How To Find Ancestors, A Professional’s Tip

Thorne graves in Dartmouth, Devon

 I was having a chat with a professional genealogist recently.

During the discussion I mentioned a particular brick wall that I had in my family tree.

“When was the last time you reviewed it?” he asked.

“Ah, I see what you mean!” I replied. “It is over six months since I sent it to the back burner and concentrated on other easier to find people.”

 

It is a lesson that even I forget to do and that is to periodically go back and see if, with new information you can now make some progress.

New record sets may have become available in the time since you last looked at your ancestor. It may be the release of yet more transcripts by Family History Societies, or those of the genealogical retailers that can now aid you. New parish records may have been uploaded to the likes of Ancestry,  TheGenealogist  or Findmypast.

Your ancestor may appear in one of the more diverse data sets that the subscription sites are releasing such as the Tithe Records on TheGenealogist, new occupational records on Ancestry, or The British in India records on Findmypast.

It is not just the case of reviewing the recently released documents on the subscription sites, that I am advocating. Take a look again at sets you may already have used. Perhaps, in the light of your experience and any new found knowledge that you have gained since last you looked, the answers may now be clear.

 

With my friend’s advice I set about looking again at a brick wall that I had in Devon.

In 1794 I have a John Thorn marrying a Sarah Branton in Plymouth in the parish of Charles on the 12th January. This John Thorn is not listed as being of the parish, yet his wife is.

They then move quickly to Dartmouth where their son, also called John is born with the child being baptised on the 28th September of the same year. In the marriage register, in Plymouth, John Thorn Senior was listed as a mariner and so it does not surprise me much that they pitch up along the coast at another port. But then what happens to them?

The Mouth of the River Dart.
Dartmouth, Devon.

We are taught to always kill off our ancestors as good practice. In my case I had not found the death records for John Thorn Senior, nor of his wife Sarah. I had an inkling that they probably settled in Dartmouth, as the line remains there for another two to three generations, but I did not know if they stayed or not.

Since reviewing my notes on the searches I made, in the parish records at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter, I have now realized that I had indeed found a possible burial of a John Thorn in Dartmouth in January 1810, but had not entered it into my family tree.

The page from the parish of St Saviour’s, Dartmouth, had helpfully given me the information that this particular John Thorn was only 41 at his death This means he could be a candidate for the marriage in 1794, as he would have been 25 in that year.

St Saviours on phone camera
St Saviour’s Dartmouth

When I last looked at the parish records, on the visit to the Devon Heritage Centre (previously the County Record Office), I had been disappointed not to have found the burial entry for his wife Sarah in the same parish and so I had put this line of enquiry aside.

But now, as I looked back at my notes, I see that I had also done a thorough job and looked at all the other churches in the town. I had found, among all the people buried in Dartmouth, and with the correct surname, one Sarah Thorn aged 50.

Dartmouth St Clements
Dartmouth, St Clement’s. Townstall

This Sarah Thorn is buried at the Parish church of St Clement’s, Townstall, Dartmouth on the 21st June 1818. At 50 she would have been born in 1768 and so she may well have been the wife of John, who was buried 8 years prior in the daughter church of St Saviour’s that is closer to the port.

Looking back at my visit to the record office I can recall that I finished my trawl of the parish record microfiche as a deadline for me to leave approached. I had a flight to catch from Exeter Airport and a connecting bus from outside of the Met Office to get me there. In my rush I had noted down the finding but had not looked at it in the right frame of mind. So perhaps here is another reason for reviewing your brick walls.

Now that the Devon Parish Records are on Findmypast I was recently able to go back and look at them at my leisure. This time without the pressure of missing a flight and so I can hypothesize that these two individuals are very possibly my direct ancestors.

Regretfully, with the paucity of information to identify someone contained in the pages of most parish records, I can not be completely sure. As with anyone with a common name there is always the possibility that they are simply namesakes.

If you would like to learn more about Death records, parish registers or good practice in doing English/Welsh family history then take a look at joining the Family History Researcher.

