Investigating my ancestor’s wedding certificate a little more

In the last posting about questions with my ancestor’s wedding certificate I discovered that the parish was not written on the document as I had expected it to be. Instead of St.Mary’s Portsea there was a series of pen strokes that seemed to begin with a P but could not be made out.

If you have read the comments, to that post, then you will see a suggestion from James Mac that it may have been a daughter church of St. Mary’s. He suggested I should try to tie down the incumbent, by using the resources of Crockford’s Clerical Directory. Well this is exactly what I did. In fact I used the 1865 edition that is available to search on Google Books for free.

From the copy of the certificate, that I had obtained from the General Register Office by post, I made out the name of the person marrying my 2x great-grandparents to be W H Rednap. I also noted that the marriage was by “Certificate”.

Ancestor's wedding certificate

Now some folk have pointed out to me that “by certificate” usually means that the marriage was conducted by a Registrar. This is common in nonconformist church weddings and at registry offices. I turned to Mark Herber’s Ancestral Trails and found the line: “From 1837 marriages could also take place before civil registrars, or in chapels licensed under the Civil Registrations Acts. The law permitted the superintendent registrar to issue a certificate (similar to an Anglican licence) authorising marriages (without banns) in licensed places of worship”.

But even though the groom had been baptised in the Presbyterian church in Dartmouth, his wedding certificate indicates that it was carried out according to the Rites of the Established Church by one W H Redknap. Crockford’s confirms that William Henry Redknap was the Perpetual Curate of Milton, Portsea, in the diocese of Winchester from 1859, the year my ancestor’s married and formally the Curate of Portsea.

So then I looked into the history of Milton’s Church and found it was consecrated in 1841 and dedicated to St James, having been carved from the ancient parish of Portsea.

I do not know when in 1859 the Revd. Redknap took up his incumbency at nearby Milton, but my great-great-grandparents married in February 1859, in the early part of the year. So now I am leaning back towards the marriage having taken place in the main church of Portsea, by its curate before he moved to Milton. The Ancient Parish Church is St.Marys; but then this begs the question as to why it was “by certificate”?

I need now to consult the parish records of Portsea to lay this question to rest. Perhaps a trip to the Hampshire Archives is called for!

 

 

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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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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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Brick Walls in Family Tree Research

I was reading a newsletter, from someone I respect, in a completely different field of interest from family history this weekend. In it he was talking about obstacles in the paths of people that are trying to achieve something, whether it was in sports, business or any other pursuit.

Nick James runs a membership site that caters for people that want to run an internet marketing business and in this week’s tip he recalled advice that a life coach had given him to physically write down your stumbling block in a paragraph or two and then to draw a little picture next to it. The picture could be a fence, a brick wall or whatever you chose to depict the problem that you face.

The idea behind this is that by so doing the brick wall no longer exists as a theoretical problem. It now takes on a concrete form that you can now deal with. I have a special note book into which I enter my problem ancestors and this acts in very much the same way for me.

In my family tree I have various lines that seem blocked and so I decided to tackle one of them this week end by seeking the help of an expert and talking through the problem with them. Now I did this by making use of the excellent facility of a telephone consultation provided by the Society of Genealogists’ Family History Advice Line on 020 7490 8911. It is available on Saturdays: 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm and also on Thursdays: 6pm-7.45pm. I came away with ideas for further investigation that just might help me unlock the problem that I have of an ancestor whose occupation in the marriage register was a mariner. He turned up in a maritime city and married a local girl (of this parish) but did not provide posterity with any clue as to his parish or where he had sailed in from!

Society of Genealogists

At the end of this month Who Do You Think You Are? Live returns to Olympia from the 24th to 26th February and one of the popular benefits of attending this event is the the Society of Genealogists Family History Show will be part of the weekend. Apart from the talks given there is a fantastic chance to book some time with an expert who can help you look at ways to tackle your obstinate brick wall. A chance to speak one-to-one with a local, regional or specialist expert may be what is needed to allow you to get through your brick wall.

For more useful tips to research your Family Tree then download my Kindle book by using the button in the box below.

 

Disclosure: The links in this post are Compensated Affiliate links. If you decide to buy the product I may receive a commission.

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Jersey Marriage Records

Jersey FlagI was doing a bit of research, this week, on a person who had been part of an Army family that moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands, at the end of the 19th century from England.

From the 1891 census I could see that this young girl, aged 14, was listed as a Daughter and was living in the household of a Colour Sergeant and his wife in the Parish of St Saviour. By the time of the next census, in 1901, they had moved a few miles further east, within the island, to the Arsenal in the Parish of Grouville. The head of the household would seem to be listed as a Quarter Master Sergeant, on the permanent staff for the Royal Jersey Militia Infantry and his daughter as a Music Teacher.

