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.
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.
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."
Foster died in London aged 61, at his home in St John's Wood, and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery.
Foster's publications include the following:
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Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900 is a biographical register of former members of the University of Cambridge which was edited by the mathematician John Venn (1834–1923) and his son John Archibald Venn (1883–1958) and published by Cambridge University Press in ten volumes between 1922 and 1953. Over 130,000 individuals are covered, with more extended biographical detail provided for post-1751 matriculants.
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