The History & Heritage Handbook

The History & Heritage Handbook 2015-2016

With the holiday season well and truly in swing, I’m on a weekend in London as you read this hopefully getting my fill of museums and heritage sites.

If you are like me and end up visiting parts of the country that you are unfamiliar with, then I’d recommend The History & Heritage Handbook 2015/16 to you.

Not content with this current short break, I’m also planning another few days in the South of England in September, perhaps going to the Record Offices and archives there. Plus I’ve a visit to the Midlands in the next few months. Back in June I was in Salisbury and saw the copy of the Magna Carta that is on show in the chapter house of the cathedral there and visited some other historical venues while there.

 

 

The new History & Heritage Handbook 2015/16 edited by Andrew Chapman and published by Heritage Hunter came out only recently and is invaluable to help people like me make the most of our visits.

The book is a comprehensive guide to almost 3500 places and organisations in the UK , the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Each of the entries provides the contact details and a brief description, many of which give specific information about specialist collections and all listed across more than 500 pages..

I recommend you use it to

  • research your family history: as the book includes details of county record offices and family history societies
  • find thousands of heritage sites to visit on holiday or for day trips
  • learn about special archives in museums and libraries across the UK, ideal for researching local, social or military history

or it can also be found at various other suppliers such as: S&N Genealogy Supplies

 

 

 

 

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Hit a brick wall with your English/Welsh ancestors?

Learn how to discover the many records and resources to find your forebears within

by taking the Family History Researcher Course online.

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Grandpa caught a bit of shrapnel – how I found him in the online records

 

Your Family Tree Magazine June 2015

 

In this month’s Your Family Tree Magazine I have written a piece about my grandfather called ‘Grandpa “caught a bit of shrapnel” in World War I and I soon revealed how’. You can read it in full if you hurry down to the news-stands and pick up a copy of issue 157 of YFT before the next edition comes out.

 

It is all about how I used TheGenelogist website to piece together my grandfather’s war and blow out of the water a family theory as to how he came to have a nasty scar on one of his legs. You see my grandpa never really spoke about how he got his wound except to say that he “caught a bit of shrapnel”.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_dispatch_rider_in_France_%28Photo_24-317%29.jpg

We knew that there were two distinct parts to his war, firstly as an enlisted man riding a motorbike carrying despatches to and from the front line, and secondly as a junior officer in the Royal Engineers. But with the aid of the extensive military collections on TheGenealogist I was able to find out much more than any of us in the family had known before about this man! If you can, pick up a copy of Your Family Tree Magazine (known as Your Family History outside of the UK. The content is the same in both magazines) and see how I discovered more.

 

It really is satisfying when your research bears fruit and particular story was made possible by using the right resources.

 

 

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: Compensated links used in this post

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3 Weeks until Who Do You Think You Are? Live

 

Who Do you Think You Are? LIVE 2011
Who Do you Think You Are? LIVE

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.

Click here to see the full workshop timetable.

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.

Are you going?

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate link.

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Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh friends

 

Welsh Flag

 

A Happy St David’s day to all my Welsh friends and readers of this blog.

While many of the records for doing Welsh family history are the same as those for neighbouring England, there are some differences when it comes to researching in Wales, or Cymru as it is known in its own language.

For those of us used to finding our family records in the County Record Offices in England will discover that much is the same in Wales. Researchers will find that records of registration of births, deaths and marriages are exactly the same in Wales as in England, and that the Registrar General’s indexes cover both England and Wales.

The census is the same, except for an extra question from 1891 when all those aged 3 and over were asked whether they spoke English only, Welsh only, or both languages.

Anglican parish records are the same as those for England, and are kept in local authority archives in the same way.

Some of the differences, however, that can cause us to stumble are Common names, the favouring of Patronymics, the Welsh language, and that many families were not members of the Established Church.

Nonconformity, being more important in Wales than in some parts of England, may mean that you find that your ancestors didn’t go to the local parish church. In many chapels the language used was Welsh, and some of the records may also be in Welsh.

Because the country has its own language English speakers may find the place names to be unfamiliar to them.