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Poets, Crime Writers, Soldiers, Sailors and Explorers – the lives and deaths of historic Devonians revealed online

 

Charles Babbage - Baptism
Charles Babbage – Baptism from Findmypast

MILLONS OF NEW DEVON BAPTISM, MARRIAGE AND BURIAL RECORDS PUBLISHED ONLINE

RECORDS REVEAL OVER 375 YEARS OF DEVONSHIRE HISTORY

 

 

 

 

As someone with a paternal line that is almost all from Devon I am really pleased to see that findmypast.co.uk has published online for the first time parish records in partnership with Devon Heritage Services, as the latest instalment of their 100in100 promise to launch 100 record sets in 100 days.

Spanning 1538 to 1915, the Devon Collection is a rich source comprising over 4 million fully searchable transcripts and scanned colour images of the handwritten parish registers held by the record offices in Barnstaple and Exeter. With Plymouth and West Devon Record Office’s records already available on findmypast, these new additions mean that findmypast’s Devon Collection is the best possible place to find Devonshire ancestors.

The baptism, marriage and burial records of many notable Devonians are stored within the collection. The baptism of literary icon Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ and founder of the Romantic Movement, can be viewed in records from the parish of Ottery St Mary.

Bad boy satirist John Gay, member of the Scriblerus club and author of ‘The Beggars Opera’, was born in Barnstaple in 1685 and records of his baptism in 1686 can be found from the Parish of Black Torrington.

Crime writer Agatha Christie’s baptism record appears in the parish register of Tormohun in 1890 under her maiden name Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller.

Legendary explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, who was famous for completing the Hajj to Mecca disguised as a pilgrim, translating the Karma Sutra into English and becoming the first European to visit the great lakes of Africa amongst other exploits, was born in Torquay in 1821 and is recorded in the collection.

The records also include the polymath Charles Babbage, who is widely considered to be the father of the computer. Records of his 1814 marriage were kept by the parish of East Teignmouth.

Sir John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and ancestor of Winston Churchill was born in the parish of Musbury at the height of the Civil War. He was a legendary soldier who revolutionised the British army in the late 17th century and was, for a time, one of the richest men in England. Details of his baptism can also be viewed in the archives.

VC winner and hero of the Zulu wars, Sir Redvers Henry Buller, is yet another famous military man from the county. Sir Redvers was widely celebrated before his disastrous leadership during the Second Boer War saw him sacked by the Minister for War, St. John Brodrick. He was born in Crediton in 1839 and died there in 1908, with both events being recorded by the parish.

Devon is one of the largest counties and therefore highly significant for family historians. As Maureen Selley, Chairman of Devon Family History Society www.devonfhs.org.uk, whose records are also available on findmypast, put it; “We all have Devonshire ancestors, it’s just that some of us haven’t found them yet.” Findmypast’s existing Devon records are already the most popular parish record set on the website.

The records are also of international significance as many historic Devonians emigrated to Canada, the US and Australia to work in the booming mining, fishing and agricultural industries. Devon’s position on the west coast meant that it was often used as a jumping off point for those headed to the United Sates. The Mayflower, the ship that carried the first pilgrims across the Atlantic, departed from Plymouth and the Devon Collection houses records that predate this famous voyage. These new records will help people from all over the world to trace their ancestral roots back to the county.

The Devon Collection adds to findmypast’s already extensive cache of parish records, the largest available online. These records allow family historians to go as far back as the 1500s, and with more parish records still to come as part of the 100in100 promise, family historians can now explore their more distant roots more easily than ever before.

You can view these exciting new records here: http://100in100.findmypast.co.uk/.

Debra Chatfield, a family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “The Devon Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections available anywhere online and contains some truly wonderful gems. This is the first time that parish records for the whole county have been available to search in one place, enabling people all around the world to discover fascinating details of Devonshire ancestors they didn’t know they had in this historical goldmine.”

Tim Wormleighton, of Devon Heritage Services said: “ We are delighted that, after a lengthy process of preparation involving a lot of hard work by a large team, people will now be able to access high quality images of the majority of Devon’s parish register entries online for the first time ever through findmypast”.

