Family Tree Questions Answered from a Visit to Ancestor’s Home Town

The Mouth of the DartI am still fresh from a visit to my ancestor’s home town and although I have been there before, I have still come back with some more answers to add to the story of my forebears.

It is all very well to sit at one’s computer and look at the census documents online or to pour over maps of the area, but there is often more to be gained by taking a look at the physical location where our ancestors lived, worked and played.

Many of my readers will know that my paternal line is from Dartmouth in Devon and I have a 2x great-grandfather that spent 40 years of his working life on the river Dart as the steersman and then Captain of the railway ferry that crosses from Kingswear to Dartmouth.  Today it is the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company that runs the heritage railway from Paignton to Kingswear, but in my great-great-grandfather’s time it was the South Devon Railway Company from 1866 until it amalgamated with the Great Western Railway in 1876.

I decided that this time I’d arrive by train and then cross the river on the modern equivalent of my 2 x great-grandfather’s ferry. Not exactly walking in his footsteps but traveling in his wake, perhaps? With me I had the print outs of the various census data, a map and also some of the birth, death and marriage certificates. My aim was not only to see the roads, where they lived, but also to find the houses they occupied and to visit the churches where they married, baptised their children and were buried. I have come back with many photographs to flesh out the family history story and have touched the ancient font in which some would have been christened.

Consulting with my copy of the 1901 census, I set off for the road where he had lived. There were many houses on that street and I did not know which was the one that he had occupied in that year.

Many people make the mistake of reading the first column of the census as being the house number, when it is actually the schedule number. It is in the next column that the name or number of the house is written but in some cases, including for my Dartmouth family, the enumerator did not give numbers to the various houses in the street. I have a census page in which only the name of the street is written and then duplicated for each separate household without any means of telling which building they occupied.

For 2 x great-grandfather Henry Thorne the census gave me the name of a road which climbs up the hill from the town, but no number. His last will gave me the name of a road, that runs parallel to the one named in the census but again with no number! His Death Certificate gave the name of a house, but no street and so I was flummoxed as to where exactly he had lived until, on my recent visit, I walked the length of the road.

As luck would have it, in a development of Victorian terraced houses, with bay windows looking out over the road named in the will – but in a walk way continuing up from the road named in the census – I found a likely house. Letters painted in the window light above its front door matched the name on the death certificate. It is almost certainly his house and so I took my photograph and went in search of where his parents’ (my 3x great-grandparents) lived down in the town.

Dartmouth Family Tree Researcher finds Ancestor's houseIt is not always possible to visit the home town of one’s ancestors, as I have been fortunate enough to do and so the next best thing is to use the technology that Google Maps provides us with in its very useful Street View facility. With this service you can walk the roads in virtual cyberspace looking from left to right and up and down by using the navigation control on the left top of the window.

 

Has anyone got similar stories? Leave a comment below.

 

 

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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Genealogy can be frustrating.

Sometimes genealogy can be very frustrating! You can use all the correct procedures to find your ancestors in the data bases and yet they still stubbornly remain hidden from you. A vital document has been destroyed or lost sometime long ago and this vital link in the chain is broken and you are left floundering around wondering where to turn next.

This weekend, 24th to 26th February, I had hoped to be able to visit the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at Olympia and to report back to my readers on the latest in techniques for carrying forward our research, advice from some of the experts that I would have interviewed on video, new databases to search and news from the subscription sites. Regretfully I have been foiled by a bank of fog in the English Channel that has cancelled flights from my home in Jersey to London since Thursday!

A huge disappointment for me that my travel plans were scuppered, but this got me thinking about just how easy we modern travellers normally have it. So what if I have been hanging around for three fruitless days waiting for my half-an-hour flight to the capital, that never materialised? In the past our ancestors travel was often long, sometimes dangerous and undertaken with some trepidation. I am hugely impressed by some of my seafaring ancestors that braved storms, disease and long periods separated from home and family. What this does is bring into context the pitifully small inconvenience to me that I have lost the chance to do something that I had been so looking forward to. Yes I am fed up, but I believe that I am so lucky to be living today, with all the conveniences I have, even when sometimes they just don’t or can’t operate.

Having said that, however, this still doesn’t detract from the deep fascination that I have with my forebears and their past.

So what has been happening at the WDYTYA? LIVE show?

Ancestry.co.uk

I noticed that Ancestry.co.uk has been streaming live from their theatre in the show this year. Unfortunately the download speed has given me some problems, so that I couldn’t watch the reports properly.

 

Findmypast.co.uk

Findmypast.co.uk announced that we are now able to search 359,000 records of Merchant Navy Seamen for the period 1835-1857 on their site. These 19th century Merchant Navy records become available online for the first time with this brightsolid company’s work in association with The National Archives.

The background to the records is that from 1835, the central government started to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy, which resulted in the creation of thousands of records that identify individual seamen. The information that these records hold about any of your potential ancestors will obviously vary. Normally, however, they include the name, age, place of birth, a physical description, the name of ship and dates of voyages that the mariner served on. This release adds to the 20th century Merchant Navy Seamen records, which were already published on findmypast.co.uk in September 2011. This means you can now search two centuries of records for your Merchant Navy Seamen ancestors, making it possible for you to trace their service over time.

