Technical Matters

Rules for Names

First names

  1. Member – these are given as they appear in the principal primary source: variants have been added to the database. We have normalized some gender specific names such as Frances in the baptismal name field, but the male version is usually intended as the name in religion so appears there as Francis. Where we only know the name in religion, the name is also supplied in square brackets in the baptismal name field, and vice versa. This is to ensure that searches based upon names do not fail to pick up entries where one or other name is missing. Inconsistencies of personal (i.e. baptismal or name in religion) name forms are unavoidable with this approach: for example, forms such as Bennet or Benet and Benedict are interchangeable, as are Austin and Augustine. There are also issues with simple names like Ann/Anne, and the infinite ways in which the name Katharine can appear. Our search facilities include a wildcard function to help overcome such problems.
  2. Parent (either) – our general rule is to normalise and translate (see further under Surnames). The translations occur where the record (most frequently appearing in continental ecclesiastical archives) was written in Latin, French or Dutch by scribes who were attempting to write a foreign name phonetically.


Member – given as it appears in the primary source, with spelling variants as they appear in other sources. This has led to some complications where a member has moved convents or when sisters have joined different convents with different spelling conventions. The names are linked by variants in order to indicate the family connections.

Parent (either) – Orthographic variation in the sources is substantial, so the names of parents are being standardised so as to make family relationships more easily recognizable. Again, this is not a straightforward approach and total consistency may well elude us; surnames were often orthographically fluid, with Jernegan/Jerningham, Smith/Smythe, Foster/Forster among the numerous problems we face. For the printed Biographical Register we shall use a single lead form of a surname, with cross-references to all variants.

Place names

There was considerable variation in the presentation of place names and the assignation of counties in both British and continental sources. Names of properties, villages, towns and cities in Britain have been modernised to conform to modern spellings as they appear in the online Gazetteer of British Placenames and Philip’s Navigator Britain (2001). Additional modern place-names have been sourced from specialist family history websites such as Stirnet. Places have been assigned to historic counties as provided in the online gazetteer. Abbreviations of county names are those adopted in the History of Parliament publications.

Research is continuing on the identification of place names in Flanders, France, America and elsewhere.

Rules for dates

The start of the year is taken as 1st January: it is not clear from convent sources whether they are using the English or continental calendar. The distinction is mentioned in a few letters, but rarely otherwise.

  • 1596 – year always comes first to facilitate searches
  • 1596 aft – member alive in 1596 but died (or professed) at unspecified time after that date
  • 1596 aft 18 Jan – member alive on 18 Jan but died within that year after 18 Jan
  • 1596 bef 18 Jan – member died before 18 Jan but in 1596
  • 1596 bef – member professed (or died) before 1596

Birth year has been given where it appears in a conventual source.
For positions held: if only 1 date given it means that a member held that office in that year but it is not known for how long she held the office. If two dates given that indicates a start and stop time: any known complications put into notes field.

Other symbols

/e – specifies date of examination for either clothing or profession if the date of the actual event is not known.
Examinations were generally held 1-10 days before clothing and profession. In the case of a candidate who later left the convent the examination may provide the only evidence of their time at the convent. At the examination, a representative of the local bishop asked the candidate a series of questions including the names of the parents, how long she had wished to join, whether she had any prior marriage commitment, and the amount of her dowry. The records were kept by the ecclesiastical authorities.

Abbreviations found in the sources section

For full details of references to continental archives see Calendar published on website.

Augustinians Bruges

Sources giving abbreviations

Annals: MS Annals in 3 volumes owned by the English Convent, Bruges: abbreviations I ann; II ann; III ann.
CR: Convent research refers to data supplied by the nuns.
CS Durrant, is Durrant, Catherine Sidney, A Link between Flemish Mystics and English Martyrs London, Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1925

Augustinians Louvain

Sources giving abbreviations

Chr: MS Chronicles
Convent List supplied by the nuns
AM followed by abbreviated reference: sources in the Archives of the Archbishopric of Mechelen, Aartsbischoppelijk Archief Mechelen Examinations Benefactors Book
Hamilton Vol I or Vol II: Hamilton, Adam, The Chronicle of the English Augustinian Canonesses Regular of the Lateran, at St. Monica’s in Louvain: 1548 to 1644, 2 Vols. , Edinburgh, Sands, 1904

Augustinians Paris

Sources giving abbreviations

Clb: Council Book MS Archives Archdiocese Westminster (AAW) Currently being catalogued (2012)
Cb: Chapter Book MS Archives Archdiocese Westminster (AAW) Currently being catalogued (2012)
Pb: Profession Book Archives Archdiocese Westminster (AAW) Currently being catalogued (2012)
Cedoz: Cedoz, F M Th, Un Couvent de religieuses anglaises à Paris de 1634 a 1884, Paris, Lecoffre, 1891
Corp: Edward Corp, A Court in Exile, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004

