Have you heard that findmypast.co.uk has this week added 62,625 new parish records to the website as part of its ongoing project with the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS)?
The new records consist of transcripts of baptism and burial registers that have been added to Findmypast’s existing collection of Cheshire, Sheffield and North West Kent parish records.
2,653 burial records spanning the years 1683 to 1850 from Church Hulme chapelry have been added in partnership with Cheshire Family History Society. The parish was called Church Hulme until 1974, when it acquired its present day name of Holmes Chapel..
15,216 records spanning the years 1867-2000 from Sheffield & District Family History Society have been added to the Sheffield, St Silas, Broomhall Street baptisms, bringing the total number of Sheffield parish baptism records to 239,220. The parish was created in 1866 when the parishes of St Peter and St Paul were merged and was called St Silas, Gilcar until it was renamed St Silas, Broomhall in 1990.
9, 756 new records have been added to Findmypast’s already extensive collection of North West Kent baptisms, which now total 28,070 records. These new additions come from the parish of Stone, St Mary the Virgin, covering the years 1718-1955 and were transcribed by North West Kent Family History Society. The 13th century church of St Mary’s has been dubbed ‘Little Westminster’ and is regarded as one of the finest in the county.
A further 35,000 records from 18 different parishes have also been added to the North West Kent burial registers, meaning the collection now houses an impressive 136,574 records. North West Kent comprises areas within the London boroughs which were historically part of Kent, such as, Greenwich, Bexleyheath and Chislehurst.
Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: “Parish records are one of the most valuable tools in a family historian’s arsenal. These exciting new additions bolster our already extensive collection of parish records and mean that now even more people, wherever they are in the world, have the opportunity to discover their UK ancestors online”.
With Monday being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War there are many new records online.
With all the websites highlighting their records for the war that was meant to be “the war to end all wars” we have quite a choice.
So I was looking for something distinct to look at this week.
Luckily I’ve heard from the team at TheGenealogist about some new records that approach WWI from a slightly different angle.
TheGenealogist has just released for the first time two million military records that have uncovered the determined Allied servicemen who escaped from First World War POW Camps.
These new records include both officers and other ranks, listing those men who endured the hardships and often brutal regimes as a prisoner of war. It’s an area of the Great War that is very rarely looked at.
The hardship and disease that became rife in the camps made many men look to escape. The Allied Officers, although held in slightly better conditions, also had an unwritten code that it was every officer’s duty to try to escape and many tried and failed.
The new release gives details of the Allied Officers behind the escape attempt at Holzminden Camp, near Hannover in 1918, where a tunnel was dug for 8 months using cutlery as digging tools. 29 men escaped, 19 were eventually caught but 10 got away and returned to England. Their daring escape inspired the prisoners in the famous ‘Great Escape’ of The Second World War.
Holzminden Camp held a number of high profile Allied servicemen. Conditions were harsh as it was used for the most troublesome prisoners, who made regular escape attempts. Prisoners listed on TheGenealogist’s records include Michael Claude Hamilton-Bowes-Lyon (The Queen’s Uncle), William Leefe Robinson (who shot the first German airship down over London and who was kept in solitary confinement for repeated escape attempts) and James Whale (future Hollywood Director of ‘Frankenstein’).
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, commented:
“Our new unique records are a great resource to track down those First World War ancestors. With our extensive range of military records it’s now possible to find out if your ancestor was a casualty or taken prisoner of war of if they were one of the lucky ones who made it through unscathed. With this being the centenary year of the outbreak of The First World War, it is the perfect time to explore your family tree and discover the war service of your ancestors.”
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used above.
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…
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.
Not so long ago we just never heard of DNA being used in everyday situations. And then suddenly every detective story on TV seemed to mention the suspect’s DNA being collected from the crime scene.
In the world of family history, DNA has also emerged into the main stream. Today if you want to prove that you are descended from a certain line then you may be able to use genetics to prove it.
But then there is the shorthand that is used that can confuse us a little. You may have heard people talking about “snips” or SNPs and STRs and wondered what this has to do with anything!
I will now attempt to explain what I myself was uncertain of until I attended one of the talks by an academic at last year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show and then found it explained again in chapter 12 of Anthony Adolph’s book Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors. Pen and Sword 2013
Chromosomes are made up of special proteins and DNA. DNA is composed of numerous base-pairs of nucleotides all arranged in a double-helix shape.
In every human cell there is a nucleus that contains twenty-two pairs of chromosomes that bear autosomal DNA and one pair that decides on the gender of the human. The two sets of chromosomes are reduced down to one in a process of myosis that produces eggs in females and sperm in males.