 

 TheGenealogist.co.uk

Nigel Bayley of The Genealogist.co.ukNigel Bayley Managing Director of The Genealogist.co.uk talking to me at WDYTYA?LIVE last year.

TheGenealogist.co.uk have now released full transcripts for the final eight counties in the 1911 census.

The release of these counties brings the total number of records to over 36 million on their site and completes the 1911 census project. These census records, only available to Diamond subscribers, have been integrated into their existing search tools, so that you are now able to access the transcripts using their very useful House and Street search tool, their Keyword Master search and also their Family Forename search. This can help enormously to track down ancestors in this set.

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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What is the future for finding the past online?

I’ve been reading a business tip today. It was all about what big company may wish to gobble up the likes of Ancestry.com in the future.

It began from the premise that family history was big business, with the more of us turning to online resources such as the subscription sites run by Ancestry who have grown their revenue every quarter since they went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

I have always thought of Ancestry as being one of the big players in the genealogical market. But this article, by The Mottley Fool, talks about the possible threat of a larger company than them entering the market. The likes of Facebook, Google, or Microsoft being their assumed predators.

All three of these organisations could take advantage of the massive amounts of information that they have acquired, plus the technological skills of the programmers that they employ to build a more streamlined search website than what is already on offer in the market.

As The Motley Fool points out Facebook has its Timeline feature, which is an indication that they have noticed the potential of our hobby. There is Google, a big player in organising information, to consider as well. Meanwhile, Microsoft have something called Project Greenwich which allows its users to collect together their photos, links, scanned objects, and potentially more information to create chronological timelines about specific events, people, places, or things. It would not take much for them to turn this into an interactive timeline of our family history.

It is suggested that by providing such a timeline that this would encourage people to remain as members of sites like Ancestry for longer and thus defend them against the problem of membership churn. The article  concludes that perhaps these firms will go down the partnership route, or that Microsoft licenses its technology to the likes of Ancestry.

But who knows what will be on offer to us in the future in researching the past online?

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Findmypast.co.uk Launches More New Records and Lowers Prices

I’ve been reading a press release from Findmypast.co.uk,  one of the leading UK family history website today. There is some great news as not only are they reducing their prices they are also adding more content to its existing collections with more than 40 million parish records for England & Wales dating back to 1538.

 

The company announced that it had launched over 18,000 baptism, marriage and burial records from London & Kent dating from 1825-1871, covering the parishes of Greenwich and Rotherhithe.

 

These followed on quickly from the 79,842 parish records from Gwent (formerly Monmouthshire), spanning the years 1634 to 1933, which were also published on the site recently. The records are from the parishes of Chepstow, Shirenewton, Bedwellty, Beaufort, Mynddislwyn and Risca.  What is more, is that Monmouth workhouse baptisms and burials have also been included.

The source for these Welsh records is Gwent Family History Society who are providing these records on findmypast.co.uk as part of an on-going project between the site and the Federation of Family History Societies to publish more parish records online. This is good news as it makes it possible to trace back ancestors from this area, long before the start of civil registration in 1837.

 

20,000 burial records from the St Mary parish of Lambeth for 1819-1838 were also released recently by findmypast.co.uk, supplied by the East Surrey Family History Society, along with 128,000 burial records for the years 1802-1846 from the East Kent Burial Index.

 

With the announcement of these new releases plus the lowering of its prices, family history researcher should be happy. The reductions apply to the full, annual subscriptions to the website – this is the one that gives access to all the historical records on the site – and also to the annual foundation subscriptions, both of which are now cheaper than ever before!

 

Paul Yates, Head of findmypast.co.uk said: “We’re committed to making family history as affordable as possible, while still ensuring that we continue to deliver a steady stream of fascinating, new family history records to our customers every month.”

Full subscriptions now start from just £69.96 and Foundations from £91.95. So why not Find your Ancestors now at findmypast.co.uk !

 

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British Library and findmypast.co.uk to give us 5 million pages of family history records online!

That great institution, The British Library, is joining up with family history website findmypast.co.uk in a project that I find exciting, as some of my Scots ancestors went out to British India to find their fortunes in the 1860s, while others stayed put in the UK.

What has been announced, by these organisations, is their intention to digitise a veritable treasure trove of family history resources held by the British Library and so making them available to us online and fully searchable for the first time.

To be scanned are the United Kingdom electoral registers that span the century which followed on from the Reform Act of 1832, along with records of baptisms, marriages and burials that have been drawn from the archives of the India Office.

These collections are going to allow us the possibility of tracking down details of our forebears from our computers instead of making a trip to London and the British Library’s Reading Rooms.

The British Library houses the national collection of electoral registers covering the whole of the United Kingdom and contain a vast range of names, addresses and other genealogical information, so you can see their importance.