Benedictines Brussels

Sources giving abbreviations

Ob: 19th century MS copy of earlier missing manuscript of Obituary Book held at Downside Abbey, Somerset.
AM e.g. AM benbx-7 Aartsbischoppelijk Archief Mechelen; Archbishopric Mechelen
Annals: Chronicle of the first Monastery founded at Brussels…, privately printed, 1898
pb: Register Book of professions… in ‘Registers of the English Benedictine Nuns, Brussels… 1598-1856’, contributed by the Lady Abbess of East Bergholt and ed. J S Hansom, Catholic Record Society, Misc. IX, Vol. 14, 1914

Benedictines Cambrai

Sources giving abbreviations

Convent List supplied by the archivist when the community was at Stanbrook Abbey, Worcs.
Lille: Archives departementales du Nord, Lille, France, 20H
crs: ‘Records of the Abbey of our Lady of Consolation at Cambrai 1620-1793’, ed. J Gillow, Catholic Record Society, Misc. VIII, Vol. 13, 1913

Benedictines Dunkirk

Sources giving abbreviations

BB Y followed by number: Bisdom Brugge archives, Examinations
History followed by page number: A History of the Benedictine Nuns of Dunkirk, ed. by the Community, Catholic Book Club, London, n.d.

Benedictines Ghent

Sources giving abbreviations

RAG (Rijksarchief te Gent – National Archives Ghent) Examinations for clothing and/or profession: located in Ghent
Obit: ‘Obituary Notices of the Nuns of the English Benedictine Abbey of Ghent in Flanders 1627-1811, contributed by Lady Abbess and Community’, Catholic Record Society, Misc. XI, Vol. 19, 1917
Annals: Annals of the English Benedictines of Ghent, privately printed, 1898. Annals list: refers to the Appendix in this book with list of known professed nuns starting p199

Benedictines Paris

Sources giving abbreviations

‘The English Benedictine Nuns of Our Blessed Lady of Good Hope in Paris’, ed. J S Hansom, in CRS, Misc. VII, Vol. 9, 1911
Paris History; Robert Eaton, The Benedictines of Colwich 1829-1929, London, Sands & Co, 1929.
‘Colections’, by an English Nun in Exile: Bibliothèque Mazarine 1202, ed. Julia Bolton Holloway, Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, A-5020 Salzburg, 2006

Benedictines Pontoise

Sources giving abbreviations

Manuscript sources located in Archives Départementales du Val d’Oise (VO), Cergy Pontoise
bk en 68H3: Book of Entries
ob 68H4 followed by page number MS Book of Obituaries
68H10 Promises and clothings
G 151 Examinations (mainly eighteenth century)
rp: Register Pontoise, ‘Registers of the English Benedictine Nuns of Pontoise OSB, etc. contributed by the Lady Abbess of Teignmouth and edited by the Archivist’, Catholic Record Society, Misc. X, Vol. 17, 1915

Benedictines Ypres

Sources giving abbreviations

BB Y followed by number: Bruges, Diocesan Archives, Bishopric of Ypres, Examinations
Printed Sources
Nolan: Dom Patrick Nolan, Irish Dames of Ypres, Browne and Nolan, Dublin, 1914

Bridgettines Lisbon

The database includes names of nuns from the time they left Rouen in 1594 and moved to Lisbon and all known names who entered before 1800. Many documents relating to membership have gone missing at different points in time which makes reconstruction of membership particularly challenging. The brothers are listed separately from the nuns.

Sources giving abbreviations

Fletcher: MSS Notebooks held at Exeter University Library, Special Collections
Chantress Book: now held at Exeter University Library, Special Collections
Profession Documents, at Syon Abbey, South Brent, Devon
Robinson followed by page number: Thomas Robinson, The Anatomie of the English Nunnery at Lisbon, London, Philemon Stephens & Christopher Meredith, 1637 ed.

Carmelites Antwerp

Sources giving abbreviations

pb is uncalendared and unfoliated summary Profession Book held by Carmelites at St Helens, Lancs
ann is MS Annals; ‘Short Colections of the Beginings of the English Monastery of Teresians in Antwerp’, Felixarchief Antwerpen- City Archives Antwerp, KK 1018
Printed sources
Hardman: Sister Anne Hardman, English Carmelites in Penal Times, London Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd, 1936
Hallett: Nicky Hallett, Lives of Spirit: An Edition of English Carmelite Auto/Biographies of the Early Modern Period (The Early Modern Englishwoman 1500-1750: Contemporary Editions), Aldershot: Palgrave, 2007