When a man and a woman have a child the male passes on the one set of his chromosomes and mixes with the female’s one set and so the next generation inherits from its parents.
It is a complex process that causes some slight changes or mutations which are known as genetic polymorphisms. Some of these mutations include single nucleotide polymorphisms which are often abbreviated to the letters SNPs.
A single tandem repeat is known as a STR.
SNPs and STRs do not, it is believed by the scientists who understand such things, carry any useful codes needed in the creation of ourselves, but they are there.
Individual genes have two or more possible states of being and these are usually referred to by the letters A or T and C or G.
An SNP is a change detected in a gene’s state of being from, say, A to G and you may see it being called a â€œunique event polymorphismâ€. Once a SNP has occurred it will now stay the same as it is passed down the generations and so you can see how this can act as a reliable marker for â€œdeep ancestryâ€ haplogroup testing.
So what about STRs?
They are a bit different. STRs occur in a different part of the chromosome and they are a series of multiple changes caused by the addition or subtraction of the number of base-pairs. So by counting these base-pairs the DNA company get to a numerical code. The great thing about these mutations is that they occur over a shorter time than the SNPs do and so they can change over shorter spans of generations.
Y-STRs are taken specifically from the male Y chromosome and are only passed down by the father, making the Y chromosome in any paternal line practically identical.
What we are presented with is two complementary sets of results: SNPs define a person’s haplogroup, or the group of people that share the same markers that can go back many thousand of years. The second is the smaller group of people that share the same STRs who are related to each other over the last couple of thousand years or less.
The second exception is mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA). This is only passed down from a mother to her child, but which only her daughters will pass on. This means that we have a definite marker for the female-line, in other words the mother’s mother’s mother’s (and so on) family.
As we get closer to Christmas I have noticed that www.familytreedna.com are offering money off their packages for the holiday season. Do you know anyone who would like to have a present of a DNA test as it would seem to be a good time to buy?
Disclosure: Links are compensated affiliate links.
I’ve spent a few days visiting family and as always keeping my ear open for any tales of ancestors past. It has been very interesting discovering new stories that I had not heard before and even some tales told from a different perspective in the family.
I urge you to look on these opportunities that may come your own way as useful background to your family history, but do always treat them with some healthy scepticism! If possible do try to check the facts in some other way and if possible with some primary records such as official data sets.
I was listening to a rendering of a story when I suddenly realised that I recognised that I had actually been there myself and that I remembered it differently to the teller! The narrator had not even included me in the tale and the subject was treated in a different way than I recalled it.
So having dealt with faulty long term memory then there is the problem of my own poor short term memory. At one of my other visits to see family I found myself thinking that I would remember that useful piece of information as to the change of a person’s surname, to use in my further research into the tree. The trouble is today I just can’t remember what that surname is and as we were eating a meal at the time I couldn’tÂ just reach for my notepad and jot it down!
Above I have alluded to checking your facts with the primary sources. GRO vital records are a fine example of these and yet these let me down this weekend as well. So before I go I’d just like to issue you with one more warning of something to beware of in this family history pastime.
I was looking for the birth details of one of my cousins to show them how easy it was to use the births marriages and deaths data. They were nowhere to be found in the correct year for their birth and the reason for this? They had been registered with an incorrect spelling of their name! One extra letter had been inserted and on all the genealogy look up sites they appeared spelt in a different way form how they have been known since they and I were children.
I will be teaching more tips and tricks to break down your family history brick walls in my ongoing course for English or Welsh family history:
I’ve heard that some of Ancestry’s collections that were previously available as image-only on the site, have been indexed by the Ancestry World Archives Project (AWAP) a collaborative effort involving thousands of people around the world keying digital records to make them free for everyone.
The two in question are:
Middlesex County Records – Calendar of the Sessions Books 1690 â€“ 1709
Oxford â€“ Brasenose College Register 1509 – 1909
Established in 1509, Brasenose College is among the older colleges of Oxford University. The College Register lists thousands of people who passed through Brasenose from 1509 through 1909. The Register has been compiled from a variety of sources, including admission registers, buttery books (lists of payments by students for food and drink), lists of college officers and administrators, inscriptions on college monuments, newspaper clippings, lists of sporting groups, directories, and numerous biographical resources.
The Register is divided into chapters that categorize the college memberâ€™s involvement at the institution (e.g., visitors, principals, fellows, officers, scholars, etc.). Details included vary from chapter to chapter, but typically include the name and years of attendance, admission, or degree. Some death dates will be provided as well. Several pages of name changes appear in the book, and it also includes an index of names contained in the Register at the back.
