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Owen Manuscripts

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Material for Southeast Lancashire and East Cheshire

"The Owen manuscripts are the work of John Owen (b. 1815), who spent most of his life gathering historical and genealogical material from Southeast Lancashire and East Cheshire, with a large portion surrounding Manchester and Stockport. “Unlike many collections, it is not confined to the great families and great churches and mansions, but deals with the ordinary families and the domestic dwellings. No local historian or genealogist can afford to neglect it.” (Axon)

"The original collection comprised 80 volumes, taking 50-60 years to compile. Nine more volumes were added in the 1900s. All except one is quarto or folio size. Material is grouped into five areas:

  1. monumental inscriptions
  2. parish registers
  3. genealogical memoranda
  4. architecture and archaeology
  5. miscellaneous historical notes.

"The most important section is monumental inscriptions. The inscriptions of the graveyards are usually transcribed in full, except for some wording like “In the memory of…” Some as far distant as North Wales and the Isle of Man are also included, but only a selection.

"Parish register extracts come next in order of importance. The registers for Manchester, Bolton, Warrington, Flixton and Stockport, along with other parishes and chapelries have been transcribed for a large number of years. Voluminous extracts from other parishes in the Manchester area were made with the idea of illustrating the family history of that section of the country.

"The memoranda section is varied in content. Great detail is shown for some local families. For example, there are over 2,000 entries for the Hulme family, and almost 1,500 for the Bradshaws. This section also contains newspaper extracts of marriages and deaths appearing in Manchester and Stockport newspapers (1740-1870), extracts of wills, and other documents.

"In the architecture and archaeology, Mr. Owen gives minute descriptions of every church he visited. He was a draughtsman and drew old houses, ancient crosses, sculptured gravestones or any other interesting pieces of architecture. Many of the churches he described have since been renovated, so his descriptions and drawings are invaluable for the local historian. Besides Lancashire and Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Welsh and Manx churches are also described.

"The historical notes section varies widely in content. The history of Manchester is the most extensive. Included in the history is the collection of monumental inscriptions both inside and outside the Collegiate church. There are about 2,000 in all, some drawn in facsimile, most of which are presently gone, either covered up or made inaccessible by church renovation. Twenty volumes cover the complete transcription of parish registers for the Collegiate church; baptisms 1573-1753, marriages 1573-1804, and 1573-1801. These are accompanied by extensive indexes. Leases (in number 618) from the warden and fellows of the Collegiate church are also included."

The preceding information is taken from The Owen MSS: Description by Ernest Axon found on Family History Library (FHL) film 1656924 item 12. A fuller discussion of the manuscript collection by the same author is published in the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society Volume 17, pages 48-63 (FHL book 942 C41). The collection is housed in the Free Reference Library in Manchester.

Filming of the collection was done in 1948. The FHL copies are old, somewhat scratched and faded in parts. A new set will be ordered from the vault. In addition to the various indexes included in various volumes, Mr. Axon has compiled a 25-page selective index to the entire collection. He says, “This index is intended to be a handy guide to the principal contents of the MSS. It is not an index of all names of persons and places.” The introduction to this index includes information about the transcribed records. The index itself shows the volume and page number for the item. FHL film 1656924 also includes a supplemental index.

The cataloguing of the index shows that we have one book and two microfilm copies. FHL book Ref 942.72/M1 A5a. One film copy (477385 item 7) was made in 1965, is faint and does not include the supplement. The other copy, made in 1990, is darker. Both have a background which is dark on photocopies. The cataloguing of the collection is poor. Some of the volumes and films are not mentioned even though they are in the drawer. Descriptions leave much to be desired. The collection will be recatalogued.

In 2007 most of the illustrations were digitaly photograph by Gerard Lodge (Manchester Family History Research) and are available via him and Manchester Archives. More than 200 of these images are now available at:  Owen Manuscripts