I commend people, who are researching their family trees, to go and join the Family History Societies for the areas where their ancestors came from. Not the least for the help you can get from these knowledgeable folk.
One of my own areas of interest is Devon and so it was, with much pleasure, that I bumped into the party manning the Devon Family History Society’s stall at the recent Who do You Think You Are? LIVE show.
When I say, bumped into them, it was more like they bumped into me; or at least their visitors did and I do mean this quite literally!
You see, I was volunteering for a few hours each day on the Society of Genealogists book stand at the show. Our area backed on to the Devon FHS stall and as a busy group of people, armed with their computers loaded with data to search for show goers, they had many visitors wanting to sit down with them. This meant that the chairs sometimes strayed into Society of Genealogist’s territory and hence the bumps to the back of mine, and others on the SoG bookstall’s legs and rears!
Now, to show that I certainly took it with good grace, I decided to interview the Chairman of Devon Family History Society, Maureen Selley about a certain interesting aspect to our FHS (yes, I declare an interest, I am a member!) and that is the Acorn Club.
Apart from the fantastic data that the society has, some of which it is now licensed to findmypast.co.uk a rare facility is its pages for young family historians.
There are not many places where the contribution you make to property rates is public knowledge, but Jersey is one of them.
In Jersey rates are paid in two parts: one part is paid by the owner of the property (the foncier rate) and the other is by the occupier (mobilier rate). There are sets of rate books in both the Archive and the Coutanche Library covering about a century up to 1965, plus some more recent data as well (ask for Taxation du RÃ¢t)
These arenâ€™t the easiest of documents to use, because the listing is an alphabetical list of ratepayers in each vingtaine (a vingtaine is a subdivision of a parish; the smallest parish (St Mary) has two, while St Helier has seven).
Ideally you need a detailed map of Jersey and a lot of patience â€“ but the listings can be very rewarding. They will indicate whether someone owns a property or not: they can also indicate something about the condition or size of the property (someone paying 5 quartiers of mobilier rates a year is going to be living more modestly than someone paying 20 quartiers a year. Itâ€™s also indicative, at least to some degree, if the person you are researching is not on the list of ratepayers â€“ that would indicate someone who was probably in a shared tenement and fairly low down the pile (because this became a lot less common as slum housing started to be replaced in the 20th century). Some of the parishes also published lists of people with dog and/or gun licences alongside their rates.
The existence of the rates books is also very handy in tying movement down. I knew that my wifeâ€™s family moved from one address to another between the 1891 and 1901 censuses: the fact that they suddenly started paying rates in 1896 or so pinpoints the move more exactly. Equally, my second cousins had a hotel in Grouville, but they disappear from the rate books in about 1905 â€“ only a year after the owner (to whom one of them was married) died.
ScotlandsPeople website has announced that the 1911 census will be available by 11:00 BST on Tuesday 5 April. Images of the enumeration books will be in full colour and for the first time the enumeration includes the particulars of the marriage, the number of children born from the marriage, the industry or service connected to the occupation and the nationality of the person enumerated.
This will mean that we will be able to search all of the United Kingdom for ancestors in the 1911 census records, as Scotland joins those from England & Wales, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man for the first time.
ScotlandsPeople are also planning to make some scanned historic documents available at their website: www.ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk, for example PDF’s of the street index books for the main towns and cities of Scotland, which will show whether a street existed in 1911.
As I mentioned last time, there are occasions where you find something in the BMD indexes and you canâ€™t get to Royal Square in time to see the certificates. But there are two sets of data in the Archive that can help you to nail dates of marriages and deaths down.
The first is what is referred to as the â€œthird copyâ€ of the marriage registers. Individual parishes maintain their own registers and then send copies of the certificates to the Superintendent Registrar to compile the full volumes. However, in between the two the Superintendent Registrar maintains draft registers â€“ and it is this that the Archive now possesses.
To access the draft registers, you need to use the Reference search facility on the OPAC. The collection reference you need is D/E: this will get you to the top of the collection. Reference D/E/B covers the third copy, and you will find that itâ€™s divided into individual collections from specific Church of England churches and general collections of nonconformist and civil marriages from 7 parishes. Itâ€™s not quite a complete set, but the vast majority of material is there and you will find that most of the time there is at least some degree of correlation between the indexes and the draft registers.
