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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