British Record Society Probate Record Collection

I see that the British Record Society (BRS) Probate Record Collection has gone live on the National Wills Index.

Its a collection that covers more than 500 years and if your ancestor had written a will then perhaps this will make it a bit easier for you to find them. What is important about this release is that much of the data can not be found elsewhere on line and so the release on British Origins (www.origins.net) is to be welcomed.

These BRS probate indexes give you the names and dates of several million wills and other probate documents. It has a search facility that allows the user to view images of the original indexes to find all the information that you need to locate the documents in record offices.

In the future, as the BRS volumes are gradually indexed and uploaded, users will be able to order hard copies of the wills online. and they even promise that eventually we will be able to access the documents thenselves.

Send to Kindle

Distant Cousins Help to Populate My Family Tree

As my family tree research has moved along, I have been very lucky in receiving a helping hand by several distant “cousins” who have been nice enough to share with me information on mutual ancestors. Like me, they were independently researching the same, or sometimes collateral lines of  our shared family. The input these kind folk have given me has often boosted my research and propelled me so much further forward in the quest to build my tree. There is some pleasure to open my email program and find the subject line includes a last name, from one of the various family branches I’m researching. You may be wondering how you could start to get your own fellow researchers to contact you?

1.Enter your ancestors into a family tree on-line. I have used the facility at websites such as GenesReunited and Ancestry (Disclosure: these links are compensated affiliate links) to upload some of my ancestors into the family tree facilities provided by these sites. A benefit here is that you don’t have to give out your email if you don’t want to, as you get messages via the website that allows you to decide to contact the person or not.

Ancestry

2. Set up a simple website. This has been my most effective way of receiving contacts. Initially I signed up for a free website hosting and simply purchased the domain name for a few pounds/dollars a year. I then got a free website builder that didn’t need me to know any HTML code as it worked in a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get manner. I posted a page with a few facts and some photographs on each branch and added a picture of my very minimal, at least that time, tree. As I grew more proficient I split the lines into several pages, one for each branch. When I went visiting the areas, where my ancestors had lived, I took photographs of houses that they had lived in, work places, schools that they had attended and so on. Next I published some pages in a short narrative about the trip. I then posted links to my site on a few websites that allowed me to do this, for example some forums will if it is not a commercial post.Eventually the Google search engine found my website and so now it has become easier for surfers to find it when looking for Thorne, or Stephens or Hay families. So what about the threat of spam to any email address that is published on the Internet? In order to prevent my main email becoming bogged down with spam I set up a separate email on my website domain, e.g name @ mydomain. com and then added a new identity in outlook express. I now have two email addresses so keeping my private one away from the spammers.
3. Get blogging. I chose to set up a WordPress blog on my existing website as an add on, but Blogger is an alternative that I have seen used. You may decide that, instead of adding a blog to a website that you go down the route of a blog on its own. To many this is the simplest way to get a web presence. You are able to host it on the blog provider’s platform. Better still, as you retain the copyright for anything you publish, register a domain name of your choice and get some web-hosting. Now all you need to do is set up the blog on your own hosted website. You don’t need to have other pages on the site if you don’t want to.
4. Join social networking sites like Arcalife, or We’re Related, or Ancestral Maps.
Arcalife combines the ability to share family trees with connectivity. It is heralded as a facebook for family historians. It is still under development but looks like it is going in the right direction.
We’re Related is an application that is not meant to be a full featured family tree software package, though it has got several features of that kind included. The idea behind it is for you to be able to share basic family information with anybody you choose.This should allow you to find your relatives on Facebook, keep up with your family, build your family tree and share news and photos with your family. They hope that in the future the application will allow us to share memories about ancestors with our family, compare our family tree with our friends on Facebook and so to see if we are related.
Ancestral Maps is an exciting new website that allows family historians to plot events and locations relating to your ancestors’ lives on maps. The idea is to then share these with others who are members of the website. It sounds like it could grow into a most useful site as it attracts new users.
So if you want to speed up your research and make contacts with distant cousins then I can’t recommend enough these strategies. The bottom line is that the world wide web has made it much easier for us to make connections with fellow researchers but to do this you need to set up a means for them to find and contact you.
A word of warning: Never take what is shared and publish it without asking. If someone has put in 20 years research on their family and shares with you the benefit of their work, for you to go and add it to your website without their permission is a recipe for ill-feeling and perhaps legal proceedings.
So a distant cousin’s research may well propel you along to find ancestors more quickly than if you were plodding along yourself, but remember that a good family researcher will check the primary source of any information given and will not take it as gospel until they have tracked down the births, marriages and death or census records themselves and then cited them properly in their tree.
Send to Kindle

Use more than one ancestor look up site!

I really need to remember my own advice to use more than one ancestor look up site!Ancestors in Thorne Family tree
On the occasions when I find myself talking to someone new to this family history pastime, about doing ancestor research, I often find myself going back to the advice that I have been given by a professional genealogists. Now I do not consider myself to be anything like a Genealogical Guru, I am simply someone who has gained a little experience over the years and now am happy to pass on two of my tips here. Both are about stepping back from the research results and introducing some careful thought into the proceedings.
  • Think logically about a person’s time-line.
  • Listen to family stories, but then step back and try to corroborate them with hard evidence to confirm what you have been told.

A person’s date of birth is obviously going to dictate an approximate time for when they could have got married and when you should reasonably expect them to have died. A little thought will tell you that rarely will a person be getting married in their hundredth year! Likewise, they are not going to be getting wed aged 6 or 7 either. Beware of entries in databases that just happen to have the same name as your ancestor, but are just plain and simply the wrong people. But even then we can go wrong if  we are not careful.

