Sunday 24 September 2017: The Family History Show – London

New Family History Show for the London area


This Sunday, 24th September 2017 sees the first Family History Show  – London and I am off to see what it is like!

The Family History Show - London at Sandown Park

Organised by Discover Your Ancestors Magazine (to whom I am a regular contributor of articles to) it should be great as they are the same people behind the ever successful event up in York. Based on the format of The Family History Show, York it is being held at Sandown Park Racecourse between 10 am and 4:30 and is very affordable to get in to. There is plenty of free parking on site with allocated disabled spaces as well.

Unfortunately for those coming by train, due to engineering work, Esher Train Station will be closed on the day of the show. Surbiton Train Station, however, is just a 15 minute taxi ride from Sandown Racecourse. Alternatively, the K3 bus from Surbiton Train Station will take you to Esher High Street, the race course is just a few minutes’ walk up the High Street.


I went to the York event back in June. Watch this video of this year’s York event to get a taster of what is to come down South!


Free Talks throughout the day


10:00 Show Opening with Caliban’s Dream, Medieval Musicians

11:00 Breaking Down Brick Walls In Your Family History Research Mark Bayley, Online Expert 
Resolve stumbling blocks in your family history research using innovative search strategies and unique record sets to find those missing relatives.

12:00 Tracing Your Military Ancestors Chris Baker, Military Expert & Professional Researcher 
Chris draws on his experience from researching thousands of soldiers to explore what can be found when looking for a military ancestor.

13:00 Breaking Down Brick Walls In Your Family History Research Mark Bayley, Online Expert

14:00 Tips & Tricks for Online Research Keith Gregson, Professional Researcher & Social Historian
Keith shares top tips & techniques for finding elusive ancestors, illustrated by some fascinating case studies.

15:00 Breaking Down Brick Walls In Your Family History Research Mark Bayley, Online Expert


Read more at:

York Family History Fair

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TheGenealogist adds over 1.1 million records to their Sussex Parish Record Collection



Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links.

The following is a Press Release from TheGenealogist at the end of which you will find a link to a useful article which I wrote for them about what you can find in these new records.


TheGenealogist has added over 1.1 million individuals to its parish record collection covering the county of Sussex. Published In association with The Parish Record Transcription Society, this first tranche of records will be followed by more releases in the near future.

This New release covers individual records of:

  • 717,000 Baptisms

  • 213,000 Marriages

  • 208,000 Burials

The Parish Record Transcription Society (PRTSoc) have worked with TheGenealogist and S&N to publish their records online, making over 1.1 million individuals from baptism, marriage and burial records fully searchable:

“We are very pleased to be working with TheGenealogist on this major project, previously undertaken to transcribe the parish registers of West Sussex by the staff and dedicated volunteers of the PRTSoc. This will preserve these records for future generations and brings them into the online community.” Peter Steward, Chairman of PRTSoc

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Development at TheGenealogist, welcomed PRTSoc to the growing number family history societies on both TheGenealogist and FHS-Online saying: “We’re delighted that PRTSoc chose to publish their records through TheGenealogist and FHS-Online. This release adds to the ever expanding collection of parish records on both websites. These partnerships help fund societies whilst bringing their records to a much wider audience, through online publication.”

This release joins TheGenealogist’s Sussex collection including parish records to form a major resource for the county.

You can read an article that I wrote for them here: New Sussex parish records reveal a grizzly end

If your society is interested in publishing records online, please contact Mark Bayley on 01722 717002 or see


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Beware of those family history stories!

Manuscript This week I was researching a case-study to write for a magazine and I came across a local newspaper article that spun a fabulous story about my subject.

I had already traced my man in many of the online records and so I had the basis of my own piece planned and was just doing the usual Google search to see what else was out there.

The story the newspaper had was that the man had put his mother into the workhouse when his father had died. As if that was not extreme enough, he was alleged to have never spoken to her again!

The trouble with this story was that I had already found the death record of the mother two years before the demise of her husband and thus making it an impossible yarn! What was more – the nonconformist minister had very obligingly annotated the entry to supply extra information about the death that I could reveal in my own article. A sad and very different story that I can’t reveal here as its reserved for the advertorial when that comes out around November.

