Forget those organisations that will supply you a crest for a fee. A coat of arms belongs to the family to whom it was granted and only to male heirs. From until the late s heralds travelled the countryside on horseback on a regular basis that became to be known as the heralds' visitations. The control of coats of arms is still today in the hands of heralds. It is an index to entries in parish registers. The IGI is currently being delivered on microfiche and CD-ROM and the user should be warned that there are differences between the versions; your ancestors may be in one and not the other.
The IGI is developed by the LDS from a combination of members' temple submissions from to the present day and the systematic carefully scrutinised extraction program. Most of the IGI entries are baptisms but there are some marriages and a few wills. Any promising entries should then be verified against the original records which can be ordered on microfilm or fiche through LDS.
Multiple downloads will entail use of several disks. See LDS and Computers. The institute's library contains many indexes including Pallot's Index of Marriages; county maps; and many genealogical books. IHGS publishes a quarterly journal, Family History, which contains family histories, genealogical and heraldic articles, and guides to research. Indexes are valuable research tools and note that family historians insist that they are indexes, not indices.
Without a doubt, the greatest boost to British genealogical research in recent years has been the impact of the Internet. The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that has has been around for many years but opened up to "the masses" only in the latter half of the s. Crude access software gave way to sophisticated browsers such as Netscape and Explorer and efficient search engines such as Yahoo and Alta Vista to make "surfing" the World Wide Web WWW a viable proposition. Anyone with a PC and a telephone could, with relatively little outlay, acquire a modem, sign up with an Internet service provider and go online.
As more and more users opted for the service an increasing number of news groups and mailing lists were made available for family historians. People discovered that e-mail messages and news group postings were answered in 24 or 48 hours. Whether a person lived in New Zealand, Hawaii or England made no difference. The growth in Internet usage could not be ignored by the premier UK genealogical bodies. Dick Eastman of the USA started a quality weekly newsletter, Eastman's Online Genealogy, which became essential reading for all family historians.
What we all wanted for years was archives available for search online and it suddenly happened. Scotland put its indexes to vital records online, albeit at 6 for limited 24 hours access. Unexpectedly, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission went online with records of 1. The details given vary according to information available but it is a magnificent facility and a boon for one-namers.
British Columbia in Canada led the way in placing vital records online and, hopefully, other Canadian provinces will follow. I have found several English born relatives in these Canadian sites. Enthusiastic surfers will find obituaries, shipping lists, college alumni, census records, land records, etc. For a low monthly subscription there is a wealth of information waiting for the genealogist and the number of useful family history sites is growing monthly.
See World Wide Web of the Internet. International Reply Coupons were devised as a means of payment for the cost of a reply from a foreign correspondent. IRCs can be purchased at post offices in many but not all countries, can be mailed overseas and can then be exchanged for postage stamps to enable the foreign correspondent to reply. Irish research is more difficult than that in the rest of the British Isles. Civil registration commenced in but many Irish records at the Public Record Office in Dublin were destroyed in the 'Unrest' of Virtually all 19th century census returns have been destroyed but the Irish censuses for and may be examined at The National Archives in Bishop Street, Dublin 8, Ireland.
Researchers should note that the Year Rule prohibits disclosure of the and returns for the six Northern Ireland counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone but they may be scrutinised in Dublin. The SoG has a collection of printed books on Ireland including Dublin directories from to You will almost certainly have to use a researcher in Ireland. Hibernian Research Company Limited claim they are Ireland's oldest and largest research company. They also claim they proved the ancestries of former President Reagan and former Prime Minister Mulroney.
The society publishes The Irish Genealogist annually. Lay subsidies were early taxes from 14th century. Lay subsidy rolls may be examined at the PRO. The rolls record details of parish inhabitants and taxes due for a period of about years. Part of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires members' ancestors to be baptised into the Church. It follows that all Mormons are interested to a greater or lesser degree in genealogy.
Many years ago the LDS began a worldwide program to microfilm parish registers in order to identify deceased ancestors for temple work ie baptism into the Mormon faith. The Mormons were pioneers in the development of computer indexes for the family historian and today produce the International Genealogical Index the IGI every few years. The hundreds of millions of entries in the IGI represent a combination of members' temple submissions from to the present day with many inaccuracies and the professional systematic extraction program.