Using the various online databases at The Genealogist.co.uk, Ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk, the next time that the daughter appears, in any of their records, was in the probate records for her mother back in England in the 1930s. From this we see that the daughter has married, revealing her new surname. But there seems to be no record for the marriage in any of the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands are British Islands that are not, of  course, part of the U.K. and they have their own administrations and their own marriage registers.

None of the Jersey marriage records are online and so on one of my visits to the Lord Coutanche Library at La Societe Jersiaise, in St Helier, I took the time to consult their copies of the indexes to the island’s marriages. If you have read the guest post by James McLaren on this blog on Jersey BMD records after 1842 as part of the Jersey Family History Section, you will know that this is a somewhat lengthy affair as they are not kept quarterly, like in England, but are simply run until they are filled up. Indexing is alphabetical by the first letter of the surname only, being added to the list in the order that the marriages take place. Each parish runs indexes for Anglican and non-Anglican marriages and in St Helier, the town parish, each C of E church has its own index.

I was faced with the prospect of going through thirty or so indexes, looking for the chance marriage of this couple at some unknown date after the 1901 census. My best guess was to start with the Parish of Grouville, where she had been resident in 1901. Sadly, I had no luck and so I began the trawl through the different parish indexes until I hit St Helier.

There, in 1902, at the main Parish Church of St Helier, married by the Dean of Jersey, G.O.Balleine, was my research targets! It had taken me hours of persistence to find them and, with quite some satisfaction, I now noted down the details on my pad. I would need the Parish, the dates between which the index ran, the Page number and the bride and grooms names to obtain a certified extract from the Superintendent Registrar’s Office in the island, on payment of the required £20.  The time it had taken me to find them, however, meant that this office was now closed for the day. They are only open to the public on weekday mornings and then only when no civil weddings are taking place at the office.

The next day, however, I was able to request the certificate and collect it the day after. A speculative search had revealed the Jersey marriage of this couple in September 1902. A good result and another piece in the puzzle of this family’s research.

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New Resource For Jersey Family History

I have had my attention drawn to a new resource for Jersey family historians by James McLaren from the CIFHS. He has pointed out that there is now a copy of the Victoria College entry register 1852-1929 on the web, courtesy of Old Victorian, Tony Bellows.

Although the format is a little awkward – the text is sideways on – the 4 files can be downloaded as .pdfs and by rotating them, someone doing research for ancestors that attended this island  school, will find them usable.

Well worth a look if you head over to:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/58994780/Victoria-College-Register-1852-1929-Pages-1-100Victoria College Jersey by Tony Bellows

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Researching family in Jersey, part 9: photos, newspapers and books

To wrap up the series, there’s a miscellany of other potential avenues that are worth exploring.

First of all, there are photographs. If you have family photos you will almost certainly have cursed the elderly relatives who put them in an album and then never got round to labelling who, what and where they were. But… there are some useful tricks to use.

First of all, scan the photograph at the highest resolution you can. If you can be sure the photo was taken and developed in Jersey, you may be able to identify the firm who developed it. A gentleman by the name of Richard Hemery has put years of work into this, and for some of the better known photographers his efforts will allow you to pin the photograph’s date down quite well.

Halkett Place, St Helier, JerseyThis particular photo is a neat example. Richard’s work tells us there were only two firms who put reference numbers on the front of prints, both operating in the 1930s. But there’s more: a high-res scan picks up the name Le Riche over the shop awning behind and left of the lady, and also makes the colonnade on the right clearer. That pins the location down to Halkett Place by the Central Market, and the date has to be after 1932, when Le Riche’s (a long-established island grocer) opened their shop there.

 

“Ah,” you say, “but I don’t have that depth of local knowledge”. But other people do. The Société Jersiaise run an online photographic archive: two of their members are currently going through the massive task of cataloguing every Jersey picture postcard in existence. Talk to them: they could have the information to fill in some gaps. Or use the libraries (see below)

In addition, there’s what the newspapers may have said. The first newspaper on Jersey was published in the late 18th Century, and there have been a number of different publications since, right down to the Jersey Evening Post (usually referred to just as the JEP) of today. The JEP has always been a very parochial paper in the better sense of the word: it reports everything and anything that goes on. If your relative was a prominent member of a local church or a schoolmaster or a farmer, it’s quite possible that they’d get a respectable tribute from the JEP when they passed away.

The central Library in Halkett Place has a very comprehensive collection of microfilmed newspapers – they’re up on the first floor. You need to book a reader – it is worth doing this in advance, particularly if you want the one that will print to paper. E-mail je.library@gov.je and they will sort things out.

While we are talking about libraries, there are collections of reference books at the Coutanche Library (the NoseyGenealogist will be releasing a film guide to what they have shortly) and smaller collections at both the Archive and the Central Library to supplement your knowledge of Jersey’s history and culture.

This is of necessity a scratch at the surface of family history research. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Happy hunting, and – À bétôt!

 

Guest blog by James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society

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