Within the pages of the register, youâ€™ll find 400 years of Brasenose collegians, from sportsmen to lecturers, including:
Â· Henry Addington (Lord Sidmouth), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom: Henry Addington arrived at Brasenose in January 1774 at the age of sixteen, and took his B.A. degree in 1778.
Â· Elias Ashmole, founder of the Ashmolean Museum: Ashmoleâ€™s name appears in the accounts of Brasenose College in 1644. He studied mathematics and physics but did not take a degree.
Â· John Clavell, highwayman and playwright: John Clavell arrived at Brasenose in 1619 but did not take a degree. It appears that his criminal career began here, for in April 1621 he was granted a pardon for stealing plate from the College.
Â· William Webb Ellis, reputed founder of Rugby Football
Â· Arthur Evans, archaeologist: Sir Arthur Evans was the first undergraduate to take archaeology as a special subject in the Modern History School at Oxford. He came up to Brasenose in 1870 and took a first class degree in 1874.
Â· Thomas Traherne, poet: The son of a shoemaker, Thomas Traherne came to Brasenose at the age of fifteen in 1653 and took his B.A. in 1656.
Â· F.E. Weatherly, songwriter: Frederic Edward Weatherly, writer of over 3,000 songs including the famous â€˜Danny Boyâ€™ lyrics from Londonderry Air, came to Brasenose from Hereford Cathedral School in 1867, and was awarded a B.A. in Classics in 1871.
The other collection to now be indexed is:
Middlesex County Records – Calendar of the Sessions Books 1690 â€“ 1709
This book, originally published in 1905, is a calendar of the Sessions books for Middlesex County, 1690â€“1709. â€œSessionsâ€ refers to court sessions, which dealt with a broad range of issues. This calendar serves as an index that notes volumes and pages where items can be found in the Session books at the London Metropolitan Archives.
What You Can Find in the Records
Beginning at the start of the reign of William III and Mary II, this two-decade collection gives unique insights into the times and the day-to-day workings of the county. Many of the entries deal with provisions for the poor, with references to individuals in many cases. Examples include wounded soldiers and sailors, or women who had been deserted by their husbands. There are frequent entries referring to the â€œsettlementâ€ of individuals between parishes. Right of settlement was an important issue in determining which parish was responsible for poor relief for an individual.
The calendar notes punishments for crimes, which may involve sentencing to imprisonment or, more commonly, fines, time in a pillory, or whippings.
The court heard cases on the parentage of illegitimate children and requests for terminating apprenticeships. Appointments to public positions are mentioned, and youâ€™ll find entries regarding payments for work done on roads and other civic improvements.
Nonconformists needed licenses for assemblies of more than five persons, and you can find memorandums regarding these licenses among the records. Some Catholics were listed as â€œsuspected papistsâ€ who had refused to take oaths of allegiance to the king and queen.
Licenses were also required for alehouses, and there are complaints about alehouses and suppression or revocation of licenses where owners had â€œsuffered visits from prostitutesâ€ or otherwise run afoul of the prevailing laws.
References to the military can include soldiers seeking relief, debtors being released from prison to serve in the army or navy, and relief for the spouses of soldiers and sailors.
Beyond the names of individuals, youâ€™ll gain insights into the times through legislation aimed at bettering communities and conditions at institutions such as prisons.
So you may want to head over to Ancestry.co.uk to take a look at these newly indexed records.
Disclosure: The links in this post are compensated affiliate links that may mean I get compensated by Ancestry.co.uk should you purchase a subscription from them.
Another fascinating stand at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show this year was one run by Anne Daniels for her Drawing On The Past business.
She creates totally unique artwork using photographs of your ancestors and incorporating both hand drawn and digital imaging techniques, the finished design is then printed using a high quality fine art printing process.
Anne says that when you commission a piece of work from Drawing On The Past you can be assured of receiving a unique artwork, drawn from your own personal history.
I was really impressed by the finished articles. If this is something that would appeal to you then contact her via her website at:
I was pretty confident of this ancestor search. I thought it was going to be a breeze to find the family history records for this family group. I had located the family in the 1881 census through a combination of knowing the names of the parents and the birth dates of the father and mother.
So next box to tick was to find them in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 census for England & Wales, or at least those parties that had survived as there is always the possibility that some may have passed away between censuses.
But straight away the 1891 census proved a problem for me. I search using the head of the household, then his wife and then the children. Nothing!
