This week I was able to take a day out in London to walk in my ancestor’s footprints.
I have know since the 1861 census went online that one of my Devon forefathers had a spell working up in the capital. In that year he was listed as a married man working as a plasterer at 19 Paddington Street, Marylebone in London.
We all have certain ancestors that fascinate us for one reason or another and one of my favourites is George Colwill the son of William, a hatter who had moved from Tavistock to set up as a grocer in Plymouth.
Having a change of career path, when you can see something more lucrative in front of you, seems to run in this branch of the family as by 1871 George had moved back to Devon with his wife and children and had set up as a Baker in Plymouth.
His new occupation seems to have been influenced by his time in London as at number 19 Paddington Street lived a master baker and a journeyman baker, as well as George and his wife Charlotte. Both the bakers were natives of the same county as George, Devon. Were they friends? I also wonder if my ancestor quickly mover from mixing plaster to kneading dough while living there?
Being a baker in Plymouth was to make George a very wealthy man!
By the time of his death, in 1915, he left a comfortable amount of money to his daughters – the equivalent of £2.2 million in economic status value translated into today’s money. Sadly, none of this has come my way!
While I was in Marylebone High Street, this week, I took a side trip down Paddington Street and found number 19, where my 2x great-grandparents once lived. Today it is a modern building, as perhaps the previous property was demolished after bomb damage in the war. But the rest of the street still gave me an insight into the ambience of the place in the 19th century. The leafy park opposite the building would have been a church yard in George’s day.
I have to report that I suddenly felt a strong affinity with them, as I walked from the doorway of the former shop and up the road to the busy Marylebone High Street. There I did some window shopping before making my way to the railway station and a train out of London for the provinces.
Have you visited your ancestors street and felt the same?
If you are serious about discovering your family history, then why not spend the winter nights looking for your ancestors in the records?
First you need to know where to look and what tips you need to tease them out.
My Family History Researcher Academy offers a simple to understand course on English/Welsh family history.
I have been sending out weekly tutorials to many satisfied members for more than a year now and this week I had the following from someone who has just completed their 52nd lesson.
“Hi Nick. Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably. A. Vallis.
Why not join the now better informed researchers, such as the family historian above?
Try it for yourself with this special offer of one month FREE!
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:
I’ve been to the Midlands this week and while I was there I took the opportunity to do some research in the Dudley Archives & local history centre.
No matter what gets put online, and believe me I am a keen user of online content, when I get the chance I still love to go to an actual archive and do some research in the reading room of one or other of these local authority depositories.
I spent my time in the one run by Dudley Metropolitan Council looking back at parish records in Halesowen and was fascinated, as always, by the extras that are to be found written in the margin of the parish records, or as notes in the front or back.
One note that I saw this week referred to a number of burials on the page and it mentioned that all of the above died of smallpox putting some context onto the conditions at the time. In other records down at the Devon record office I have seen a whole brood of children being baptised together after the family had returned to England after many years in the fishing fields of Newfoundland and a helpful side note by the vicar explaining this.
Another great benefit of a visit to a record office is that they often have books on their shelves that can be helpful finding aids. I was able to make use this week of a set of indexes to the parish records, published many years ago, but with them I could narrow down the dates that I wanted to look at on the microfilm reader.
In my Family History Researcher Academy course on English/Welsh ancestors I have a module specifically about the treasures that can be found in a County/City Record Office. The course can be done at your own pace and comes in 52 weekly downloads that build into a great resource for busting those brick walls in family history.
In England and Wales the Record Office is where the records of the local government administrative area are kept. In many cases they also house the ecclesiastical diocese records and, from a family historian’s point of view, they are the keepers of the old Parish Registers collected from the churches of the area, which was my reason for visiting Dudley Archives this week.
A Record Office:
– collects and preserves historical records of all kinds relating to its county,
– makes these records available for research of all kinds by all interested individuals and groups, and
– encourages and promotes awareness of the value and importance of its documentary heritage.
Usually a Record Office will also preserve a great deal of other archival material such as the records from independent local organizations, churches and schools.
There may be papers donated by prominent people from the community, leading families, estates, companies, lawyers and more. If you are in the area where your ancestors lived then go on an pay them a visit. The staff are usually very knowledgeable about their records and the district and so they can be a huge help to the family historian.
