The Chartist Ancestors Databank has entries on more than 10,000 Chartists. This page explains how the Chartist Ancestors Databank was compiled and how it may be used, and lets you download it.
How do you define a Chartist? Is it enough to have signed a petition or to have been among the crowds who flocked to see the movement’s great orators perform on Kersal Moor or Kennington Common?
Or do we set the bar higher, counting just those who played a part in the hundreds of Chartist associations that dotted the country?
There is, of course, no black-and-white answer. But Chartist Ancestors has tried over many years to recover the identities of those who committed themselves publicly in some way to Chartism and to make that information available to whoever wants it.
Now all those names and a great deal of additional information besides is available to download in a single Excel document.
What’s in the Chartist Ancestors Databank?
It pulls together data on subscribers to the Chartist Land Company, those who took part in meetings and conventions, those who contributed to various Chartist good causes, such as the Frost Defence Fund, set up following the Newport rebellion and from other lists of Chartist supporters.
It also includes the many children named after Chartist heroes, including several hundred little Feargus O’Connors, John Frosts and Henry Vincents. Whatever their subsequent political beliefs, the names chosen for them are a clear sign of their parents’ sympathies.
Where does the data come from?
Entries in the Chartist Ancestors Databank have accumulated over the years since Chartist Ancestors was launched back in 2004. Much of the information provided the raw material for (or was a product of) research by some of the many academic historians who have always so kindly supported the site.
Among the most notable contributions:
- Professor Jamie Bronstein supplied a massive tranche of nearly 5,000 Lancashire subscribers to the Chartist Land Company.
- Dr Katrina Navickas added a further 644 Manchester subscribers to the Land Company.
- Professor Malcolm Chase made available a number of sets of data, including lists of Middlesbrough Chartists and Hartlepool Chartists and Chartist candidates at parliamentary elections.
- Dr Helen John added a list of Chartist women in Scotland.
Thousands more names have been transcribed from contemporary newspapers (especially Feargus O’Connor’s Northern Star, although the Southern Star, Northern Liberator, Red Republican and others are also rich sources), Home Office court and prison records, and other published sources.
How is the data organised?
Coming from such a variety of sources and capturing so many different activities, the various lists and tables of names spread across Chartist Ancestors lack consistency in their presentation and content.
The Chartist Ancestors Databank tries to overcome this. The information on each individual is set out in a standard format. So, it includes, for example, columns headed first name, surname, occupation and address. The full list is set out and explained in a notes tab within the Databank.
Not every entry is complete by any means. There is no occupation or address for thousands of those listed because this information was not available in the source material.
Frustratingly, many reports which mention women’s involvement in Chartism do not include a first name. Where they are referred to in the source material as “Mrs Jones” or similar, I have kept the title in the first name column to give at least an indication that we are dealing with a Mrs Jones rather than a Mr Jones.
There is a “Location” column separate to the address column. This may reflect the home address of the individual, or may have some other significance: the locality they represented at a delegate conference, the name of a parliamentary constituency they contested and so on.
I have also included two columns not directly taken from the source material. The first column gives a unique ID for each entry. The final column credits the individual who transcribed the information used by Chartist Ancestors from the original source.
Finally, some caveats:
- I have to some extent tidied up the data where there were obvious errors (eg “waever” for “weaver”) and to compress and squeeze it into the standard format, but have not made major edits or corrections;
- You may find the same individual has two or more records. This is because the same individual may appear twice in the records (eg once as a convention delegate and once as a prisoner). I have deliberately not merged entries;
- As other material becomes available, more names will be added to the Databank. If you have downloaded a copy for your own use, please check the date on the front tab to ensure that you have the most recent version.
How can I use the Chartist Ancestors Databank?
I have created three tables which show a fairly basic analysis of the data. Table 1 shows the most common men’s names recorded in the Databank. I have excluded Feargus from the count (to adjust for the large number of Fearguses in the category of children named after Chartist heroes). Although Henry and William are included in the table, they may be over-represented here for the same reason.
Table 2 shows the most common women’s names found in the Databank. The numbers here show how relatively few women can be identified – at least by first name.
Table 3 shows the most common occupations. Most of these come the Chartist Land Company share register and overstate the types of jobs found among Chartists in Manchester and the Lancashire towns.
You can use the Chartist Ancestors Databank to track an individual, uncover patterns in the data or for any other non-commercial project that takes your fancy provided that you attribute the source and where possible include a link to this page.
If you wish to republish a significant portion of the Chartist Ancestors Databank, or to use it to produce a commercial product of any sort, please contact Chartist Ancestors first. Not least because you may need the permission of the original owners of the data.