To learn more about the records visit www.findmypast.co.uk. For further information about Devon Heritage Service call 01392 384 253, email devrec@devon.gov.uk, or visit the website http://www.devon.gov.uk/record_office.htm



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Looking for ancestors in the Archives

 

Dudley Archives and local history centreI’ve been to the Midlands this week and while I was there I took the opportunity to do some research in the Dudley Archives & local history centre.

No matter what gets put online, and believe me I am a  keen user of online content, when I get the chance I still love to go to an actual archive and do some research in the reading room of one or other of these local authority depositories.

I spent my time in the one run by Dudley Metropolitan Council looking back at parish records in Halesowen and was fascinated, as always, by the extras that are to be found written in the margin of the parish records, or as notes in the front or back.

One note that I saw this week referred to a number of burials on the page and it mentioned that all of the above died of smallpox putting some context onto the conditions at the time. In other records down at the Devon record office I have seen a whole brood of children being baptised together after the family had returned to England after many years in the fishing fields of Newfoundland and a helpful side note by the vicar explaining this.

Another great benefit of a visit to a record office is that they often have books on their shelves that can be helpful finding aids. I was able to make use this week of a set of indexes to the parish records, published many years ago, but with them I could narrow down the dates that I wanted to look at on the microfilm reader.

In my Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh ancestors I have a module specifically about the treasures that can be found in a County/City Record Office. The course can be done at your own pace and comes in 52 weekly downloads that build into a great resource for busting those brick walls in family history.

 

In England and Wales the Record Office is where the records of the local government administrative area are kept. In many cases they also house the ecclesiastical diocese records and, from a family historian’s point of view, they are the keepers of the old Parish Registers collected from the churches of the area, which was my reason for visiting Dudley Archives this week.

A Record Office:

– collects and preserves historical records of all kinds relating to its county,

– makes these records available for research of all kinds by all interested individuals and groups, and

– encourages and promotes awareness of the value and importance of its documentary heritage.

Usually a Record Office will also preserve a great deal of other archival material such as the records from independent local organizations, churches and schools.

There may be papers donated by prominent people from the community, leading families, estates, companies, lawyers and more. If you are in the area where your ancestors lived then go on an pay them a visit. The staff are usually very knowledgeable about their records and the district and so they can be a huge help to the family historian.

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OVER 2 MILLION SHROPSHIRE BAPTISM, MARRIAGE AND BURIAL RECORDS PUBLISHED ONLINE

Hanging Judges, Captains of Industry, Empire Builders and a few Shropshire Lads

RECORDS REVEAL OVER 360 YEARS OF SHROPSHIRE HISTORY

Findmypast.co.uk has published online for the first time parish records held by the Shropshire Archives as the latest instalment of their 100 in 100 promise to launch 100 record sets in 100 days.

Spanning 1538 to 1900, the Shropshire Collection comprises approximately 2.1 million fully searchable transcripts and 155,000 scanned colour images of the parish registers. A selection of Anglican, Methodist and Non-Conformist registers from well over 200 Shropshire parishes from Abdon to Yockleton are included in the collection.

P195/A/1/2

P195/A/1/2

Many notable Shropshire lads and lasses can be found within these records, including Charles Darwin, Wilfred Owen, and Clive of India. A number of early industrialists such as Tom Farnolls Pritchard can also be found, reflecting the important role the county played in establishing Britain as an industrial powerhouse.

The Shropshire Collection adds to findmypast extensive parish record collection, claimed to be the largest available online. These records allow family historians to go as far back as the 1500s. With more parish records still to come as part of the 100 in 100 promise, family historians can now explore their more distant roots more easily than ever before. A new browse function allows for scrolling through individual while a number of new search fields have been added.

 

You can view these exciting new records here: http://100in100.findmypast.co.uk/.

Debra Chatfield, a family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “The Shropshire Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections we have ever published online and contains some truly wonderful gems. Family historians or people looking into their past, wherever they are in the world, can now search this historical goldmine and uncover the fascinating stories of their Shropshire ancestors. There is plenty of intrigue in the records to pique the interest of social historians too. With our adjoining Cheshire and Welsh parish record collections already available, these records could prove invaluable to anyone with missing ancestors who may have crossed the border into Shropshire.”