Another difference, from the English system, is that in England the County Record Offices are (in most cases) the diocesan record offices and therefore hold all the records of the diocese, such as Wills, bishop’s transcripts and marriage bonds and licences, as well as parish records. In Wales, the National Library of Wales is the diocesan record office for the whole of Wales, and therefore holds all the bishop’s transcripts, marriage bonds and licences, and Wills proved in Welsh church courts.

The National Library of Wales or Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru is very important for our research as it acts as the main repository for family history research in Wales holding a vast number of records useful to the family historian – census returns, probate records, nonconformist records and tithe maps, to name but a few, will help at some point during research.

Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources to use to find elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

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Learn more about English and Welsh family history resources which can be used to find your elusive ancestors with the Family History Researcher Course,

CLICK the image below:

Family History Researcher English/Welsh course

 

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A Newly digitised, navigable atlas collection details 500 years of British history

 

County map courtsey of Ancestry.co.ukAtlas shows us how Britain’s landscape has changed over the last 500 years

Looking at this collection of 57 maps and you will be able to find England’s lost counties of Westmorland and Huntingdonshire

Find Parish borders that hark back to when people associated more with their Parish church than town hall

There is a newly published historic atlas of Great Britain online at Ancestry.co.uk that gives the family historian something of a unique view of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales stretching back over 500 years.

Digitised by the family history site Ancestry.co.uk, the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, consists of fifty seven different maps of the counties of the U.K. What is interesting to me about this is it shows how Britain’s ancient parish and county boundaries have changed shape over the centuries.

We have all been there in our research. You may have lost someone from the records of a
particular county and thus you become stuck unless you can see the boundaries as they stood at the time that your ancestor was alive.
I was doing some research for a client whose ancestors came from Northfield. Today that is a suburb of Birmingham and so is in the West Midlands. At the time of their ancestor Northfield was in Worcestershire.

The subject of the research got married about ten miles away in Dudley, which was in Staffordshire at the time and today has its own archive service as it is a Metropolitan Borough. Thus to find the records of a family that lived in quite a small radius needs careful thought as to where to look.

This newly digitised Atlas is navigable online, users are able to scroll over whole counties and then use a zoom tool to go in and out. Useful if you need to identify the various local parishes, towns and the churches.

The original documents used in the atlas are from the resources of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.

Browsing the maps open up quite an insight into how England’s historical county maps didn’t change much for centuries, before many of the ancient counties were split up to make more governable areas.

In this atlas the county of Middlesex is shown as it was in the 19th century. At that time it consisted of what are today large swathes of modern London and so included the likes of Islington and Chelsea. London itself is a much smaller settlement that is barely more than one mile wide.

The Home Counties appear in their original form before the legislation of the London Government Act 1965  created Greater London. You will also be able to see the original boundary of the counties of Essex and Surrey when viewing the maps.

Other counties that are defunct today but can be traced in the atlas include Westmorland (today a part of Cumbria), and Huntingdonshire, which disappeared into Cambridgeshire following a Government Act in 1971. Lancashire is also to be found here in its original form, comprising of modern day Manchester and Liverpool and also various parts of Cumbria and Cheshire. It was subsequently reorganised and downsized, losing nearly a third of its area in the process.

Before the population of the country grew over the centuries and along with this regional administration developed, people were inclined to identify themselves more with their local parish when considering where they came from. As time moved on and these parish borders changed to such an extent that now it is almost impossible to determine the exact location of some parishes and their records using modern maps.

I have an interest in a small village that sits today in North west Leicestershire, but in years past was divided between Leicestershire but with pockets residing in Derbyshire and completely surrounded by Leicestershire on all sides!

The Atlas is thus an authoritative guide to the drastic changes in Britain’s county and parish borders over the last 500 years and a valuable way of adding geographical context to family history research.

The maps were the brainchild of Cecil Humphery-Smith, a genealogist and heraldist who founded the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, based in Canterbury, which promotes family history both through courses and its extensive library. He is, of course, the author of Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers.

At Ancestry.co.uk, the maps can now be searched and browsed by county.   For family historians using Ancestry’s Lancashire Parish records as well as the 1851 Censuses and Free Birth, Marriage and Death Index will discover that every record in these collections links to a relevant map.

