Ancestors not on the database?

A problem that you may have encountered is one where your ancestors do not appear in the online data bases that you are searching through. I have had this problem with several forebears and when this happens I usually decide to look for the missing person in various alternative offline records.

If you too are experiencing the pain, of not finding an ancestor, then have you thought of looking at the original records at a county record office, or at some other repository? True, you may have a long and uphill task, as you methodically work your way back through the images, year by year, but this is how I came across one of my “lost” ancestors recently.

For one reason or another the transcript, which the search engine facility on the subscription site used to throw up likely records for me to consider, had recorded my ancestor’s name incorrectly. Only by browsing a microfiche, in the archive, did I find the person that I had been previously searching for without any luck.

In another and quite unrelated search, I found a transcript of burials to be a godsend to me. It had been created by the Devon Family History Society and I had found that they offered both printed booklets, and downloadable pdf versions, of parish burials for the area that I was interested in.

As I was too impatient to wait for the physical booklet to arrive in the post I opted for the download of the pdf from their website. Now this gave me an advantage. In addition to being instantly able to see my purchase, I was also able to use the really useful search facility that is built into a pdf document reader. By selecting from the tool bar: “Edit” and then on the drop-down menu: “Find”, I could look for a specific word.

I chose to search for my ancestor’s surname and when I couldn’t find him listed, because his family name had been spelled in a strange way by the clerk or vicar  (see the previous post on that subject on this blog), I then tried his first name.

After searching and rejecting many men called “James”, who had been listed in the booklet, I finally hit upon one in this list that seemed to fit the bill. His age matched my ancestor and the surname was indeed a novel interpretation of  the last name that I was looking for. Thus, in my family history quest to fill out my family tree I have encountered both a time when a transcript has helped me find an ancestor and a time when a transcript has hindered!

 

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Solving Family Tree Brick Walls

Many of us, researching our family trees, come up against the inevitable brick wall of forebears that don’t appear in the documents in the places where we expect to find them. Sometimes this can be because they have been recorded, but the spelling of the name differs each time an official makes an attempt to write it down.

 

Brick Wall buster tip 1. Can’t find anyone of that name? Try searching for variants as in the past spelling was not an exact science.

 

This week I was revisiting my ancestors who married in Gloucester and then went on to have a daughter baptised in Devon that eventually married a Thorn and so perpetuated the Thorn/Thorne line that leads down the tree to me.

One of the problems that I have with this branch is that they were not literate and had no idea of how to spell their surname. The evidence is in the parish register for Dartmouth, where I first pick up the female line. Both parties, to the marriage between the Thorns and the Sissells made their mark and did not sign. The register gives me the name of the father of the bride as James Sissell as he makes his mark as a witness.

Elizabeth Gardiner Thorn, as she becomes on her marriage, is eventually buried in Dartmouth and I can trace her in the census records and on her death certificate as having been my 2x great-grandmother, from the names of her family in these records. This is how I know that I am investigating the correct person.

Researching the christening of Elizabeth backwards, in the IGI on familysearch.org, I find that she was given the name of Elizabeth Gardiner Sissill and I also find the marriage of a James Sysal to a Sarah Gardiner in 1780 in St Nicholas’ church Gloucester.

St Nicholas', Gloucester Parish Records are at County Record Office

So now I have three versions of the spelling of their surname, Sissell, Sissill and Sysal, but it is only the beginning!

I found that Elizabeth had a brother, Thomas, though at his christening the vicar entered his surname as Sizzall in the parish registers.

Turning my attention to the deaths of Elizabeth’s parents – as any good family historian always will try to kill off their ancestors – I have only just had some luck after my visit to the Devon Family History Society’s Tree House in Exeter and to the County Record Office to look at the microfiche copies of parish records.

I had no idea if James and Sarah had remained in Dartmouth of whether they had moved on, or even back to Gloucester.

