Why Can’t I Find My Ancestor?

If, like me, you have searched for hours and hours trying to find an ancestor’s birth, marriage or death with no luck and you begun to wonder if it is something that you have been doing wrong; then just consider the following list. It was one that I was introduced to when I did a genealogy course with the on-line specialist Pharos Tutors and I commend you to take its suggestions to heart.

  • Is It The Wrong District – are you looking in the one that you assume your ancestor should have been registered in? Think about looking in neighbouring districts as your forebears may be found there instead. You may not know, as I didn’t, that the early registrars for districts were paid by results and that it was they who were responsible for gathering the information! Later on the responsibility was transferred to the public to register their births, marriages and deaths for their relatives.
  • Looking in the Wrong Year. You may have been given the ‘received wisdom’ that your great-great grandfather was born in a particular year. Did you know that professional probate researchers, these are people that give evidence in court cases, will look for a person up to 100 years of age when searching for a death.  Also they will normally look for a woman’s marriage right they way up to the age of 100! When looking for a birth they will search for up to 25years after the marriage for the birth of a child. We need to also keep in mind that some people may marry several years after a child was born.
  • Wrong Name – Could you be looking for the middle name instead of the first? Many people are known by a second name rather than their first so a John Alan Smith may have been called Alan Smith all his life. His name may have been spelt Allan, or Alun so keep a watch out for spelling variations. Be aware that people may have been mis- indexed or their names spelt differently. Also they may have reverted to a previous name after the collapse of a marriage.
  • Family Stories – that send you off on a wild goose chase like looking for the handsome Irishman in one branch of my family when all the ancestors seem to be from Devon, with the exception of a small bit of Cornish that crept into my bloodline.
  • Inconsistent Searching. Not recording what you have already done. Now I know that many of us may hold our hands up to this!
  • Simply your ancestor was not registered. This may occur especially in the early years after the introduction of civil registration in 1875 but should be more rare after 1875. In between 1837 and 1875 some districts were under registered.

    I hope this helps some of you, it certainly has for me as I have some elusive forebears whom I am still trying to locate using Ancestry and the excellent FreeBMD on the Internet. I had lost my way until I did the course and realised that I should think around the problem more than homing in on what and where I thought these ancestors should be.

Send to Kindle

Everybody Has a Story to Tell

Pioneer Transcription Services is now offering oral history transcription services to people who wish to conserve the stories of their family members. The business has been transcribing oral histories for historians, authors and professional companies for almost  20 years. The emphasis on providing this service directly to people who want to preserve their families’ stories came about when one of the company’s  owners, Deborah Devitt, inherited a cassette tape her parents had made many years previously with her paternal grandmother. Unfortunately , the cassette tape had deteriorated over the years and there was never a transcript created. While the company created a digital audio file and transcribed the interview before more deterioration could occur, “I don’t want others to lose the stories that are important to their families,” Ms. Devitt states.

Individuals are conducting interviews with all kinds of different relatives from grandparents, to great aunts and uncles, to cousins, to brothers and sisters, et cetera.

Digital recorders are now very sensibly priced, which allows more individuals to record their families’ stories. These digital audio files can be easily shared with other family members and won’t deteriorate over time. Many people are setting up interviews with their relatives, using questions they’ve found on the internet or that they come up with on their own.

Pioneer Transcription Services realized there is a growing desire to have written transcripts of these interviews. “Our service is easy to utilize and accessible to everyone,” states Ms. Devitt. “A direct link for upload is right on our website.” Once uploaded clients just wait for their transcript to be returned to them. They are then able to share the transcript with other family members and friends or to use it in any way they deem proper. “Plus, these are our favorite things in the world to transcribe, ” added Ms. Devitt.

Send to Kindle

Step-mothers and half-sisters…

Ancestral Trails-The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family HistoryI really recommend that you read Mark Herber’s book Ancestral Trails, if you haven’t already. I was looking again at the first chapter in what is one of the best books on United Kingdom Ancestry and Genealogy there is.

This really is a wonderful book with much help for genealogical researchers and includes a brilliant section on understanding family relationships.

What? Is Nick telling us about some sort of self-help publication aimed at men and women going through a bad patch in their relationships? No, this tome has some useful things to say about the different phrases such as: stepfather/mother; half-brother/sister and so on.  Herber tells us, in simple terms, that the term “step” denotes that there is simply no blood connection connecting the parties and so the only sort of connection is going to be through marriage. “Half” is actually something different again. This is where the actual people share but one mother or father in common.

Now, because I have a stepmother, a half-sister and I also once had a step-grandfather, until he passed away, on my mother’s side, I am acutely aware of these terms. So, while all these relationships are inescapable fact, I shudder to myself as soon as I see these somewhat cold terms used to identify people whom I love dearly. It seems to me that, in using these prefixes, that I may be accused of trying to distance myself from these members of my family for some reason. Well I’d like to say here and now that this is far from the truth when it comes to my close family step, half or what ever they may be. When we are noting down our Family history, however, we sometimes have to be very precise in explaining a relationship to someone and so detail exactly how and where a person fits into our family tree. None more difficult than when we are confronted with illegitimacy in our lines.

Maybe in the twentieth century, to be born to parents who are unmarried carries little stigma, in the past it was a very different story; thus it ought to be handled sensitively whenever addressing loved ones of a different generation.

Returning to this chapter, provided by Mark Herber’s handbook, I was amused to realise that I had forgotten about defining cousins relationships. Whilst attending a family marriage, a few years back, I was introduced by Jenny, my first-cousin-once-removed to one of her friends of her own age group. Jenny said that I was her “Mum’s cousin” and in this she turned out to be wholly correct in this explanation of how we were related. As Herber pronounces: “Relationships involving cousins are more complex. Cousins are usually people who share an actual common ancestor… The offspring of a pair of siblings happen to be “first” cousins of each other. All the offspring of two first cousins are “second” cousins of each other and so on.”

Okay so far, but then we move on to deal with completely different generations. The word we utilise to be able to denote this is “removed” hence my first cousin’s daughter is my cousin once removed. As soon as she had a child it became my first cousin twice removed. We need to determine the number of intervening generations between ourselves and the particular common ancestor and utilize that number prior to the word “removed”. Now at this point comes the bit that I had forgotten!

“The concept “removed” is generally only used to express relationships down a family tree.” Therefore this had been precisely why Jenny, my first cousin once removed, as a child of my first cousin Julie is accurate as soon as she referred to me as her “mum’s cousin”

At this point closes the pedant’s lesson for today! 🙂

Mark Herber’s book Ancestral Trails obtainable from most good bookstores.

Send to Kindle

Findmypast.co.uk Adds Remaining Missing Pieces of the 1901 Census

I see that the final missing pieces of the 1901 census have been added to the family history website: findmypast.co.uk

Their press release from yesterday, 1 July 2010, says:

“We’ve unearthed the last 18,427 missing pieces of the 1901 census which means that it’s now complete on findmypast.co.uk”

This is great news if previously you could’t find an ancestor in that census. The details of which new records you can now find on their website are as follows:

Search the 1901 census for your ancestors today.




Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.

Send to Kindle