About the Obituaries

A little history...

Historians and Family Historians will welcome having a fully searchable index of obituaries from Unitarian periodicals. The index provides a guide to dates of death as well as an index to the location of death notices and fuller biographical accounts. The source of the obituaries are mainly from the following journals:

  • The Inquirer (from which we still index obituaries today).
  • The Christian Life
  • The Monthly Repository

about the index

The index of obituaries was created by Betty Johnston and has always been referred to as the Johnston index.

She began work on her index as result of volunteering to help in the College Library. The Principal, the Reverend Harry Short, suggested an index to obituaries published in Unitarian journals would be useful. In a period of about 20 years she indexed the obituaries in all the main nineteenth and twentieth century Unitarian journals. Although they include obituaries of the leading Unitarians, as well as many who were more obscure, they also include some of the great and the good who were not Unitarians. The obituary of the first Duke of Wellington provides a fascinating insight into Unitarian opinions of the ‘Iron Duke.’

Elizabeth Caroline Johnston, though always Betty to her family and friends, was the daughter of Herbert Gimson and Olga Oakeshott and the wife of Colin Johnston, an ETN consultant at Swindon. She and her parents were lifelong members of Essex Unitarian Church in Kensington. Betty was also a member of the Swindon Unitarian Fellowship and the Chapel Society of Harris Manchester College, Oxford. She was a serving member of the College Council from 1971 - 1985 before the College was incorporated as a College into the University of Oxford.

history of the index

The index has existed as a paper based catalogue in the Library of Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

It was kept in the Library to compliment the collection on Unitarianism and the history of Protestant dissent that forms the special collection of that Library.

In early 2003 an Access database of the index was created with the intention of releasing it as a CD that individuals could purchase. We were overtaken by technology and thus the website was created.

Betty would no doubt have been surprised to learn how much use has already been made of her index. She would have been even more amazed to learn how it has been made available on the web.

We would like to thank the Dr Williams’s Library in London and the Manchester Academy Trust for their donations towards the development of the project. We would also like to acknowledge the unfailing encouragement of Alan Ruston without whom this project would not have succeeded.