Family History records for Portsea Island workhouse ancestors

 

Portsmouth Library and History Centre

Last week I was in Portsmouth and took advantage of an opportunity to pop into The Portsmouth History Centre which is on the second floor of the Portsmouth Central Library near the Guildhall.

It comprises of the City Records Office Archive as well as holding the library resources on Portsmouth family, local and naval history plus the Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens collections.

My interest was in the Portsea Workhouse, an institution in which my 3 x great-grandmother, Martha Malser, had died as an inmate in February 1870 aged 70. While the History Centre have the workhouse Creed registers from 1879 to 1953, which served as admission registers, the earlier records have very sadly not survived. This being the case meant I was unable to do any personal family history research this time.

Portsea Workhouse
© Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

I was, however, able to call up the Board of Guardians minute books for the time that my ancestor was living under their care in her old age. While not giving me any direct references to Martha it was an extremely interesting bit of research as it gave me a flavour of the organisation and an insight into its operation. For others, this could be a goldmine of family information.

These Board of Guardians minute books are a very name rich set of documents for those with ancestors who were officials, or who worked for the workhouse. Names were also recorded for suppliers to the institution of food, clothing, coal etc. This could be another opportunity for some researchers to find their family members mentioned, although often the supplier was simply noted by his surname alone. So you may see Jones £2 3s 6d, or Smith £0 4s 8d.

 

I read about the appointments made for named schoolmasters, matrons and various other officials to the workhouse. The records detail the taking of references for these people and the salaries that the Union would pay the successful candidates.

There was an interesting entry where the Board set out the duties they expected of the new clergyman. The number of days he was required to attend to the inmates spiritual needs, inside the workhouse, and the Eucharist services that he should provide for the workhouse inmates on the Sabbath.

Perhaps the most useful information for family historians, contained within these Board of Guardians minute books, was the records of people receiving “out relief”. Those who had become sick and were able to get some parish relief while not having to enter the workhouse. If your ancestor had fallen on hard times then these entries would give you both a surname and a first name, a place, the amount of out relief and also the reason for receiving the payment.

Most of the sicknesses that I read were general, such as “confinement”. I did read of some injuries such as back and leg, which would be expected of working men and women, though I did note one case of syphilis! Presumably this person was considered to be worthy of the care of the parish, so perhaps they were innocently infected with the disease.

To read more about the workhouse I recommend Peter Higginbotham’s site:
http://www.workhouses.org.uk/

There are also some modules on the workhouses and the Poor laws within the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History See the special Trial Offer running currently by clicking this link: http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer.

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Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

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A visit around a top supplier of Family history products

Family History Products (U.K.)

On a recent visit to Wiltshire I dropped into the offices of S&N British Data Archive, manufacturer and suppliers of many family history products from archival binders and equipment to data CDs and much much more.

If you are looking for archival products or data CDs and downloads then check out their comprehensive website now:
http://genealogysupplies.com/

 

genealogysupplies.com

 

 

 

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What different ways could an ancestor become British?

DYA_Magazine_Issue_26_Junel_2015

I’ve been reading a fascinating article by leading genealogist Laura Berry in this month’s Discover Your Ancestors Periodical. It explains more about how between the 17th and 20th centuries hundreds of thousands of foreign settlers applied for protection from the Crown and government by becoming British subjects.

Laura, knows her subject as she is a freelance writer, family historian and archive researcher who has been the lead genealogist for the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? series in the past and has written about family history for many publications.  In her article for Discover Your Ancestors she explains that prior to 1844 the vast majority of applicants became ‘denizens’ after pleading for a patent of denization from the monarch, which bestowed certain privileges and was easier to obtain than a private Act of Naturalisation from Parliament. To be entitled to almost equal rights as people born in this country, aliens needed to be ‘naturalised’, a process that was made more affordable with the passing of the 1844 Naturalisation Act when the Home Office assumed responsibility for issuing naturalisation certificates and a private Act of Parliament was no longer necessary.

 

This is only one of many really interesting articles in this month’s online periodical and I highly recommend you buy a copy.

http://www.discoveryourancestors.co.uk/current-issue/

Discover Your Ancestors June 2015

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May the 9th, Liberation Day in Jersey

Raising of the Union Flag Liberation Day 2015Its May the 9th and here in the Channel Island of Jersey it is the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of this island from the Nazi occupation.

As a child, in 1960s Jersey, I grew up understanding the importance of the day to many of the people around me who had lived through the German Occupation.

