Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh friends

 

Welsh Flag

 

A Happy St David’s day to all my Welsh friends and readers of this blog.

While many of the records for doing Welsh family history are the same as those for neighbouring England, there are some differences when it comes to researching in Wales, or Cymru as it is known in its own language.

For those of us used to finding our family records in the County Record Offices in England will discover that much is the same in Wales. Researchers will find that records of registration of births, deaths and marriages are exactly the same in Wales as in England, and that the Registrar General’s indexes cover both England and Wales.

The census is the same, except for an extra question from 1891 when all those aged 3 and over were asked whether they spoke English only, Welsh only, or both languages.

Anglican parish records are the same as those for England, and are kept in local authority archives in the same way.

Some of the differences, however, that can cause us to stumble are Common names, the favouring of Patronymics, the Welsh language, and that many families were not members of the Established Church.

Nonconformity, being more important in Wales than in some parts of England, may mean that you find that your ancestors didn’t go to the local parish church. In many chapels the language used was Welsh, and some of the records may also be in Welsh.

Because the country has its own language English speakers may find the place names to be unfamiliar to them.

Another difference, from the English system, is that in England the County Record Offices are (in most cases) the diocesan record offices and therefore hold all the records of the diocese, such as Wills, bishop’s transcripts and marriage bonds and licences, as well as parish records. In Wales, the National Library of Wales is the diocesan record office for the whole of Wales, and therefore holds all the bishop’s transcripts, marriage bonds and licences, and Wills proved in Welsh church courts.

The National Library of Wales or Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru is very important for our research as it acts as the main repository for family history research in Wales holding a vast number of records useful to the family historian – census returns, probate records, nonconformist records and tithe maps, to name but a few, will help at some point during research.

Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources to use to find elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

CLICK the image below:

Family History Researcher English/Welsh course

 

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Wolf Hall and family history

Thomas Cromwell

You may have been watching the BBC’s dramatization of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” on television. The lead character in the book and television series, is Thomas Cromwell a man born into a working class family who rises to be the right hand man of Cardinal Wolsey, at one time King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. Cromwell managed to survive the fall from grace of Wolsey and went on to become the King’s Chief Minister until his own downfall.

The connection between this man and we family historians, with ancestors in England and Wales, is that Thomas Cromwell is responsible for the fact that we are able to trace many of our ancestors back in the documents created by the parish churches across the land.

The Parish registers for baptisms, marriages and burials, were first introduced into the Church of England in 1538 by Cromwell as Henry VIII’s Vicar General and Vice regent, a position that gave him power to supervise the church.

Cromwell required that every parish church was to acquire a sure coffer (that is, a parish chest) within which their records could be securely stored. While the parish chest was not a new idea, they could have been found in churches up and down the land all the way back to medieval times, what was new, in Tudor times, was the notion that Cromwell dictated that accurate records were to be kept and the responsibility to do so was placed on the parish officials to keep these records safe.

The parish chest were often no more than a hollowed out tree trunk that was secured with three locks. The keys were to be kept by the Bishop, the Priest and by a religious layman.

By the mid-1500’s the parishioners in every parish of the land were instructed by law to provide a strong chest with a hole in the upper part thereof, and having three keys, for holding the alms for the poor. Another chest may have been used to keep safe the church’s plate and this or the first chest would also double up as a place where the parish registers and other parish documents could be kept safe. In some places only one chest would have sufficed for both purposes, while in other parishes two or more may have been used.

So the debt we owe to Thomas Cromwell is that he introduced parish registers, some of which have survived pests, fire and flood back through the generations and provide us today with names of ancestors stretching back generations.

If you want to know more about what documents to use to find your elusive ancestors then join the Family History Researcher Academy to learn where to look and what resources to use.

 

If you are new to English/Welsh family history research then I’ve got a FREE quick read tip sheet for you.

Fill in your email and name and I’ll send you this pdf called 6 Professional Genealogist’s Tips that is distilled from interviews done with several professional genealogists.

6 Professional Genealogist's tips

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Murderous Madam and the Policeman

George Le Cronier's Memorial, Green Street, St.Helier.

