Joseph Foster (genealogist)

Joseph Foster (9 March 1844 29 July 1905) was an English genealogist whose transcriptions of records held by the Inns of Court and the University of Oxford are still important historical resources.

Life and career

Foster was born in Sunniside, Sunderland, and developed an interest in genealogy at an early age. He worked initially as a printer in London but undertook genealogical research as well, becoming friends with several heralds of arms during his life. His first publication, in 1862, was on his Quaker ancestry. He followed this with research into the histories of various families from the north of England.[1]

His major works, still used by historians, were transcriptions of the admission registers of the Inns of Court (published in 1885 as Men at the Bar) and of the matriculation registers of the University of Oxford for the period 1500 to 1886 (published as Alumni Oxonienses). This latter work was marked by the award of an honorary MA degree by the University in 1892. It has been said of Foster that he was "no scholarly antiquary, but his energy as a transcriber and collector of genealogical and heraldic data has few parallels, and many of his publications remained classic resources, several of permanent value."[1]

Foster died in London, at his home in St John's Wood, and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery.[1]


Foster's publications include the following:[1]

  • Some Account of the Pedigree of the Forsters of Cold Hesledon, Co. Durham (1862)
  • The King of Arms (1871)
  • A Pedigree of the Forsters and Fosters of the North of England, and of some of the families connected with them (1871)
  • Lancashire County Families (1873)
  • Yorkshire County Families (3 volumes) (1874)
  • (editor) Visitations of Yorkshire by Robert Glover (1875)
  • (with Edward Bellasis) Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage (1879)
  • Men at the Bar (1885)
  • London Marriage Licences (15211869) (1887)
  • Alumni Oxonienses (17151886) (4 volumes) (1887)
  • The register of admissions to Gray's Inn (15571859), together with … marriages in Gray's Inn Chapel (1889)
  • Index ecclesiasticus, or, Alphabetical lists of all ecclesiastical dignitaries in England and Wales since the Reformation (1890)
  • Alumni Oxonienses (15001714) (4 volumes) (1891)
  • Pease of Darlington (1891)
  • Oxford Men and their Colleges (1893)
  • Concerning the Beginnings … of Heraldry as Related to untitled Persons (1887)
  • Some Feudal Coats of Arms (1902)


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