As I have grown older, so many of these people have sadly passed away. I felt, this morning, that it was important for me to go to what is now named Liberation Square, but was then known simply as the Weighbridge and to stand witness for all those that I have known who lived through the five years under the swastika.

At the re-enactment of the first raising of the British flag on the Pomme d’Or hotel, I found the commemoration very moving especially as covering the scaffolding on the next door building site is a blown up image of the actual raising of the Union Flag on the hotel that had served as German Naval Headquarters.
HRH The Countess of Wessex at the 70th commemoration of the Liberation of Jersey

This afternoon has seen a visit from H.R.H The Countess of Wessex and a sitting of the States of Jersey (the legislature for the Bailiwick) in her presence. It was held in the open air in People’s Park the setting for the first anniversary of the Liberation. But the most moving part was a bit of theatre where some of the island’s youth told the story of the occupation, relating stories about real people who lived through this era.

It is this social history that is so important to family history and so it is appropriate that I conclude this weeks post by mentioning  the unique pictorial records of over 30,000 people who lived in the island during the war.

Family history researchers searching for family who lived in Jersey during the WW2 German occupation can now download their registration card, which includes a photograph of their ancestor, in this fantastic recently made available online resource from Jersey Heritage.

Jersey Archive Occupation ID cards

The collection, which has been recognised by UNESCO for its importance and has now been digitised and added to the Jersey Heritage website by Jersey Archive, gives access to 90,000 images that can be searched for free at the link below:

http://catalogue.jerseyheritage.org/features/german-occupation-registration-cards/

It is free to search, although there is a fee of £5 to download a card. Researchers with Jersey family may wish to take out an annual subscription for £30 to make the most of other resources, including thousands of historic photographs, many with named individuals.

 

To discover more about your Channel Island Ancestors read this in-depth book by Marie-Louise Backhurst: Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors published by Pen & Sword

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Channel-Islands-Ancestors-Paperback/p/3098?aid=1101

"Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors" Book
Tracing Your Channel Islands Ancestors
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Brilliant new resource for Jersey Family History

 

Jersey Archive Occupation ID cards Family history researchers seeking family who lived in Jersey during the WW2 German occupation can now download their registration card, including a photograph of their ancestor in this fantastic new online resource from Jersey Heritage.

This is a unique pictorial record contains over 30,000 people who lived on Jersey during the Nazi occupation.

The collection has been recognised by UNESCO for its importance and has now been digitised and added to the Jersey Heritage website by Jersey Archive. To take a look at this very exciting collection, which includes 90,000 images that can be searched for free take a look here:

http://catalogue.jerseyheritage.org/features/german-occupation-registration-cards/

It is free to search, although there is a fee of £5 to download a card. Researchers with Jersey family may wish to take out an annual subscription for £30 to make the most of other resources, including thousands of historic photographs, many with named individuals.

Jeremy Swetenhan, Commercial Director at Jersey Heritage said, “This is the culmination of several years’ tremendous work by the staff at Jersey Archive to digitise records and catalogue our collections online. The result is a fully searchable and very valuable resource that will enable people to discover more about their, and the Island’s heritage at the click of a mouse.”

 

 

 

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Got a Met Policeman in your Family Tree?

MetPoliceHeritage

This week I was asked to look into a family tree for someone whose family tree had found its roots back to London around the 1900s.

Finding the right person in the birth marriages and death (BMD) indexes had been a little difficult, as the date of birth was a few years out.

Notwithstanding, when the certificate arrived from the General Register Office we were able to see that the father of the child was listed a Police Constable.

As his address was in London we had a choice of two main police forces as his employer, the City of London, or the Metropolitan Police.  Taking a guess that it would be the latter, I went in search of what records there may be for Met Policemen and came across the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre’s website at: http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-heritage-centre.html

From a link on its home page I ended up on the Family History which in turn gave me a link to a Search Sheet with this filled in with the scant information that I had about my Police Constable, I fired it off by email and waited for a reply.

From what I read on their site The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre research material consists of:-

  • Central Records of Service from 1911.
  • 54.000 name database from 1829 of which is updated regularly.
  • Pension cards for pensioners who have died
  • Police Orders from 1857
  • Joiners and Leavers Records.  (copies from National Archive)
  • Divisional Ledgers. (consisting of  collar Numbers, previous occupation and armed forces service) for certain periods of time for A,B,E,F,G,H,K,L,M,N,R and Y Divisions.
  • Subject and People files.
  • Photographs –  in the process of being scanned to Hi-Res from a vast collection

It was within a couple of days that I had my reply!