I’ve been having a look at the S&N newsletter, that popped into my email box at the end of the week.

What caught my eye was a fascinating Victorian murder story that took place in the St Helier streets quite local to where I live. I’ve come across it before in the book The Policeman and the Brothel by Theodore Dalrymple, but this is the first time that I’ve seen it written from the family history records point of view!

It was fascinating to see the Illustrated London News report from March 7th 1846; the census records, with the tell tale blanks for the occupations of the young  prostitutes, and the criminal records showing the killer was transported for life to Van Diemens land. Also to be seen is the huge monument for the murdered policeman in Green Street cemetery, a picture of which can be searched for in TheGenealogist’s growing Volunteer Headstone Database that now includes many Jersey burials.

 

The newsletter isn’t just about this story. They begin with a look at what will be coming online from their group throughout 2015:

Parish Records, detailed County and Tithe Maps, millions of new Medals Records, more Grave Memorials from the Volunteer Headstone Project, records of Railway Workers from Pensions to Staff Movements, Jewish records, detailed Street Maps, Passenger Lists, Emigration Records and more War Memorials are all going online at TheGenealogist this year.

And then we hear that this month they’ve released more War Memorials, Parish Records and have now added the 1911 census for all Starter and Gold Subscribers! You can make the most of this with £30 cash back on an Annual Gold Subscription, making it just £48.95 for the first year!

There’s no better way, they suggest, to start the new year than with some special offers – you can claim £50 cashback on a Diamond Subscription to TheGenealogist, and save £££s in their New Year Sale over at S&N Genealogy Supplies. The news letter also takes a look at 2014 in a review.

Finally, there is that interesting article I’ve already drawn you attention to above about Ancestors that fell foul of the law. As the S&N team write in the email, these are always fascinating subjects for family history research and I would say none more than a Victorian murder story of a notorious Madam who escaped the hangman’s noose!

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Can you trust this family tree?

Family Tree on a computerI was doing some work on an obscure branch of my family tree this week when I came across a family tree online that included the individual that had married into my family.

Great, I thought, I can quickly get a handle on this person and get some clues as to where he had come from and so on. But casting an eye over the family tree I was disappointed to see that many of the details, such as the dates of birth and death were not backed up with any sources quoted.

For anyone, starting out in researching their family history, an early lesson to learn is that you should never import a family tree that someone else has complied, unless you have checked the details yourself. If the author of the tree does not give you the sources, from where they have obtained the information, then you are not going to be able to check them for yourself and so the best you can do is use the information only as a guide for further research.

Being in an optimistic mood I, nonetheless, jotted down on my scrap pad the names and dates so that I could go and look for them myself. But then it hit me that this family tree had been put together by someone in a haphazard  and slapdash way. A birth was attributed to Essex in Massachusetts, when the subject had been born in the English County of Essex. A marriage to a lady rejoicing in the first name of Thomasine reputedly had taken place in 1800. This was impossible as the subject was not born until 1837.

The problem can occur on websites that give suggestions that may or may not be your ancestor and that happen to have the same or a similar name. It seems that some people accept the suggestions as leads to be further investigated and so the family tree may be seen only as a work in progress. They don’t mean it to be used by anyone else, even though it left as Public in the settings.

This is all well and good except that it causes a mighty pitfall for the person new to family history who, having started their own tree on the site, then imports the details as fact and ends up tracing up a line that is not their forebears at all!

In the case of the tree I was looking at it was blatantly obvious that mistakes were made, but in some others it could not be so clear. If you are new to family history research beware of believing all that is written on the internet!

 

If you are serious about discovering your family history, then spend the winter nights looking for your ancestors in the records.

First you need to know where to look and what tips you need to tease them out.

My Family History Researcher Academy offers a simple to understand course on English/Welsh family history.

I have been sending out weekly tutorials to many satisfied members for some time and this month I had the following from a student who had just completed their 52nd lesson.

“Hi Nick.   Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably.     A. Vallis.

Join the now better informed researchers, such as the family historian above.

