How do I find my ancestors’ story from family history records?

The Nosey Genealogist at Birmingham Archives

Many researchers ask “how do I find my ancestors in the records?” and then they may want to know “how can I use these records to build a picture of my ancestor’s story?”

A point to remember is that ancestors didn’t exist in isolation and a good strategy is to build up their life story by looking at the events and people that had an effect on their lives.

Families can be complicated entities with step fathers/step mothers and sometimes unmarried parties in the equation. You may find people that married then separate and even sometimes get back together. In my own family I have an ancestor who remarried his first wife, after a period of divorce, but I hadn’t appreciated all of the story until recently. The strands came together by reviewing various records that I had gathered at different times.

Over a period we may collect various diverse search results for an ancestor, but we may not see how they fit together to build a bigger picture. It is important, for this reason, that every now and again we go back and review what we have. Sometimes this can suggest places for us to continue our research to find the story of our forebears’ life.

 

While doing some research this week I noticed a fact appeared in three completely different records. It was a town name that I had not paid much attention to having previously assumed that it was of little relevance to my ancestor’s life.

Beaumaris, in Anglesey, was where a First World War Royal Engineer officer in my family tree had been posted as he awaited being demobbed. Kingsbridge camp was on the Welsh island and I had first seen it on his service record. From the pages of this document I had gathered that my R.E. officer was suffering from shell-shock and attending medical boards in Bangor. I overlooked the importance of the town as it seemed to me that it was simply a posting where he had been sent by the Army at the end of the war.

Officer's war record
Page from a First World War officer’s service record

At a completely different research session, I had been looking at the time my ancestor spent living in Singapore and I had come across a Singapore newspaper website to aid me. Using the portal I had been able to find a snippet that gave the details of his marriage at the Presbyterian church in Singapore. In July 1921 he was reported to have wed Monica Mary.

The first thing that had struck me was I had not known that he had married this lady. In the WWI service record he had been married to a Mary Ellen, in Surrey, and family lore told me that he had been divorced from his first wife, then re-married her a few years later and they had then lived together in Singapore.  No mention of this intervening marriage had been drawn to my attention.

The family stories also said that his first wife, Mary had been lost at sea while escaping from the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in the Second World War. None of this explained me finding a marriage in Singapore to a completely different woman!

Japanese March in Singapore © IWM (HU 2787)
Japanese troops marching through Fullerton Square, Singapore. © IWM (HU 2787)

Skip forward to another period of research and I was using the Outbound Passenger Lists in order to write an article for publication. While I had the online search page open, on a whim, I typed in the first wife’s name and found Mary’s passage out to Singapore with their young daughter in February 1926.

Then turning to the second wife, whom I wrongly assumed my subject had met in Singapore, I did a search for Monica to see if I could find her going out to Singapore in the first place. I discovered her leaving London in May 1921 bound for the Straits Settlements.

Another entry had Monica and her husband visiting the U.K. in 1925, the year before his first wife and child emigrated to the colony. While I was pondering all of this I noted the entry given on the passenger list for their last address in the United Kingdom. It was a street in Beaumaris, Anglesey!

Then the penny dropped. Monica was probably from Beaumaris in Wales. The R.E. camp where my ancestor had recuperated was also in Beaumaris.

By Dr. Blofeld (OpenStreetMap) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Anglesey By Dr. Blofeld (OpenStreetMap) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I next turned to some research that I had done at The National Archives. While looking into something completely different I had taken the opportunity to order up the 1919 divorce papers for the first marriage to Mary. These revealed that he had still been a serving Royal Engineer at the time of the petition by his wife and that his address was given as… Kingsbridge Camp, Beaumaris.

So now, by drawing together various records obtained at different times, I had him posted to Beaumaris in the Service Records; Beaumaris in his divorce papers; Beaumaris as the address in the BT27 Passenger Lists where he and his second wife were visiting from Singapore in 1925.

A simple search of the 1911 census records for Monica (with her surname) in Beaumaris and I quickly found her family and could then research them back. With the review of my previous research and by now paying attention to the town that had popped up in several records, I am in a position to speculate some details to add to my ancestor’s family story.

 

I assume that while suffering from shell-shock and recovering from his war experiences in Anglesey he met Monica and fell in love. He first wife Mary filed for divorce, though not for adultery, but for the reason that he refused to return home to her in Surrey.

Demobbed my ancestor decided to try his luck in another part of the world and went out to Singapore. Within a year Monica followed and they married within months. In 1925 Monica and her husband visited her family in Beaumaris, but by the next year my ancestor’s first wife and child were on their way out to Singapore.

What happened to Monica? That is the next direction for this research to go. An article published in Singapore seems to point to her dying in 1925 but this, naturally, needs corroboration. Was she sick when they made their last visit to Wales? Perhaps a Singapore death records will reveal what she died of.

Family history research has a habit of opening up more questions just as you resolve some of the others. In answer to the question “how do I find my ancestors in the records?” and “how can I use these records to build a picture of my ancestor’s story?” my response is review what you already know. Check facts that you may have overlooked or discounted because you thought them irrelevant and see where they take you. Keep your eyes open as well as your mind.


 

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Another Brick Wall Crumbles!

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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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Exceptional new records from Findmypast uncover the diversity that formed the Royal Air Force in the First World War

Press Release from Findmypast that those of us with RFC/RAF servicemen in the family may be interested in.

 

Findmypast.co.uk, in partnership with The National Archives has released close to 450,000 service records of men of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force including 342,000 Airmen’s records never seen online before. Tales of derring-do brought to life so vividly by W.E. Johns in his Biggles series are well-known, but today’s release tells, for the first time, the stories of the unsung heroes from across the world and from the lower ranks that made up the RAF on its inception.

The majority of records in this collection date from 1912 with the formation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and include men who continued to serve in the RAF up until 1939. The earliest records date from 1899 with the Royal Engineers Balloon Service in the Boer War. With these fascinating records now available online, Findmypast offers the most comprehensive collection of British military service records in the early twentieth century.

Drawn from across the world…
The records reveal for the first time how World War One brought together men from across the world to serve alongside each other. Over 58 nationalities served in the RAF during World War One, with men signing up from as far afield as India, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Poland, Mexico, Romania and Germany. Included in the records is the first Indian to fly into combat, Hardutt Singh Malik, who became the only Indian aviator to survive the war, despite coming under significant attack and ending up with bullet wounds to his legs that required several months’ treatment in hospital. After the war, Malik joined the Indian Civil Service, serving as the Indian ambassador to France, and following his retirement became India’s finest golf player, even with two German bullets still embedded in his leg.

… and from across society
Despite the RAF’s reputation as the perfect playground for the upper classes, today’s records reveal how those from the working-class flew wing tip to wing tip with the officers, and became highly celebrated for their superior flying ability. One well-regarded flying ace, Arthur Ernest Newland, had humble origins as one of at least nine children from Enfield, north London, but the records show how he went on to twice receive the Distinguished Flying Medal for his prowess in the air, ending the war having destroyed 19 enemy aircraft, 17 of those single-handedly. One of ten children from a poor family in Limerick, John Cowell also became a celebrated airman during the war. Beginning on 5 May 1917, and extending through 28 July, Cowell scored fifteen victories as a gunner, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on 11 June 1918, as well as the Military Medal with Bar. Returning as a pilot in 20 Squadron he scored his final victory a year and a day after his fifteenth but sadly was shot down and killed the next day by balloon buster Friedrich Ritter von Röth of Jasta 16.

The air’s a stage
With the records containing information about an individual’s peacetime occupation, as well as their military prowess, it’s perhaps no surprise that the RAF appealed to the more dramatic members of society with records showing 104 actors, nine comedians and even one music hall artiste made up the RAF ranks.

“It’s a real treat to have such an extensive set of records about the everyday airmen of World War One” said Paul Nixon, military expert at Findmypast.co.uk. “These people, drawn from all walks of life, and from all over the world, played an incredibly important part in shaping our history, particularly in the development of aerial warfare. To have many of these hitherto unseen records easily accessible online for the first time mean that now many people can discover the Biggles in their own family.”

William Spencer, author and principal military records specialist at The National Archives continued: “These records reveal the many nationalities of airmen that joined forces to fight in the First World War. Now these records are online, people can discover the history of their ancestors, with everything from their physical appearance right through to their conduct and the brave acts they carried out which helped to win the war.”

The records, comprising National Archives series AIR 76 (Officers’ service records) and AIR 79 (Airmen’s records) contain information about an individual’s peacetime and military career, as well as his physical description, religious denomination and family status. Next of kin are often mentioned and this too has been fully indexed and is easily searchable. These records form part of Findmypast’s 100in100 promise to deliver 100 record sets in 100 days. To learn more about the records, visit www.Findmypast.co.uk.

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4.2 million British World War 1 service records released online in most comprehensive collection ever

This just came through to me from the boys and girls at Findmypast

Findmypast logo 600,000 new names added for the first time

Records contain physical descriptions, details of postings and remarks on conduct and character

Today findmypast released as part of their 100in100 campaign to release 100 record sets in 100 days the largest and most comprehensive collection of British World War 1 service records online, giving family historians a greater chance than ever before of finding their World War 1 ancestors. The newly re-indexed records contain details of millions of the men who fought for their country in one of the largest conflicts in history. As well as a more thorough transcription process which involved an individual examination of over 35 million pages of documentation, findmypast has also identified and indexed lists of names that were tucked away in individual service papers.

The record sets (WO363 and WO64, also colloquially known as the “burnt records”) are all that remain of records caught up in a fire caused by a German incendiary bomb during World War. As only around 40% of the original records survive, the addition of these 600,000 new names taken from extra lists and pages previously not indexed are a real boon to family historians with British military ancestors, as well as to military historians in general.

The records can be searched at http://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/british-army-service-records-1914-1920 and are available on all international findmypast sites as part of a world subscription.

 

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Family History Research in England & Wales: The 1939 Register is coming!

 

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News out today from the British-owned online family history company DC Thomson Family History (the people behind findmypast amongst other websites) and The National Archives that they are entering into a joint project to make the records of 40 million civilians held in the 1939 register available online.

When they have got this data digitised, it is estimated by the company that the collection will comprise of near enough 1.2 million scanned full-colour images of documents. As the records cover the entire civilian population of England & Wales at the outbreak of WWII, this is quite a significant release for those of us researching our English or Welsh family tree.

What was the 1939 register?

It was taken on 29 September 1939 by the British Government and recorded personal details of individuals in order to issue identity cards and ration books. In later years it became the basis of the National Health Service’s records.

Findmypast say that , when complete, the 1939 register will be fully searchable online for the first time, opening up the past to a new generation of family and social historians, just as the 1911 census did on its release in 2009.

So what can we expect to find once this set becomes available to us?

The records contain the address, full name, date of birth, sex, marital status and occupation of individuals, as well as changes of name. Although the Register is literally within living memory for many people, information about living individuals will be kept closed for 100 years from their year of birth, or until proof of death has been authenticated.

From today, anybody interested in being kept informed about the project can register at www.1939register.co.uk.

Annelies Van Den Belt, CEO of DC Thomson Family History said: “This announcement is great news not just for British family historians and those with British relatives, but for anyone with an interest in history itself; providing a fascinating snapshot of the country as it stood on the edge of the most widespread conflict in human history.

“This significant project will bring these records to a global audience for the first time, and combined with the 1.8 billion records already available on our websites will make it easier than ever to begin your family history journey and uncover the powerful stories that lie within and that make us who we are.”

Mary Gledhill, Commercial Director, at The National Archives, added: “The National Archives is delighted to be working with DC Thomson Family History to open up this unique record collection to the world, allowing history enthusiasts to discover more about the people at the outbreak of the Second World War. In the absence of a 1931 and 1941 census, this collection is all the more valuable to family historians trying to trace their ancestors.”

The 1939 register project is the latest contract to be awarded to DC Thomson Family History by The National Archives. Record sets previously digitised by the company in association with The National Archives include Crime, Prisons and Punishment; outbound passenger lists; British Army Service records; Merchant Navy Seamen’s records; Maritime Birth, Marriage and Death indexes and the 1911 census.

Great news for those of us researching our recent ancestors from England & Wales. One of the most anticipated family history projects since the 1911 census.


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British India records launched

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I have seen elsewhere on the internet today that the comedian Al Murray is not happy with a claim that he is related to David Cameron!

This was just some of the publicity that has surrounded the launch today of 2.5 million records from British India records that provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the Indian subcontinent

Family history website findmypast.co.uk has, in partnership with the British Library,  added 2.5 million records covering over 200 years of history of the British in India and published them online for the first time today.

These records covering 1698-1947 give real insight into the heart warming and heart breaking stories of British citizens living in India during the tenure of the East India Company and the British Raj.

Debra Chatfield, Brand Manager at findmypast.co.uk said of the release: “The new British in India records at findmypast are a great opportunity to find ancestors that previously were considered missing, as so many of our relatives sought their fortune on the subcontinent. Whether your relatives were clergy, aristocracy, tradespeople, merchants, civil servants or soldiers, the lowest and the landed all have stories to be told with these records.”

These 2.5 million records include:

  • Baptisms, Marriages & Burials (Catholic, Anglican & Civil registers)
  • Army officers’ marriage notifications
  • Records for other locations administered by the India office (Aden, Burma, Kuwait, St Helena)
  • Civil service records
  • Pension registers
  • Probate records & wills

 

I’ve already been taking a look for some of my ancestors.

British in India records are available on all findmypast sites and can be searched here .


 

 

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Free military records at Ancestry UK!

 

Just got this through from Ancestry

 

In honour of Remembrance Day, Ancestry is opening up millions of military records to give everyone the chance to journey back in time and discover the war heroes in their family.

Between 08 and 12 November 2013, 3.6 million records will be freely available from four important military collections:

  • WWI Service Records (1914 – 1920)
  • WWII Army Roll of Honour (1939 – 1945)
  • Navy Medal and Roll Awards (1793 – 1972)
  • Victoria Cross Medals (1857 – 2007)

Almost every family in the country will have relatives who once served their country, so these records are an excellent source of discovery.

Travel back through 100 years of military history to find physical descriptions, next of kin, medals awarded, places served, disciplinary procedures, photos, dates and places of death ? and much more.

New WWII collection

Ancestry has added new Civilian War Dead records from WWII, which hold the names of 60,000 civilians who perished during the Second World War. People died in their homes, offices, factories, schools and public vehicles during the terrifying bombings and air raids.
London was hardest hit so the London Boroughs have lengthy casualty lists, but the collection also covers many other cities, including Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and York.

Take a look here: Ancestry.co.uk

 

 

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Records of 60,000 British civilians killed during WWII digitised

Ahead of Remembrance Day, Ancestry.co.uk, has today launched online the UK, WWII Civilian Deaths, 1939-1945 collection, listing the thousands of British citizens killed on the ‘Home Front’ during the Second World War.

 

The records, originally compiled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, list almost 60,000 members of the British Commonwealth and Empire who were killed as a result of enemy action whilst going about their everyday lives or while at their posts as members of the Civil Defence Services.

 

The majority of the names listed were civilians killed in the aerial bombings by the German Luftwaffe (air force) as it attempted to bring Britain to its knees. These attacks on British cities, which took place from September 1940 to May 1941 are known collectively as The Blitz and led to around 40,000 deaths.

 

Nearly half of those killed in The Blitz (17,500) were Londoners, but several other cities were also badly hit, with Liverpool next worst off in terms of civilian deaths (2,677) followed by Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Plymouth, Coventry, Portsmouth, Belfast and Glasgow.

 

Among the 59,418 names listed in the records is James Isbister, considered the first civilian casualty of WWII on home soil. He was killed in March 1940, when German bombers attacking Scapa Flow Naval Base, Orkney, jettisoned their remaining bombs over civilian territory as they fled back to Germany.

 

Hundreds of British civilians lost their lives before this point, most commonly in sea disasters when civilian ships hit military mines during the early months of the war. As the war progressed deaths at sea became all the more common, with thousands lost, as Germany used submarines to sink merchant ships in an attempt to restrict supplies to Britain.

 

More than 2,300 Civil Defence Service members also gave their lives whilst on duty, including air raid wardens, home guard, and members of the Women’s Voluntary Services.

 

One of the most notable names in the collection is actor and star of Gone With The Wind, Leslie Howard. He was killed in 1943 when the civilian airliner he was travelling in to Bristol was shot down. Historians have since suggested that the Luftwaffe may have attacked the non-military plane because German Intelligence believed Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be on board.

 

Before the war it was feared a sustained campaign of aerial bombings would lead to more than 600,000 deaths and as a result the 1937 Air Raid Precautions Act forced local councils to make provisions for defence. These varied from a widespread imposed blackout of all lighting from public and commercial buildings to the construction of bomb shelters and provision of gas masks.

 

The government also implemented widespread evacuation of major cities, with Operation Pied Piper responsible for the relocation of more than 3.5 million people – mainly urban children moved to safer homes in rural areas.

Several other famous names of the day can also be found within the digital records, including:

 

  • Albert Dolphin – Dolphin was working as an emergency hospital porter at what is today New Cross Hospital London when a bomb hit the kitchens of the building. A true Home Front hero, Albert rushed to the aid of a nurse trapped in wreckage and protected her as a damaged wall gave way. He was killed saving her life and was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his bravery.

 

  • James Baldwin-Webb MP – Baldwin-Webb, MP for The Wrekin in Shropshire and one of the most famous civilians of the day, was lost at sea. In September 1940, whilst travelling to Canada to fundraise for the Ambulance Corps, his liner SS City of Benares was torpedoed by a German submarine. He stayed aboard the ship to assist women and children onto lifeboats before going down with the ship.

 

  • Arthur Bacon – Bacon was a popular footballer, playing as a striker at Reading, Chesterfield and Coventry City – scoring 71 goals between 1923 and 1935. After his footballing career he served as a Special Constable in Derby where he was killed in 1942 (aged 37) during an air raid.

 

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.uk comments: “As we approach Remembrance Sunday, it’s important to not only remember those heroes who served and died in conflict but the thousands of ordinary people who lost their lives in Britain and the Commonwealth whilst battling to keep the country running at a very difficult time.

 

“This collection gives people the chance to find out about any Home Front heroes that might be in their family tree, and adds to the millions of military records available on Ancestry.co.uk from the past 100 years and more.”

 

Ancestry.co.uk is providing free access to 3.6 million military records between 8th and 12th November, including WWI Service Records 1914 – 1920, WWII Army Roll of Honour 1939 – 1945, Navy Medal and Roll Awards 1793 – 1972 and Victoria Cross Medals 1857 – 2007. To search for the war heroes in your family tree, visit www.ancestry.co.uk/start_military
 

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More than 13 million records launched today on findmypast.com

Some news that dropped into my inbox today…

DC Thomson Family History and FamilySearch.org to make billions of records available for people to search

More than 13 million records launched today on findmypast.com

LONDON, England and SALT LAKE CITY, Utah–Annelies van den Belt, the new CEO of DC Thomson Family History, the British-based leader in online family history and owner of findmypast and Genes Reunited, has announced a major new partnership with US-based FamilySearch.org that will give family history enthusiasts access to billions of records online and new technology to collaboratively research their family roots.

DC Thomson Family History, formerly known as brightsolid online publishing, is collaborating with FamilySearch, which has the largest collections of genealogical and historical records in the world, to deliver a wide range of projects including digital preservation, records search, technological development and the means to allow family historians to share their discoveries.

More than 13 million records from FamilySearch.org launched today on findmypast, including major collections of births, marriages and deaths covering America, Australia, and Ireland. Around 600 additional collections, containing millions of records, will follow.

The two organisations have a long history of working together on historical projects, including indexing 132 million records of the 1940 US census and two hundred years of British Army Service Records (Chelsea Pensioners) in a joint digitisation project with The National Archives.

Van den Belt said: “This is fantastic news for our customers all over the world. As a leader in online family history we will be able to offer access to a much wider variety of records dating back hundreds of years and the first batch are ready to search on findmypast. The convenience of searching many treasures from FamilySearch.org along with our own extensive collections will provide rich new insights for our customers.

“This partnership with FamilySearch will accelerate the momentum of our next phase of global growth into new non-English-speaking markets and give more people more access to more records to uncover their family history. This really cements our position as a market leader. ”

“We are excited to work with DC Thomson Family History on a vision we both share,” said Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch. “Expanding online access to historical records through this type of collaboration can help millions more people discover and share their family’s history.”

DC Thomson Family History is the British-based leader in online family history, which operates major online sites including findmypast, Genes Reunited and the British Newspaper Archive. It launched in America last year with its findmypast brand.

DC Thomson Family History has a strong record of partnerships with non-profit and public sector organisations such as the British Library and The National Archives among many other major archives and organisations around the world.

 

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Merchant Navy Records for WWII have arrived!

Those of you with merchant seamen in the family are probably aware that only some records have been kept by the National Archives. Luckily for me the ones that I needed to access, for my father who had been a WWII merchant seaman, were kept there.

I was asked by my father, over Christmas, if I could find out for him exactly when it was that he went to sea, back in the second world war. He was a very young man and can remember having his first birthday, in the service, at sea one May in the 1940s.

With the passing of the years he has a sketchy recollection of his training period and can not remember exactly how long it was before he joined a merchant ship on the convoys across the Atlantic and also sailing in the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand.

The ship he joined acted as a troop ship in the war, armed with a single gun manned by an army contingent. It had been built as a passenger liner in peacetime and was fast having four screws.

 Merchant Seaman's Records

In my last article I referred to my trip down to The National Archives at Kew in search of his service records where I had to wait for the staff to view the documents and blank out any personal details  before I could view a copy. The process took longer than the time I had and so they had promised to post me the copies when it had been completed.

Well the documents from TNA arrived this week and I now have my father’s merchant seaman’s’ pouch and his wartime service records as he sailed the oceans!

At Kew I had been advised to look at the series BT 382/1799 which was the Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Fifth Register of Merchant Seaman’s Service (CRS 10 forms). Part 1: European origin mainly. Series 1, mainly of European origin, mainly 1942-c1965. Thon Hans Christopher to Thorne N B. for his records.

And also to request a search for him in BT 382/2981 being Part 2: European origin mainly. Series 2, mainly of European origin, 1946-1972. Thorburn A to Thorougood J G.

 

This has indeed given me the dates of his engagements and discharges for each voyage and so I can now tell him the first date that he went to sea in his war service.

As to the most interesting document from my point of view? This would be his British Seaman’s Identity Card, complete with a contemporary photograph of him aged 19, from his seaman’s pouch as held by TNA.

 

 

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