Tina Woodward, Shropshire Council’s deputy cabinet member responsible for Visitor Economy, said: “Making these records available online for the first time is a great step forward for access to Shropshire’s fantastic archives. We hope that people across the world will uncover Shropshire ancestors they never knew they had and renew their connection with our wonderful county.”

The collection is being launched to coincide with the Discover Shropshire day, a gathering of local heritage organisations, speakers and musicians who all have something important to impart about the history of the county. It will take place at Shirehall, Abbey Foregate in Shrewsbury.

To learn more about the records visit www.findmypast.co.uk. For further information about Shropshire Archives call 01743 255350, email archives@shropshire.gov.uk, or visit the website www.shropshirearchives.org.uk



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Over half a million new Parish Records now available online

TheGenealogist logo

 

 

A collection of over half a million unique Parish Records has been added to TheGenealogist.

These cover the counties of Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Monmouthshire and Worcestershire. The new online records offer invaluable records of baptisms, marriages and burials dating from the 1500s to the late 1800s from Anglican parish registers. The records are a great tool for those people looking to track down early ancestors before civil registration.

The latest releases bring the total to over 2 million parish records already added in 2014 with more to come. Fully searchable and clearly transcribed on TheGenealogist, they provide hundreds of years of records helping you find those early ancestors to further extend your family tree.

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist remarked: “With Parish and Nonconformist Records it is possible to go back so much further and you never know what new surprises or dramatic events you may uncover in the records. We are continually adding more records to our already extensive collection throughout 2014.”

 

Discover surprising details that can be found in the Parish Record collection.

Many of the records are rare, historic parish records, published online for the first time and offer us unexpected information of dramatic events at the time. In the latest records, we find details of one of the protestant martyrs in the 1500s.

Martyrs burnt at the stake

Protestants in England & Wales were executed under Queen Mary I with legislation that punished anyone found guilty of heresy against Roman Catholicism. The standard penalty for treason was execution by being hung, drawn and quartered. In this case, however, the punishment of  “burning” was used for those found guilty of not being of the Catholic faith.

At least 300 people were recognised as martyred over the five years of Mary’s reign, causing her to be known as “Bloody Mary”. The name of one of the world’s most popular cocktail drinks is also said to be named after her!

A number of the executions were carried out in the county of Essex including that of linen draper, Thomas Wattes from Billericay, whose wife Elizabeth is found in the new parish records. Here we see the burial record of Elizabeth Wattes in the parish of Great Burstead on TheGenealogist. Her record describes her husband as a “Martyr of God” with the added extra note in the record giving details of his death- “The Blessed Martyr of God who for his truth suffered his martyrdom in the fire at Chelmsford.”

Martyr burnt at stake

Oliver Cromwell and his son Robert Cromwell

Robert Cromwell appears in the new parish record sets buried in the parish of Felsted in Essex, son of Oliver Cromwell. Robert was the eldest son of Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell and he died whilst away studying at school at the age of 18. Here we find a copy of his burial record from 1639.

Robert Cromwell's burial. The son of Oliver Cromwell

 

 

The Genealogist site has an extremely comprehensive collection of data sets, which are ever growing. Their ability to react quickly to their customers was demonstrated to me only this week when I had a problem resolved by them within minutes of me bringing it to their attention.

At a time when social media is full of complaints about the functionality of other genealogical data sites, I’d recommend you take a serious look today at what is on offer from TheGenealogist

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Devon Wills 1164-1992 Free online

A will and testament from the 19th century
A Will from the 19th century, online
This week I was pleased to see that Origins.net had released some fully searchable additional Devon Wills from between 1164-1992 for FREE online.
Their updated index now includes over 300,000 Devon probate records from over 60 sources, which is good news for those, like me, with Devon Ancestors.

This index has been created as a combined project by Origins.net and the Devon Wills Project to compile a consolidated index of pre-1858 Devon wills, administrations, inventories, etc. Many Devon probate records were destroyed by enemy action, when the Probate Registry was destroyed in the bombing during the Exeter Blitz in 1942. Thus the aim of this index is to create a finding-aid to enable the researcher to determine what probate materials were originally recorded and most importantly what documents have survived and where they can be located.