GREAT-VALUE 1 MONTH SUBSCRIPTION – £9.95 FOR UNLIMITED ACCESS
The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) has launched a brand new 1 month subscription. For just £9.95 you can search, view and print fascinating articles published in British and Irish newspapers between 1710 and 1954.
As they say in their press release “The new 1 month subscription is brilliant value for money. Not only is it less than half the price of The British Newspaper Archive’s old 30 day package, you can also view more newspaper pages.”
As someone who loves to read the articles in old newspapers and to sometimes hit upon a nugget about an ancestor I am really please to see the The British Newspaper Archive has reduced the price. Well done! This will help me in my Family Tree research while saving me some money.
The new price for a 1 month subscription is £9.95 opposed to the old price of £29.95. With the new package you can view as many newspapers as you like, subject to their standard fair usage policy of 3,000 pages per month. which is much better than the previous 600 newspaper page limit.
Ian Tester, Brand Director of The British Newspaper Archive, commented:
“Our historical newspapers are full of amazing stories just waiting to be unearthed. We hope that even more history lovers will be able to explore this treasure trove of information with our new great-value subscription.”
You can currently search 7.7 million newspaper pages at The British Newspaper Archive, with thousands more added every week.
Disclosure: Above links are compensated affiliate links.
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 fromÂ 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.Â 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?
Become a more knowledgeable researcher with this course.
This week (Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd) Who Do You Think You Are? Live comes to Olympia with stands from all the major genealogical websites, family history suppliers, expert advice, talks from celebrities from the TV programme and a myriad of workshops.
The Nosey Genealogist will be there too on stand 56 showcasing our Family History Researcher Beginners English & Welsh Family History Course. As a special show offer we have re-introduced the popular Â£1 trial membership of our course that gives you two weeks lessons and some free bonus content.
The Nosey Genealogists has gathered together in one fixed-term-membership site a collection of 52 weekly lessons that will aid the beginner in English & Welsh family history to become a more knowledgeable researcher.
Also of great value to the more advanced, the course explores the different resources, data sets and documents that can reveal more about your English or Welsh ancestors.
Written from the practical point of view by Nick Thorne, an advanced beginner (as even the most experienced researcher is always learning more) and, with the aid of some lessons penned by professional genealogists, this course is delivered by email to your inbox to do at your own pace.
Topics covered in the 12 months include:
The census collections
The Parish records
The Parish Chest
County Record offices and what valuable treasures they contain
City and Town Directories
Genetics and DNA
Maps and Charts
The National Archives
Family Search Centres
If you are attending the show then do please come over and say hello and tell us that you read this blog. You will then be able to enter our competition to win a free copy of our next product due out soon!
I’ve been looking back at an ancestor’s will this week. These family history records are fascinating. Seems that one of my two times great grandfathers left a little money and his house to his wife. In his life he had changed occupations from being a Hatter in Tavistock to being a grocer in Plymouth and it makes me wonder about the economic and social forces at work which made him chose this path.
Another ancestor, on my mother’s family side, seems to have cut his eldest son out of the will, everything being inherited by the children who were next in line! What was the story there, I wonder?
These wills, however, are from the start of the records created by the Probate Registry, which took control of proving wills and administrations in 1858. Before this, four different types of ecclesiastical (church) courts dealt with these cases.
Ancestry.co.uk has recently published online over a million probate records, featuring the last will and testament of some of histories most famous names including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Sir Francis Drake.
Ancestry bill this as being “the most comprehensive UK collection of its kind available to view online”. Certainly I have found that other providers give access to these records on their own sites, for example The National ArchivesÂ on Documents OnlineÂ and TheGenealogist.co.uk has a substantialÂ collection of Wills and Will indexes available online, including the index of the Court of York and full Wills for the Court of Canterbury.
The England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills 1384-1858 covers nearly five centuries worth of history and details how much people owned and who they left it to.
Up until January 1858, the church and other courts proved wills in England and Wales. The PCC was the most important of these courts and was responsible for the probate of wills where the value of assets was greater than five pounds, equivalent to Â£526 today.