The Archive also received a major deposit from a local funeral director the other year, containing records of seven of their predecessor companies, some of which go back to about 1820. Again, youâ€™ll need to use the OPACâ€™s Reference Search, and this time the collection reference is L/A/41. Be aware that for any given period you may have to look at two or three different companiesâ€™ books â€“ but feel free to enlist the help of the volunteer from the Channel Islands Family History Society if you need advice. These records are fascinating, because they will tell you not only who was buried when, but how â€“ the relative spends on funerals vary from parsimonious to lavish â€“ and also who paid for it.
After 1842 registrations of birth marriage and death were made by Jerseyâ€™s twelve civil parishes â€“ a system that carries on to this day. This presents some interesting challenges. Whereas in England records used to be kept by the quarter (meaning you could pin a birth down at least to a year), most Jersey parishes simply run 500- or 1000-entry books for as long as it takes to fill them up. The largest parish in Jersey, St Helier, has (these days) a population of about 30000 and the main hospital – so it fills up a 1000-entry book about every 18 months. The smallest parish, St Mary, has a population of 1500, and takes the better part of a century to fill up a book! The other point with this is that if you donâ€™t know where a birth or death took place, you will have to search twelve indexesâ€¦
The indexing of the books is rudimentary. Entries are added by initial letter of surname in the order in which they are added to the book, with a reference to the relevant page number. And for this purpose a name like Du Feu is indexed under letter F. If you think this is bad, spare a thought for anyone researching the (not uncommon) surname Le Vavasseur dit Durell â€“ which goes under D for Durell.
Marriages present the same problems as births and deaths, but rather more so. In time the civil parishes split their registers into Church of England marriages and those carried out by a registrar â€“ the latter covering registry office, Roman Catholic, Methodist and other religions. And as St Helier grew and new churches were opened to serve outlying areas, these churches also came to the point where they took on their own registration books: so you could need to look at anything up to thirty index books.
There is, however, one case where Jersey practice is much better than English, and thatâ€™s in how we record deaths. Death register entries are made in the name under which the person died and any previous names they were known by, and the indexes include references for all these names. The grandmother of my wifeâ€™s great-aunt died in St Saviour in 1915, and we found an entry in the expected name of Sparkes â€“ but we found three other married names and her maiden name too.
The actual registers are kept by the Superintendent Registrar in an office on the Royal Square in St Helier. The office is open 5 mornings a week â€“ except that as itâ€™s also the civil Registry office, it may be closed if a wedding is taking place. Itâ€™s worth a check in advance if youâ€™re coming from a distance.
I have had two requests this week, from different people, asking me how do they trace a “lost” relative.
I am making an assumption that they are both reasonably certain that the person is still alive. They have probably checked the index to death registers to make sure that this is the case and that the person in question hasn’t passed away.
If you are in this position, but haven’t ascertained if your relative has died then the first thing to do is to take a look at the U.K. Death Record Indexes. These can be found online,Â up to 2005, on sites such as Ancestry.co.uk, TheGenealogist.co.uk and GenesReunited.co.uk ,while FindMyPast.co.uk has them up to 2006.
If you don’t find them in these databases then next you need to search between 2006 and the present. The bad news is that these records are not online. Here is some information published on theÂ direct.gov.uk website that I have copied below for its usefulness if you are not confining yourself to web based research:
“Copies of the indexes can no longer be purchased but a complete set, including â€˜Births, Deaths and Marriages from 1837 â€“ 2008â€™, â€˜Overseas from 1761 â€“ 2008â€™, â€˜Civil Partnerships from 2005 â€“ 2009â€™, â€˜Adoptions from 1927 â€“ 2009â€™, and the provisional indexes for â€˜Births and Deaths from 2009 to June 2010′,Â are available at:
Manchester City Library
Birmingham Central Library
Bridgend Reference and Information Library
Plymouth Central Library
City of Westminster Archives Centre
London Metropolitan Archives
The British Library*
These locations get updates for you to view in person. This is expected to continue until free, online access can be provided.
* Please be aware that customers will need to undertake a pre-registration process. Two forms of identification showing a signature and proof of address will beÂ needed to gain entry into this location.”
