Assessing the genealogical value of a potential new source: the value of the Equitable Life Assurance Society archives, 1762–1835


  • Elizabeth Bowsher Independent researcher



The archives of the Equitable Life Assurance Society (1762−1835) at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, London, contain policy records which include date and place of birth and occupational information. These records predate the creation of the General Register Office and were created at a time when personal records tended to be scarce. The research question was whether the policy records had a value as a potential genealogical source. Case studies, genealogical standards, archival appraisal criteria and demographic analysis were used to objectively assess the genealogical value of the records. The appraisal considered them from the perspectives as both prima facie genealogical records and as a contextual resource for a genealogical inquiry. The study found that the records had evidential value as a complementary genealogical source. Evaluation suggested that the quality of the records was good in terms of  reliability, consistency with other primary sources and completeness. They also provided information that was not available in other traditional sources. Through case studies it was demonstrated that information about life insurance could bring an additional dimension to the appreciation of people’s lives in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


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