New UK records added to Family Search

 

This weekend I was scanning the FamilySearch blog (https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/new-records-united-kingdom/) when I noticed this post that is very relevant for English/Welsh family history researchers.

While much is free on the site to view some record images does require you to sign in to Familysearch.org as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints OR access the site at a family history centre. There is also the alternative of finding the images at Findmypast where fees and other terms may apply.

They write:

 

We are excited to announce that more record collections from the United Kingdom have newly become available and have been added to the FamilySearch library! We hope that these records will help you feel more in touch with a section of history, and we especially hope that they will open doors for you as you continue to research your family roots. Some of these collections include the following:

These record collections cover an interesting and eventful period in British history. As a result, they contain information about some of the United Kingdom’s most prominent men and women, including artists, explorers, politicians, and even royalty! Beyond learning about your own family ties, you can use these records to learn about these individuals and what your ancestors may have experienced during this time of their lives.

For example, you can now view information about Queen Victoria and her family that was recorded in the 1851 census. And you can also find the baptismal record of Charles Dickens in some of the parish records that have now become available. These records collections also include information about figures such as Florence Nightingale, Sir Winston Churchill, and others.

Visit our website  to see even more famous British, some of whom you may be related to! Once you start to build out your family tree on FamilySearch.org, this website can show you connections to ancestors included in these records, as well as 18 famous people who they may have talked about or read about in the newspapers. Once you begin creating a family tree, we can send you hints about matching records to help you discover more ancestors. If you’re a bit of a history buff, these records can be a great place to start perusing information. Or if you were feeling stuck in your United Kingdom family history research, these records might be your chance to push past barriers and discover more about your English heritage.

In any case, we wish you happy hunting!

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I found an ancestor in the Wolverhampton City Archives

 

Wolverhampton City Archives

 

I’ve been visiting the Midlands for the New Year and on the last day of 2015 I marked the occasion with a visit to the Wolverhampton City Archives.

I am so glad that I decided to see if they were open as I managed to discover something interesting about a person in my family tree that I didn’t know before then.

I had identified that a great-grand uncle of mine, Major Robert D D Hay, had become the Chief Constable of the Wolverhampton Borough Police in around 1866. In fact I had got the completely wrong dates for his tenure, but the knowledgeable staff in the archives were able to find me an entry in their catalogue for a newspaper report that put me on the correct track. The correct date was 1878 that he had been appointed to the job.

In the interest of discovering something about the Major’s wife I asked the archive staff if they had anything about Mary Hay, neé Corser, whom I believed may have been a local Wolverhampton girl. Entering her name they showed me entries that suggested that she may have been the daughter of a local solicitor and attorney called Charles Corser and another link that revealed the fascinating fact that she had founded a home in the late nineteenth century as a shelter for homeless girls where they could learn a trade.

The archive staff explained to me what the home was established for and it certainly made perfect sense for the wife of the Chief Constable to have founded the institution. The man behind the desk seemed himself to be intrigued to discover that the Mrs Hay, of the Mrs Hay Memorial Home for Friendless Girls, had been the wife of the borough’s chief policeman.

It turns out that the home had been set up by my Victorian middle-class great-grand aunt who, like many of her class, feared that prostitution, that was rife among the desperately poor working class women of the city, was in danger of undermining the fabric of their own level of society. This, they concluded, was because of the temptation prostitutes held for their own middle class men and so the solution they came up with was to take the girls off the streets and teach them a trade other than the oldest profession!

 

In my course on English/Welsh family history I always encourage those who want to discover more about their ancestors to explore the records that the county record offices and city archives have as many of their holdings have not made it online. While there certainly is a lot of records to explore online now, there are often some smaller collections that can help you find out more about your family. To find them you very often have to pay a visit to the repositories in the area that your ancestor lived in and ask the staff what holdings they suggest may help you find out more.

 

While I was in the City Archives I was also able to take a look at the original Chief Constable’s report to the Watch Committee. While it was a later book than my own ancestor had compiled, it still gave me a fascinating insight into the running of a Victorian police force and I felt privileged to be able to turn the pages of the old ledger and read about some of concerns of the Chief Constable. Within its pages were the names of various PCs on sick leave; the names of officers facing disciplinary proceedings and the recommendations (or otherwise) for lodging house licences and so on.

Looking at the Chief Constable s report Wolverhampton City Archives

 

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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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Who Do You Think You Are? Sir Derek Jacobi – Wills and more

 

Derek Jacobi from TheGenealogist

I watched the Sir Derek Jacobi episode of Who Do You think You Are? with great interest this week. The television researchers showed us that although the famous actor was born into a South London family of humble stock, he was descended from a Huguenot ancestor of status. Joseph De La Plaigne had been imprisoned in France for his protestant beliefs, before making his escape to England in his sixties.

It gave me great delight to find the TV programme showed Sir Derek a copy of his illustrious forebear’s will, as I too had discovered this very same document when looking around the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills on TheGenealogist’s website.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

If you want to read more about this and some of Sir Derek’s other ancestors’ last wishes, then there is an article on TheGenealogist’s website that I helped put together.

TheGenealogist Wills of ancestor of Sir Derek Jacobi

Many people from all stations of society, including some whom we would not have expected to have, made wills and so it is certainly worth taking a look to see if your ancestors left one.

Before 1858, England and Wales were divided into two provinces. The largest and most influential was Canterbury, which covered the South of England up to the Midlands and also Wales. The other was York, which covered Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and the Isle of Man. The two provinces of Canterbury and York each had their own Archbishop, and were divided into several dioceses. Each diocese had a minimum of two bishops, and these dioceses were also divided again into archdeaconries.

All wills, up until 12 January 1858, had to be proven in a church court to ensure that the will was legal. Wills were proven in over 250 church courts across the country, and the records of these are now stored mostly in local record offices.

For more on wills there is a module that reveals more about the subject inside the Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh Family History that is available from the link below. The course takes the student from beginning researching their English/Welsh ancestor to deal with many intermediate level lessons such as wills and much more.

Compensated affiliate links used in the post above http://paidforadvertising.co.uk/

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Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

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