In addition, almost eight million new records have been added to the Lancashire Parish records currently available on Ancestry’s site.

Ancestry.co.uk Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “The borders of the UK parishes and counties have changed so much over the last 500 years and that really makes these maps the key to navigating the past and progressing with your family history journey.”

To search the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, as well as millions of additional birth, marriage and death records, visit www.Ancestry.co.uk.


Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post.

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Non-Conformist Family History and Bunhill Fields

 

Bunhill Fields

I’ve just been on a visit to the City of London and while on my way to a meeting I realised I was passing the famous nonconformist burial ground of Bunhill Fields!

It was back in 1665 that the City of London Corporation hit on the idea of making use of some of the fen in this area as a common burial ground for the interment of bodies of the City’s inhabitants who had died of the plague and could not be accommodated in the churchyards.

The burial ground then went on to attract those people who were mainly Protestant but who dissented from the Established Church. The reason for this was the predominance of such citizens in the City of London over others who did not conform to the Church of England’s ways, such as the Catholics or Jews. Not withstanding this, Bunhills burial ground was open for interment to anyone who could afford to pay the fees.
Bunhill Fields Burial ground
The end of this burial ground was to come after the 1852 Burial Act was passed. This piece of  legislation enabled places such as Bunhill Fields to be closed, once they had become full. For Bunhills, its Order for closure was made in December 1853. The records show that the final burial  was for Elizabeth Howell Oliver and this took place on January 5 1854. By that date approximately 120,000 interments had taken place.

Nearby can be found the Quaker Burial ground, known as Quaker Gardens. These are on the other side of Bunhill Row to the main nonconformist grounds and contains the burial plot of George Fox, who founded the Quakers.

In many other parts of the country nonconformists would simply have made use of the Parish church yard until public cemeteries became the norm for internment. True that there are a few nonconformist burial grounds in other parts of the country but many were miles away from where the deceased lived and so it was more practical to be buried in the church yard along with their Church of England neighbours.

 

 

For those of you researching Parish Records and Non-Conformist Records my advice is to go and look at what TheGenealogist has to offer:

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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Tracing Ancestors With a Common Surname

Online-Old-Parish-RecordsThe problem of tracing an ancestor, with a common surname, is one of those brick walls that many of us come up against in our family tree research. When it occurs after the introduction of state run vital indexes, in 1837 for England & Wales and eighteen years later, in 1855, when Scotland adopted the idea, it can be difficult to find the exact person that is our forebear, but at least we have a central index to search. The Crown Dependencies followed suit at different times again, so you will see civil registration introduced into Guernsey in 1840, Jersey in 1842, Alderney in 1850 and Sark in 1915. The Isle of Man beginning compulsory civil registration of births and deaths in 1878 and then marriages in 1884.

But what about searching for a Smith or Jones in the years pre-civil indexes? If you are expecting an easy answer I’m afraid I am going to disappoint, as common surnames do present us family historians with great difficulties to overcome. Having said that, however, all may not be lost.

If the ancestor in question has an unusual first, or middle name, then this may help you enormously to single your likely candidate out from the others. In my own research it was not the actual man I was trying to track down who had the unusual middle name, but his son. I had already made the connection to John Branton Thorn via the prime sources and knew him to be my ancestor. I was now on the trail of five or six John and Sarahs who were candidates for his parents, according to his baptismal details. So which of the various John Thorns who married a woman whose first name was Sarah in various parts of Devon jumped out as a strong possibility? It was the one where the bride’s surname was Branton.

The advice I have been given is to try to tie the person with the common name to one with a less than common one. It could be their wife, a brother or sister and so on and perhaps it is an unusual first name, middle name, or maiden name you can use.

If you are not able to find your ancestor for certain in the church registers, then always remember that the Bishop’s Transcripts may possibly harbour more information than the register did. It is not a certainty that it will, but it is worth a look.

Try using Wills and Admons to see if you can find the possible parents (or a brother, sister or other relation) naming your ancestor as a beneficiary.