With the aid of the various printed booklets of transcripts, from the DFHS, I was able to identify a Sarah Sisell (the fifth version of the surname) buried on March the 17th 1831 in the St Saviour’s burials transcripts and a James Saissell (sixth version of the spelling) buried on the 5th January 1835 in St. Saviour’s Dartmouth. Then I could look at the relevant microfiche copy of the register, in the County Record Office, to confirm the transcript was correct.

Spelling was so much more fluid in our ancestor’s day. Indeed the words “Burials” “Marriages” and “Baptisms”, at the top of the pages in the very same register, changed form throughout the different years!

I can only assume that all the variants of the surname, as recorded above and said with a West Country accent, could have sounded much alike to the hapless vicar whose registers display the fact that spelling was not fixed, as it has become today.

For more tips to get your family tree back before 1837 in England & Wales I would recommend that you buy my CD How To Get Back Before 1837 in England & Wales.

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Beware of Shared Family Trees!

Hugh Wallis onlineI was taking my research, of a branch of my tree that I have never really looked into before, a stage further.

It was the family of the Master Mariner that I had identified in Findmypast’s records of merchant navy records online that I looked at last week. I had traced back my 2 x great grandparents to their marriage in Portsmouth in 1859 and found that her family were living in that maritime city at the time of the 1851 census. Having failed to identify them in any of the other census from the UK, I then took a look at the LDS familyserch.org website to see if I could find marriages and baptisms for the parents. Now the results here were equally sparse. I did, however, find a marriage in St Thomas’ church Portsmouth for what I believe to be my great-great-great grandparents. From the census of 1851 I had got the Christian names of the family unit and my 3x great grandparents appeared to be called John Malser and Rosanna Craydon and John was born in 1811.

I thought I was on track until I tried to research back these families in Portsmouth. At present I have no leads from the online websites for the Craydon branch. What I did find was a possible baptism, from some Hampshire Genealogical Society transcriptions on the findmypast website for St Thomas’ Portsmouth. This gives the baptism date as being 1809 and so I can not be sure that I have found the correct man, but he is certainly a possibility.

We are all aware, in the family history community, how dates of birth in the census records can often be recorded incorrectly. This is where the subject wishes to massage their age slightly for some reason, simply doesn’t know their age, or in the case of the 1841 census the age is rounded down to the nearest five years for anyone over 15. Likewise we know that errors creep into transcriptions when they are copied and so that information contained within them may not be correct. So what I am left with is a tentative branch to my tree that awaits further investigation by looking at original, or at least microfilm copies of, parish records when I am able.

Before leaving this new line I decided to enter my newly discovered ancestors into a search engine. I quickly found a family tree that showed a link from the Malser’s to my parental family line, the Thorn’s. Here, however, it claimed my 2 x great grandmother was the daughter of a differently named set of parents from those that appear in the one census return that I have found. If I had done my research the other way around and had decided to put into my tree the information that was published on another’s tree without checking to a primary source, then I could have unintentionally introduced errors into my tree. As it is all I have is some leads that also need to be checked against the primary source, when time allows, but at least I have one census that has sent me in the right direction.

The names on that other tree could be different for all manners of reasons. They could be nick names, a case of remarriage or just plain wrong. Always check your ancestors back to a primary source before you can be confident that you have found your family.

 

 

Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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London Family Tree? Westminster Parish Records Go Online.

WESTMINSTER PARISH RECORDS PUBLISHED ONLINE BY FINDMYPAST.CO.UK

.       Over a million baptism, marriage and burial records that date back as far as 1538 are now available
.       For the first time you are able to see images of the original parish records from the City of Westminster online

Leading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk has published online for the very first time today 27th March 2012 the parish records that are held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre.  What they have dubbed “The Westminster Collection” is to be found on the net at findmypast.co.uk and comprises of fully searchable transcripts together with scanned images of the parish registers of this part of London. What is great for people searching for their ancestors in this area is that some of the records are over 400 years old!

Coming from over 50 of the churches from Westminster and including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand, St Paul Covent Garden, these 1,365,731 records, that are launched today, extend over the various years between 1538-1945.

