Fantastic Map Resource for Family Historians

http://www.nls.uk/ I’ve been having a lot of interesting fun playing with the many maps on the National Library of Scotland site. NLS give access to some historic high-resolution zoomable images of over 91,000 maps of Scotland and beyond.

Initially I was using it to superimpose the old OS 1:10K 1900 map on to the modern satellite image of the plot of a long demolished ancestors house in Fife (see the hatched building in the image on this page). By using the slider, that changes the opacity, I was able to see exactly where the house had been in relation to the ground today. All that remains are the stables and the farm buildings that make up part of the modern farm and no sign from the air of the villa that once stood on the plot.

It is not just maps of Scotland that can be found on this brilliant website as I was able to select an English county and chose between different series of the Ordnance Survey and the modern hybrid view from the air for a village in Leicestershire that I was interested in not to mention the coverage for London.

The better family historians will always try to gather together as much information on their ancestors as possible so as to be able to place their forebears squarely into the contemporary environment in which they lived.

The bare genealogical facts of names, dates and places go only so far to build a family tree, whereas finding out about the social and physical landscapes of your past family’s lives can help you to understand the challenges that faced them.

Landscapes can and did change over time. The enclosure of land and the movement from rural employment to working in the cities, as the industrial process grew had an affect on past generations. The building of the railways and roads, which may have disrupted their lives as well as provided new communication routes for them to travel down can often be seen by looking at various map series over time.

For those of you researching your English/Welsh family history and have hit a brick wall, maps are covered in more detail in a module of the Family History Researcher Academy.

 

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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,

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Family History Research finds moved house

Sous L'Eglise Summer holiday time can be a great opportunity to look at the places where your ancestors lived.

Quite often I have used time visiting an area to walk down the streets where my ancestors footsteps went before me and just imagining how it would have been in their day.

I will have often have prepared for such a trip beforehand. In most cases using the census collections and copies of trade directories to”get a feel” for the location in their era.

It is important to try and understand the social history of the town or area where our forebears lived, but what about our own history? Shouldn’t we try and document our times for those who follow?

As we grow older we constantly find that things have moved on, streets have changed, businesses have closed up, buildings demolished.

This week I was reminded of this fact by a visit from several cousins of mine to Jersey. A first cousin, his daughter plus fiancé, flew in from Canada, while a first cousin once removed, plus husband, came from the Midlands by plane. (If you find cousin relationships difficult to understand then check out my free report here.)

My elder cousin from Canada had memories of certain shops, that he had gone to with our grandparents and would have liked to have taken a trip to. The problem was that they had long since gone or changed in the intervening years.

We managed, however, to do many of the sites that had family associations for us; but I was still struck at how change in my own lifetime had crept up on my local environment. From the reclamation of land for a cinema, swimming-pool complex, 5 star hotel and housing apartments, which now replaces the beach where my science teacher had taken the class to learn some hands-on Marine Biology, to the house by the airport where my younger cousin (now based in England) had once lived as a child.

This was to be a great story as the Georgian farmhouse had been demolished, as new regulations deemed it to be too close to the airport runway. In actual fact there had been a dreadful air crash when my cousins lived in it, but she and her mother were thankfully away from the house at the time. In the fog a light aircraft had flown into said building with the loss of the pilot’s life.

Yesterday we took a trip to the site of the demolished house and walked around the footprint of the building. It was an eerie feeling as we picked our way over the old foundations.

I noticed the former garden still had flowers and plant bushes in it that indicted its past life as a formal front garden. These hardy specimens fighting through the weeds and wild foliage that aimed to sometime soon take control.

The happy ending to this piece is that the house was demolished stone-by-stone and it has sprung up again in restored Georgian glory as the cladding to a replica house a few miles down the road! The project is ongoing and the people behind it have a website here:  http://savethelistedbuilding.com/

Yesterday we were privileged to be allowed to visit the house’s new site and my cousin, who had once lived within its granite structure, was delighted with the restoration and the positive ambience of its new location.

 

Think of those who will come after us, what stories can we leave them about our times?

To download my guide to Cousins, Step-mothers and Half-brothers click on this link.

 

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National Wills expert gives us some great family history tips


At Olympia I caught up with Dr Ian Galbraith from the National Wills project and asked him to give us a few tips about what people should do if they are searching for will records.

“Well the big problem with wills is you can not always tell where the will might have been proved.” he said.

“If you know your ancestors came from a certain place you’ve gotta fix on where their birth records might be, marriage records maybe where they died. With a will although in most cases you probably have an idea where it is. Wills did get proved all over the place, maybe very far from  where you think.

“So when you’re trying to find a will you might go for the obvious places and find there’s nothing there. That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a will that’s been proved somewhere else. So it means that if you want to unlock the value of information which is in wills.

“I mean wills are one of the best single sources for the family historian.

“To find it you really need to have access to an index which covers the whole country not just individual counties and that’s what we’ve been trying to do and we’ve got coverage of virtually every county in England.

“Its not complete yet for every county but its the single biggest set of indexes for English probate records.

“That’s complimented also by an increasing collection of digitized images of wills. For example for Oxfordshire, Cheshire, York and a lot of abstracts of wills. Now abstracts make it a lot easier sometimes to find out what’s in a will because somebody else has done the hard work of reading it and transcribing it. They may not put all the text in there but there’s an awful lot of legalese and what they left to the church for candles and so on, masses to be said. But the salient stuff…what they left and to whom they left things that’s in the wills and they are enormously rich things.

“They give you a huge access to the families and the friends of the people who died because they will name them as beneficiaries; so a typical will will contain an average of ten names of other people besides the testator and probably at least half of these people will have different surnames
from the testator.

“So once you get into a will you can suddenly find you’ve got an awful lot more information than you started with. Other leads to follow up. It comes back to the issue of finding them in the first place.”

“Great!” I said, feeling that we had got an enormous amount of useful information from the interview. “And so your website is part of the origins.net?”

“Yes.” he replied. “Yes, Origins.net has been around now for oh, the best part of fifteen years but, erm, we started to concentrate on probate records about five years ago. We already had a reasonable collection but we realized that this is something that we really wanted to look at seriously, because it was one of the big problem areas.

“Births marriages and deaths, parish registers; yeah, there are lots of sites you can go and get really good collections of these. Census records, yeah. Now these are the primary places you’re going to look. You’re going to look at census, you’re going to look at Births, Marriages and Deaths. But where do you go next?

“And one of the major places, perhaps the most important single place to go next is wills; if you can find them.  And bear in mind also even if your ancestor didn’t leave a will there’s a pretty high chance they’ll be mentioned in the will left by somebody else.

“So so don’t worry, oh my ancestors didn’t leave wills. Not true! All kinds of people left wills. They can be very poor and very rich. It is not just the rich who left wills. Some wills you wonder why. This guy’s got nothing but he’d still make a will and leave it to his relations or to his friends mentioned by name.

“So it really is well worth looking into wills.”

“Great; thank you very much. That is very useful.” I said. “Thank you.”

 

 

One of the modules in my popular course in English/Welsh Family History looks at will records. Want to unravel the tangled roots and branches of your family tree?

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