So, assuming that you have not found a death, then the next thing I would do is to look at using 192.com. It can be a useful start in tracking down someone still living.
A cousin of mine was able to trace another of our cousins using this site with just the lost person’s names and the fact we knew they had lived in Southampton. It does involve you having to contact several people with the same name to try and rule them out.
Finally, a good guide to tracing living peopleÂ is this one from the British Library.
That great institution, The British Library, is joining up with family history website findmypast.co.uk in a project that I find exciting, as some of my Scots ancestors went out to British India to find their fortunes in the 1860s, while others stayed put in the UK.
What has been announced, by these organisations, is their intention to digitise a veritable treasure trove of family history resources held by the British Library and so making them available to us online and fully searchable for the first time.
To be scanned are the United Kingdom electoral registers that span the century which followed on from the Reform Act of 1832, along with records of baptisms, marriages and burials that have been drawn from the archives of the India Office.
These collections are going to allow us the possibility of tracking down details of our forebears from our computers instead of making a trip to London and the British Libraryâ€™s Reading Rooms.
The British Library houses the national collection of electoral registers covering the whole of the United Kingdom and contain a vast range of names, addresses and other genealogical information, so you can see their importance.
â€œDigitisation of the electoral registers will transform the work of people wishing to use them for family history research,â€ said Jennie Grimshaw, the Libraryâ€™s curator for Social Policy and Official Publications. â€œPrinted electoral registers are arranged by polling district within constituency and names are not indexed, so the process of finding an address to confirm names of residents is currently incredibly laborious. Digitisation represents a huge breakthrough as users will be able to search for names and addresses, thereby pinpointing the individuals and ancestors theyâ€™re looking for.â€
Also to look forward to, in this large-scale digitisation, are records taken from the archives of the East India Company and the India Office and thus my excitement as so many of my Scottish ancestors were employed in the H.E.I.C.S. The data that we are promised relate to Britons who lived and worked in the Indian sub-continent during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, up to Independence in 1948. Including over 1,000 volumes of births, marriages and burials, together with applications for civil and military service, and details of pension payments to individuals.
Antonia Moon, curator of post-1858 India Office Records said, â€œThese records are an outstanding resource for researchers whose ancestors had connections with British India, whether as servants of the administration or as private inhabitants.â€
We can expect to see five million pages of UK electoral registers and India Office records digitised over the next year. The resources will become available via findmypast.co.uk and in the British Libraryâ€™s Reading Rooms from early 2012; online access will be available to findmypast.co.uk subscribers and pay-as-you-go customers â€“ access to users in the British Library Reading Rooms will be free.
Simon Bell, the British Libraryâ€™s Head of Licensing and Product Development, said: â€œWe are delighted to announce this exciting new partnership between the British Library and findmypast.co.uk , which will deliver an online and fully searchable resource that will prove immensely valuable to family history researchers in unlocking a treasure trove of content that up to now has only been available either on microfilm or within the pages of bound volumes. The Library will receive copies of the digitised images created for this project, so as well as transforming access for current researchers, we will also retain digital versions of these collections in perpetuity, for the benefit of future researchers.â€
Elaine Collins, Commercial Director at findmypast.co.uk, said: â€œWeâ€™re very excited to be involved with this fascinating project. The electoral rolls are the great missing link for family historians: after censuses and civil registration indexes, they provide the widest coverage of the whole population. To have Irish and Scottish records alongside England and Wales is also a huge advantage. These records will join the 1911 Census, Chelsea Pensioner Service Records and many more datasets available online at findmypast.co.uk, which enable people to make fantastic discoveries day after day.â€
Most people will have at least some research to do which involves vital records â€“ births, marriages and deaths. As in England, there are two categories of records. There are those kept by the state authorities â€“ which record birth, marriage and death â€“ and there are those kept by churches and record baptism, marriage andÂ burial. Jersey began civil registration in August 1842, but in this blog weâ€™ll be looking at the parish records.
Parish records are available at the Jersey Archive. You wonâ€™t get to see the original registers, but instead there are copy transcripts made by the CIFHS. These go back to at least the late 17th century, and in some cases right back to the middle of the 16th century. Most of the transcripts end at 1842, but there are some more recent records available for the parishes of St Helier, St Martin and St John.
