Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE 2011

Well, that was a great weekend!

You have probably guessed that I spent much of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia. I got to take in some informative workshops, talk to many like minded family historians and even interview a few people on the stands for a forthcoming video section of this blog.

But who and what I gleaned will have to wait as Murphy’s Law struck and the laptop that I have been lugging around has played up and is refusing to help me update you.

Just as soon as I can, normal service will be resumed!

Who Do you Think You Are? LIVE 2011
Who Do you Think You Are? LIVE 2011
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Family Tree Research When Ancestors Have Common Names

Are you having trouble finding birth records for family members who have very common names? Have you tried to figure out which ones belong to you and which don’t using the census data but just can’t be sure you have the right people?

Often, when you can’t find records for a person, it can pay to take a step
back and sort of zoom out from concentrating on the one we can’t find.

By this I am suggesting that you take a look at that person’s siblings, if they
have any of course, and identify where theses other children of the parents of your difficult forebear were born. Once you have done this, you may be able to then trace the parents back.

It is worth looking at the census records for the streets around where your ancestor lived as sometimes families occupied houses quite near to each other. Sometimes they can even be living in the same road. Maybe clues can be had from investigating these parallel lines to your direct branch in the family tree.

It could be that you will need to go and search the Parish Registers in the County Record Office, for where your ancestor came from, to see if there are any leads to be had by looking at the microfilmed copies of the parish church records.

I have found that many of my ancestors were simply called John Thorn, which is pretty common in Devon!

I was in luck getting back one generation because my 3 x great-grandfather at least had a middle name of Branton. On doing some delving I found out that this was in fact his mother’s maiden name so I could find his parent’s marriage.

But John Branton Thorn’s father was simply called John Thorn (with no middle name) and he married Sarah Branton in a city centre church in Plymouth. The records that I have seen of the Parish register do not say that he was “of that parish” and indeed omit to say from which parish he was from at all!

I have had to put him on the back burner and concentrate on other lines in my tree, until I can find the time to go to Plymouth and check the primary source of-line records in the Record Office, such as the Bishop’s Transcripts etc.

Good luck in your research into ancestors with common names.

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A List of All Known People Living in Medieval Scotland

I’ve been looking around a fantastic new website called: The Paradox of Medieval Scotland at www.poms.ac.uk

As many of my readers will know I have traced my Scots line back to a Norman called William de Haya or de la Haye who was Pincerna, or butler, to the Scots king, Malcolm IV and William the Lion. Well this academic site from the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and King’s College London, has allowed me to find biographical references to my illustrious ancestor. There are references to gifts of land and to the spelling of his name in medieval documents. For example I find that he is Willelmo de Haia in one document and that Uilliam is another spelling!

I need to spend a good bit more time on this fascinating site where you can search the database for free by people, original source or by ‘factoids’ that is relationships, titles and transactions in which a name is mentioned.

So why is the website called The Paradox of Medieval Scotland? The answer is because of the complexities of the Anglo-Norman and Celtic strands of the emerging Scots identity in those times.

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Getting Back Before 1837 In An English or Welsh Family Tree

Online-Old-Parish-RecordsThere is a large amount of information for family history researchers, tracing their English or Welsh family tree, for the years as far back as 1837 on the web and then nothing! I know that many people, that are researching their Family tree for ancestors from the British Isles, find that they have this problem. As I wrote about, in a previous article on tracing and English family tree before 1837, it seems to become harder for us. 1837 is when civil registration started in England & Wales and the state took over from the established church the registering the citizen’s vital records.

You possibly have been amazed at the ease you had finding those later records of your forebears by using the usual subscription websites. For example the likes of ancestry, or TheGenealogist.co.uk for these dates. Then, however, when you come to trying to get back well before the census records and the government run Births, Deaths and Marriages data, you’ll no doubt have found that it is only a very small number of the total genealogical records, that there are, will have actually make it on to the internet.

So you need to go looking for the old Parish Records and they are usually to be found securely in the relevant County Record office. In a very few cases, however, the incumbent minister of the parish may still have kept hold of them at the parish church. A problem that you need to address from the outset is how do you decide which parish your ancestors would have fallen into? This leads me on to the value of getting hold of Parish maps for the counties that your ancestors lived in. The maps will be of use in not only showing the boundaries of each parish, but also in giving you those of the adjacent parishes as well. Think how useful this may be for tracking those ancestors who tended to move about somewhat!

Gaps can occur in the parish registers because of changes in political regime. One such important example is the English Civil War. Think also about how the politics of raising a tax can be a reason for missing parish records. An example of this was that in 1783 a stamp duty of 3 pence on every entry in the parish registers was imposed by the government of the day on its citizens – although an exemption was if a person was a pauper. As with all taxes people seek ways to evade them and so you won’t be surprised that your ancestors did this as well. What is more they did it with the collusion of many church ministers! You will discover that there is a decline in the number of middle and working class entries of baptisms, marriages and burials at this time. On the other hand there is a corresponding increase in the number of pauper’s entries! The Act, itself, was repealed in 1794 as it had been found to be largely unsuccessful in its aim.

Another Act of Parliament (Rose’s Act) in 1812, required baptisms, marriages and burials to be entered in separate and specially printed books. These books provided for only eight entries per page and required more information to be gathered on the individuals than had been the common practice.

Baptismal entries now had to include the occupation of the child’s Father and the Mother’s maiden name. Marriages, from now on, included the parish of origin of both parties to the wedding, also recorded were their names, if they were a bachelor, spinster, widow, etc., their ages, the parties signatures or marks, and also the marks or signatures of two witnesses.

Entries for burials now included the age, occupation and abode of the departed and between 1678 and 1814 an affidavit had to be sworn that the deceased was buried in wool to help the economy or a fine of £5 was payable.

When looking for marriages you should be aware that they can be solemnised in the Church either by banns, or by licence. Family historians, searching for ancestors will find that banns are recorded in the parish register. The reading of banns is the process where the couple’s intention to marry would be read out on three occasions in the parish churches of both parties and it is this which is recorded for us to find. So if you know the place where the bride-groom lived just prior to his marriage, this record will also give you the information as to the parish of his bride. Normally the wedding is likely to take place a few weeks later and so this gives you a time period to search. Marriage Licences themselves will probably not have survived the years as they were sometimes handed to the couple intending to marry. But fear not, because a search can be made for the marriage licence’s bond, or allegation. This is a document that can give up some useful information for family historians as names of those who stood surety, along with the names of the bride and groom, place of marriage and in some cases the occupations of the sureties and groom are recorded.

These are just some of the documents that you can use to help you get your family tree back beyond 1837 in England & Wales. I have released a useful Audio CD on the subject called Getting Back Before 1837 in England & Wales, have a look at the page on my main website http://www.NoseyGenealogist.com

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