I wondered if the surname had been poorly transcribed and so I used the option to search on a name that would have been similar, with no result. I then went back to the 1881 and took a look at the street name and town with the intention of seeing if they had stayed put in the ten years between the census being taken but their surname had been incorrectly gathered. This is a top tip that I was given some time back and on www.thegenealogist.co.uk there is a useful tool that allows researchers to search the census by street name. I’ve used this in the past with success, but the whole lane seemed to have been missed out, or had changed its name in the intervening period.
There is also the facility on www.findmypast.co.uk to do an address search and so I tried using that and quickly identified the road as it had been listed slightly differently in the later census. This shows up the beauty of using more than one site to do your research with. If you can’t find a record in one subscription site’s records then remember this tip is to try using another site, because each company will have used different transcribers to produce their indexes and so you may get lucky with your brick wall.
On thegenealogist.co.uk there is another tool called the family forename search that allows researchers to enter a number of the first names from a family.
This is a fantastic way of digging out difficult to find families in the census. With this feature you are able to search for a family that you have not been able to locate using the surname – possibly because of some unexpected spelling variation. You can use the forenames only as a group search and the results can be refined by adding or subtracting a surname or family members.
As many families had a large number of children, the odds of another family in the same county being an exact match is quite remote. It is possible to narrow the search by year and county, if required, and enter up to 6 possible forenames that you would be expecting to find within a family group.
Hope these tips help.
All links in this post are Compensated Affiliate links.
This means that should you click on them and then go on to decide to buy a subscription to that website I may get paid a small commission for referring you. Take a look at what they have to offer you and if you do buy a subscription from my link then …Thank you!
A great many people who are researching their forebears from the British Isles, discover that there is a massive amount of family history information on the internet for the years going back as far as 1837 in England & Wales. Then, as I pointed out before in a previous article of mine about tracing an English family tree before 1837, it would seem to become more difficult for us researchers. What is the significance or the year 1837? This is the date when civil registration started in England & Wales. The state took over from the established church the registering of all the citizen’s vital records.
You may have been amazed at the ease you had finding later records of your ancestors on the subscription websites like Ancestry, or TheGenealogist.co.uk, but then as you go back before the census records and the government run data for Births, Deaths and Marriages, you will have found that only a small number of all the genealogical records, that there actually are, have made it on to the net.
Parish Records can usually be found in the County Record office, or in a few cases the incumbent minister may still have retained them at the parish church. How do you decide which parish your ancestors would have fallen into? This is the value of getting hold of Parish maps for the relevant counties that you are researching. These maps will not only show the boundaries of each parish, but also those of the adjacent parishes, which can be extremely useful for tracking those ancestors who tended to move about!
Gaps can occur in the parish registers because of changes in regime, such as the English Civil War. Yet another political reason for missing parish records is the effect a tax can have on them. An example of this was that in 1783 a stamp duty of 3 pence on every entry in the parish registers was imposed by the government of the day – although paupers were exempt. As with all taxes people seek ways to evade them and so, with the collusion of many church ministers, you will discover that there is a decline in the number of middle and working class entries of baptisms, marriages and burials. In contrast there is a corresponding increase in the number of pauper’s entries! The Act was repealed in 1794, having been found to be largely unsuccessful.
An Act of Parliament, in 1812, required baptisms, marriages and burials to be entered in separate and specially printed books. These books provided for only eight entries per page and required more information to be gathered on the individuals than had been the common practice.
Baptismal entries now included the Father’s occupation and the Mother’s maiden name. Marriages, henceforth, included the parish of origin of both parties, their names, if they were a bachelor, spinster, widow, etc., their ages, the parties signatures or marks, and also those of two witnesses.
Entries for burials now included the age, occupation and abode of the departed and between 1678 and 1814 an affidavit had to be sworn that the deceased was buried in wool to help the economy or a fine of Â£5 was payable.
Marriages could have been solemnised in the Church either by banns, or by licence. Family historians, searching for their ancestors, will find that banns are recorded in the parish register. The reading of bans was the process where the couple’s intention to marry would be read out on three occasions in the parish churches of both parties. So if you know the place where the bride-groom lived, just prior to his marriage, this record will also give you the information as to the parish of his bride. Normally the wedding is likely to take place a few weeks later and so this gives you a time period to search. Marriage Licences themselves will probably not have survived the years as they were sometimes handed to the couple intending to marry. But fear not, because a search can be made for the marriage licence’s bond, or allegation. This is a document that can give up some useful information for family historians as names of those who stood surety, along with the names of the bride and groom, place of marriage and in some cases the occupations of the sureties and groom are recorded.
These are just some of the documents that you can use to help you get your family tree back beyond 1837 in England & Wales.