Users of the IGI should treat it only as an aid. All information should be verified with the original parish records or with microfilmed copies available at a small fee from the LDS. Use of these libraries is available free of charge to non-members of the church and the facilities include many other genealogical data on fiche and microfilm including census returns.
Searchers use the FHLC as an index to other fiches and microfilms that may be ordered at a nominal viewing charge. There is also extensive paper-based material including guides and books. The LDS encourages genealogists who are not members of the church to submit their own work for worldwide distribution. Pedigrees can be submitted as part of the LDS Ancestral File computer database, and published works are gratefully accepted for microfilming.
The first release was a single CD containing the Census for the three counties of Devon, Norfolk and Warwickshire. These were the counties used in the "dummy run" for the project and there will be no further Census releases. In all there are 5 million records indexed and the vast majority are new ie not in the IGI and are from the controlled extraction program. The British Vital Records cost There are local history societies throughout the UK who publish valuable material relating to their areas of interest. The LMA's extensive array of records includes parish records many indexed , bishops' transcripts, electoral registers, school registers and other records relating to persons, places and institutions within the former counties of London and Middlesex.
There are collections of maps, prints and drawings and a library of old photographs.
GENUKI: A-Z of British Genealogical Research, UK and Ireland
These are typically found in a CRO. Manorial records extend back to the time of the Conqueror and cover such events as the conveyancing of land and the holding of courts to hear major crimes and petty offences. There is a Manorial Documents Register which is an index giving the location of known existing records. Useful source books are Manorial Records by Denis Stuart available at Maps and gazetteers are essentials for the serious researcher. Every FHC has such aids for examination. Send 4 IRCs for a comprehensive catalogue.
Marriages can be traced in the civil registration system from on and in the old parish registers before A couple could marry by banns or by licence. A marriage by banns necessitated the banns announcement of marriage being called in the parishes of both the intended at three weekly intervals before the marriage. Wealthier people frequently married by licence to avoid the unnecessary publicity.
Many old banns books and copies of licences are still available. Be aware that an entry in a banns book or the existence of a licence does not prove a couple was married.
I have one ancestor whose name was entered in a parish banns book twice within twelve months but she married only the second of the two men named therein. These are the people who moved within the UK. The Industrial Revolution brought phenomenal changes to the population distribution in Britain. Hundreds of thousands moved from the countryside to the city. Manchester's population grew from 75, in to , by The populations of London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham all tripled during this period. Tracing ancestors during the first half of 19th century can be difficult.
Genealogical research is not limited to tracing through the civil registration system, the Victorian census and old parish records. There are extensive records available to the family historian in many archives. Monumental inscriptions can supplement information obtained from parish registers. Gravestones are subject to the ravages of the British weather but many are still legible and a church or chapel often contains MIs, which are not unique to tombstones.
Gravestones are also subject to the ravages of local authorities who prefer to maintain level lawns for easy mowing and thus remove the headstones. Transcripts may have been lodged in the CROs. Churches and graveyards are worth visiting since the MIs may offer details of births and deaths of previously unknown family members. There are some magnificent museums with archives waiting for the genealogist. Some with obvious interest are: Newspapers have been published in Britain since at least the 17th century.
A family history may be "fleshed out" with information from papers such as obituaries, editorial or advertisements. Unless your ancestor was a well-known personality or criminal, local newspapers are likely to provide more information than nationals. The largest collection of national and local newspapers can be found at the Newspaper Library, which is part of the BL see earlier for address. Non-conformists or dissenters were people who did not follow the doctrine of the Anglican church the Church of England.
Some priests refused to accept the new Anglican Church and religious meetings were held by Roman Catholics, and people were baptised and married in secret by RC priests. Religious persecution continued in 17th century and independent dissenting chapels were established by Presbyterians, Quakers and Baptists. James II briefly reigned as a Catholic king in the s but was overthrown in the 'Glorious Revolution' of Many non-conformist registers have survived and are today in the safe-keeping of the PRO.