Stoneywell typewriter


I once had a client who had been told as a boy that his relative had ‘fallen from his horse’ to his death. This turned out to be a cover for his ancestor dying young in an asylum, something which I uncovered by finding the death index record and then buying the death certificate.


Another client asked me to find their great grandfather; who had been an eminent medical man in his time. They knew a fair bit about him, from family stories, but they were actually a generation astray.  When I turned to the actual records I could find that the famous man was not their grandmother’s father at all, but was actually their 2x great grandfather.


The moral of these tales are that while you should listen to family stories, you shouldn’t believe everything that you are told and always seek to verify the facts in the records. If possible go to the primary records such as the birth, marriage and death certificates, or the church registers. But always remember that even in these sources convenient white lies may lurk there to throw you off the scent!

People make up stories, sometimes it is to hide something that may have been shocking to our ancestors at the time. The innocent story gets retold and embellished and morphs into something different and gets told over again. Not all these tales will end up being published in the newspapers, but some will, like the mother who was reputed to have been put in the workhouse and forgotten.

There is a saying that ‘you shouldn’t believe all that you read in the newspapers’ – but despite this sage advice a lot of us do just that! We should also keep a healthy dose of scepticism when listening to family accounts. While we should definitely listen to the stories that our elders tell, it is best to check out the details to see if the records back up the story before attaching it to the family tree.


I deal with this topic further in my course on English & Welsh family history available online at:

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Vaccination records reveal English ancestors

Devon Family History Society's Tree House
Devon Family History Society’s Tree House


When it proves impossible to find your ancestors in all the usual records online what do you then do?

Declare that you have a brick wall and give up… or think laterally and turn to other records?

I had a problem with researching an ancestor and the answer came from turning to look for collateral lines (brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles) and using one of the lesser known record sets. In this particular case I had to go offline as the record set had not been digitized by any of the main subscription sites.

It is worth remembering that not everything is online, as some of the smaller data sets don’t get used sufficiently by family history researchers to warrant a commercial company buying the rights to put them on the internet.

In this case it was the Dartmouth, Devon Vaccinations Register 1875-1876 that is in the South West Heritage Trust Devon Archive Catalogue that helped me back on track. The register provided me with valuable information that an ancestor’s sister was born on the 1st January 1876 at Smith Street in Dartmouth, gave me her name, Elsie Lilian and her father’s name and occupation together with the date that she had been vaccinated.

I could have gone in person to the South West Heritage centre in Exeter to find this lead but in fact I reached it by making use of a Family History Society’s look up service. Devon FHS have a database of names that appear in the transcriptions that they have for sale and so it was this that alerted me to the entry.

If you are looking for your own ancestors in these registers you can normally find them at the County Record Office for where your ancestor lived (such as the South West Heritage centre in Exeter for Devon in my case) or some copies are at The National Archives in among the Poor Law Commissioners Poor Law Board and Board of Guardians correspondence.


Devon County Record Office
South West Heritage Centre in Exeter, Devon (County Record Office)

The Vaccination Act of 1840 made it law that free vaccination against smallpox was to be available to the public and paid for by the poor rates. It was not until the Vaccination Act of 1853, however, that vaccination was made compulsory for children and it then became the responsibility of the poor law guardians to ensure that all infants in their area were vaccinated within four months of birth. While the law stipulated this should happen it failed to give the guardians any powers of enforcement and so they had no means of ensuring that all children were vaccinated. By 1867, however, this was changed and the Guardians were given the right to prosecute parents for non-compliance where parents could be fined and even sent to prison if the fines were not paid.

Guardians were obliged to keep registers of vaccinations and in 1871, they were also required to appoint vaccination officers for their poor law union. The task of ensuring compliance was made easier in 1874 when birth registration was made compulsory and the onus of birth registration being put on parents where as before it was on the registrar.


The point to take away here is that when an ancestor can not be found in the records, don’t lose heart. There is always the possibility that their footprints through life will emerge in some other smaller set that you have yet to use.

Keep your eyes open and keep searching, even if you have to come back to them much later on. And take time to learn what other record sets may be available for your ancestors’ county.


Good luck in your research this week!


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