Family Tree Research tips for the New Year

Happy New Year everybody!

I am just back from a trip away to visit the family for the Christmas break and inevitably got to meet some people who are interested in their family history and knowing my interest in the subject had various questions for me. Some wanted to be given quite specific advice on how to find an ancestor, while others just wanted to know how to make a start in this hobby.

For the beginners I trotted out the well worn mantra that you should write down everything that you know about your family as far back as you can go. I advised them to concentrate on the information that they knew on their parents, grandparents and, if possible, their great-grandparents while noting down the names, dates of birth, marriages and deaths together with the places that these events had happened in.

I told my friends that they should record where in the world that their ancestors lived and in what part of the country this was, as that would have a bearing on where to look for the records. Then they could make a start with the census collections and gradually work back making sure to always look at the original image to check for spelling and only use transcripts as a useful guide to the former warning them that the transcript could have been copied down incorrectly.

For the slightly more advanced, I explained about locating difficult to find relatives by using a variant of the surname. Expanding that, as spelling in the records was not consistent and relied on the way it may have sounded to the vicar who was entering it in the parish register, their ancestor’s name may be spelt differently from the way that they wrote it today. I advised about visiting the County Record offices to search for information and how the Archon search on the National Archives website could be used to find repositories.

Other new friends asked me about searching for wills, Apprentice indentures and marriage licences. Then there was the conversations that I had about taxation records and also the manorial records.

I was so pleased to find that more and more people seem to be interested in the subject and I do hope that they discover what a fascinating pass-time that this is and begin to enjoy the detective work as I do!

 

 

Help Me Get Back Before 1837 in England & WalesGetting Back Before 1837 in England & Wales.

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Fantastic Society of Genealogist Course!

Society of GenealogistsI’ve been to London this weekend and, on Saturday, I attended a great course at the Society of Genealogists on My Ancestor Came From Devon given by the society’s Genealogist Else Churchill.

Over the afternoon we were introduced to what we would be able to find in the library at the SoG in Charterhouse Buildings and where to look on the internet for Devon sources.

The talk encompassed sources for beginners to beyond and if you can’t make it down to Devon itself and find getting to London easier, then what is available at the SoG really is a good alternative for anyone who, like me, have Devonian ancestors.

I shall be returning to this lecture in a future post, but today I’d just like to mention some of the resources that were highlighted by Else Churchill.

The Society of Genealogists has registers for about 10,000 parishes. It houses published indexes and finding aids including the Devon FHS publications and also has many transcripts and indexes in microfilm and CDs.  There are various trade directories spanning from 1783 to the 1930s in the library and poll books particularly from Exeter and Plymouth.

Many of us subscribe to one or other of the subscription sites, but very few of us can afford to belong to more than one or two. Well that is where a visit to the SoG  can be useful as they have free access to a number of the pay per view websites so allowing us to do searches on the sites that we don’t subscribe to ourselves. This is an important resource for the family historian, as often the way the database has been transcribed can have a bearing on what you are able to find on one over another. So if you have hit a brick wall and can’t find a forbear on one site then it is worth looking on another. Also one may be stronger for the counties that you are interested in. Findmypast turns out to be particularly good for Devon.

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Finding Ancestors Up To 1837 In An English & Welsh Family Tree

The National Archives at Kew

The National Archives at Kew

Why do we talk about the year 1837 in English & Welsh Family Tree research? Well this is when the General Register office or GRO was founded and That’s when and civil registration took over from the church in England and Wales.

The reasoning behind it was that the powers that be wanted to centralise data on the population. Consequently two Acts of Parliament were brought in to law by the Whig Government of the time.

1. The Marriage Act – which amended existing legislation for marriage procedures and brought in the addition of the registry office marriage; that allowed non conformist to marry in a civil ceremony. It is for that reason that you may sometimes see this piece of legislation referred to as the “Dissenters Marriage Bill”

2. Act for Registering Births Marriages & Deaths in England – which repealed previous legislation that regulated parish and other registers.

The new laws brought with them a change with 619 registration districts coming into force. These districts were based on the old poor law unions and so England & Wales were divided up into these districts for the purpose of civil registration.

For each of these districts a superintendent registrar was appointed. Further sub-districts being created within the larger unit and so from the 1 July 1837 all births, civil marriages and deaths had to be reported to the local registrars, who in turn sent the details on to their superintendent.

Every three months the superintendent-registrars would then send on the details gathered in their own returns to the Registrar General at the General Register Office.

So what was the case for church marriages? Well the minister was, in a similar manner, charged with sending his own lists to the GRO where the index of vital events were complied. This system means that many of us are able to simply find our ancestors in indexes and order copies of certificates back as far as the third quarter of 1837.

