In the 1980’s a new hobby began to grip the Nation, – researching family history. In fact many people around the World wanted to know their roots by discovering their ancestral origins, and Family History Societies soon sprang up in most counties to enable people with common ancestry to swap and exchange information.
County Record Offices, which had once only been the preserve of a few dedicated historians, now became inundated with people wanting to check through parish registers and other documents to track down their forebears. This massive upsurge in the manual handling of the registers began to take a toll on these old and fragile volumes, and it became clear that something had to be done to save those precious archives.
The answer was to transcribe every parish register in the country. This mammoth task was undertaken by members of the Family History Societies throughout the country. It was about this time the Littleport Society was founded, and as people from far and wide began to join the Society because their roots were in Littleport, the Committee decided that family history must play a large part in the activities of the Society. A group of members, dedicated family historians, began the process of transcribing the Littleport Registers and transferring the information into a searchable computer data base.
The parish registers of St. George’s Church only date back to the mid 1700’s, the earlier records are reputed to have 10 been destroyed by the Rioters in 1816. The earlier records, dating back to 1599, are preserved in the form of Bishop’s Transcripts, and held in the Cambridge University Library. Having gained access to these records they too were transcribed and added to the data base. Although there were several years missing, particularly from the Cromwellian period, the Society’s family history records do give the potential to create a family tree back to the late Tudor period.
Over the years the registers of the churches of St. Matthew, St. John, LittleOuse, and the Non-conformist Churches and Chapels have been added. These together with census records, wills, and other collected and donated data gives the Society a vast data base of genealogical information.
Every month the Society receives many family history enquiries. It was one such enquiry, some years ago, from a member in the United States, that led us to discover that the father of the founder of the Harley-Davidson Motor Cycle Company, was born in Littleport. Did you know that Littleport also has a connection with the Indian Motor Cycle Company, which was at one time a great rival of Harley-Davidson? The connection is through the Ellingham family.
If you are interested in the history of your family why not join the Littleport Society and begin the quest to discover what your forebears did. You never know you might get a surprise.
Don’t forget the Society’s OPEN DAY AT THE BARN, in the Main Street car park on Saturday the 19th September 10am to 4pm. The displays will include ‘Memories of the 50’s and 60’s’, ‘What Littleport was like in the Great War’, and much more. It will also be a good time to begin your family history quest, as our family history experts will be on hand to guide the beginner, or help the experienced to add another branch to their tree.
The Society is also looking for volunteers to fill the following vacancies on the Committee, Secretary, Minute Secretary, and Programme Organiser. If you would like to join the Committee just have a word with any member of the Committee, we would be pleased to hear from you. Our web-site is at – www.littleportsociety. org.uk