Debra Chatfield, the family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said today: “The Westminster Collection is one of the largest regional parish record collections we have ever published online and contains some truly wonderful gems. Family historians, wherever they are in the world, can now search this historical goldmine and uncover the fascinating stories of their London ancestors.”

Today’s launch is only the beginning of this exciting project, whose aim is to digitally preserve the City of Westminster Archives Centre’s collection. It is the first tranche of  Westminster records containing the city’s baptisms, marriages and burials. The remaining records are scheduled to go live on the site over the coming months, along with other records such as cemetery registers, wills, rate books, settlement examinations, workhouse admission and discharge books, bastardy, orphan and apprentice records, charity documents, and militia and watch records.

Adrian Autton, Archives Manager at Westminster Archives commented: “The launch of the Westminster Collection is of huge significance making Westminster records fully accessible to a global audience. This resource will be of immense value to anyone whose ancestors lived in Westminster and to anyone wishing to study the rich heritage of this truly great city.”

If you are interested in this part of London then the records can be searched free of charge by visiting the Life Events (BMDs) section at findmypast.co.uk. From there you should select parish baptisms, or marriages, or burials. Transcripts and images can then be viewed with either PayAsYouGo credits, vouchers or a full subscription to findmypast.co.uk.

The new Westminster Collection at findmypast.co.uk joins a growing resource of official parish records from local archives, including Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, Manchester City Council and Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, with many more in the pipeline and due to go live in the coming months. In addition over 40 million parish records from family history societies can be found at findmypast.co.uk in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies.



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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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Help Me To Get Back Before 1837 In English & Welsh Genealogy

A great many people who are researching their forebears from the British Isles, discover that there is a massive amount of family history information on the internet for the years going back as far as 1837 in England & Wales. Then, as I pointed out before in a previous article of mine about tracing an English family tree before 1837, it would seem to become more difficult for us researchers. What is the significance or the year 1837? This is the date when civil registration started in England & Wales. The state took over from the established church the registering of all the citizen’s vital records.

You may have been amazed at the ease you had finding later records of your ancestors on the subscription websites like Ancestry, or TheGenealogist.co.uk, but then as you go back before the census records and the government run data for Births, Deaths and Marriages, you will have found that only a small number of all the genealogical records, that there actually are, have made it on to the net.

Parish Records can usually be found in the County Record office, or in a few cases the incumbent minister may still have retained them at the parish church. How do you decide which parish your ancestors would have fallen into? This is the value of getting hold of Parish maps for the relevant counties that you are researching. These maps will not only show the boundaries of each parish, but also those of the adjacent parishes, which can be extremely useful for tracking those ancestors who tended to move about!

Gaps can occur in the parish registers because of changes in regime, such as the English Civil War. Yet another political reason for missing parish records is the effect a tax can have on them. 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 – although paupers were exempt. As with all taxes people seek ways to evade them and so, 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. In contrast there is a corresponding increase in the number of pauper’s entries! The Act was repealed in 1794, having been found to be largely unsuccessful.

An Act of Parliament, 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 included the Father’s occupation and the Mother’s maiden name. Marriages, henceforth, included the parish of origin of both parties, their names, if they were a bachelor, spinster, widow, etc., their ages, the parties signatures or marks, and also those 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.

Marriages could have been solemnised in the Church either by banns, or by licence. Family historians, searching for their ancestors, will find that banns are recorded in the parish register. The reading of bans was the process where the couple’s intention to marry would be read out on three occasions in the parish churches of both parties. 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.

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How Can I Find Parish Records In My Family Tree Research?

Online-Old-Parish-RecordsMost people researching their family tree in the British Isles will eventually get past the census collections and the civil registrations and must now turn to the Parish records to proceed further. While, recently, there has been a great many more parish register collections being made available through the subscription sites, it is still not the case that a family historian will definitely find their ancestors parish has been uploaded online. Getting back before 1837 in England & Wales needs researchers to know where to look for the relevant details

Even if, however, we accept that we may need to make a visit to a physical archive, in order to push our research on, then we can certainly turn to the internet in order to locate where the parish records are. As well as this the web can undoubtedly save our selves time, when we do make the visit to the particular County Record Office or other archive, by being able to gain information provided by their website beforehand. In some cases they may even have their catalogue online which would allow us to do essential homework such as finding call numbers for the documents that we wish to look at and perhaps even ordering them up before we arrive.