But how do we get back before 1837? That is a subject for another time.

Help Me Get Back Before 1837 in England & WalesHow To Get Back Before 1837 in England & Wales Audio CD is available now for £12.47.

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Where To Look For English Ancestor’s Wills

You may be wondering where to go looking for your ancestor’s will.
The first thing that you need to consider is that before 1858, England and Wales were divided up into two provinces.

Canterbury was the largest and most influential and its remit covered the South of England up to the Midlands along with Wales. The other one was The Province of York, whose area covered the counties of Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and also the Isle of Man.

The structure of these ecclesiastic provinces were that at the head of each was an Archbishop. Then the province was subdivided into several smaller dioceses with each diocese having a minimum of two bishops. A further division was where these dioceses were divided again into archdeaconries.

Until 12 January 1858, all wills had to be “proven” in a church court to ensure that it was considered a legal will. There were, in effect, over 250 church courts across the country that proved wills and the records of these wills are now to be found stored mostly in local record offices.

Where a will was proved would depend upon where the lands the property was situated in. Another important consideration was whether they were contained within a single archdeaconry. If they were then the will would be proven in the Archdeacon’s court. If, however, the property of the deceased was to be found stretching across several archdeaconries, then it would have to be proven in a Bishop’s Court.

In a similar fashion, should the land be in more than one diocese then it would be to the Archbishop’s Prerogative Court that the will would need to go to be proved.

As always, there are the exceptions to the rules and one of these is if the deceased had died abroad. I such a case the will would be proven at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury regardless of where the property was.

Wills proven in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are now held at the National Archives in Kew, while the wills proven in the Prerogative Court of York are to be found at the Bothwick Institute in the University of York.

All of the wills proven in the lower courts up to 1858 are usually held in the Diocesan Record Office and often this will be the County Record Office. In Wales, however, wills from 1521 are held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Family historians can find locating wills to be an up hill task. It is recommended that you try to locate an index before you set off to one archive or another, to see if a will for your forebear exists. Many indexes are now available on CD and online via the subscription sites like TheGenealogist.co.uk and Ancestry.

A will and testament from the 19th century
A Will from the 19th century online
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NoseyGenealogist.com/blog interviews Your Family Tree Magazine’s Editor

Here is the first of my From the show video reports..
http://www.noseygenealogist.com/blog/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-2011
In which I get to talk to Mr Tom Dennis, the editor of the popular family history publication: Your Family Tree Magazine. It was at the 2011 “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” show in London that I caught up with Tom on his magazine’s stand and got to hear the plans for some of the family history articles and features that we can look forward to in his magazine over the next few months. We also get an insight into what resources we should look out for on the cover CD and hear how the on-line forum for family historians is developing.

Your Family Tree Magazine Editor talks to The Nosey Genealogist
Your Family Tree Magazine Editor talks to The Nosey Genealogist
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Getting Back Before 1837 In An English or Welsh Family Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Family Tree Researchers See More Online Parish Records

I have noticed recently that there seems to be more Parish Records coming online for those of us researching our English Family Tree. Welcome news indeed for family historians that find it difficult to travel to the areas where their ancestors came from.

Websites such as Freereg.org.uk are aiming at putting more than a million transcripts on the web thanks to a programme of digitisation by the Parish Register Transcription Society (PRTSoc). Until recently this society has only ever made its transcripts available on CD, so this is good news.

In partnership with a technology firm called Frontis Archive Publishing, the first batch of transcripts have been uploaded from more than 300 parishes across 17 English counties.

To search the indexes cost you nothing. To view an entry is one credit and 10 credits can be bought for £2 with a sliding scale if you want to purchase more. The proceeds are going towards funding further transcription and should they end up with a surplus, then this will be given to the mental health charity Rethink.

While I am glad to see better access to transcript from the parish records there are some questions in my mind. We all know that transcriptions are no substitute for the original. Good family historians are taught to always go and look at the source material to make sure that no errors have crept into the transcribed record.

Other things to be wary of is who made the transcription that the index is based upon? Is the record a complete one without any significant gaps? Has the information been checked against Bishop’s transcripts and Licence records?

But, in spite of this, the fact that more Parish Records are finding their way online is wonderful news for those of us researching our English Family Tree.

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Very Helpful Details On How To Access Death Records

Many people often wonder about their family genealogies or about what may have happened to certain people who they were once close to. However, they rarely do anything to find out that information. In some cases, public death records may hold the answers that people are looking for and this article can tell you all about them.

