Find out about your ancestors if you dare
Some skeletons in the cupboard can now be more easily unearthed, thanks to a new website in Bath.
The Bath Ancestors service has been launched to help family history buffs find out more about their forebears' links with the city.
Its database offers a searchable index of thousands of local names associated with the city in centuries gone by – giving access to court records and pawnbrokers' tickets.
The new Bath and North East Somerset Council service puts online information previously only viewable by callers to the authority's record office at the Guildhall.
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Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Included is information from court and Poor Law registers, schools and hospitals, apprenticeship documents, rate books and wills.
Among the gems thrown up by court records are convictions for the theft of a copper tea kettle, a bell fixed to a building, 11 herrings, a case of potted veal, three pairs of Wellington boots and a quantity of lard. Other crimes included absconding from the workhouse, keeping a bawdy house, bigamy and murder.
The database also carries details of the Mineral Water Hospital case book from the 1750s – with patients coming from as far away as Scotland and Ireland, as well as records from the old Bluecoat School.
It is possible to click through to a page where a copy or transcript of an item can be ordered for a small charge, and to use a "sounds like" function which copes with different spellings of the same name.
Principal archivist at the council Colin Johnston said: "For decades, our volunteers created indexes by writing the name of each person found in a particular record on an index card. Then in the 1990s, a new wave of volunteers with IT skills began creating indexes on computer.
"It's hard to quantify the sheer volume of volunteer work that has gone into creating these resources but the record office has more than 100 separate indexes containing more than 70,000 names."
So far, just over half of the indexes covering information from 1603 to 1990 are online.
The work of amalgamating the different indexes and developing the online database has been carried out by volunteer Simon Caldwell.
He said: "I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to make the work of so many other volunteers available on the internet."
The service is at www. batharchives.co.uk.