Over 350 years of Portsmouth history revealed online for the first time

Cassandra Austen's ( niece of the famous author Jane Austen)  burial records.

Cassandra Austen's (niece of the famous author Jane Austen) burial records.

Leading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk has published online more than 1.3 million historical records in partnership with the Portsmouth History Centre.

The publication marks the first phase of Findmypast’s new Portsmouth collection, a rich archive spanning the years 1538 to 1917 comprising beautifully scanned images of original handwritten documents. When complete, the collection will form the largest repository of Portsmouth family history records available online. 

Made up of a variety of fascinating documents including parish baptisms, marriages, burials, and Workhouse records, the collection will continue to grow as additional Portsmouth records including electoral rolls, rate books, crew lists, and World War One military exemption records are added in later phases.

The records are full of fascinating details of Portsmouth life through the ages and will provide researchers from all over the world with the opportunity to uncover the stories of the inhabitants of the UK’s only island city for the very first time. Fully searchable transcripts of each original document are also included, enabling anyone to go online and search for their Portsmouth ancestors by name, location and date. 

Covering a wide timeframe, many of Portsmouth’s most famous sons and daughters can be found in the records, including;

Covering a wide timeframe, many of Portsmouth’s most famous sons and daughters can be found in the records, including;

Charles Dickens – the creator of some of the world's best-known fictional characters and  famed author of such books as “Oliver Twist” and “Bleak House”, can be found in the baptism records. Records show that Charles John Huffam Dickens was baptised on March 4th 1812 in the medieval font at Portsea Parish Church (now St Mary’s Church, Fratton). Charles was born on 7th February that year, at 1 Mile End Terrace (now 393 Commercial Road), Landport on Portsea Island (Portsmouth), the second of eight children of John Dickens and Elizabeth Dickens. His father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office and was temporarily stationed in the district. John Dicken’s asked Christopher Huffam, rigger to His Majesty's Navy, gentleman, and head of an established firm, to act as godfather to Charles. Huffam is thought to have been the inspiration for Paul Dombey, the owner of a shipping company in Dickens's 1848 novel, Dombey and Son.

Cassandra Austen - the niece of the famous author Jane Austen and daughter of Jane’s beloved brother Francis, can be found within the burial registers. Cassandra was born in 1814 and died in 1849 with her burial date recorded as 10 May 1849 at Wymering. Her residence at the time of her death is noted as Portsdown Lodge. Her father, Sir Francis William Austen, can also be found in the burial registers. Sir Francis’ entry reveals that he was born in 1773 and was buried on 17 August 1865. His residence and burial place are the same as that of his daughter and his occupation was recorded as “G C B Admiral of the Fleet”.

James Alms – a celebrated officer of the Royal Navy who saw service during the War of the Austrian Succession, the Carnatic and Seven Years' War and the American War of Independence. His baptism entry records him as the son of John and Mary Alms with his baptism date being 21 July 1728. 

Henry Edward Bird - a chess player known for making popular an opening move now known as Bird’s Opening. His baptism is recorded as occurring on 7 August 1829 at Portsmouth, St Thomas; his parents are also recorded on his record: Henry and Mary Ellen. From the image of the original record, we learn that his father was a draper. 

The murderer James Hackman - His baptism took place on 13 December 1752 at Gosport, Holy Trinity. His parents, William and Mary, are also recorded on the register. Hackman was convicted and hung for murdering Martha Ray, the mistress of Lord Sandwich, on 7 April 1779.

The English cricketer Lionel Charlie Ramsbottom-Isherwood, son of Charles Edward Ramsbottom and Isabel Catherine Isherwood, can also be found in the collection. His baptism was on 19 May 1891 at Southsea, St Jude. Lionel’s first-class debut was in 1919 for Hampshire and he stayed with the club for a further 26 matches.

George Meredith - the Victorian author and Nobel Prize nominee whose failed marriage provided the inspiration for his poem “Modern Love”, is included in these records. George’s baptism took place at Portsmouth, St Thomas, on 9 April 1828. His parents’ names are recorded as Augustus Armstrong and Jane Eliza. 

Councillor Richard Blunt, the county council’s cabinet member for heritage, said: “We are delighted that so much of our county's rich history and many of its people's stories will be better known through our partnership with Findmypast. For the first time, records will be readily accessible in full colour throughout the world."

Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at Findmypast, said: “The Romans were arguably the first to recognise Portsmouth’s strategic importance, and Findmypast is honoured to have been chosen as Portsmouth City Council’s family history partner. We very much look forward to sharing our discoveries with a worldwide audience as we bring these important records to life.”

The parish registers held at Portsmouth History Centre pertain to Church of England parishes in the deaneries of Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham, and Havant. Workhouse records consists of admission and discharge (Creed) registers spanning the years 1879 to 1953. Due to privacy concerns there is a 100-year closure period for all records.

All of these records can be explored at www.findmypast.co.uk.