Ancestry have just released their collection “UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963″. This sits beautifully alongside Cheshire Archives and Local Studies’ index to the Crewe Locomotive Works staff registers (see option “Crewe railway works, c1890-1928” on the Cheshire Archives Search Databases page) and means that people with relatives who worked in “The Works” before about 1928 have a fighting chance of seeing some details about them.
However, I believe that not everything that survived has been digitised and we know that not everything survived. Also, some of you may begin to wonder why your relative appears in three or four different books. On the basis that understanding the records is the first step, then read on…
This post and the next, are about the staff registers and related documents from the Crewe Locomotive Works (a.k.a. “The Works” – no qualification was necessary in the town) of the London & North Western Railway Company (LNWR), later the London Midland & Scottish Railway Company (LMS).
The core of the staff registers are a series of books that are spread between Cheshire Record Office at Chester and The National Archive at Kew. The Chester books have an online index (see option “Crewe railway works, c1890-1928” on the Cheshire Archives Search Databases page) and can be accessed on microfilm at Chester – original document references NPR 7101/1 to 7101/15. The Kew books have to be accessed in hard-copy at Kew – references RAIL 410/2213 to 2222.
These staff registers have one page per employee and include details of name, grade, foreman, date of appointment, age, works number(s), plus remarks on career progress, accidents and injuries, disciplinary matters etc. From 1893, most entries include a record of previous employment or references. Entries on each record can continue to c1928, which seems to be when the LMS introduced a card-based system for employee records.
The surviving registers were started about 1890, with alphabetical registers of all Works staff in post at that date. Once the existing staff had been written up, then all new entrants were entered into the registers in chronological order of date-entered-service. You may wonder how, in pre-computer days, the Crewe Works staff clerks found anyone’s record again. Hold on to that thought, I’ll come back to in the next post.
These registers are lettered on the spine and Chester’s documentation noted that “It is clear from the lettering on the spines that at least volumes “A”, “F”, “L”, “M” and “N” are missing.” In fact, it turns out that some of the missing volumes (“M” and “N”) are part of the Kew collection, which also adds in later letters of the alphabet. When I put the Chester and Kew documentation alongside, it looks like the following volumes are still missing – presumably permanently:
- “A” – Surnames A-Ch from the alphabetic list of c1890;
- “F” – Surnames Sh-Wh from the alphabetic list of c1890;
- “L” – new entrants in chronological order 1897-1900;
- “Q” – new entrants late 1902-1904?;
- “Y” – new entrants c1914-1918?;
Some of the other documentation – yet to be mentioned – may help to fill in some of these gaps.
The situation around the time of the First World War and after is confused. Chester’s documentation claimed that volumes “A1” and “A2” include an alphabetic list of staff appointed during the First World War, before reverting to new entrants in chronological order. However, volume “Z” at Kew contains new entrants for March 1918 to June 1923, overlapping some of the Chester volumes by date but without duplicating those few entries I checked. Whether the Crewe staff had a secret formula for whether to put a new entrant in volume “Z” or “A2”, I don’t know.
To summarise so far:
- the core of the Crewe Works staff registers are a series of books with one page per employee;
- they cover staff employed there from about 1890 to about 1928;
- after the initial write-up, the registers are in chronological order of date-entered-service;
- surviving volumes can be accessed in hard-copy at Kew or on microfilm at Chester;
- an online index exists for the Chester data;
- there are missing volumes;
- the era of the First World War and after is confused and we could be underestimating the number of missing volumes there.