In most cases, probably as much as ninety-nine percent of the time, we will find that the Parish Records for our ancestors have by now been deposited at the County Record Office, while a rare few will still be at the church in the care of the incumbent minister.

So where should we look first online?

A good starting point is to head over to the ARCHON page that is to be found in the website of The National Archives at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk and is a list of all sorts of archives in the country. The lists include diocesan archives, regimental and many other depositories that have a bearing on social history and genealogy.

From the National Achives home page navigate to the Records page and then to Catalogues and Online Records scroll down until you see the link for Archon. you will now be given a list of areas in Britain to search each with its own link so we see North East, North West etc. Selecting the area that you wish to look up will take you to an A-Z of repositories and if you were looking for a county record office this will be listed there.

Click on the relevant list and you will now be shown the information that ARCHON has on the archive in question giving you opening times etc and a very useful link to the actual archive’s website. I say useful because this is where you are likely to find the most up-to-date information about when they are open, if they have any late nights or Saturday opening times and how to get to them by road, rail, or air.

The actual repository’s website will give you such information as to what types of ID they accept, whether they are a member of the CARN ticket scheme where with one card you can gain access to many Record Offices across the country. Also the low down on whether you need to book a microfiche reader in advance of your arrival etc.

Some archive’s even include their catalogue online, this being a very useful tool as you can find out, in advance of your visit, if they hold the documents that you are looking for and also it allows you to take a note of the “call numbers” for the documents. This will cut down on wasting valuable research time, when you first arrive at the record office and indeed you may be able to order up, in advance, the documents to be waiting for you.

ARCHON is a most useful internet tool for those of us who are thinking about heading to an archive to do some research offline and is one of the ways to go about finding parish records.

I will be looking at others in a future post.

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More Parish Records Online for Family Historians

I am spending a lot more time trying to find Parish Records these days and it is refreshing to see that more are making it onto the internet.

Take, for example, the two major sets of records that consist of data for generations of residents of Liverpool that Ancestry.co.uk released in April of this year. Three million Roman Catholic and Church of England baptism, marriage and burial records, fully searchable is a fantastic resource for those family historians researching in this major English city.

The Liverpool Catholic Registers, 1750–1900, span 150 years  and contain 1.6 million Catholic baptism, marriage and burial records. These will be of particular interest to the 136,0002 Liverpudlians today of Irish descent.

The 1.8 million Liverpool Church of England Parish Registers, 1659–1974, will equally be a significant resource for those tracing ancestors from the Protestant community of Liverpool. When one has got back before 1837 and the time when Civil Registration came in, these Parish Registers are the best way to find births, marriages and death records. No doubt this data set will really help people to trace their northern ancestors back to the 17th century.

The records, contained within these two particular collections, span over four centuries and witness the development of Liverpool from little more than a small town in the 1600s, to one of the UK’s largest and most culturally diverse cities.

It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that Liverpool’s population steadily grew. Come the 19th century, Liverpool expanded to become the second port of Britain and also one of the major centres for the trading of cotton, the importation of food and raw materials, the exportation of manufactured goods, coal, the insurance industry, banking and, of course, shipping.

The release of a database for a city such as Liverpool, with its many parishes, will allow family historians to search many parish records at once, a valuable time saver. The fact that people will be able to see digital copies of the original records is also another significant plus point for this Parish Records release on the internet. Not having to rely on transcriptions is a real bonus for researchers. Looking forward to more such releases in the future.

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Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers

So, you have been researching your ancestors through the census and have gleaned the name of the town that they were born in. You now have to find the parish in which your ancestor was baptised in and perhaps you have been lucky in getting the parish name from the census. Now you want to find out where exactly it is and carry on your research back before 1837.

The Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers

The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, Phillimore & Co Ltd; 3rd Revised edition edition (1 Dec 2002) is the go to resource for family historians who are dealing with the “Old Parishes” of England, Scotland & Wales. The third edition of this index features the addition of a map of the whole UK that shows the county boundaries before 1830 and it has shifted to a reliance on census indexes, rather than marriage indexes, which are now summarized in a paragraph.

 

In what I’ve written above I refer to the Old Parishes. What are these, you may be asking yourself? The answer is that they are those, approximately twelve and a half thousand parishes, from before 1832 and the Victorian expansion of towns and cities. It was then that many of the ancient parishes were divided up with the building of new churches to cater for the expanding population.

 

The Phillimore Atlas and Index is an abstract made in 1831 of the records that had survived for the parishes of that time. The book gives the family historian maps of the ancient parishes, along with names and the dates of the earliest surviving registers for each of the named parishes. Now these could be back as far as 1538 or much much later, depending on their survival against fire, flood and a variety of other reasons for them going missing.

 

Taking a look at the Index section you would see that you are able to find a list of the old parishes for the county that you are interested in. You will find the dates for when the registers were deposited and a code against them that will tell you where the records are deposited in the various record offices.

 

Now, you should be aware, however, that it is possible that not all three types of records may have been deposited yet. The baptism, marriage and burial registers may have filled up at different rates. The registers are only ever deposited when they are full as they remain a working document until such time. So, take as an example, a parish where baptisms are only done once in a blue moon. Here the register that they started in 1813 may still be with the church as it tortuously slowly received children into the faith! (1813 was when the new registers came into existence.)

 

The Atlas and Index is effectively a synopsis of parish registers and if there is nothing in the column for baptisms then you could assume that it was still with the church in 2003, when the last revision came out. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, can be found in most municipal libraries or can be bought from all good bookshops and at Amazon.co.uk

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Tip: Ancestor’s Place of Birth May Not Be Where They Lived!

In our family tree research we can sometimes become a little blinkered. We find some important vital clue, such as a place of birth for our ancestor, and then assume that this will also be the location that our ancestor was baptised and grew up in.

In an ideal world, of course, the place of birth furnished by our ancestor, in the decennial census or some family document passed down to us, may also be the place in which they were christened in. Just consider for a moment, however, that your ancestor moved about the country. It may have only been a few miles, but even this could be enough to put you off track in finding them in the parish registers for the town in which they reported as their birth place.

Perhaps they were itinerant labourers following work. Consider those that sailed on small boats down the rivers, or those canal workers who moved before getting the child baptised.

Some children, like those in one branch of my family tree, were all baptised on the same day in the same church in a sort of “job lot”. Now what would happen, for any family historian looking for baptisms in the places of birth of the children, if the family had been on the move between child number one’s birth and child number five’s?

In the above example I am imagining that child 1 was born in Gloucester, other children in Bristol, while the last was born in Plymouth. I start my research, from a census record that says that my ancestor was born in Gloucester, but can’t find his/hers baptism or any other records in the Parishes in and around Gloucester as the child was baptised in Plymouth some years later where my seafaring ancestors finally put down roots.

So you can now see that if you have been furnished with a place of birth of your forebear from the census, or another document, that gives your ancestor’s place of birth as town A and you begin to search the Parish registers for this town for their baptism, then you have to consider that they may actually be in the registers somewhere else.

Also, to bear in mind is that the child’s mother may have gone back to her folks to give birth to her child before returning to her husband and her home and then having the child baptised there. What if they were not followers of the Church of England? This is something else to consider.

The tip I am pointing out here is that you must keep an open mind when doing family history otherwise a simple problem may become a brick wall.

 

http://www.noseygenealogist.com/familyhistorian/index.htmlIf you are looking for something on finding ancestors before civil registration came in for England and Wales then what about my Audio CD on:

“Getting Back Before 1837 in England & Wales”?

Help Me Get Back Before 1837 in England & Wales

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