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Walking in Ancestor’s Footprints

 

Paddington Street Marylebone This week I was able to take a day out in London to walk in my ancestor’s footprints.

I have know since the 1861 census went online that one of my Devon forefathers had a spell working up in the capital. In that year he was listed as a married man working as a plasterer at 19 Paddington Street, Marylebone in London.

We all have certain ancestors that fascinate us for one reason or another and one of my favourites is George Colwill the son of William, a hatter who had moved from Tavistock to set up as a grocer in Plymouth.

Having a change of career path, when you can see something more lucrative in front of you, seems to run in this branch of the family as by 1871 George had moved back to Devon with his wife and children and had set up as a Baker in Plymouth.

His new occupation seems to have been influenced by his time in London as at number 19 Paddington Street lived a master baker and a journeyman baker, as well as George and his wife Charlotte. Both the bakers were natives of  the same county as George, Devon. Were they friends? I also wonder if my ancestor quickly mover from mixing plaster to kneading dough while living there?

Being a baker in Plymouth was to make George a very wealthy man!

By the time of his death, in 1915, he left a comfortable amount of money to his daughters –  the equivalent of £2.2 million in economic status value translated into today’s money. Sadly, none of this has come my way!

 

While I was in Marylebone High Street, this week, I took a side trip down Paddington Street and found number 19, where my 2x great-grandparents once lived. Today it is a modern building, as perhaps the previous property was demolished after bomb damage in the war. But the rest of the street still gave me an insight into the ambience of the place in the 19th century. The leafy park opposite the building would have been a church yard in George’s day.

I have to report that I suddenly felt a strong affinity with them, as I walked from the doorway of the former shop and up the road to the busy Marylebone High Street. There I did some window shopping before making my way to the railway station and a train out of London for the provinces.

Have you visited your ancestors street and felt the same?

 

If you are serious about discovering your family history, then why not spend the winter nights looking for your ancestors in the records?

First you need to know where to look and what tips you need to tease them out.

My Family History Researcher Academy offers a simple to understand course on English/Welsh family history.

I have been sending out weekly tutorials to many satisfied members for more than a year now and this week I had the following from someone who has just completed their 52nd lesson.

“Hi Nick.   Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably.     A. Vallis.

Why not join the now better informed researchers, such as the family historian above?

Try it for yourself with this special offer of one month FREE!

Click here or the image below:

Family History Researcher Course

 

 

 

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I Love It When Long Lost Distant Family Are Found

Nick ThorneI have had a very productive weekend, from a family history point of view.

I’ve found out about a mysterious Uncle, by marriage, who had been almost airbrushed out of a family’s story. I made contact with a relative of his, who was unknown to the first family, and so discovered part of the hidden story.

I still love it when something like this happens, but a word of warning, others may not be so happy with you.

When, by shear persistence you manage to force open that dusty old metaphorical cupboard into which they, or previous generations, have bundled the skeleton you may not be appreciated for doing so.

When ever I take on a commission, to look into someone’s family tree, I try to warn them that they need to be prepared for the possibility of something hidden and the upset it may cause by crashing out into the open.

In this case it is not a great scandal, as far as I can see. But in a past occasion I have had one skeleton cause elderly relatives, of the principal subject, wish that I had never gone poking into the recess and bringing out into the daylight the things that they believed should have stayed in the dark. I got the blame fair and square for discovering the truth that time!

Sometimes a family story may have been spun to hide the inconvenient truth. By following the traces that our ancestors leave behind in the myriad of records, all of which are there waiting for us to go and research within, the true facts can emerge.

Perhaps it is a lesson that the best thing is to tell the truth in the first place and just accept that human beings mess up and they live complicated lives!

 

If you want to find more ancestors then you need to know about the many different record sets that they may be lurking within. You need to know how best to use the documents and where to find them.

If you are serious about discovering your family history then why not spend the winter nights looking for them? But first you need to know where to look.

I am making available again, on a special offer of a FREE month’s trial, my extremely well received course on English/Welsh Family History.

The offer is live now on www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com/winter-offer

So don’t delay take a free trial of a month’s worth of information packed lessons now!