CROs or existing synagogues should have Jewish records. The Anglo-Jewish Association can help historians trace their Jewish ancestry. Quaker records are reputed to be the most comprehensive of all non-conforming faiths since the registers were transcribed before being deposited at the PRO. One's ancestors may have been kings or carpenters. Many of us will have agricultural labourers ag. A one-name study group is typically a formal or semi-formal organisation focused on a single family or surname.
The contact person usually has thousands of records relating to the surname: ONSGs are expected to provide information and references to researchers subject to the geographic limitations of the study. A bishop's diocese comprised parishes. Many parishes were villages with a church and a clergyman or incumbent. Larger towns and cities would contain several parishes. Records of British baptisms, marriages and burials have been maintained by law since Not all churches date back to 16th century and not all clergymen kept proper records in the early years.
The early baptism, marriage and burial records were usually jumbled together and some of them were written in Latin but by all registers were required to be written in English. During 18th century the baptisms, marriages and burials were maintained in separate registers or on separate pages. For the first years it was normal to record only the father's full name and that of his child in baptismal entries so proving ancestry for a popular surname is often difficult. Most original parish registers are today in CROs but some are still in churches. From the clergy had to send a copy of their entire year's parish register to the local bishop.
These copy entries are known as the Bishops' Transcripts or BTs. There is a delay whilst copies are made from masters at Salt Lake City. There are also holdings at the PRO. Microfiche and microfilm copies are available for scrutiny at the SoG and various libraries. Care must be taken in reading copies of the old parish registers. There are numerous surname variations and, as many of our ancestors were illiterate, the surname was written phonetically. The date in a baptism entry is not the birth date and the burial date is not the date of death.
Typically, a child was baptised a few days or weeks after birth but this is not always the case. A burial followed within days of a death. As Civil Registration in England and Wales only commenced in , parish records are the genealogist's main focus of research in developing a family history.
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The obvious starting place is the IGI. If searches of the IGI are fruitless but you know your ancestors' localities you can search the FHLC fiches to identify the parishes in which they may have been baptised and married and can then order the films. Be alert to the fact that your ancestors may have been non-conformists so check those records if you cannot find entries in the Anglican church. In the case of marriages check the banns books. Many pedigrees have been published. The SoG's library has many books of family histories filed alphabetically by surname. The SoG also holds a unique collection of 14, unbound pedigrees, MIs, will abstracts, personal letters, etc.
This material is known as the Document Collection and is filed alphabetically in envelopes within box files. Three standard books have been published on pedigrees: A picture paints a thousand words but photographs of ancestors are typically a rarity. Photographic studios came into their own in the late 19th century when family portraits became the vogue. Many mothers ensured their sons were photographed before leaving for the front in the Great War and for some, including my great aunt, they were left in with only the photograph.
George Eastman brought the price of cameras into the realm of much of the population but all too frequently, old family albums get thrown out when people move or pass on. Sometimes the albums survive but nobody is quite sure who the people are in the often excellent quality black and white pictures. Photographs can add immensely to a family history so borrow them from elderly relatives and have them identified, enhanced and copied before it is too late.
Visit libraries, CROs and schools to obtain photographs of ancestors. There have been many books published on local history that contain superb photographs of towns and villages over the past years. You will want to take your own camera to photograph relatives, past homes, churches and MIs. Most genealogy software packages cater for the inclusion of photographs and, even, video clips. There have always been poor people - and records to account for them.
Overseers of the poor were first appointed in and the Poor Law Acts of and established the poor law administration which existed until Churchwardens were tasked with taxing parish inhabitants to pay for the upkeep of the poor. Poor Law records, including Overseers' account books, provide detailed records of those living on the edge of existence. The Public Record Office houses the national archives of England and the United Kingdom, ie the records created by the actions of central government and of the courts of law of England and Wales. The millions of documents span the period from the Norman Conquest to the current day.
Typically, public records are available for inspection thirty years after the end of the year in which they were created. Some records of vital interest to the family historian, such as the census records, are subject to the hundred year rule so the census returns of will become available to the public in January, The archives embrace legal records and records of mediaeval through to modern government including the holdings of the Treasury, Admiralty, War Office and Colonial Office. The microfilmed copies of the census returns for England and Wales for ,, , , and , together with non-parochial registers and probate records, have moved from the old PRO Chancery Lane building to the FRC.