Searchable by name, probate date, residence and estimated death year, each record contains information about the final assets of the deceased. Additional notes on their occupation, property and overall standard of living may also be included.
Many famous names can be discovered in the records including world famous playwright William Shakespeare. Dated 25th March 1616, Shakespeareâ€™s will details how he left a sum of one hundred and fifty pounds to both his daughters (over Â£380,000 today) as well as his wife the pleasure of his â€˜second best bedâ€™.
Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen also appears in collection. Upon her death on 18th July 1817, she possessed assets totalling around Â£800 (Â£60,000 today). The majority of this was given to her sister Cassandra aside from Â£50 to her brother Henry and a further Â£50 to a Madame Bigoen â€“ who had previously acted as a nurse to her family.
The records also reveal that the privateer and explorer Sir Francis Drake was somewhat of a real life Robin Hood. Having plundered many Spanish naval vessels and earned a fortune during his adventures in the Americas, Drake left forty pounds to the ‘poore people’Â of the town and Parish of Plymouth in 1596 – the equivalent of Â£150,000 today.
The original records are held at The National Archives and some of the earliest records in the collection cover males as young as 14 and girls as young as 12. This changed in 1837, when it was decided by the court that both genders must be over the age of 21 to have a will proved.
On top of monetary matters, these records tell us more about the private lives of some very public figures and will help historians discover more about the dynamics of their personal and familial relationships.
The majority of records in the collection also pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizensâ€™ lives in documents such as censuses. As such, the collection is a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the mid-19th century.
Ancestry.co.uk Content Manager Miriam SilvermanÂ comments: â€œThese probate records provide fascinating insight into the final fortunes of some of our nations most famous names, right down to who should get their bed.â€
â€œThey are an incredibly valuable family history resource, covering a period in history from which few official documents remain.â€
Disclosure: Some links are compensated affiliate links.
I’ve been looking at some of my rural ancestors from Devon this weekend.
I found that they mostly had long lives, provided they survived through their childhood.
For example, one agricultural labourer (ubiquitous Ag.Lab in the census) reached his 91st birthday. Others died well into their late 80s.
By tracing the baptisms, of my direct ancestors in the parish records, I noticed that in the year 1830, before the census officials introduced the term Ag.Lab into general use, that my ancestor John Jarvis of South Huish, was recorded in the register for his son’s baptism as: Husbandman.
A husbandman is, according to the Oxford dictionary online: a person who cultivates the land; a farmer.
Origin: Middle English (originally in northern English use denoting the holder of a husbandland, i.e. manorial tenancy): from husband in the obsolete sense ‘farmer’ + man. Oxford English Dictionary Online.
So then I wondered how much, if any, land he may have had as a tenant and how could I find this out. The answer was the tithe maps, of course.
A quick online search and I discovered that Devon has a project to put the tithe apportionment documents and eventually the maps on the web.
Virtually every parish, from the beginning to the middle of the 1800s would have had tithe maps drawn up for their area. Accompanied by the apportionment records, which is the key to the tithe map. It tells the researcher who owned what pieces of land, what it was used for and the amount of payment due. The schedule is divided into columns:
1.Â Â Â Landowners
2.Â Â Â Occupiers â€“ if the landowner, this is shown as â€˜himselfâ€™, otherwise the tenantâ€™s name is given
3.Â Â Â The plot number referring to the tithe map
4.Â Â Â Name or description of the land, premises or field
5.Â Â Â State of cultivation e.g. arable, meadow, pasture, wood, garden, plantation
6.Â Â Â The size â€“ in acres, roods and perches
7.Â Â Â The money due to the Vicar
8.Â Â Â The money due to Impropriators
9.Â Â Â Any further remarks.
So what is a tithe?
The word literally means one-tenth. For centuries past the people were required to pay annual tithes, to their local parish church, to support it and its clergy.Â To begin with tithes were paid “in kind” which meant parishioners handing over one-tenth of their produce (corn, hay, vegetables, eggs, wool, animals, fish, flour etc.) As you would expect this made tithes unpopular.
In the 16th century the monasteries were dissolved and a great deal of former church property, including the rights to tithe, now passed into the hands of private individuals (‘Lay Impropriators’).