Join Family History ResearcherFREE MONTH’S TRIAL.

 

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Found an Met Police Officer Outside London in Your Family Tree?

 

MetPoliceHeritage2

I had identified in the Indexes, to Births Marriages and Deaths for 1919, an entry in Devonport, Devon, for the birth of twins.

The problem was that the family were from London and, as I blogged last week, the head of the family was a Metropolitan Policeman. I had found from the The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre the stations to which he had been attached and it would seem he had a continuous service until illness forced his retirement in 1928.

A quite big question had worried me about why these children would have been born in the West Country to a couple, only married a year before in London. From my research I had discovered that the father was attached to Marylebone and then Clapham districts; but nothing had been said of any other service in the First World War.

As most of us know in England there is not a national police force. The County and Borough Police Act was passed in 1856 which made policing compulsory throughout England and Wales and made provision for H.M. Treasury to give assistance to local authorities to establish territorial police forces. By 1900, the number of police in England, Wales and Scotland totalled 46,800 working in 243 separate forces.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_law_enforcement_in_the_United_Kingdom#cite_note-UKPMet-6

 
Many amalgamations of police forces have taken place since then and today policing of England & Wales is mostly run on County lines. Scotland, has in 2013, merged all 8 territorial forces into a single service called Police Scotland, but England has not. The Met, I had always assumed, was only a London force and Devon had its own Police.

At this time (1919) Plymouth was policed by the Plymouth Borough Police force, as I found from a history on the Devon & Cornwall Police website
http://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/AboutUs/Pages/Ourhistory.aspx

“In the 1850s, the Devon County Constabulary and Cornwall County Constabulary were formed, bringing a new professionalism to the policing of the peninsula. These constabularies, along with the Exeter City Police and the Plymouth Borough Police, finally came to together following a series of mergers, which resulted in the formation of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in 1967.”

This birth of twins, to my Met Police Constable and his wife, was in World War I and so I wondered if war service may have accounted for the move of the family. Devonport was a large Royal Navy port in the City of Plymouth, County of Devon and I thought that, perhaps, the Constable had left the Police and joined the navy. Now it seems that he served his country, in the war, by staying in the Police force.

The resulting birth certificates, for the twins, confirmed that I had the right couple and the occupation of the father is given as: “Metropolitan Police Constable of 14a Auckland Road, Devonport.”

So that raised the question of what was a London policeman doing in Devon, in WWI?

The simple answer to this question came from the Friends of the Metropolitan Police website http://www.metpolicehistory.co.uk/met-police-family-history.html

“The Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the policing of the Royal Dockyards and other military establishments, Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich from 1860 until 1934, and Rosyth in Scotland from 1914 until 1926.”

Today, the responsibility on forces bases is with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police; but back then it was with the Metropolitan Police. So this Met Police Officer was enforcing the law at the Royal Navy Dockyard at Plymouth, when his twins were born.

As a general rule a British “Bobbie” is unarmed, even today. True we have Firearms Officers, who attend incidents where weapons are used, and we have police officers on guard at airports, military establishments and the like who carry guns, but the unarmed civilian policeman is part of British psyche. We refer to this as “Policing with the consent of the public.”

From some reading I have done, however, I have discovered that all Met Policeman of the Dockyard divisions were in fact armed. It is most likely that this P.C. carried a .455 calibre Webley & Scott self-loading pistol Mark I Navy. The dockyard police being normally issued with what ever the current side arm of the Royal Navy was at the time, rather than what the Met used on odd occasions in London.
http://www.pfoa.co.uk/uploads/asset_file/The%20Met%27s%20Dockyard%20Divisions%20v3.pdf

The thing about family history is that, along with many others, I find I am continuously learning. No matter how much I think I know I am always reminded that we are all advanced beginners. There is always more to learn!

 

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Another Brick Wall Crumbles!

Minolta DSC

I was asked this week to find out what I could about a man that was never talked about in the family.

Intriguing, I thought!

The subject had married the contact’s aunt in 1943 and fathered three children before, at some time, becoming estranged and then divorced from the aunt.