Carmelites Hoogstraten

Sources giving abbreviations

Death bk: MS Old Death Book, Baltimore Carmel, Maryland
Prof bk: Profession Book, Baltimore Carmel, Maryland
Ann: Hoogstraten Annals 1670-1870 compiled in the early twentieth century from earlier surviving manuscripts, Baltimore Carmel, Maryland
Printed sources
Hardman followed by page number: Sister Anne Hardman, English Carmelites in Penal Times, London Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd, 1936

Carmelites Lierre

Sources giving abbreviations

Liv-I MS “First book of the lives of the Community. A Summarie or relation of the Desceased religious women from the first begening of our English Monasteries dedicated to our Bl Lady of Mount Carmell and St Joseph of the Holy order of Saint Teresa in the city of Lier 1648,” part I: (1648-1776),
Liv-II: MS as above, part 2: 1779-1877.
Both these sources were held at Darlington in Box 13
Printed Sources
Hallett followed by page number: Nicky Hallett, Lives of Spirit: An Edition of English Carmelite Auto/Biographies of the Early Modern Period, (The Early Modern Englishwoman 1500-1750: Contemporary Editions), Aldershot: Palgrave, 2007
Hallett 2 followed by page number: Nicky Hallett, Witchcraft, Exorcism and the Politics of Possession in a Seventeenth-Century Convent, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007
Hardman followed by page number: Sister Anne Hardman, English Carmelites in Penal Times, 1936

Carmelites Port Tobacco

Sources giving abbreviations

Port Tobacco Profession Book

Dominicans Brussels

Sources giving abbreviations
AM followed by abbreviated version of reference from Aartspischoppelijk Archief Mechelen, (Archbishopric Mechelen) Dominikanessen Brussel, 1: AMdombx-1: 22, 57
OA, Old Annals, CRS p176-: PB, Profession Book, CRS p225-; CB, Council Book, CRS p230-,
All of these published in Dominicana: ‘Records of the Dominican Nuns of the Second Order 1661-1797’, Contributed by the Prioress and Community of Carisbrooke, Catholic Record Society, Vol. 25, 1925


Sources giving abbreviations

Bruges Diocesan Archives, BB F59 Bishopric of Bruges Examinations
BC followed by page number: Book of Clothings, pp1-99
BD followed by page number: Book of the Dead, pp 177-
BP followed by page number: Book of Professions pp123-176
Published in ‘Franciscana: The English Franciscan Nuns, 1619-1821 and the Friars Minor of the Same Province 1618-1761’, ed. R Trappes-Lomax, Catholic Record Society, Vol. 24, 1922

Conceptionists Paris: also known as Blue Nuns

These are linked to Franciscans

Printed Sources giving abbreviations

PB: Profession Book,
BD: Book of the Dead,
Ann: Annals of the Community,
To be found in; ‘The Diary of the Blue Nuns…1658-1810’, eds. J Gillow and R Trappes-Lomax, Catholic Record Society, Vol. 8, 1910
Daumet : G Daumet, ‘Notices sur les établissements religieux anglais, écossais et irlandais fondés à Paris avant la Révolution’, Mémoires de la Société de l’histoire de Paris et de l’Ile-de-France”, T. XXXVII, 1910 et XXXIX, 1912

Poor Clares Aire

Sources giving abbreviations

Register: with Monastery of the Poor Clares, Much Birch, Herefordshire

Poor Clares Dunkirk

Sources giving abbreviations

Ob followed by page number; Registers of the Poor Clares (1652-1807) Dunkirk at Ushaw: another copy with the Monastery of the Poor Clares, Much Birch, Herefordshire
BB Y followed by a number; Bruges, Diocesan Archives, Bishopric of Ypres, Examinations

Poor Clares Gravelines

Sources giving abbreviations

chr: MS Chronicle of Gravelines
Gravelines Profession Book small incomplete notebook with Poor Clares, Much Birch
pb: ‘Registers of the English Poor Clares Gravelines etc’, contributed by W M Hunnybun, annotated by J Gillow, Catholic Record Society, Misc. IX, Vol. 14, 1914

Poor Clares, Rouen

Sources giving abbreviations

R chron I, II, III followed by page number: MS Chronicle Vol I 1644-1701: Vol II 1701-1780: Vol III French Revolution to 1857, with the Monastery of the Poor Clares, Much Birch, Herefordshire
Profession and Clothing Register 1756-1776, with the Monastery of the Poor Clares, Much Birch, Herefordshire
Obits: Rouen Register 1647-1779, with the Monastery of the Poor Clares, Much Birch, Herefordshire
Prof book: Profession Book –List of Sisters Professed, with the Monastery of the Poor Clares, Much Birch, Herefordshire
ADSM-G: Examinations in Archives Departementales Seine Maritime, Rouen [eighteenth century]
Forster I followed by page number = Forster, Ann C. M., ‘The Chronicles of the English Poor Clares of Rouen-I’, Recusant History, XVIII (1986-7), 59-102
Forster II followed by page number = Forster, Ann C.M., ‘The Chronicles of the English Poor Clares of Rouen-II’, Recusant History, 18/2 (Oct 1986), 149-191

Mary Ward Sisters

Sources giving abbreviations

We are particularly grateful to Sister Ursula Dirmeier and to Sister Christina Kenworthy-Browne of the Congregation of Jesus who carried out extensive searches on our behalf when the archives were closed.

