In Percival Boyd's day, Boyd's Inhabitants of London was known as his Citizens of London and it appears as such in older reference works. Anthony Camp, former Director of the Society of Genealogists, urged the change of name to Inhabitants of London since not all of the people indexed were citizens in the strict sense of being Freemen of the City. All are, however, residents of London even if not born there.
The appearance of the first index volume to the Inhabitants of London was announced in the Genealogists' Magazine in March 1939 (vol. 8, p 280); this was followed by a further 237 volumes. In March 1944 an article entitled London citizens by John Beach Whitmore appeared, which discussed Boyd's collection in detail. The collection includes 60,000 handwritten sheets, each dealing with a single family.
Percival Boyd continued his work on Boyd's Inhabitants of London with a further, identically formatted set of records covering families from all of the British Isles and abroad. This set of records, Boyd's Family Units, contains just over 10,000 hand-written sheets, each dealing with a single family. His introduction to the first (of 34) volumes states that that 'this ... volume consists almost entirely of:
the families of members of the Drapers Company of London
Family Bibles from Vol.XII of Crisps Fragmenta Genealogica.
He felt that 'It should be possible to amplify many of these sheets as the years go by.' Sadly, perhaps, this did not happen, but what Percival Boyd and his collaborators have left is a further exceptionally rich source for the family historian. The subsequent volumes used a very wide variety of sources, though these are only occasionally mentioned on the sheets, and then usually only on the sheets completed by Boyd himself quite a large proportion of the Family Units are in hands other than Boyd's.
On average, a Family Units sheet contains the names of over 12 people though like the Inhabitants of London sheets, this number varies greatly. The index to the Family Units (which is combined with that for the Inhabitants of London) contains the names of over 137,000 people, and covers the period 16th to early 20th centuries.
In contrast to the Inhabitants of London, the geographic coverage of the Family Units is very wide: while the majority of families are from within England, there are many from Scotland, the USA, Ireland, Australia, Canada, South Africa and elsewhere. The families overseas generally have strong links to places in England. There are often large sequences of records from specific counties; Yorkshire seems to have a particularly large number of records.
A large proportion around a third of the families in Boyd's Family Units are London-based. For this reason, coupled with the identical structure of the Family Units and the Inhabitants of London sheets, we decided to combine the index to the Family Units with that for the Inhabitants of London. The combined index contains the names of well over half a million people.
The family sheets themselves are self explanatory.
The box (the 'Subject Box') at the top right of the sheet gives surname, Christian name, marriage date (or an estimate: one year before the baptism of the first known child). Occasionally the date section is divided in two vertically with a date in the right hand half and this is usually the date of his will.
There are spaces provided in the sheet for:
The man's name and place of residence
The names and origins of his parents and maternal grandparents
Dates and places of his birth, marriage, death and burial
Details of his wife her name, origin, parentage and dates and places of birth and death
His education, profession, livery company and his will
His children and their dates of birth, marriage and death and names of their spouses
Boyd's Inhabitants of London and Boyd's Family Units form a collection of 70,000 handwritten sheets each containing details of a London family, mostly covering the period of 16th to 18th centuries though extending from the 13th until well into the 20th centuries.
Boyd's Family Units was intended as an extension to the 60,000 Inhabitants of London sheets, but covering a much wider geographical area. In fact about a third of the 10,000 Family Units sheets also relate to London families so the two sets have been united with a single index, which contains the names of over half a million people.
Compiled by Percival Boyd from a miscellany of sources, these extraordinary sheets are one of the Society of Genealogists' most valuable holdings, and provide one of the key sources for researchers into London families.
Each sheet is based upon a man who in the case of the Inhabitants of London was usually, but not always, a citizen of London. A sheet typically shows as a minimum the name of the man, the parish where he lived in London, and the date of his marriage. Many sheets show far more information, however, which can include: names of father and mother: names of mother's parents: wife's name and place she was living at the time of marriage; date and place of birth; date and place of death; date and place of marriage; notes on education and occupation; a note regarding the person's will; children's names, dates of birth/baptism, marriage and to whom.
The Family Units sheets can be based on a man from almost anywhere in the world, but who had close links to Britain. There are many families for the USA, from all parts of the British Isles Scotland and Ireland as well as all over England and Wales, and all over the former British Empire. Because of the wide geographic and long time period covered by these collections, they should be searched by every researcher whose family is linked to the UK, wherever the family settled.
On average an Inhabitants of London sheet contains the names of six to seven people; the Family Units sheets contain on average the names of over 12 people. Well over half a million names appearing in the sheets are included in the person index, so you can search on a person's name, and optionally a year, and then view the pages containing references to that person. If you are lucky, you may then find information on a dozen or more other people related by blood or marriage to the one you searched for.
The wide geographic range and period covered by Boyd's Inhabitants of London and Family Units make these records a 'must search' for all family historians, regardless of where you think your ancestors came from.