I got the man’s warrant number, his dates of service, that he had joined the Marylebone Division before moving south of the river to the Clapham Division and the various collar numbers that he had held.

Now that surprised me, as I had never really thought about the fact that a copper’s number would change as he moved station, but it does stand to reason.

Other information they could give me was that he retired from ill health, together with the illness and the pension that he got plus a card from an index that recorded his death in Eastbourne in 1969.

The ever helpful people at The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre advised me that Metropolitan Police officers pension records are held at The National Archives and gave me the index numbers that I will need to investigate this man further.

So if you have a Met Police Officer in your family tree, then it is well worth contacting the heritage centre. It is currently free to request information, but they do encourage donations.

 

 

Are you researching your English family tree and have exhausted all the run of the mill records?

Take a course such as Family History Researcher Academy and broaden your research horizons.

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ONLINE RECORDS REVEAL OVER 360 YEARS OF STAFFORDSHIRE HISTORY

Findmypast logoOne of my clients has family from Staffordshire and he was bemoaning the lack of records he could find online.

Well now the UK family history website findmypast.co.uk has published online for the first time over 2.8 million parish records in partnership with Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service as the final instalment of Findmypast’s 100in100 promise to release 100 record sets in 100 days.

 

Spanning 1538 to 1900, the parish records launched today mark the start of an exciting project to create the Staffordshire Collection on Findmypast – a rich source, which on completion will comprise around 6 million fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of handwritten parish records.

 

The Collection covers all Staffordshire Anglican parish registers up to 1900 deposited with the Archive Service and includes over 3,400 registers recording the baptisms, marriages and burials carried out in the ancient county. This will include the City of Stoke on Trent and parishes now within the City of Wolverhampton, as well as the Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall.

 

The lives of many notable Potteries folk are recorded in the Collection. Captain of industry and prominent abolitionist, Josiah Wedgwood, the man who established the Wedgwood company in 1754, industrialised the manufacture of pottery for the first time and created the famous “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” anti-slavery medallion, appears in a baptism register. Born on 12 July 1730, Josiah was baptised the same day at St John’s church in Burslem. His grand-daughter Emma Wedgwood, the future wife of Charles Darwin, also appears in the Collection.

These church records also provide some unexpected insights into significant events in Staffordshire’s colourful history. In a late 18th century register of baptisms from the parish of Alrewas, curate John Edmonds took it upon himself to record a narrative of local happenings, and this too can now be read online for the first time. Edmonds recounts details of a flood that swept two bridges away, an earthquake that rocked the parish in 1795, a series of local riots over food shortages and even a lightning strike that killed 3 cows and 2 horses. He also recorded events of national significance, such as King George III being fired upon with an air gun on his way to parliament.

 

The Potteries proud manufacturing history is well represented in the Collection. Other important potters in the records include William Moorcroft, Potter to the Queen by Royal Warrant, and founder of the Moorcroft pottery that supplied stores such as Liberty & Co and Tiffany New York. There’s also Thomas William Twyford, inventor of the single piece ceramic flush toilet and co-founder of Twyford Bathrooms, and John Aynsley, the founder of Aynsley China, one of the last remaining producers of bone china in Stoke on Trent.

Manufacturers are not the only famous Staffordians to be found in the records. Admiral of the Fleet and 1st Earl of St Vincent John Jervis, best remembered for his defeat of the Spanish fleet at the 1797 Battle of Cape Saint Vincent and his patronage of Horatio Nelson, was born at Meaford Hall in 1735.

Marriage registers from 1835 contain Burton upon Trent brewer and politician Michael Thomas Bass Jr, whose clever leadership saw Bass become the best known brand in Britain and the largest brewery in the world. Other famous figures include Francis Barber, a freed Jamaican slave, who became the manservant and beneficiary of Dr Johnson; William Thomas Astbury, the pioneering X-ray scientist; and legendary classical composer Havergal Brian.

The Staffordshire Collection adds to Findmypast’s already extensive cache of parish records, the largest available online. These records allow family historians to research as far back as the 1500s, and with more Staffordshire records still to be added to Findmypast, family historians from all over the world can now explore their more distant roots more easily than ever before, and uncover their Staffordshire, Black Country and Potteries ancestors.