What little I had to go on was that in the Second World War the man was a British officer in the Indian Army. We didn’t know his date or place of birth, where in the U.K. he was from or any other family details.

To make things a bit more difficult he had always used a nick name “Ron” that was not the short form for his actual first name. Luckily for me, we did know the full name of the subject and to preserve anonymity I am going to refer to him here as Vincent Martin Edwards (not his real name).

Before the independence of India, in 1947, the Indian Army was an important component of the British Empire’s forces and made a significant contributions to the Second World War effort. After independence the records of officers, such as my man, have been deposited at the British Library in St. Pancras, London and so this was my first port of call.

I know from my visits to the British Library that they have runs of the Indian Army lists on the shelves of  The Asian & African Studies Reading Room on Floor 3. A look in one of these, for the war years, should provide the officer’s number that can then be used to locate his service records that are held there, but not on open access.

From research that I have done in the past at St.Pancras I know that access to the service record for someone of this era would more than likely be restricted to the next of kin. All I wanted, however, was for one of the staff to look inside the document folder and to provide me with the date and place of birth of Vincent Martin Edwards and so I shot off an email request.

In amazingly short order I was emailed back with the answer: Streatham, 22 February 1919.

Meanwhile I had found the marriage details online for the couple at Findmypast in their British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns. The bride and groom were both 24 when they married in a church, in India and so I had confirmation of a birth date of 1919.

Turning to the online Birth, Marriage and Deaths, that are widely available on the internet, I went in search of the birth of Vincent Edwards for that quarter. These should be held in the records for the district of Wandsworth and so all I had to do was find the reference and order the certificate from the GRO.

 

Ever think things are going too well… that they are just a bit too easy?

The rapid reply from the British Library, the exact date and place?

Yes, that’s right! There were no records for Vincent Martin Edwards in that area for that date.

I began to expand my search to the neighbouring districts and found a Vincent Edwards in Camberwell for the first quarter. Perhaps this was my man? Was he born just into this district, I wondered, as it is not that far away on the map.

Now you may have heard the mantra “Always kill off your ancestors” that is try and find their death and in this case it only took me four years in the same Camberwell district to find the death registered of this namesake. This Vincent Edwards only had a life of 4 years, so couldn’t be my man.

So if the district was not wrong what about the date, not withstanding the supposed corroboration of the year from the marriage return?

I went back to the Wandsworth BMDs and began checking for the birth in the years either side for 5 years at a time. Result: a Vincent M Edwards born in 1920, so now we know he had exaggerated his age on his Indian Army records and at his marriage as well! Perhaps he had joined up before he was supposed to, as people did this in war time.

The lesson is to always treat dates with healthy scepticism until you get the primary record to prove them. I have ordered the certificate and await it with interest. From it I will be able to see such details as the Father and Mother’s names (The mother’s maiden name was added to the births, marriages and deaths index (BMD) held by the GRO  from the September quarter of 1911).

 

I have a useful tutorial in my Family History Researcher course on using the General Register Office index and ordering certificates for anyone that is unsure of how these records can help in your English/Welsh family tree research. Click the link below to read more.

 

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Injured Services Men Records From First World War Go Online

 

TG Wounded

Great news from the team at TheGenealogist. You can now find records of injured First World War servicemen online for the first time.

Over 1.3 million records from daily and weekly First World War casualty lists have been released online by TheGenealogist. This vast collection of unique records cover all ranks to help you discover more about your injured ancestor’s wartime service.

The new records include career soldiers, volunteer Pals battalions, war poets and even a future Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. The collection covers both those who died of their wounds and those who recovered and returned to the front.
The records are a great resource for finding out what happened to an ancestor during The First World War. Details include:- the name of the injured serviceman, his regiment and rank, the date he was registered as a ‘casualty’ and often his home town or place of enlistment.

These records also work with TheGenealogist’s unique ‘SmartSearch’ feature, which allows you to link to the comprehensive range of other military records available on TheGenealogist. Many of the wounded servicemen received medals for their actions and with a few mouse clicks you can discover whether your ancestor received any commendations, such as in the Military Medals records available online on TheGenealogist.