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Tips for Researching Family History

 

At the largest Family history show in the world, Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London, I decided to ask the expert on the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives for his tips on researching your family tree. I was looking for some material to include in a module of my courses on English/Welsh family history in which several experts advice will be collated for students.

As I’m feeling generous I’m going to share this piece with you for free here in this blog post today.

 

For those people who are starting to do family history, then one of the most important things is to take notice of anything that you are told by your relatives. Because, although the information may not be 100 percent true, there is always something that somebody will know that can help give you an idea as to where to go on and find other records.

It’s important that you afford the information in official documents with a certain level of importance. Although that information recorded is only as good as that given by the informant at the time. So beware that any information on a birth certificate, or a census record, can be wrong from day one because the person supplying it didn’t want the officials to know the real truth.

This can confuse people doing their family tree research. The best way of proceeding is to make sure that you look at every type of document available to you. So look at a civil registration certificate. Look at a parish register. Look at a census; try and get a will and look at anything else that will give you the full details relevant to that particular individual.

Doing your family history research that way you’re able to build up a fuller picture.

As you progress you will find that it becomes more complex and you’ll find that you may hit brick walls. You may find that you have conflicting information on an ancestor and that in some instances it’s going to be necessary for you to actually go along and work different lines of the family, investigate different individuals.

What you have got to do is make sure that you eliminate those people that aren’t part of your family. Its ever so easy to go down a wrong line because you haven’t been clear enough in making sure the family or the individual that you have is the right person. And sometimes that’s beyond the experience and the expertise of the average family historian and that’s where you need to talk to the professionals.

That’s where members of ARGA, The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives can help because they are accredited researchers. They have proven their ability to do this type of family research and while they might not be able to find all the answers, they are better placed than many of us to do so.

The reason why even a professional may draw a blank is that if an ancestor didn’t want to be found in officialdom, then they wont be! Irrespective of how good you are and how through you are, this may sadly be the case. Having said that, however, you stand a better chance with using a professional because they perhaps know a little bit more of the overall number documents that they can use to do just that.

 

If you want to brush up your own skills in English/Welsh family research then give a thought to taking my English family history course by visiting www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

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Family History Research in England & Wales: The 1939 Register is coming!

 

image001

News out today from the British-owned online family history company DC Thomson Family History (the people behind findmypast amongst other websites) and The National Archives that they are entering into a joint project to make the records of 40 million civilians held in the 1939 register available online.

When they have got this data digitised, it is estimated by the company that the collection will comprise of near enough 1.2 million scanned full-colour images of documents. As the records cover the entire civilian population of England & Wales at the outbreak of WWII, this is quite a significant release for those of us researching our English or Welsh family tree.

What was the 1939 register?

It was taken on 29 September 1939 by the British Government and recorded personal details of individuals in order to issue identity cards and ration books. In later years it became the basis of the National Health Service’s records.

Findmypast say that , when complete, the 1939 register will be fully searchable online for the first time, opening up the past to a new generation of family and social historians, just as the 1911 census did on its release in 2009.

So what can we expect to find once this set becomes available to us?

The records contain the address, full name, date of birth, sex, marital status and occupation of individuals, as well as changes of name. Although the Register is literally within living memory for many people, information about living individuals will be kept closed for 100 years from their year of birth, or until proof of death has been authenticated.

From today, anybody interested in being kept informed about the project can register at www.1939register.co.uk.

Annelies Van Den Belt, CEO of DC Thomson Family History said: “This announcement is great news not just for British family historians and those with British relatives, but for anyone with an interest in history itself; providing a fascinating snapshot of the country as it stood on the edge of the most widespread conflict in human history.

“This significant project will bring these records to a global audience for the first time, and combined with the 1.8 billion records already available on our websites will make it easier than ever to begin your family history journey and uncover the powerful stories that lie within and that make us who we are.”

Mary Gledhill, Commercial Director, at The National Archives, added: “The National Archives is delighted to be working with DC Thomson Family History to open up this unique record collection to the world, allowing history enthusiasts to discover more about the people at the outbreak of the Second World War. In the absence of a 1931 and 1941 census, this collection is all the more valuable to family historians trying to trace their ancestors.”