The records were launched at an event at the Staffordshire Record Office by Findmypast, Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service and Staffordshire County Council Cabinet member for Children, Communities and Localism, Mike Lawrence.

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

Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “From today, anyone, wherever they are in the world, will be able to go online and discover whether they have Staffordshire roots. These really are fascinating parish records, full of colourful insights, and you might even be able to get your family tree as far back as 1538, when Henry VIII was on the throne!“

Mike Lawrence, Cabinet member for Community at Staffordshire County Council said: “We are very proud of our heritage here in Staffordshire and this is the start of an exciting partnership with Findmypast to bring 6 million names online for people to search through. The project will give family historians from across the world an opportunity to delve into our rich past and learn more about our great county.

“We also want to encourage more people from the county to explore their own family history, and access to the Staffordshire Parish Registers on Findmypast will be free in Archive Service offices and libraries across Staffordshire.”



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How To Break Down A Family History Brick Wall

 

Break Down Your Family History Brick Walls
Family History Brick Wall

I’ve got some advice for you to break down a brick wall.

Have you been stuck trying to find an ancestor?

Thought you might have been!

Maybe what I relate below will help you too.

 

The thing was that some while back, I was getting quite frustrated by being unable to trace a person in the records.
I was completely stuck finding this person’s birth, marriage or death and I had tried looking online and off without any luck.

Maybe you are in this position too?

What broke the problem for me?

Well it was a visit to a Family History website while surfing for keywords to do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spent browsing the transcripts featured on the platform.

Dartmouth-Archives-onscreen

There were some other factors, such as trying different spelling variations of first and second names, as advised by my family history teacher at the time and a visit to an archive.

What it boils down to is using a bit of lateral thinking in our family tree research and most importantly finding out about alternative records to the ones that we might have already used.

This is one of the themes of the Family History Researcher course that I market online.

Thorne-family-tree-web-site

The family branch that has presented me with the most frustrating problems has been that from Devon. I was fine going back through the census years, 1911, 1901 and so on back to 1841 but then it became more of a problem.

Perhaps this story resonates with some of you to?

I had figured out that my 3x great-grandfather was called John Thorn. This was provided in the information he had given to the census enumerators over the years, along with the fact that he had been born in about 1795. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born about 1798.

As I belong to The Society of Genealogists I took a trip to their headquarters in Goswell Road, London knowing that they have the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in their library, which I thought may be worth looking at.

If you are in the area I highly recommend you visit the Society of Genealogists.

SoG library

The SoG library is a treasure trove and it features often in the Family History Researcher Course and one complete module takes us inside their doors.

Unfortunately for me, at the time of my research, the Dartmouth parish records were not on microfilm at the SoG. But I was over the moon to find a great selection of Devon Family History Society booklets for marriages taking place in the churches of the town, including St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. Browsing one book for any likely ancestors I spotted that on 13 April 1817 one person called John Thorn got married to an Elizabeth Sissell.

I opened up the internet and began searching using my new lead. My mission was to hunt down any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors.

Doing a search-engine query for Dartmouth + family history steered me towards the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website belonging to The Dartmouth Archives. I discovered that this voluntary organisation had a really broad family history section and included a number of transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records.

I could read the very same information, as I had seen at the SoG in London, on this niche site. The data began in 1586 and ran to 1850 and there was the marriage of John Thorn to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell.

Funny name, I thought, and today I understand taking transcribed names with a pinch of salt. If you decide to join the Family History Researcher Academy you will learn more.

At the time I made an assumption that this last person was more than likely some member of the bride’s family. Could it perhaps be the father of the bride?

But that name “Sunass” just didn’t seem likely to me. Now I know that it was the best guess by the transcriber as it couldn’t be read properly in the original record.

From the information I knew that they had signed with a mark, thus they were illiterate and so the first name and the second had not been written down by the ancestors themselves.

When you are doing your own research you should bear in mind that our ancestors may not have had the ability to read or write and the minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it said to him. In my ancestor’s case the surname “Sissell” could possibly have been “Cecil” or something entirely different. Consider saying the name with the regional accent and seeing what you come up with.

As for Sunass – at this point I was clueless!

The Dartmouth Archives website had not got any early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth and so I went over to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening.

St Petrox, Dartmouth font

I was rewarded by a lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. This child was the daughter of James and Sarah Sissill and she was christened Elizabeth Gardener Sissill.

You may notice that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e” again pointing to the vicar writing it down the way that he heard it.