One weekend, when doing some family tree research,  I got myself stuck in a hole and wasted oh so much time digging it deeper and deeper! What was it I was doing wrong and how did I finally get out of it? Well I was trying to find the details of an ancestor’s death so that I could purchase a death certificate from the GRO site.

I am fairly wedded to www.ancestry.co.uk for most of my research. I like what they have on offer and I have become use to the way the site works. I also have a subscription to other sites such as www.thegenealogist.co.uk which I find good for many searches and then there is another favourite of mine:  www.findmypast.com.  (Disclosure re these links: Compensated Affiliate.)

The research I was doing had been initiated by reading some “thoughts” put down on paper by a relative before he died. I had been shown this family history because, as a cousin, I had an ancestor in common with them and I wanted to enter this forbear into my family tree as well. The handwritten notes indicated that our ancestor had died aged 66 and from this I was able to work out that as they were born in 1865. From this I then worked out that they probably died in 1930.

I went on to ancestry.co.uk and searched by name for the ancestor in all four quarters of 1930 but to no avail. I then broadened my research for ten years either side and spent hours looking for them without any luck. I then thought I’d try misspellings of the ancestor’s name as this, I thought, is surely why they are missing. Result: A big fat nothing!

Eventually, after much wasted time, I thought about using one of the other websites that offers Birth marriage and death details, something I should have done early on. And what did I find? There he was, on the other BMD site spelt correctly and dying in the district where I expected him too, but aged 70 not 66 and in the year 1935 not 1930!
The lessons for me to relearn and hopefully for you to benefit from are as follows:
  1. Remember that all websites are fallible and omissions happen.
  2. Family stories can sometimes be wrong as humans are not blessed with 100 percent recall and we can get things wrong, as it would seem this relative did in his writings for his children!

I have made myself a note to remember my own advice in future: Use more than one ancestor look up site and remember that stories can be wrong!

Send to Kindle

Family Search and the Family Historian

I have been on my own family search quest for several years now. Some of the foremost websites that I have used in this time include the world famous familysearch.org, run by the Latter Day Saints and often referred to as LDS; Ancestry, operated by the Generations Network;  The Genealogist.co.uk;  Genes Reunited and   Findmypast.com. (Disclosure re these links: Compensated Affiliate.)

FamilySesarch, however, is one of the biggest genealogy organizations in the world and as such is an important on-line tool for any family historian. Countless millions of us will search the records, resources, and services of this website to learn more about our family history each year. For more than a century the people behind it have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide. Today, the users of the site are able to freely access the database, including the International Genealogical Index as well as church member contributed material, on-line at FamilySearch.org, or through over 4,500 family history centres in 70 countries.

The Internet resource is provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whom you may be more familiar with as the Mormon Church. Their commitment to helping people make a connection with their ancestors comes from their belief that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue into the after life. From this they therefore believe that all family members including those living, past, and those from the future, share an enduring bond which stretches across the generations.

Their website does not require you to share their beliefs at all, but is open to all of us to use what ever our creed, or culture is. It is a very useful resource for anyone engaged in the detective work involved in tracing one’s family tree.

The International Genealogical Index and Hugh Wallis.

Once you have keyed in your ancestor’s name into the search box you will be accessing a compilation of entries from baptism and marriage registers drawn from parishes and their equivalent from all over the world. Although it is a site run from the USA, for those of us with UK roots it still very relevant as it represents us well with index records. Some English counties in particular having excellent coverage.

The site, however, has certain issues in the way that you can search it. One of which is it is not always simple to find your ancestors even when they are there to be found in the IGI – which, of course, is not always the case. The reason why you may not find them is because to search by last name only is not permitted by the site’s search engine, unless you search within a single batch of records at a time or, across the entire country! You will probably understand that a search for a last name across the whole of England is a very tall order indeed. Remember it is not even a search of a single county, let alone a town that we are talking about here. If you have a rare name then perhaps it might be OK to do, but if you are looking for a Smith or a Jones then you are asking the impossible.

I have learnt that there is a way around this problem. It is to use a really handy website set up by an enthusiast to aid the family history researcher find their way around the FamilySearch site. What is more, it helps us know what registers are available on the IGI. The secret weapon to crack open the Family Search site is the website maintained by Hugh Wallis: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~hughwallis/IGIBatchNumbers.htm

The possible ranges he allows you to access are the Births/Christenings and Marriages for the British Isles, Canada and the USA. I really cannot recommend this tool highly enough to you. With it you may select a geographic location, see the churches and chapels for that area and then, by typing in the last name of your ancestor, it will use the search engine on FamilySearch to allow you to easily examine all the batches for that surname in the town or area that you are concentrating on.

Some Issues With the IGI.

Please remember, when doing your research, that the International Genealogical Index:

is incomplete – and this applies not only on a parish by parish basis, but to within parishes as well where gaps may also be found to confound you

– is compiled from several different types of record including information submitted by members of the LDS church supplying information that can sometimes be plain inaccurate and not having come from the original parish register

– has countless mistakes caused by problems associated with interpreting handwriting and also the previously noted member submitted entries

– does not, except for a few cases, cover burials;

– is only an index and so you really should not ever considered it to be a substitute for looking at the original record.

A short while ago, as I tried to get back a generation from where the census records on line had stopped in 1841, I found I was having to turn to the Parish Records. For my Scottish line I was able to use the easily accessed old parish records (OPR) on Scotlandspeople.gov.uk website, but for my English line the lack of scanned records meant the challenge of learning how to break into this area of family history research was a fascinating test for me.

Send to Kindle