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Catholic FHS: A Legacy Preserved

As 2023 drew to a close, one of the sadder notes was the closure of the Catholic Family History Society (CFHS). Founded in 1983 the society's objective was to encourage those with Catholic ancestry to research their family history in England, Wales and Scotland.Unfortunately, as has been the problem with several other societies in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to find younger volunteers to whom to pass the baton. The decision to dissolve the society was unfortunate but, alas, inevitable.

Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS) had a particular 'soft spot' for the Catholic FHS and we had a long-lasting relationship. In particular, we worked together on the transcription of baptism, marriage and burial registers for churches in the Salford Roman Catholic diocese. Even following the suspension of our own Irish Ancestry Branch (another victim of the problems of succession) our relationship continued and this work continued.

During its 40 year history, the Catholic FHS accumulated a substantial collection of research material relating not just to the Salford diocese, but also to Catholic churches and institutions as far apart as Cornwall and Durham and in many counties in between. The closure of the society placed this collection at some risk. Following on from our long relationship and our great interest in improving the accessibility of local Catholic registers, discussions were held between CFHS and MLFHS which resulted in an agreement that MLFHS would take over the 'intellectual' property of CFHS with effect from early 2024.

A new section has been created on the MLFHS web site to accommodate this material. This can be accessed at mlfhs.uk/catholic Resources which previously appeared on the CFHS web site have now been transferred. Items which were previously open to public view remain open to free public access. Material which was previously restricted to CFHS members is now available within the MLFHS Member Only area of the web site. Both public and private material will increasingly be integrated with Catholic-related material produced by MLFHS.

Among the valuable public resources is the Margaret Higgins Index of Catholics in England (1607-1840). Created by Br. Rory Higgins, this impressive database contains well over a quarter of a million references to persons known or believed to be practising Catholics during a period when this would have led to a variety of restrictions and impositions on the individuals concerned. This data can be downloaded as a spreadsheet for personal or academic use.

MLFHS will also continue to offer the many resources previously sold by CFHS on CD or as downloadable files and (downloadable) back issues of the Catholic Ancestor CFHS's magazine, which contain large numbers of useful and informative articles.

MLFHS is pleased to be trusted by CFHS with the preservation of this material. Our thanks go to the volunteers who contributed to this legacy over CFHS's productive four decades.

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