“Digitisation of the electoral registers will transform the work of people wishing to use them for family history research,” said Jennie Grimshaw, the Library’s curator for Social Policy and Official Publications. “Printed electoral registers are arranged by polling district within constituency and names are not indexed, so the process of finding an address to confirm names of residents is currently incredibly laborious. Digitisation represents a huge breakthrough as users will be able to search for names and addresses, thereby pinpointing the individuals and ancestors they’re looking for.”

Also to look forward to, in this large-scale digitisation, are records taken from the archives of the East India Company and the India Office and thus my excitement as so many of my Scottish ancestors were employed in the H.E.I.C.S. The data that we are promised relate to Britons who lived and worked in the Indian sub-continent during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, up to Independence in 1948. Including over 1,000 volumes of births, marriages and burials, together with applications for civil and military service, and details of pension payments to individuals.

Antonia Moon, curator of post-1858 India Office Records said, “These records are an outstanding resource for researchers whose ancestors had connections with British India, whether as servants of the administration or as private inhabitants.”

We can expect to see five million pages of UK electoral registers and India Office records digitised over the next year. The resources will become available via findmypast.co.uk and in the British Library’s Reading Rooms from early 2012; online access will be available to findmypast.co.uk subscribers and pay-as-you-go customers – access to users in the British Library Reading Rooms will be free.

Simon Bell, the British Library’s Head of Licensing and Product Development, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new partnership between the British Library and findmypast.co.uk , which will deliver an online and fully searchable resource that will prove immensely valuable to family history researchers in unlocking a treasure trove of content that up to now has only been available either on microfilm or within the pages of bound volumes. The Library will receive copies of the digitised images created for this project, so as well as transforming access for current researchers, we will also retain digital versions of these collections in perpetuity, for the benefit of future researchers.”

Elaine Collins, Commercial Director at findmypast.co.uk, said: “We’re very excited to be involved with this fascinating project. The electoral rolls are the great missing link for family historians: after censuses and civil registration indexes, they provide the widest coverage of the whole population. To have Irish and Scottish records alongside England and Wales is also a huge advantage. These records will join the 1911 Census, Chelsea Pensioner Service Records and many more datasets available online at findmypast.co.uk, which enable people to make fantastic discoveries day after day.”

I, for one, can’t wait!

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Post Office Directories for Scotland

I’ve just spent an enjoyable hour or so browsing on-line the Post Office Directories for Scotland back in the 1820s!

As some of you, that have been reading my blog for a while, may recall I have a line in my family tree that is from East Lothian in Scotland. One of my ancestors, a Charles Hay, moved to the Scottish capital city from Dunbar, where he had been a merchant and later the Provost.

In his will, which I downloaded from the Scotlandspeople.gov.uk website, he lived until his death in Great King Street, Edinburgh and became a merchant in that city. So it was interesting to me to find that The National Library of Scotland has made available on line 287 historic Scottish Post Office Directories with the promise of many more to come.

The books cover most of Scotland  from 1774 until 1911 with particular emphasis on Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The project is ongoing, with an expected completion in the summer of 2011 when over 600 directories will be available for us to browse.

The books, being made available with the co-operation of Scottish libraries, are being scanned in conjunction with the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) and you can search the books on-line or even download a pdf from the National Library of Scotland website:

http://www.nls.uk/family-history/directories/post-office

Scottish Trade Directories are now on-line
Scottish Trade Directories are now on-line
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Genealogy Know How – Searching Your Family Tree

Family tree research is an exciting and rewarding look into your ancestry .  Much of your genealogy research will come easy , and parts will be more difficult.   Along this journey you will begin to wonder if anything is accurate as you grow your genealogy know how.

Census and legal documents may have illegible or incorrect names, wrong dates or errors in location .  As a researcher, you will need to question the evidence to determine whether or not the proof is correct .

People study their family history for many different reasons.  Some wish to join organizations , which require a proven lineage.  Some do it for religious reasons.  Others for medical reasons, trying to trace medical issues through members of their family .  Perhaps the individual wishes to leave a legacy for their children. Most begin genealogy because they are fascinated with the study of their family as a whole .  For whatever reason it becomes a fascinating project.

There is a difference between a genealogy and a family history .   A genealogy is a collection of names, dates, and places .  A family history includes the personal family stories that add interest to the genealogy . 

The often heard question for those beginning genealogy is “How do I begin ?”  

Start with yourself – work from the known to the unknown , gathering proof each step of the way.  Be objective and be organized.

There are several tools to get you started on your path to genealogy know how.  These include pedigree charts, family group sheets,  and basic organizational techniques. You will learn search techniques and will become familiar with genealogy databases.

Sign up for a beginner’s genealogy research class to learn how to be productive with a genealogy project.  Gaining knowledge from one or more experts will show you where to start and how to reduce your research time.

Learn what books and relevant maps to have in your library . Locate local libraries, genealogical and historical libraries . 

Collect family records , legal documents, census records , oral history stories , pictures , jewlery, pins, medals, ribbons, birth announcements , memorial cards , obituaries, holiday reminders and artifacts , scrapbooks and momentos .

Become excited, awestruck and filled with wonder as you increase your genealogy  knowledgeand build your family tree.  

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