The First World War affected people from all backgrounds who were bravely wounded in the line of duty. Daniel Laidlaw, a career soldier from Little Swinton in Berwickshire, re-joined the army aged 40 as a Piper in the 7th Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers , 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.

At the Battle of Loos, troops of his battalion were ordered by General Douglas Haig to attack the heavily fortified German positions in their sector. The Scottish troops, facing a thick cloud of chlorine gas, were hesitating but Piper Laidlaw climbed out of the trench and under fire began playing his pipes to inspire the troops and they successfully resumed the attack. He was wounded in both legs but had carried on playing for as long as he could, his Casualty Record can be found on The Genealogist along with a SmartSearch link showing that Laidlaw was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery.TG Laidlaw

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: ”The sheer number of records in this latest release show how brutal The First World War was. Record keeping at the time must have been a real challenge, but thanks to TheGenealogist’s SmartSearch technology, when you find a casualty record, you can instantly see if other records, such as medals, appear on the site.”

The new 1.3 million records of the wounded are available as part of a Diamond Subscription.
To find out more about the ‘First World War Wounded Collection’ see the dedicated page on TheGenealogist.co.uk/ww1-wounded. There you will find photographs, stories, statistics and a free search facility.

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Who do you think you are? Family history programme delights many fans.

Mary Berry

This week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC was a bit more traditional in tracing Mary Berry’s family back through various record sets. From what I can see, on the forums and on facebook, this has please many people who don’t like the recent trend of just one ancestor being looked at in a programme in more depth.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this week’s, with Mary Berry being a great choice to investigate with some interesting  ancestors that made use of a large number of resources from the family history researcher’s tool box.

In defence for those other programmes, with the single subject, I would just like to say that one of the points that I was taught (and which I myself now teach in my own family history course) is that family history involves looking at the social context of our ancestors, as well as collecting names, dates and details.

We need to understand the world in which our ancestors lived and what was happening to make them be the people that they were. Perhaps these editions were simply trying to show this and in the confines of an hour long programme this naturally excluded all the other generations that  would appear on the celebrity’s family tree.

That said, it would seem that the popular vote is for the later type of WDYTYA? Viewers from the genealogy pages on facebook  would prefer to see a family tree being traced back and a little bit of detail being fleshed out on the poor unfortunate person who had fallen on difficult times or who had shown great grit.

As long as when we come to research our own family tree that we don’t make the mistake of simply collecting names, dates, perhaps an occupation and place or two and then move on to the next generation without thinking a little about the social context of our ancestors, then my vote is also with the Mary Berry type of programme, but only narrowly in favour!

 

As I wrote this post today I was casting my mind back over the show and counting off the data sets and resources used for which I have modules in my Family History Researcher course.

There was her ancestor who was the baker with the contract for supplying bread to the Workhouse and the Outdoor relief paupers (not really made clear in the programme as to what each were, probably because of time constraints). My module on the Poor Law explains the difference between indoor and outdoor relief.

There was also Christopher Berry Junior’s wife and 6 children who ended up in the workhouse with some of the children dying while inmates, but the segregation that would have taken place between children and parent was not mentioned. See my module on the Workhouse.

Mary Berry was shown the Trades Directory and especially the one that her ancestor had published. In my course I have a module on Trade Directories written by Mary Bayley of TheGenelogist that uses that website’s great resources to explain their usefulness to the family historian.

Mary Berry had an ancestor of the same name as her who was identified in the GRO vital records as having had a number of illegitimate children. The Parish Registers also confirmed this fact. I delve into these three areas in separate modules on the Birth Marriage and Death certificates (lesson 2), the Parish Records (5 and 8) and Illegitimate children (21).

Then there was old newspapers (lesson number 42), Bankruptcy (lesson 29), apprentices (lesson 15), death records (lesson 25) and probably more!

If anyone is new to our fascinating subject, or is a seasoned family history researcher who would like to be refreshed on English/Welsh researching then I have a £1 trial for two weeks on offer at the moment.

Click the image below to find out more.

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