Those tithes that were now due to be paid to the Church of England still caused problems. There were no end of disputes over the values of land, processes and produce. On top of this was a reluctance by members of the other religious denominations to be forced to pay their tithes to the established state church.
To bring an end to these disputes, the Tithe Commutation Act was passed in 1836. Tithes were to be based on land values and converted to an annual money tax known as â€˜corn rentsâ€™ or â€˜tithe rent chargesâ€™. To get rid of the problem of variations from locality to locality the Tithe Commutation Act now fixed the payment based on the average price of wheat, barley and oats.
What did I find about John Jarvis?
Well there is certainly a man of this name listed in the ownership column along with that of the Earl of Devon who appears many times along side the names of others. John Jarvis was not, however, the occupier of the Orchards and arable land. This was a neighbour whose occupation on the census page is denoted as a Farmer.
So assuming that, in this tiny Devon hamlet, I have found the correct John Jarvis, then it would seem that he worked as a farm labourer, while renting out his own land to the farmer.
One of the lessons in my English and Welsh Family History course covers rural ancestors. Read more about this beginners to intermediate course here:
I’ve been on a little road trip around the UK recently. Some of you may know that I live in St Helier in the Channel Island of Jersey and so a trip to the mainland with the car on the fast ferry needs some planning.
Although having been born in Jersey ( not “on Jersey” if you are an islander, you’ll understand) my family roots, however, are north a bit in England and Scotland. Although my Scots line turns out to be Norman when you trace it back to the 12th century, but that is another story.
Last week, with the freedom of my own car, I was able to go to the County Record Office in Dorchester, the Guildhall Library in London, the Portsmouth History Centre in the central library there and many other places as well that were not especially connected to family history.
My purpose in the Guildhall library was quite specific. I was there to look at their extensive run of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping. I spent a good few hours going through the old books looking for the details of an iron built paddle steamer to find the name of its Captain.
Now while I could have accessed copies online at the really useful resource of the Crew List Project website www.crewlist.org.uk/
What I gained from handling the actual books was a greater familiarity with their layout and content. I was able to read the rules and regulations that they set out for the construction of vessels and what was very interesting was to find that at the back of each register was a set of alphabetical pages that listed new vessels to the registers that year. If I had been searching online I would never have come across those extra pages of ships and so I could have missed an entry that was in the book after all.
A lesson to us all that not everything is online and also the value of the fantastic resource that an actual archive and a visit to one affords the serious family historian.
As to my other archive visits, I’ll talk about them in another post!
One of the tutorials in my new course the Family History Researcher Academy, is on the Merchant Navy. If you want to get on board, so to speak, its available at www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com
Don’t rely on the Internet only, I was once advised, go and look in the County Record Office for the actual records, you may find something else interesting there that you won’t be able to see online.
Since that day I have become a fan of our various archives and I believe that we need to support them by visiting when possible.
Usually a Record Office will also preserve a great deal of other archival material such as the records from independent local organizations, churches and schools. There may be papers donated by prominent people from the community, leading families, estates, companies, lawyers and more.
Some County Record Offices are also the Diocesan Record Office for the area and hold the ecclesiastical historic records as well. In some of the larger cities the local government may run its own City Record Office on the same principles as a County Record Office.
Archives may have been acquired by the record office either through donation from the original owner, or the documents may be deposited for safe keeping on long-term loan.
All of which may, or may not, be useful to you in finding out the story of your ancestors. But if you don’t go and look you will never know!
From the family historian’s point of view, the record office is a goldmine of original research documents which are valued as primary sources in the tracing of our ancestors.
The staff can offer direct access to documents or microfilmed copies in their public search rooms and provide a secure and supervised comfortable environment for research on these treasured documents.
So don’t just rely on the Internet, good as it is, but get out there and plan a visit to a record office or other archive this spring!
I am putting together an email course that teaches beginners about English and Welsh Family history. The tutorials are downloaded from a link that I send members weekly and one of the lessons will be on the subject of archives and repositories that I have written about above.
If you are starting out in tracing your English and Welsh ancestors and are finding that your forebears are hiding from you, behind those brick walls that we all encounter, then why not join me to learn how to get around those problems in Family Tree research?