Bankrupt Ancestors in Your Family Tree!

We all know that in today’s new economy people are getting themselves into debt. Worse still, for some, is the prospect of going bankrupt. It may seem that bankruptcy is a modern phenomena, well it isn’t. Getting into debt was also a common problem for our ancestors as well. As we all love a skeleton in the cupboard, just how can we find out if one of our family has had the problem to face back  in the Britain of the past? It would seem that we may be able to find out more online.

In my research into my family tree I remember chancing on some family notes that, on face value, seemed to identify one of my ancestors as having been a partner in a business enterprise that had failed. To start with I had had no inkling that my forebear, in question, had even been a merchant, so to learn that his enterprise had eventually hit the rocks was an interesting nugget of information in itself. As a bookseller, myself, and having read the Charles Dickins novel called Little Dorrit, which you will no doubt know is set in within a debtor’s prison, I wanted to find out if my own ancestor had faced being declared bankrupt.

In England, Bankruptcy goes all the way back to a statute of Henry VIII in 1542. The 1571 Bankruptcy Act brought about the idea that a bankrupt person would be able to settle their debts, by distributing what remaining assets they had, through independent commissioners. Up until 1705  the unfortunate debtor could never be discharged from bankruptcy and so the stigma would remain with them for ever!

Legally, Bankruptcy is a process in which a court official assumes charge of a qualifying debtor’s property so that a distribution can be made to the creditors of the debtor in a proportion to the sum that they are owed.

Only in the year 1869 was it that individuals who were not undertaking a business  of some sorts were able to become bankrupt. Before this date, ordinary people were known as being insolvent instead. These souls faced being sent to debtor’s prison and were not released until they had found a way to pay off their creditors. Bankruptcy, as such, applied strictly to people who were traders, that is those who bought and sold goods, or who worked some materials into things that they then sold.

District bankruptcy courts were first established outside of London from 1842. Then their jurisdiction passed on in 1869 to the County Courts. In the capital city the London Court of Bankruptcy was set up in 1869, before being absorbed into the High Court of Justice in 1883. Should you wish to find details of what’s available for you to search then I recommend taking a look at Access to Archives at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/

Independent assessors, known as Commissioners, would determine if a debtor was eligible for bankruptcy or not. If they were satisfied that bankruptcy could take place, then they would publish a notice in the London Gazette declaring the debtor bankrupt. Also posted would be a list of potential creditors along with the dates set for meetings. The London Gazette’s archives are easily searched today on-line at www.london-gazette.co.uk. This is a fantastic resource  for any family historian hot on the trail of a bankruptcy. You are able to search the archives by date and name, then view a pdf image of the pages that your results have found. The London Gazette has been published since 1665 with a regular publication of bankruptcies stretching back to 1684 and also 1712 for insolvent debtors. Scottish notices can be found in the Edinburgh Gazette at : www.edinburgh-gazzette.co.uk

Family historians can locate case files for English bankruptcies at The National Archives in Kew, while Scottish sequestrations are to be found at The National Archives of Scotland. Unfortunately, for us, the majority of case files for England have not survived, but those that have are indexed on TNA’s online catalogue.

Other resources to consider are journals that published similar notices to the gazettes. These will include The Times; The Gentleman’s Magazine; Perry’s Bankrupt & Insolvent Gazette (1828-1861) and Perry’s Bankrupt Weekly Gazette (1862-1881). If you are looking for notices of bankruptcies in the County Court, then you will probably need to turn to local newspapers for the area in question. The British Library would be the place to look for these. Now we are also able to search contents of newspapers at http://newspapers.bl.uk/blcs.

Insolvent ancestors can be an interesting topic of research. Remember, however, that their hardship carried much more stigma than it does today. In modern times we can go into debt, declare ourselves bankrupt, or wipe out a huge chunk of our debt with the alternative Individual Voluntary Arrangement IVA. And yet none of us lives in the fear of being incarcerated in the debtor’s prison in the 21st century.

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Military Records in Family Tree Research

With Remembrance Sunday just passed yesterday, I guess many of you may have turned your minds, like I did, to where can we find our ancestors who fought in the wars and conflicts that have taken place.

It seems, rather sadly, that it is easier to find records for British service personnel that died in action than the survivors. There is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, local war memorials and rolls of honour, local newspaper archives amongst other places to find “The Glorious Dead”.

If, like me, you had a father who served in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War, then you can find the details of merchant seamen’s medal cards at the National Archives documents online.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/seamens-medals.asp

The official journals of the the British Government, the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes are great places to start looking for promotions, awards of gallantry medals and honours and the details of the commissioning and promotions of officers in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

Service Records are more difficult to find. A large number of WWI records have been lost to bombing in the Second World War, but as officer’s records were not stored in the same place, you have a better chance of uncovering these. To find a soldier requires the researcher to know the regiment and service number of their ancestor. A tip I read in the Your Family Tree Magazine last month  (Issue 96 November 2010) was that as most service men were awarded at least one medal then the name indexes to the medal rolls are a good place to start researching.


Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.

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Very Helpful Details On How To Access Death Records

Many people often wonder about their family genealogies or about what may have happened to certain people who they were once close to. However, they rarely do anything to find out that information. In some cases, public death records may hold the answers that people are looking for and this article can tell you all about them.

Gaining access to someone’s death certificate may provide you with the information that is required for making a family tree. Additionally, these records can provide you with information that can help you understand what happened to someone who you were close to.

Today, these records can hold a wealth of information about the person who has passed on. You can find out what their recorded cause of death was, who they were married to, and when they were married. You can also find out if they had any children, who the next of kin is, and what they did for a living.

It is possible to get these records by contacting the appropriate state department. However, getting an answer can take a long time and they may only have access to their records, rather than the records for the whole country. It may be better to use an online service instead.

Prior to using a Web service, you should research it to find out how accurate their results are. Unfortunately, all services have not been created equally, so it is important to not spend any money until you’re sure that you’ll be getting the information you require.

To find out which online USA death records service is best for you, you should look for online reviews and specifically search for complaints or class actions that were filed against the company. If you find that a Web service has tons of complaints, you should avoid it.

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North American Family History

Those family historians, who are researching their family trees back before the start of the census collections in North America, will be aware that they have to find some alternative records sets to find their ancestors. So what suggestions can we make?

Luckily I was reading up on this subject in last month’s Your Family Tree Magazine.. Issue 96 November 2010.

The article points out that first nominal census took place in 1850 in the USA and 1851 in Canada and so for those of you trying to find ancestors from before these census took place, then the best option available to you is to use the tax records.

What you are quickly going to find is that mostly only adult males are going to be listed in these records. Questions to consider are what age did a person have to be to be included in the poll tax and also what type of property were subject to tax? Best advice is to check out the relevant government regulations so that you can interpret accurately what the data is revealing.

Regretfully there are very few records of these taxes online, but Cyndi’s list is a good place to find links when they exist. www.cyndislist.com

Here you should find links to Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.

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