The entire facility at Kew is custom built or recently refurbished but many researchers will miss visiting the beautiful building in Chancery Lane which was within walking distance of other repositories. The PRO publishes scores of leaflets that are required reading and are offered free of charge. The entire list is too long to print here but all of them may be read online at the PRO's Web site.
PRO has extensive military and merchant navy holdings and must be visited if your ancestors were in the army, navy or RAF. The Probate Registry is the home of wills and administrations proved since 11 January and wills are MUCH easier to trace from that date. Indexes to these wills may be examined free of charge in bound volumes. A British researcher will search the indexes and submit a photocopy of a particular will for about 6.
This search may cover a twenty year period because some wills were only proved years after an individual died. Many of your ancestors may have left property but died intestate. In this case, letters of administrations or admons may have been issued. Admons also appear in the Probate Registry indexes. Many of the CROs have holdings of local probates. It is imperative that family historians speak to elderly members of the family before it is too late.
The recent memories of old people are generally poor but most have excellent childhood memories. Ask to see photographic albums and old documents. Ask lots of questions and make copious notes but treat dates as suspect until they are verified. Railways transformed Great Britain from the midth century. There were dozens of companies but by the s there were just four major operations: Although an engine driver may have worked for the same company for years and a porter may have remained at the same station, if your ancestor was a navvy he may have moved around the country as lines were laid down.
Many records of railways and railwaymen survive and the bulk are held at the PRO. A good source book is Was Your Grandfather a Railwayman? A researcher must have a system. Rereading scrappy notes two or three years after they are written can be painful. Most of the computer packages mentioned earlier have provision for entering not only genealogical data but detailed references as well. Unless one uses a notebook computer, there is a requirement for writing on paper diverse information from parish records, census returns, civil registration entries, etc.
There are companies that produce record sheets for various data entry. Genfile produce a note taking system that fits all standard Filofax and similar 6 ring binders and that includes sheets for GRO records, census, IGI, parish records, wills, etc. Use a bound mark book if you do not use custom designed forms. You may end up with a few but your notes will always be there to refer back to. Civil Registration commenced in July The process of registration was through over 2, registration districts formed from the union of parishes established under the Poor Law Act of The register offices still exist and still store the original records of births, deaths and marriages.
Copies are sent each quarter to the GRO where the central index is compiled. Certificates can be obtained from the district register offices if you know that the event occurred in the area. Registration district numbers changed in and I expect the next edition will have a different title but the contents won't change unless the districts do. In theory at least, research in Scotland is easier than it is in the rest of Britain. There are no CROs in Scotland but there is a Scottish equivalent of the PRO, the Scottish Record Office, which holds the public records north of the border including surviving archives of Scotland prior to the union of England and Scotland in , together with court and legal records.
A big plus is that you are then allowed to view copies of the original civil registration documents, not just indexes as at FRC. Although Scottish civil registration commenced later in rather than , the certificates contain more information than the English and Welsh equivalents.
Marriage certificates contain full names of both mothers and death certificates of women give maiden and previous surname if the deceased had remarried. Other registers include marine registers of births and deaths; war registers including deaths of Scots in the Boer War and the two World Wars; and births, marriages and deaths in foreign countries. A pay-as-you-view access allows up to 30 pages of index references to be downloaded for 6 within any 24 hour period.
Copies of a certificate or census return costs a whopping Scottish censuses were taken every decade as in England and Wales and returns may be viewed at New Register House. These are the registers of the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church. Anglican churches were not officially permitted in Scotland until the midth century.
Such churches are part of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. There were almost 1, parishes in Scotland but not all of the old registers have survived to the present day. Wills or testaments as they are known in Scotland are held for the years up to at the Scottish Record Office. Indexes for these have been published by the Scottish Record Society and are available at FHSs and libraries both north and south of the border.
Jurisdiction was under the old counties after and some have deposited their wills at the Scottish Record Office. From , the Office holds a consolidated calendar of confirmations probates for the whole of Scotland. Before , testaments only covered personal movable property. Land transfer was recorded in the Sasines Registers and indexes to these can be found at the Scottish Record Office. It was there for over years but relocated in The Family Division maintains relatively recent divorce records since and permission to look at divorce papers before and after must be obtained from the Family Division, SH.