The 1939 register project is the latest contract to be awarded to DC Thomson Family History by The National Archives. Record sets previously digitised by the company in association with The National Archives include Crime, Prisons and Punishment; outbound passenger lists; British Army Service records; Merchant Navy Seamen’s records; Maritime Birth, Marriage and Death indexes and the 1911 census.

Great news for those of us researching our recent ancestors from England & Wales. One of the most anticipated family history projects since the 1911 census.


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National Wills expert gives us some great family history tips


At Olympia I caught up with Dr Ian Galbraith from the National Wills project and asked him to give us a few tips about what people should do if they are searching for will records.

“Well the big problem with wills is you can not always tell where the will might have been proved.” he said.

“If you know your ancestors came from a certain place you’ve gotta fix on where their birth records might be, marriage records maybe where they died. With a will although in most cases you probably have an idea where it is. Wills did get proved all over the place, maybe very far from  where you think.

“So when you’re trying to find a will you might go for the obvious places and find there’s nothing there. That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a will that’s been proved somewhere else. So it means that if you want to unlock the value of information which is in wills.

“I mean wills are one of the best single sources for the family historian.

“To find it you really need to have access to an index which covers the whole country not just individual counties and that’s what we’ve been trying to do and we’ve got coverage of virtually every county in England.

“Its not complete yet for every county but its the single biggest set of indexes for English probate records.

“That’s complimented also by an increasing collection of digitized images of wills. For example for Oxfordshire, Cheshire, York and a lot of abstracts of wills. Now abstracts make it a lot easier sometimes to find out what’s in a will because somebody else has done the hard work of reading it and transcribing it. They may not put all the text in there but there’s an awful lot of legalese and what they left to the church for candles and so on, masses to be said. But the salient stuff…what they left and to whom they left things that’s in the wills and they are enormously rich things.

“They give you a huge access to the families and the friends of the people who died because they will name them as beneficiaries; so a typical will will contain an average of ten names of other people besides the testator and probably at least half of these people will have different surnames
from the testator.

“So once you get into a will you can suddenly find you’ve got an awful lot more information than you started with. Other leads to follow up. It comes back to the issue of finding them in the first place.”

“Great!” I said, feeling that we had got an enormous amount of useful information from the interview. “And so your website is part of the origins.net?”

“Yes.” he replied. “Yes, Origins.net has been around now for oh, the best part of fifteen years but, erm, we started to concentrate on probate records about five years ago. We already had a reasonable collection but we realized that this is something that we really wanted to look at seriously, because it was one of the big problem areas.

“Births marriages and deaths, parish registers; yeah, there are lots of sites you can go and get really good collections of these. Census records, yeah. Now these are the primary places you’re going to look. You’re going to look at census, you’re going to look at Births, Marriages and Deaths. But where do you go next?

“And one of the major places, perhaps the most important single place to go next is wills; if you can find them.  And bear in mind also even if your ancestor didn’t leave a will there’s a pretty high chance they’ll be mentioned in the will left by somebody else.

“So so don’t worry, oh my ancestors didn’t leave wills. Not true! All kinds of people left wills. They can be very poor and very rich. It is not just the rich who left wills. Some wills you wonder why. This guy’s got nothing but he’d still make a will and leave it to his relations or to his friends mentioned by name.

“So it really is well worth looking into wills.”

“Great; thank you very much. That is very useful.” I said. “Thank you.”

 

 

One of the modules in my popular course in English/Welsh Family History looks at will records. Want to unravel the tangled roots and branches of your family tree?

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Professional Genealogist, Anthony Adolph’s Tips for Family History Researchers

 

I caught up with Anthony Adolph, the professional genealogist and author on the Genes Reunited stand.

I asked him if he would give us a few tips for family historians.

  

Anthony has written the lesson on Aristocratic ancestors for my Family History Researcher course (click the banner ad to the right if you want to join) and his book Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors  is available from Pen & Sword online.

Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors
Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors by Anthony Adolph.

 

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