Gaining access to someone’s death certificate may provide you with the information that is required for making a family tree. Additionally, these records can provide you with information that can help you understand what happened to someone who you were close to.

Today, these records can hold a wealth of information about the person who has passed on. You can find out what their recorded cause of death was, who they were married to, and when they were married. You can also find out if they had any children, who the next of kin is, and what they did for a living.

It is possible to get these records by contacting the appropriate state department. However, getting an answer can take a long time and they may only have access to their records, rather than the records for the whole country. It may be better to use an online service instead.

Prior to using a Web service, you should research it to find out how accurate their results are. Unfortunately, all services have not been created equally, so it is important to not spend any money until you’re sure that you’ll be getting the information you require.

To find out which online USA death records service is best for you, you should look for online reviews and specifically search for complaints or class actions that were filed against the company. If you find that a Web service has tons of complaints, you should avoid it.

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I Couldn’t Find My Ancestor On One Site..

Family Tree on a computer

Using Different ancestor look-up sites give you more but beware of taking everything at face value!

I’ve touched on this subject in a previous post, but I thought I’d tell you about another time I found why it is so important to make use of more than one website when doing family tree research.

I couldn’t find a death record for one of my forebears on the freeBMD.org site or on Ancestry.co.uk and so I opened up findmypast.co.uk and typed in my man’s name into the search box.

I got a hit for him in the National Burial Index database that findmypast hosts on-line. Now this is not the recently launched 3rd revised edition that can be bought on CD from S & N Genealogical supplies, but is a previous edition that has not got as many names. I was lucky, however, that the ancestor I was tracing was there for the finding.

On the subject of revisiting past topics in my writings, there was the problem of transcribers getting an ancestor’s name wrong because they couldn’t read the handwriting. In this case my individual had an easy first name as well as a last, but his middle names were Scottish surnames used as middle names “Wemyss” and “Frewen”. On the findmypast website his first and surname were listed correctly, but one of his middle names had been mangled by the transcribers to Wernys. What I am advocating is to remember to include variants if at first your search provides nothing of value.

On the subject of using different websites I have also had some new leads come my way this week through my habit of publishing my family tree onto various platforms including Ancestry.co.uk and GenesReunited not to mention my own private family history website. Every now and again I will find a shared ancestor appears in someone else’s tree. This week I found a great-grandmother of mine appear as a sibling of another person’s direct ancestor. Now this maternal line I have yet to work on properly my self and so it was with some excitement that I found the research seemed to have been done for me.

But here is another warning revisited! When I looked at the contributors tree for the parents of my great-grandmother, my potential 2 x great-grandparents, I found that the owner of the family tree had include no less than three sets of mothers and fathers for the children, all of which had the same common first name for the father, but with different mother’s names! I imagine that it is a work in progress and they are yet to eliminate the incorrect couples, but if I had simply merged them into my own family tree then I would have imported these errors. What I intend to do, and urge you to follow as good practice, is to use these leads.

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Your Family Tree Magazine is a favourite of mine

Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.
Your Family Tree is considered, by many family historians, to be one of the most respected genealogy magazines around. I love the way that they not only feature articles on the various traditional means of researching our family trees but also give advice on using personal computers or Apple Macs to do ancestor research. Their aim is “to make tracing family history accessible and rewarding for everyone” according to their website. Your Family Tree offers practical advice, written by experts, on all areas of family history research and is known as Your Family History outside of the UK. The content, however, is the same in both magazines so don’t feel you will lose out if you are based abroad. The Editor, Russell James, is quoted as saying this: “Each issue covers an array of old documents, answers readers questions, and puts family historians in touch with one another. You’ll also receive a covermounted CD-ROM for Mac and PC containing an array of genealogy resources, as well as a pull-out region research card (contacts, map, plus key local resources and historical facts) and four collectable surname index cards every issue.” I personally can’t wait each month for my copy to arrive. I used to buy it from the newsstand until I realised the convienince and the special price that is offered when taking out a subscription. Take a look at whats on offer by clicking one of the banners on this page and you will be able to try before you buy by looking inside a magazine. Recently I’ve enjoyed reading articles such as these below. Want to join me? 100 vital websites – Bumper online special How To guides including: Research Scottish clans, find old maps online, date wedding photos and organise your records Pass down your family’s story – Make sure your findings are never forgotten Migration records – Discover the best websites to help you trace your ancestors’ movement Royal Mail workers – The stories of your postal ancestors Now I know this looks like I am simply acting as a salesman for them; but I really do read this magazine and I have personally got a lot out of my subscription and so I do not apologise for recommending them! A good genealogist never stops learning. We are all somewhere between Beginner and Advanced Beginner! Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.

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