Cokayne, but on searching the register for the purpose he was impressed so forcibly by its value that he resolved, then and there, to make a transcript of the earlier portion. It was while engaged on this herculean task that he thus wrote to the editor of The New England Historic Genealogical Register.
'I have been very hard at work here day and night. I am making a complete copy of the Matriculation Registers of the University from 1564 to 1750, permission having been kindly afforded me. There will be more than one hundred thousand entries, names, parentage, residence, age, etc. It will be invaluable, as such a list will never be printed. I have already identified members of our early New England families, and among other things settled the ancestry of the famous Anne Hutchinson, as well as completed my chain of evidence, disproving the Washington pedigree.'
By an ungrudging expenditure of time and labour, and with the pecuniary aid — it is only fair to add — of his friend and executor, G. E. Cokayne, Esq., of Exeter College, M.A., now Norroy King of Arms, his transcript was eventually completed to the end of 1869, each entry being duly verified by the 'subscription' of each student and then arranged in alphabetical order. It is this monument of patient labour that forms the basis of the present work. Of the value of this splendid transcript as a perfect working text, it is scarcely needful to speak. It proceeds from the unerring hand of the prince of modern genealogists, of whom it has been observed with truth that
'The accuracy of his researches was beyond question…. A flaw in the correctness of his statements made him wear sackcloth for days'!
One of the only two copies of this priceless MS. was acquired by me not long after Colonel Chester's death, with the hope that I might be able some day to render it accessible to the student. In the meanwhile, by the courtesy of Dr. Jowett, at that time Vice-Chancellor, I was allowed to complete Colonel Chester's work by continuing his transcript down to the end of the year 1886.
Having further been allowed by the Keeper of the Archives to extract all the names and particulars relative to Incorporators, as well as honorary and nominal members, since Antony à Wood made his useful transcripts (1666) down to 1850, I then proceeded to transcribe à Wood's list of degrees conferred 1505 to 1660; and lastly, to compile from the University calendars a list of degrees conferred since 1850. Having acquired this information, and arranged it in alphabetical order, I then proceeded to assign the degrees to the relative matriculation entry, including those published by the University in their 'Catalogue of all Graduates,' 1659-1850, a very pitfall — even for the wary — quite irrespective of the Welsh names, in which even the Principal of Jesus College has been unable to assist.
It was in consequence of these additions to the Matriculation Register that I adopted for my work, at the suggestion of the Provost of Queen's College, the more comprehensive title— 'Alumni Oxonienses.'
Having thus completed the Matriculation Register down to the present time, and incorporated with it my list of Graduates, I proceeded to the work of annotation. But annotation is a notorious snare for the editors of such records as these, and unless it is kept within a very narrow compass, and its limits rigorously defined, the publication of a register on so vast a scale might be deferred till the Greek Kalends. Many a biographical enterprise has come to an untimely end from having been originally begun upon too ambitious a plan. Warned by the fate of these attempts, I resolved that I would not be led astray in pursuit of a vague ideal at the risk of indefinitely postponing the completion of my work. Bis dat qui cito dat is a maxim which specially applies to an undertaking of this character, and it forms an essential feature of my work, that I am enabled to place it in the hands of the public with a rapidity which is, perhaps, without parallel, and with which no rival scheme can attempt to compete.
I decided, therefore, to restrict to living persons only my notes of identification; but as I got my material for this purpose well in hand the charm of the work increased, and I was led on gradually to widen the radius of annotation, with the result that in the later pages of this volume the deaths of clergymen during the present century, together with the livings they held, have, it will be found, been worked in from the Gentleman's Magazine. In like
- See his biography in 'London Marriage Licences, 1529–1869.' Memorial edition by J. Foster (1887).
- Colonel Chester declined to print this transcript, even at the solicitation of his friend the late Dr. Griffiths, Keeper of the Archives.