Mary Ward Lists: data supplied by Sister Ursula Dirmeier
CR: Convent Research carried out by members of the community at the Bar Convent, York; Munich and Augsburg
mbm: Old Munich Book of Members
Printed Sources
biog dic: Kirkus, M. Gregory (ed.), An I B VM Biographical Dictionary of English Members and Major Benefactors 1667-2000, Vol. 78, Catholic Record Society, 2001
companions: Kirkus, M. Gregory, The Companions of Mary Ward, Strasbourg, Editions du Signe, 2009
crs 4: ‘The Nuns of the Institute of Mary at York 1677-1825’, Catholic Record Society, Misc. IV, Vol. 4, 1907
Mary Ward Texts: Christina Kenworthy-Browne CJ, ed., Mary Ward, 1585-1645. A Briefe Relation with Autobiographical Fragments and a Selection of Letters, CRS, Vol. 81. Woodbridge, Boydell, 2008.
Dirmeier, Ursula CJ, ed., Mary Ward und ihre Gründung. Die Quellentexte bis 1645, 4 Vols. Münster, Aschendorff Verlag, 2007

Sepulchrines Liège

Sources giving abbreviations

Register of examinations for clothing and profession of members 1642-1888: microfilm held at Essex Record Office, Chelmsford; T/b 165/73
MS Chapter Book: refers to the section at the back of the Chapter Book which was not included when the document was published in the CRS volume. It includes details of sisters who were discussed in Chapter but who then decided to leave.
MS in Box D1, Notes on Liège Nuns: MS held by the Sepulchrines in Colchester
Additional data derived from lists prepared by the nuns.
Printed sources Chap: ‘Chapter Book’ published as part of the ‘Records of the English Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre at Liège CRSS’, contributed by Mother Prioress of New Hall, and ed. R Trappes-Lomax, Catholic Record Society, Misc. X, 1915
Deaths are recorded in the Dead Book Records pp. 88-102
History: History of the New Hall Community, originally published 1899: reprinted at Sint-Kruis (Brugge) in 1997.

Data Sources

Since profession records have not survived for some convents and others did not record names of parents it was essential to draw on a range of other sources in print and on-line in order to supplement what was known from convent and ecclesiastical records. These are discussed below.

Additional Sources used across more than one convent:

Bib dict: Joseph Gillow, A Literary and Biographical History, or Bibliographical Dictionary, of the English Catholics from the Breach with Rome, in 1534, to the Present Time, 5 Vols., London, Burns & Oates, 1885

English Catholic Non-Jurors of 1715: Escourt, Edgar and Payne, John Orlebar, eds., The English Catholic Non-Jurors of 1715 being a Summary of the Register of their Estates, with genealogical and other notes and an appendix of unpublished documents in the Public Record Office, London and New York, Burns & Oates, n.d.

Foley: Foley, Henry, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus : historic facts illustrative of the labours and sufferings of its members in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 7 vols., 1875-1883

Stirnet: This website is constantly developing its databases: we have used their data to fill in some parents where we have been able to verify it from another source. Where our data disagrees with theirs, comments are included in the Notes field. Supplementary sources for family affiliation

As far as possible, all information is taken from convent sources. However, as explained above the sources are sometimes wanting and crucial information regarding family affiliation has been provided instead by modern commentators, starting with nineteenth-century writers such as Gillow and Foley. These are only accepted as authoritative enough for data to be entered in the parents name fields if they can be backed by primary material; if not, they are noted in the Notes field as possible or suggested. Supplementary primary material is often supplied from the numerous Visitations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or from the manorial histories compiled by antiquarians, such as Blomefield’s History of Norfolk, Thoroton’s History of Nottinghamshire, and Surtees, History and Antiquities of Durham, and the more recent Victoria County Histories, which are very well-referenced. Much of this material is available online, as is a lot of detailed private genealogical work. URLs are given in the Note field where appropriate, but the continued viability of the link cannot be guaranteed. Visitations can be very useful, but their use is occasionally problematic. Wherever possible, more direct primary sources, such as wills, or family records deposited in local Record Offices, are preferred. Full references to such supplementary material used to add parent information to the main data sheet are supplied in the Notes field.

For further information on how the family material has been approached, see the accompanying Family History document.