A typical entry in the baptism register might look like this:
17.02.1833 Mary fille de M. Philippe Du Feu et Mse. Elizabeth Amy
Notice the way that record is made. First of all, itâ€™s in French – Jersey was very largely French- or Jerriais-speaking until the middle of the 19th century, and a lot of legal records long after that were kept in French.
More importantly, you will spot the fact that the motherâ€™s maiden name is used. There were good reasons for this. In most parishes there were a relatively small number of surnames and forenames: as we observed last time there might beÂ several Philippe Du Feus living in one parish at the same time, and this helped to clarify who was who.
There are a couple of potential pitfalls to watch out for. Firstly, people were not always consistent about how they spelled their names â€“ but the CIFHS transcripts usually gather the different spellings (for example Romerill, Romerill, Romrill, Rumerill) under a single heading. Secondly, it is always worth carrying out a check both of the married and the maiden name if the person you are looking for is female.
If your ancestor wasnâ€™t a member of the Church of England, you might be less fortunate. There are records from two of the big Roman Catholic churches in St Helier (there were two because one was French-speaking and one was English-speaking), and there are a few records from non-conformist churches, but they are rather patchy.
Recently I have seen that Ancestry.co.uk has launched on-line the Land Tax Valuations from 1910 London. Now we all know that property goes up and down, with most home owners expecting that the long term trend is up. Well this data collection reveals that the historic values of some of the capital’s most famous streets and landmarks from just over a century ago and no surprises that they were lower then than they are today.
Originally the records were compiled in 1910, from across the UK as part of David Lloyd George’s 1910 Finance Act and later refereed to as the ‘Domesday Survey’. The reason behind the government gathering this information was as a means to redistribute wealth through the assessment of land value.
What do the records contain for family historians? There is a listing of the owners and occupiers of the properties and it includes the address, value and annual rental yield for the properties in London in the early 20th century.
The average 1910 property could be purchased for a price tag of just Â£14,000, it would seem â€“ almost 3,000 per cent less than today.
Of particular interest are the values of famous landmarks included in the collection. The Bank of England; worth a mere Â£110,000 in 1910, the Old Bailey; worth just Â£6,600, and Mansion House; which contrastingly was valued at an impressive Â£992,000. St Paul’s Cathedral also features, but without a valuation as it is listed as ‘exempt’ from tax.
Perhaps more surprising is that the media-hub Fleet Street, was then home to numerous newspapers from outside of London including the Liverpool Courier, Yorkshire Evening News and the Newcastle Chronicle! A property on Fleet Street cost an average of Â£25,000 in 1910, compared to Â£1.2 million today.
The records provide us with a valuable snapshot of the ownership of land at the beginning of the 20th century. It may help those with ancestors who appear in the collection to find out more about their forebears respective financial situations and the lives they led a hundred years ago.
Ancestry.co.uk International Content Director Dan Jones, whom I interviewed recently at Who Do You Think You Are? Live about their website, comments: â€œThese records are especially useful as a census substitute for people tracing their London ancestors who may not have been captured in the England and Wales 1911 Census.
â€œThe collection offers a fascinating insight into our capital at the beginning of the 20th century – a time when Britain was on the verge of major social, political and economic change.â€
The collection complements the extensive census records, ranging from 1841 to 1901, already online at Ancestry.co.uk.
I’ve just spent an enjoyable hour or so browsing on-line the Post Office Directories for Scotland back in the 1820s!
As some of you, that have been reading my blog for a while, may recall I have a line in my family tree that is from East Lothian in Scotland. One of my ancestors, a Charles Hay, moved to the Scottish capital city from Dunbar, where he had been a merchant and later the Provost.
In his will, which I downloaded from the Scotlandspeople.gov.uk website, he lived until his death in Great King Street, Edinburgh and became a merchant in that city. So it was interesting to me to find that The National Library of Scotland has made available on line 287 historic Scottish Post Office Directories with the promise of many more to come.
The books cover most of ScotlandÂ from 1774 until 1911 with particular emphasis on Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The project is ongoing, with an expected completion in the summer of 2011 when over 600 directories will be available for us to browse.
The books, being made available with the co-operation of Scottish libraries, are being scanned in conjunction with the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) and you can search the books on-line or even download a pdf from the National Library of Scotland website: