This week I, like many other members, got an email from the Society of Genealogists.
It comes on the back of the LDS news that The London FamilySearch Centre, that has been ‘temporarily’ at The National Archives in Kew for several years, is reaching the end of its contract with TNA and the size of presence at Kew and the type of offerings from the London FamilySearch Centre will change in June 2017.
With this news the SoG Library in Clerkenwell becomes even more of an important place for family historians to pay a visit to than ever.
I have always been a fan of the SoG and so this is good news that the films are still going to be available when The London FamilySearch Centre stops providing access themselves.
Here is the email from Else Churchill…
The London FamilySearch Centre microfilm collection, which is currently temporarily located at The National Archives, is transferring to the Society of Genealogists in Clerkenwell. The move reflects a partnership between the Society of Genealogists and FamilySearch to ensure that the microfilm collection continues to be available to family historians. The London FamilySearch Centre will continue to provide its research support services at the National Archives.
The collection of about 57,000 microfilms complement the SoG’s remarkable library of genealogical sources and both bring together, in one place, an unparalleled resource for family history researchers in the UK. Having been carefully curated over many years, the FamilySearch Films include many thousands of copies of original church and local records from the United Kingdom and Ireland; probate records for England and Wales before and after 1858 and selected items for Caribbean research.
The films will be available to view at the National Archives until 31 May and should be available for consultation at the Society of Genealogists Library from 26 June 2017.
June Perrin, CEO of the Society says “ The Society of Genealogists is delighted to offer a home to such a remarkable collection and looks forward to welcoming family historians to our library in Clerkenwell”
Have you searched for an ancestor’s burial and been frustrated by not finding them anywhere?
I know that I have!
For a very long time I couldn’t find the burial of my 2x great-grandfather and great-grandmother who had originated in Edinburgh and Fife respectively. They had, however, died in the English spa town of Cheltenham in the 1850s.
I had been shown a plaque, on the wall inside an Anglican church, that commemorated them; but Christ Church itself did not have a graveyard with any headstones. I discovered later that it was, in their time, a chapelry to the main St Mary’s Church – though later it would become a parish of its own.
Some years ago I checked with the local Family History Society, to see if they knew where my ancestors had been buried. I got a polite email back saying that they couldn’t find them in the records that they had available. I had gone down this route, as very often FHSs run small projects to transcribe records that don’t make it online with the main data websites on account of their limited audience.
Having drawn an initial blank in Cheltenham, and as my ancestors were Scots, I began looking in Edinburgh and Fife where many of their family were to be found in the various burial grounds there. It is often worth seeing if a lost ancestor has returned “home” after their death. Even if they haven’t done, there is always the possibility that they will be mentioned on a headstone of a family grave. I have found this especially happened when a spouse, or child, died abroad, though it can be simply in another part of the country that they are interned. In my experience, of looking at memorials in graveyards, I have seen a fair number of people that died and are laid to rest in India or other parts of the Empire, during the time these lands were under British rule, and then recorded on loved one’s memorials at home.
Returning to my brick wall in Cheltenham and still having not found my lost ancestor burials elsewhere, I thought about my options.
– First was to check the parishes in a radius around the area. For this I used The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers Atlas (you can get a print copy of this book from S&N Genealogy Supplies)
– I could also use the handy maps tool on familysearch.org (maps.familysearch.org) to find contiguous parishes
– I would make a search of the National Burial Index
– On my next visit to the Society of Genealogists, in London, I could see what they had in their library
– If I travelled to the county I could go to the Gloucestershire Archives (the county record office for Gloucestershire) and search their collections to see if if I could find any other records that may help, though in the intervening years some have been made available on ancestry to search online.
In the end it was this last option of the Gloucestershire Archives records that solved the problem of where my ancestors had been buried. In the Bishop’s Transcripts I found that my great-great-grandfather was buried in Cheltenham’s New Burial Ground in August 1858, as was his wife in May 1851. Bishop’s Transcripts (BTs), a copy of the entries in the parish register and sent annually to the diocese by the parish, can be a really helpful set of records to use. This is especially when the original parish record has been damaged, lost, stolen or simply isn’t clear to read.
From a document that I also found at the Gloucestershire Archives, I discovered that there were 4 main burial grounds in Cheltenham.
– The first was the churchyard attached to St Mary’s Church
– The second was a burial ground opened nearby on High Street in 1831, although the churchyard continued to be used. This new burial ground had a small chapel – St Mary’s cemetery chapel, that later became St Mary’s Mission
– There was also a small burial ground for Holy Trinity church. A few non-conformist churches also had burial grounds, e.g. St Andrews Congregationalist Church
– In 1864 the Civil Cemetery was opened at Bouncers Lane and both previous burial grounds were closed to new burials. Burials still took place in pre-purchased or used graves, i.e. a family grave
It is probably in the second burial ground that my ancestors were laid to rest. Unfortunately the area is now known as the Winston Churchill Memorial Garden and the headstones have been removed. I find this sad as I shall never be able to find their actual graves, but at least my brick wall has fallen and I know where they are buried.
Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?
Learn how to discover where to find the many records and resources that will help you to find your forebears.
While reading the latest news from the Society of Genealogist I came across an announcement for a half day course being held at the society’s head quarters in London called:
“My Ancestors Came from the Channel Islands”
It had previously been scheduled for the end of the month and has now been brought forward to 24/10/2015 10:30 – 13:00 – So anyone who hasn’t realised this yet and who intended to go then make a note in your diary that this course has been moved from its original date of 31 October.
If you have forbears form this part of the world and want to learn more about how to research them then as I write this they still have some space.
On which of the Channel Islands did your ancestors originate?
Are your cousins still there?
This half-day course will cover sources of genealogical and historical sources of information about Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The course will include data that can be accessed in the Society of Genealogists library, online and on the islands in archives, libraries, registries and museums. Relevant contact details of historical and family history organisations will be provided.
with Dr Colin Chapman.
Books on Channel Island Ancestors
Pen & Sword books have the following editions of Marie-Louise Backhurst’s comprehensive book on Tracing Your Channel Island Ancestors for sale. Check out the different editions with these links:
This week, on Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th of April the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show rolls into the National Exhibition Centre for the first time. The largest Family History Show in the U.K. it has moved up to the Midlands from London.
For those of us seeking answers, to family history brick walls, this is one of the most exciting times of the calendar as it allows us a chance to get to listen to all manner of experts gathered under one roof.
Apart from the main celebrity speakers, such as Reggie Yates, Tamzin Outhwaite and Alistair McGowan there are many other presentations that I am looking forward to.
One talk that I spotted in the email news from S&N Genealogy supplies is Our Ancestors’ Working Lives by Celia Heritage, Professional Genealogist & Author. Celia will be explaining how we can find out more about an ancestor through the records of their working life in TheGenealogist’s talk theatre, situated just by the entrance.
There are, of course, so many other workshops to take in that a little bit of planning may be needed to fit in what appeals to your particular interest. Take a look at the Society of Genealogists Workshop programme online. One of the other great strengths of the show is being able to chat with the knowledgeable people from the various family history societies, or to sit down with a Society of Genealogist expert. Maybe you will be in luck and meet a person that is researching a collateral line to yours!
To emphasize just how much of a breakthrough a chance meeting such as this can be, here is a little story to end with.
This weekend I was taking a break in a small Leicestershire Bed & Breakfast and was talking to another guest who had discovered a whole batch of new ancestors by meeting someone whose ancestor had been employed as a ship’s captain by my fellow guest’s ship owning ancestor. The Captain’s descendent was able to fill in the ship owner’s descendent about people that, until then, he was completely unaware of. This just emphasises how making connections at events such as Who Do You Think You Are? Live can be priceless.
Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,
Its only three weeks to go before many of us descend on the NEC in Birmingham for the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show.
One of the most interesting parts of this event are the number of fascinating talks given both on the stands and in the various Society of Genealogist workshops around the hall. They can open up your mind to new places to look for your ancestors or give you tips and tricks to use that you hadn’t considered before.
The Society of Genealogists will be running an extensive programme of workshops by leading genealogists over the course of the three day show. You can choose from a vast number of subjects, for instance: different research techniques, how to record your findings and using parish registers.
Taking place in four theatres (SOG Studios 1, 2, 3 and 4), sessions last for approximately 45 minutes with a fifteen minute break in between. All workshops are free to attend* and subject to capacity – for this reason, you are able to pre-book a seat at your preferred workshops for just £2 when booking your tickets to the show.
Don’t forget the Keynote Workshop** will talk place every day at 1.15pm – 2.30pm in SOG Studio 1.
Heading over to TheGenealogist’s talks stand, that on the plan is near the entrance of the hall, I am looking forward to the Tracing Military Ancestors with Chris Baker, Military Expert & Author, Breaking Down Brick Walls with Mark Baley, Online Expert and Celia Heritage talking about our Ancestor’s Working Lives.
A contact asked me about occupations recently and so I found them this really helpful article by professional genealogist Rosamunde Bott. I am sharing it here for everyone to read.
English Occupations: Finding More About Your Ancestor
By Rosamunde Bott
Whilst rooting around in your family history, you will learn what your ancestors did for a living – at least as far back to the early 1800s. This is often one of the most fascinating aspects of discovering who your ancestors were. Whether they were a lowly agricultural labourer, or a highly respected surgeon or magistrate, the curious and wide range of English occupations can lead you to further knowledge of how they lived their lives on a day to day basis. For some people it can be exciting to discover that a creative gene, such as writing or painting has made its way down to the present.
Much of this information can be found on the census, at least back to 1841, and sometimes beyond depending on the availability of records. Some earlier parish records did mention a man’s occupation, and other records, such as directories, wills, property deeds and tax records can also give occupational details.
Many of you will have come across occupations that are now obsolete, and will often need further explanation. What, for example, is a night soil man? Or a calenderer? Or a fag ender?
The first of these might have been found in any large town or city, emptying dry toilets in the days before plumbing. Not a job I would like to imagine any of my ancestors doing – but fascinating nonetheless.
The other two are connected to the textile industry, and will usually be found in those industrial areas where cotton was being produced – for example, Manchester. A calenderer was just a generic term for a textile industry worker. A fag ender was someone employed to trim off loose bits of cloth known as fags.
If you trawl through the census records for specific areas, you will of course find a wealth of occupations connected to that area’s industry. Sticking with Manchester for the moment, you will find many jobs associated with the cotton industry, and among the weavers, winders, packers and piecers you might also come across Fustian cutters (cloth workers who trim corded cloth), beamers (people who handle materials before weaving), billiers, billy roller operations or billymen (all terms for cotton spinners) or even an impleachers (cloth weavers).
When you find that an ancestor’s origins are in a particular area, it is worth while finding out about the major industries there, because this will no doubt have had some effect on your ancestor’s life, even if he (or she) was not directly involved in it.
For example, shoemakers are known everywhere – but a shoemaker working in Manchester would probably have had a different experience to a shoemaker who worked in a more rural area, or on the coast. Is he making shoes for factory workers, agricultural labourers, fishermen or for the well-to-do?
If your ancestor moved around, it was very likely it was to find work. Undertaking a bit of historical research on the local industries can give you a good indication of why your ancestor moved from one town to another. My own great-great grandfather started out as a bricklayer in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and moved to Birmingham where he became a builder and employer. You only need to find out about the building boom going on in Birmingham in the mid-19th century to work out why he made the choice to move!
Some occupations can lead you to finding further documentation. For example, workers in skilled trades may well have started out as an apprentice, and you may find the apprenticeship records at the local record office. These can give you further details about his origins and parentage.
If your ancestor worked for a big company, it may be worth finding out whether there are staff records in existence. If the company still exists, they may even keep their own set of archives.
Not only are occupations interesting in themselves – they can lead you to find out further information, whether it is more family records, or information about how your ancestor lived, and under what conditions. Much information about trades and occupations can be found on the internet, and there are many books about various trades and industries. The Society of Genealogists publishes a range of books entitled “My Ancestor was….”
Old English occupations are varied and wide-ranging, and they can tell you much about your ancestor. Make sure you always follow up this line of enquiry and find out as much as possible about what he (or she) did for a living.
Ros is a professional genealogist and runs a UK ancestry tracing service for UK and international researchers who need help with their UK ancestry. Ros offers a one-stop-shop tracing service for all UK ancestors, or record look-ups in Warwickshire and Birmingham. Find out more at Tracing Your Ancestors
I’ve got some advice for you to break down a brick wall.
Have you been stuck trying to find an ancestor?
Thought you might have been!
Maybe what I relate below will help you too.
The thing was that some while back, I was getting quite frustrated by being unable to trace a person in the records.
I was completely stuck finding this person’s birth, marriage or death and I had tried looking online and off without any luck.
Maybe you are in this position too?
What broke the problem for me?
Well it was avisit to a Family History websitewhile surfing forkeywordsto do with the ancestor and then a little bit of time spentbrowsing the transcripts featured on the platform.
There were some other factors, such as trying different spelling variations of first and second names, as advised by my family history teacher at the time and a visit to an archive.
What it boils down to is using a bit of lateral thinking in our family tree research and most importantly finding out about alternative records to the ones that we might have already used.
The family branch that has presented me with the most frustrating problems has been that from Devon. I was fine going back through the census years, 1911, 1901 and so on back to 1841 but then it became more of a problem.
Perhaps this story resonates with some of you to?
I had figured out that my 3x great-grandfather was called John Thorn. This was provided in the information he had given to the census enumerators over the years, along with the fact that he had been born in about 1795. His wife, Elizabeth, had been born about 1798.
As I belong to The Society of Genealogists I took a trip to their headquarters in Goswell Road, London knowing that they have the largest collection of Parish Records in the country on microfiche. They’ve also got some transcripts of parish registers in their library, which I thought may be worth looking at.
If you are in the area I highly recommend you visit the Society of Genealogists.
Unfortunately for me, at the time of my research, the Dartmouth parish records were not on microfilm at the SoG. But I was over the moon to find a great selection of Devon Family History Society booklets for marriages taking place in the churches of the town, including St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. Browsing one book for any likely ancestors I spotted that on 13 April 1817 one person called John Thorn got married to an Elizabeth Sissell.
I opened up the internet and began searching using my new lead. My mission was to hunt down any evidence that this was the marriage of my ancestors.
Doing a search-engine query for Dartmouth + family history steered me towards the Dartmouth-history.org.uk website belonging to The Dartmouth Archives. I discovered that this voluntary organisation had a really broad family history section and included a number of transcribed baptisms, burials, marriages and census records.
I could read the very same information, as I had seen at the SoG in London, on this niche site. The data began in 1586 and ran to 1850 and there was the marriage of John Thorn to Elizabeth and this time I noticed that the witness were given as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell.
At the time I made an assumption that this last person was more than likely some member of the bride’s family. Could it perhaps be the father of the bride?
But that name “Sunass” just didn’t seem likely to me. Now I know that it was the best guess by the transcriber as it couldn’t be read properly in the original record.
From the information I knew that they had signed with a mark, thus they were illiterate and so the first name and the second had not been written down by the ancestors themselves.
When you are doing your own research you should bear in mind that our ancestors may not have had the ability to read or write and the minister may have interpreted the name as he had heard it said to him. In my ancestor’s case the surname “Sissell” could possibly have been “Cecil” or something entirely different. Consider saying the name with the regional accent and seeing what you come up with.
As for Sunass – at this point I was clueless!
The Dartmouth Archives website had not got any early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth and so I went over to the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch.org and here I did a search for Elizabeth’s christening.
I was rewarded by a lead to a baptism in one of the other churches in Dartmouth, St Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. This child was the daughter of James and Sarah Sissill and she was christened Elizabeth Gardener Sissill.
You may notice that the spelling had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e” again pointing to the vicar writing it down the way that he heard it.
I now jumped to a conclusion that the witness to Elizabeth’s marriage could have been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had looked like an “S” to the transcriber and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”. All easily done.
So what I am emphasising here and I continue to do so in modules from my Family History Researcher Course, is to be wary of names and the way they were spelt. If you keep this in mind then some of the logjams we find in our research can be got past.
This breakthrough I had was down to finding that Dartmouth has an active family history website and then using their indexes in conjunction with other internet resources, such as the LDS site.
The first learning point is that you should always find out what other research may have been done, for the area your ancestors came from.
If you find a family history society, or local interest group with a website, can any of their publications or website pages help you with your quest?
Secondly, always keep in mind that names were misspelled in many records. In my own family research I have had to think of other spellings for the Sissells, and indeed names that may have sounded like Sissell in order that I may trace this line back further and break down the brick wall.
I have made some fantastic strides in my family tree research and it is mostly down to learning as much as I can from other’s experiences and finding out as much as I can about what records and resources are available.
Last year I put together some modules for a course of 52 guides, aiming at passing on my experience. Perhaps they can help you become a more knowledgeable researcher?
I had some professional genealogists and data providers also contribute to the project to make it well rounded.
As you have come to this page I am sure that you must have an interest in family history and I am betting that you to have some brick walls to knock down as well. So take a look at the report below that is based on some of the material from the Family History Researcher course…
These knowledgeable interviewees include practising professional genealogists, with years and years of experience to offer.
Yet others are from the very highest levels of the online data provider companies, like Ancestry and TheGenealogist.
Listen to the download and learn some plain tips that will simplify the often confusing business of researching English/Welsh ancestors. I am going to give you access to these eight professionals so that you can use their advice to break down several brick walls that you may have.
3. The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) Member. What would the advice be from a professional genealogist practitioner?
Well as many serious professional genealogists belong to this association, I headed over to the AGRA stand and asked a member for his research tips. Points he brought up included the information on documents being only as good as that given by the informant and what to do about conflicting data. There is more to hear in the full interview that you can download here .
4. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) Expert. In family history we often have to think a bit outside the box. Well have you considered that your missing ancestor had moved abroad? With 3 million Brits having gone out to India then if we have a missing forbear it could certainly pay us to take a look at the records from this part of the British Empire. Its not just soldiers, the list of people who went out to work there is long as we hear from this FIBIS expert.
5. Celia Heritage – Professional Genealogist, Author and Family History Teacher introduces us to an often under used set of resources in her piece: Death Records. She explains how to use these records to flesh out the bones of our ancestors lives.
Celia is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and you can just hear the passion that she has for her subject as she dispenses some gems of advice in the free downloadable audio presentation. Its not just death certificates that Celia brings to our attention in this part of the recording!
6. Dr Ian Galbraith – The National Wills Index explains about one of the best single major sources for family historians when I asked him to talk about Wills and Administrations for this audio.
Ian explains why wills can be an important resource with an average of 10 names per will and with half of them being different from that of the testator. Many people are surprised by the fact that all sorts of people left wills, but you won’t be when you have heard the full interview.
7. Brad Argent – Content Director for Ancestry advises family historians to drill down for the information in the online databases in his contribution to the recording. Brad suggests we use the card catalogue to seek out data sets and then use the advance search facility of “exact”, “soundex” and “wildcards” when we are on this large data provider’s site. His advice is compelling.
8. Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, a site that gives really fantastic value and a very wide range of data, introduces us to a great name-rich resource recently published by TheGenealogist, in association with The National Archives.
What is this important resource for England and Wales?
It is, of course, the Tithe collection.
I have been using this set recently to great effect with my own rural ancestors and so I have included a module in my Family History Researcher Guides about the tithes.
The beauty of this data is that it includes both sides of society, with landowners and tenants being recorded and giving names and addresses. As a pre-census data set it is hugely valuable to us! Listen to Mark explain about these exciting records in the free recording you can download now by clicking the link below.
Now you may be asking why I am doing this for free?
Its because I want to introduce you to a set of guides that I have put together. A series of pdf modules that takes the information I gleaned at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and incorporated it, along with much more content into a year’s worth of weekly written guides.
There are extra contributions from various other professional experts who have penned some of the reports, as well as those modules written from my own extensive experience.
I am guessing that, if you have read this far, you are interested in English/Welsh family history and that you have hit at least one of the inevitable brick walls. The solution is to understand more ways to find your ancestors.
So if you would like to dramatically increase your knowledge then I think you will enjoy being a member of my Family History Researcher Guides. This is a 52 weekly series of guides written in an easily accessible form and you can take a two week trial for just £1 by going here:
Findmypast’s customers seem to be telling them that they want to go back to the past website.
It is difficult to ignore perhaps the biggest story in the British isles family history world this week of a customer backlash being played out on social media and on the review websites such as http://www.reviewcentre.com and http://www.trustpilot.co.uk about Findmypast.co.uk’s new website.
It even spilled over on to my Nosey Genealogist YouTube channelwhere an interview I did with Debra Chatfield at Who Do You Think You Are? Live got comments posted about, what Findmypast’s customers think of the new site.
While it may not be all of their subscribers, venting this anger, it would be fair to say that many of their customers are not impressed with the new site’s functionality and these are demanding a return to the old site.
Comments indicate that customers do not like the “new and improved platform”, some find it very slow to use and difficult to search for records. It would seem that these customers of DC Thompson Family History’s Findmypast do not like it, preferring the previous interface.
The facility to search for an address was not working properly this week, as I found out myself, though Findmypast promised to fix that.
It would seem, from the head of steam being built up, that many of the subscribers are threatening to walk away from Findmypast to other genealogical providers.
As someone who uses more than one website for my searches my immediate solution was to look up my census address query on the rival website ofTheGenealogist, which also offers an address search not to mention carries a very substantial suite of data sets including all the census records, parish records and the recently released and very interesting Tithe Apportionments that I find fascinating in my ancestor research.
I was also interested to see in an email that I received on Friday from the Society of Genealogists that they are running a training session for Members, staff and volunteers of the SoG.
They say that As the changes are quite significant the Society has arranged some special training in using the new style search functions etc. Paul Nixon, UK Data Strategy with DC Thompson Family History has agreed to come to the Society to make a training presentation and explain how it all works now.
I don’t really understand why Findmypast has let the situation get to this point.
As a fresher on a Business Studies course, way back in the 1980s, I remember being taught in the first few weeks of my undergraduate course that companies that are Customer led are the only ones that will survive. Those businesses that are product led or led by technology often try to push their customers to accept what they think is best for them, and that this is a recipe for disaster.
Surely a company such as DC Thompson Family History will have people within it that understand this customer focus? Lets hope so.
Who Do You Think You Are? Live: the world’s largest family history show is only a few weeks away!
It is back! The annual genealogy event, sponsored by Ancestry.co.uk, returns to London’s Olympia on 20-22 February, 2014.
I’m getting ready for my first ever time exhibiting there and as the weeks roll on I’m getting more and more excited about it. Come and see me at Table 56 where I shall be promoting my Family History Researcher course in English and Welsh Family History.
Piecing together your family history is a deeply rewarding experience. Nothing can beat the excitement of making new discoveries and identifying lost relatives. However, if you’ve recently hit a brick wall with your research, or you are daunted by all the options available for those starting their family tree, then help is at hand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.
Every year, hundreds of genealogy experts from the major subscription sites, museums, archives and family history societies descend on Olympia for the world’s largest family history show. If you need a helping hand to uncover your family secrets, there’s no better place to go.
They’ll be new features at the 2014 show including commemorating the centenary of WWI and a new celebrity line-up to add to the usual popular features. You can:
Attend over 100 workshops in the Society of Genealogists’ Workshop Programme
Investigate family photographs with their experts
Spend one-to-one time with an expert in a subject of your choice,
Learn how DNA can help with research
Visit family history societies from all over the UK
Hear how celebrities from the television show felt about their discoveries, starting with Natasha Kaplinsky on the Thursday.
Explore over 120 exhibitors all specialising in family history
Don’t miss your chance to extend your research and share in the passion and enthusiasm of thousands of fellow family historians!