I now jumped to a conclusion that the witness to Elizabeth’s marriage could have been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had looked like an “S” to the transcriber and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”. All easily done.

So what I am emphasising here and I continue to do so in modules from my Family History Researcher Course, is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. If you keep this in mind then some of the logjams we find in our research can be got past.

This breakthrough I had was down to finding that Dartmouth has an active family history website and then using their indexes in conjunction with other internet resources, such as the LDS site.

The first learning point is that you should always find out what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from.

If you find a family history society, or local interest group with a website, can any of their publications or website pages help you with your quest?

Secondly, always keep in mind that names were misspelled in many records. In my own family research I have had to think of other spellings for the Sissells, and indeed names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.

Ancestors in Thorne Family tree

I have made some fantastic strides in my family tree research and it is mostly down to learning as much as I can from other’s experiences and finding out as much as I can about what records and resources are available.

Last year I put together some modules for a course of 52 guides, aiming at passing on my experience. Perhaps they can help you become a more knowledgeable researcher?

I had some professional genealogists and data providers also contribute to the project to make it well rounded.

There is a special offer running for readers of this page of a £1 trail for four weeks membership of the Family History Researcher Academy. Click here to learn more.

As you have come to this page I am sure that you must have an interest in family history and I am betting that you to have some brick walls to knock down as well. So take a look at the report below that is based on some of the material from the Family History Researcher course…

 

 

Report3

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Exceptional new records from Findmypast uncover the diversity that formed the Royal Air Force in the First World War

Press Release from Findmypast that those of us with RFC/RAF servicemen in the family may be interested in.

 

Findmypast.co.uk, in partnership with The National Archives has released close to 450,000 service records of men of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force including 342,000 Airmen’s records never seen online before. Tales of derring-do brought to life so vividly by W.E. Johns in his Biggles series are well-known, but today’s release tells, for the first time, the stories of the unsung heroes from across the world and from the lower ranks that made up the RAF on its inception.

The majority of records in this collection date from 1912 with the formation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and include men who continued to serve in the RAF up until 1939. The earliest records date from 1899 with the Royal Engineers Balloon Service in the Boer War. With these fascinating records now available online, Findmypast offers the most comprehensive collection of British military service records in the early twentieth century.

Drawn from across the world…
The records reveal for the first time how World War One brought together men from across the world to serve alongside each other. Over 58 nationalities served in the RAF during World War One, with men signing up from as far afield as India, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Poland, Mexico, Romania and Germany. Included in the records is the first Indian to fly into combat, Hardutt Singh Malik, who became the only Indian aviator to survive the war, despite coming under significant attack and ending up with bullet wounds to his legs that required several months’ treatment in hospital. After the war, Malik joined the Indian Civil Service, serving as the Indian ambassador to France, and following his retirement became India’s finest golf player, even with two German bullets still embedded in his leg.

… and from across society
Despite the RAF’s reputation as the perfect playground for the upper classes, today’s records reveal how those from the working-class flew wing tip to wing tip with the officers, and became highly celebrated for their superior flying ability. One well-regarded flying ace, Arthur Ernest Newland, had humble origins as one of at least nine children from Enfield, north London, but the records show how he went on to twice receive the Distinguished Flying Medal for his prowess in the air, ending the war having destroyed 19 enemy aircraft, 17 of those single-handedly. One of ten children from a poor family in Limerick, John Cowell also became a celebrated airman during the war. Beginning on 5 May 1917, and extending through 28 July, Cowell scored fifteen victories as a gunner, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 11 June 1918, as well as the Military Medal with Bar. Returning as a pilot in 20 Squadron he scored his final victory a year and a day after his fifteenth but sadly was shot down and killed the next day by balloon buster Friedrich Ritter von Röth of Jasta 16.

The air’s a stage
With the records containing information about an individual’s peacetime occupation, as well as their military prowess, it’s perhaps no surprise that the RAF appealed to the more dramatic members of society with records showing 104 actors, nine comedians and even one music hall artiste made up the RAF ranks.

“It’s a real treat to have such an extensive set of records about the everyday airmen of World War One” said Paul Nixon, military expert at Findmypast.co.uk. “These people, drawn from all walks of life, and from all over the world, played an incredibly important part in shaping our history, particularly in the development of aerial warfare. To have many of these hitherto unseen records easily accessible online for the first time mean that now many people can discover the Biggles in their own family.”