Another point to be aware of is that even with a less common surname there can be many problems to overcome in family history research. As spelling of surnames varied so much, until the mid 19th century or later when they became more fixed, and with many of our ancestors not being literate, the clergy often recorded the name as they thought they heard it and so a regional accent is probably responsible for one line of my ancestors being recorded as Sysal, Sissell, Sissill and Sizzall in the church records from 1780 to 1798.

If the person you are researching was born in the years just before civil registration began, but was likely to have died after the death registers began, how about looking for them in these records. You can also use the church burial records, if you know the parish they died in. What about trying the National Burial Index? If you just have a first name and a common surname I grant you that this is not going to be much help to you but if you know the place that they lived then you may be able to narrow down you likely forebears.

On the subject of places, some names can be very common in one area, for example Thorn/Thorne in Devon, but a common name may not be so common in another place.

Advice that I have seen given on other blogs and forums say that you should:

  • Learn as much identifying information as you can about the ancestor you are researching.

So look for family bibles, they can list the names of children. Think about whether there are any other records for the district where your ancestor lived that they may have been recorded within? Taxes, land records, muster rolls, etc.

  • Make a chronology of the ancestor’s life if you can; where did they live for the various events in their lives? Can you identify the street, the town or hamlet for the significant moments in their time-line? If you can then you have a framework to work with.

Common surnames are certainly a problem for family history researchers trying to populate their family tree and sometimes there will be no easy answer. Persevere, however, as more and more records become available there is always a chance that your ancestor may be within one of them.

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More Data Released by TheGenealogist.co.uk

I like to keep you informed about new releases in the British Isles family history niche and so today I was looking to see what was new at TheGenealogist.co.uk.

Of interest to me was the fact that they have added over 3,000 individuals to their Parish Transcripts for Devon, expanding their coverage and bringing the total to over 66,000 individuals. The date ranges are different for baptisms, marriages and burials and are:

Baptisms: 1594 – 1944
Marriages: 1538 – 2009
Burials: 1593 – 2009

For those of you researching other parts of the UK, I also noticed that they have recently released hundreds of thousands of other parish record transcripts, for several counties of England, which has got to be good for those of us trying to get back before 1837 in England & Wales.

While for family historians, who are looking to do some research in the opposite direction and trying to find ancestors later than the 1901 census, TheGenealogist.co.uk has now launched the first county of the 1911 Census on their site. They say that their colour images are of a higher quality and higher resolution than those that have been available online before, so this could be interesting when looking at the handwriting of our actual ancestors.

In a recent news update, that I had from them, I see that they are now also making available pre-1841 census records and various Scottish Census records for 1851. The pre-1841 census in question is for Marylebone in London for both 1821 & 1831. The details only include the surname of the head of household and street name, unlike the later census. None the less, this could be of great help to some researchers trying to find their ancestors. To search these new records, simply go to TheGenealogist.co.uk, log in and select the London census from the research view and then change the year to 1821 or 1831. (Disclosure: I am a Compensated Affiliate of The Genealogist.co.uk)

Yet another data set, announced by the site, is the release of the Australian transportation records. These records take the form of transcripts, but with access to images of The Convict Transportation Registers 1787-1867. Covering details of over 123,000 of the estimated 160,000 convicts who were transported to Australia during the 18th and 19th centuries, the records mainly include those convicted in England, Wales and Scotland, but also include a small number of Irish convicts.

The database also includes soldiers who had been court-martialed and sentenced to transportation. These ‘soldier convicts’ may have been convicted in various British colonies, including the West Indies, Canada, India, and Pakistan. You’ll find these records in the British & International section of The Genealogist.co.uk’s research view.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Researching family in Jersey, part 6: using the rates listings.

There are not many places where the contribution you make to property rates is public knowledge, but Jersey is one of them.

In Jersey rates are paid in two parts: one part is paid by the owner of the property (the foncier rate) and the other is by the occupier (mobilier rate). There are sets of rate books in both the Archive and the Coutanche Library covering about a century up to 1965, plus some more recent data as well (ask for Taxation du Rât)

Jersey Taxation Du Rat BooksThese aren’t the easiest of documents to use, because the listing is an alphabetical list of ratepayers in each vingtaine (a vingtaine is a subdivision of a parish; the smallest parish (St Mary) has two, while St Helier has seven).

