iron Workers”. These took on a large variety of forms including moulder, furnace man, roller and puddler. Some of these, particularly the latter, were regarded as highly skilled jobs.  The “other” category includes trades such as groom, keeper, horseman, boat builder, shoemaker, grocer, butcher, with a very small number classified as managers or clerks.  It can be seen that the majority of the entries are for fathers who were miners or labourers, whilst almost all of the others would be working in or servicing the various industries listed. The labourers could be working in any of the other industries included in the list.

Now to some degree these figures will reflect the fact that the fathers of those baptized were relatively young and unskilled, and thus more likely to be labeled as labourers than their elders, but nonetheless they do show that the congregation at the chapel were overwhelmingly manual workers of various skill levels.

Table 3 Baptismal entries by father’s occupation

The baptismal registers of course give a very great deal of information concerning names – both Christian names and surnames. However this aspect of the register data is most difficult to analyse because of the huge variability in spelling, and a lot of cleaning of the data was required to put the most common names into a common format so that the data could be ordered and searched. The results of the analysis are shown in table 4 for male names and table 5 for female names. Each table shows the most common ten names and their percentage of the total from the following sources. 

  • The Fowler 1882 map directory for the whole of Kingswinford parish (as included in KMAP).
  • The names of the mothers and fathers in the Baptismal register.
  • The names of the children in the baptismal register.

This thus represents three different time slices – the first reflecting names given between around 1780 and 1820, the second for the period between approximately 1820 and 1860, and the third for the period between 1845 and 1885. The second and third thus overlap somewhat.

Consider first the male names in table 4. The most striking thing is the similarity between the three lists, with most names occurring in all three. Benjamin, Richard and Samuel become less popular over the years, whilst George moves up the popularity list. Overall the top ten names contribute 85% to the total in 1822, but only 60% between 1845 and 1885, reflecting the fact that whilst that outside the most popular names, there was an increasing variability. For both the father’s and the son’s names, there was a consistent use of Old Testament forms, some more obscure than others. There were also a few oddities: from 1871, Lord Dando, son Mark and Caroline Dando of Pensnett, Blacksmith; from 1849, Squire Shuker, son of Samuel and Ann Shuker of Shut End, Engine Worker; and from 1860, Theophilus Hadduck son of Benjamin and Meriah Hadduck of Commonside, Forgeman.

Table 4 Male names 

The female names in table 5 show something of the same level of stability for the top 5 names, but thereafter the names in the list are very variable. In 1822 the top 10 names contributed 86% to the total, but for the baptized girl’s names, this figure fell to just 56%, indicating again a greater variability as the years go by. This trend seems to be more pronounced amongst the female names, perhaps indicating a greater influence of prevailing fashion, although it is probably best if I, as a male, say no more here.  Of all the names the most variable in spelling was Maria and its variants – Mariah, Meria, Meriah and Marieh. Whilst they all obviously refer to the same name, the large number of occurrences of these variants suggests a variability in the way that they were pronounced – and thus recorded in the register. Again there were some oddities: in 1865, Tryphena Wassell, daughter of John and Sarah Wassell of Bromley, Brickmaker; in 1868, Ursula Adelaide Danks, daughter of William and Caroline Danks of Pensnett, Roller; in 1874, Adelaide Amos, daughter of John and Pamela Amos of Tansey Green, Miner.  The name Adelaide seems to have been taken from Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV.  

Table 5 Female names

In Part 3 of this series of posts I will consider in more detail the ministers of the church and the church families that can be found in the register.  

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