William Spencer, author and principal military records specialist at The National Archives continued: “These records reveal the many nationalities of airmen that joined forces to fight in the First World War. Now these records are online, people can discover the history of their ancestors, with everything from their physical appearance right through to their conduct and the brave acts they carried out which helped to win the war.”

The records, comprising National Archives series AIR 76 (Officers’ service records) and AIR 79 (Airmen’s records) contain information about an individual’s peacetime and military career, as well as his physical description, religious denomination and family status. Next of kin are often mentioned and this too has been fully indexed and is easily searchable. These records form part of Findmypast’s 100in100 promise to deliver 100 record sets in 100 days. To learn more about the records, visit www.Findmypast.co.uk.

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A Newly digitised, navigable atlas collection details 500 years of British history

 

County map courtsey of Ancestry.co.ukAtlas shows us how Britain’s landscape has changed over the last 500 years

Looking at this collection of 57 maps and you will be able to find England’s lost counties of Westmorland and Huntingdonshire

Find Parish borders that hark back to when people associated more with their Parish church than town hall

There is a newly published historic atlas of Great Britain online at Ancestry.co.uk that gives the family historian something of a unique view of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales stretching back over 500 years.

Digitised by the family history site Ancestry.co.uk, the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, consists of fifty seven different maps of the counties of the U.K. What is interesting to me about this is it shows how Britain’s ancient parish and county boundaries have changed shape over the centuries.

We have all been there in our research. You may have lost someone from the records of a
particular county and thus you become stuck unless you can see the boundaries as they stood at the time that your ancestor was alive.
I was doing some research for a client whose ancestors came from Northfield. Today that is a suburb of Birmingham and so is in the West Midlands. At the time of their ancestor Northfield was in Worcestershire.

The subject of the research got married about ten miles away in Dudley, which was in Staffordshire at the time and today has its own archive service as it is a Metropolitan Borough. Thus to find the records of a family that lived in quite a small radius needs careful thought as to where to look.

This newly digitised Atlas is navigable online, users are able to scroll over whole counties and then use a zoom tool to go in and out. Useful if you need to identify the various local parishes, towns and the churches.

The original documents used in the atlas are from the resources of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.

Browsing the maps open up quite an insight into how England’s historical county maps didn’t change much for centuries, before many of the ancient counties were split up to make more governable areas.

In this atlas the county of Middlesex is shown as it was in the 19th century. At that time it consisted of what are today large swathes of modern London and so included the likes of Islington and Chelsea. London itself is a much smaller settlement that is barely more than one mile wide.

The Home Counties appear in their original form before the legislation of the London Government Act 1965  created Greater London. You will also be able to see the original boundary of the counties of Essex and Surrey when viewing the maps.

Other counties that are defunct today but can be traced in the atlas include Westmorland (today a part of Cumbria), and Huntingdonshire, which disappeared into Cambridgeshire following a Government Act in 1971. Lancashire is also to be found here in its original form, comprising of modern day Manchester and Liverpool and also various parts of Cumbria and Cheshire. It was subsequently reorganised and downsized, losing nearly a third of its area in the process.

Before the population of the country grew over the centuries and along with this regional administration developed, people were inclined to identify themselves more with their local parish when considering where they came from. As time moved on and these parish borders changed to such an extent that now it is almost impossible to determine the exact location of some parishes and their records using modern maps.

I have an interest in a small village that sits today in North west Leicestershire, but in years past was divided between Leicestershire but with pockets residing in Derbyshire and completely surrounded by Leicestershire on all sides!

The Atlas is thus an authoritative guide to the drastic changes in Britain’s county and parish borders over the last 500 years and a valuable way of adding geographical context to family history research.

The maps were the brainchild of Cecil Humphery-Smith, a genealogist and heraldist who founded the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, based in Canterbury, which promotes family history both through courses and its extensive library. He is, of course, the author of Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers.

At Ancestry.co.uk, the maps can now be searched and browsed by county.   For family historians using Ancestry’s Lancashire Parish records as well as the 1851 Censuses and Free Birth, Marriage and Death Index will discover that every record in these collections links to a relevant map.

In addition, almost eight million new records have been added to the Lancashire Parish records currently available on Ancestry’s site.

Ancestry.co.uk Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “The borders of the UK parishes and counties have changed so much over the last 500 years and that really makes these maps the key to navigating the past and progressing with your family history journey.”

To search the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, as well as millions of additional birth, marriage and death records, visit www.Ancestry.co.uk.


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