Ideally you need a detailed map of Jersey and a lot of patience – but the listings can be very rewarding. They will indicate whether someone owns a property or not: they can also indicate something about the condition or size of the property (someone paying 5 quartiers of mobilier rates a year is going to be living more modestly than someone paying 20 quartiers a year. It’s also indicative, at least to some degree, if the person you are researching is not on the list of ratepayers – that would indicate someone who was probably in a shared tenement and fairly low down the pile (because this became a lot less common as slum housing started to be replaced in the 20th century). Some of the parishes also published lists of people with dog and/or gun licences alongside their rates.

The existence of the rates books is also very handy in tying movement down. I knew that my wife’s family moved from one address to another between the 1891 and 1901 censuses: the fact that they suddenly started paying rates in 1896 or so pinpoints the move more exactly. Equally, my second cousins had a hotel in Grouville, but they disappear from the rate books in about 1905 – only a year after the owner (to whom one of them was married) died.

Property owners have to acquire their property, and next time we’ll be looking at what you can get from Jersey’s land registry system. Until then – À bétôt!

Guest blog by James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society

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Jersey Family History Forum at WDYTYA? Live

Jersey Family History Forum at the WDYTYA? Live show 2011
Jersey Family History Forum at the WDYTYA? Live show 2011

I had to be up, showered and breakfasted for 6 am, in order to make my way to Jersey airport and the 7 am “red-eye” to London Gatwick. The fact that I, not in any way a morning person, was prepared to do this stems from the timetable of workshops that I had seen for the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show at Olympia.

First on, in the Society of Genealogist’s Regional theatre was “Researching Your Family History in Jersey” given by Sue Payn and James McLaren and I really wanted to be there for the workshop. My bus to the airport, the flight to London and the coach transfer to central London all ran reasonably to schedule and so I was in the building by 10.15. and taking a seat in time for the presentation.

James’ began by clearing up the perennial misunderstanding by people from outside of the island, regarding Jersey’s constitutional position. As a Jersey born and educated person, myself, I have spent most of my life making similar statements to his and so a smile warmed my face as the familiar words rang out.

I am often heard saying that we are not part of England and Wales, nor are we part of Great Britain, nor the United Kingdom and we are not in the EU, but are British Islands.

As James said: “We are a Crown Dependency: we owe allegiance to the British crown, but in most other respects we are self-governing. We have our own legal system, large parts of which are quite different from English law. In this respect we are similar to Guernsey, but please understand that we are not the same! It’s like the difference between a Mercedes-Benz and an Austin Allegro – the principle is the same, a vehicle that gets you from A to B, but the detailed implementation is rather different.”

This brought another smile to my lips as the old rivalry, with our sister Bailiwick of Guernsey, was introduced to the good folk in the workshop. Both Bailiwicks trace a Norman heritage and when in 1204 King John lost his French possessions, the Channel Islands kept allegiance to the British Crown.

One of the first things you are going to find, if you are researching your ancestors from Jersey is that the records are invariably going to be in French, as this was the official language of this island until very recently when English has become dominant. James pointed out that Jersey was very largely French or Jerriais-speaking until the middle of the 19th century, and so a lot of legal records long after that were kept in French. The deeds to my house, for example.

I have often heard people in the island refer to these documents being written in “proper French” to distinguish the language used from Jerriais, the name given to the Jersey French patois spoken in the island, which even comes with variations in pronunciation across the 45 square miles of the island!

Jersey people have always travelled far from their island; some to settle away in places such as Canada, Australia and of course to the United Kingdom. Some stay and some return. As James said the reason Jersey folk travelled was “– partly because of our rules on inheritance, partly because there was money to be made in trade, partly to serve Queen and country in the armed forces, and more recently because the only way to get higher education was to go to the big island to the north of us. Consequently there are numerous people in the UK who have Jersey ancestry somewhere in their past.”

I shall be returning to the subject of Jersey Ancestors and have more from James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society in another post on this site shortly.

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