Divorce records from until are held at PRO, London. The Society of Genealogists has the finest genealogical library in Britain. Members and non-members are welcome. After about two visits it is apparent that it is cheaper to become a member. The SoG loves statistics: The SoG also holds the Civil Registration indexes for England and Wales, directories, poll books, local histories, reference books and numerous publications.
It is generally accepted that English and Welsh surnames derive from four sources: There are exceptions that prove the rule; King, for example. In the midth century the ten most popular names in England were Smith one in 73 of total population of England and Wales ; Jones 76 ; Williams ; Taylor ; Davies ; Brown ; Thomas ; Evans ; Roberts ; and Johnson Tracers should beware of name variations. The Soundex code is a useful guide to possible surname variations in your ancestry.
A Welsh researcher faces two problems. Secondly, before in South Wales, it was typical for the baptismal name of the father to become the surname of the son so the son of Evan Thomas might be named Thomas Evans. This represents a challenge for a genealogist. In Scotland it was a simple act of loyalty for a new member of a clan to accept the chief's name. A clan is not a family so the discovery of many Campbells, Fergusons, MacLeods or Munros in one area does not necessarily indicate blood relationship. The clans traditionally occupied the highlands whilst the people of the lowlands seemed to have acquired surnames in similar ways to the English.
The old Irish inhabitants used the Celtic prefixes O' and Mac. Names beginning with O' meaning grandfather or ancestor can be traced back to 11th century. In Edward IV issued a mandate that the Irish in Dublin and three other counties should adopt English surnames but nobody is certain just how many did. Many English sounding names in Ireland may have come into use only after the immigration of Englishmen. Income tax was introduced in to help fund the Napoleonic Wars. There are various other tax records that may assist researchers.
The Hearth Tax of 17th century was a tax imposed based on the number of hearths in a home. The Window Tax, based on the number of windows in a home, was as unpopular as the Hearth Tax and many householders bricked up their windows rather than pay the tax. Land Tax Assessments were also imposed in and were discontinued only in Records in the CROs give details of the land owners, tenants and taxes paid.
Although many addresses have been included within the appropriate sections of the guide. The date of death of an ancestor can lead the researcher logically on to a quest for a will. Not every citizen made a will but there may be papers of administration or admons granted to a relative, typically the next of kin.. Searching for wills is relatively easy for the period from Please refer to Probate Registry.
In the years before stretching back for centuries the granting of probate and administration was conducted by the church. Probate jurisdiction occurred in the lowest church court if the deceased lived where his property was. The ecclesiastical courts were structured upwards from parish only those known as Peculiars through the Rural Deanery and the Archdeacon's Court to the Bishop's Court.
The Bishop's Court had jurisdiction if the deceased's property was in multiple archdeaconries. If the deceased was a wealthy land owner, his property may have extended outside the diocese so jurisdiction would occur in the Archbishops's Court, either the Prerogative Court of Canterbury or the Prerogative Court of York. The PCC was the senior court and had jurisdiction over probates of people who owned property in both provinces. Readers should be warned that there are exceptions to these ecclesiastical rules. Indexes to most of the courts are held at SoG.
Scottish wills testaments are held at the Scottish Record Office. Wills can contain a wealth of information whether made before or after. You may locate a will before a death so you then have a rough guide to that event. Wills contain names of family members and can assist in establishing relationships. They take us back to a time when property, lifestyles and values were very different.
Take note of the executors who were frequently relatives or close friends of the person making the will. As stated earlier, a grant of administration was typically made to the next of kin, as deemed by law, so one can determine who was the nearest surviving relative at the time the intestate made his will if not when he died.
See Probate Registry and Scotland. Researchers face many frustrations. It is bad enough that we let our elderly relatives pass on without asking questions about our ancestry. Then, we face problems of time, distance and funds or lack thereof in developing a family history. However, it all could be a lot easier. In previous editions of the A-Z, I included my wish list that would make research that much smoother.
Some of those wishes have come true. The world of genealogy is moving on at a fast pace so there are just three wishes on my list for the immediate year or two ahead and Wish 1 was Wish 1 last time round. Civil Registration - when will the indexes be computer indexed? Archives Online - the growth of the WWW and the initiatives taken by such premier bodies as the Scottish Record Office and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are hopefully only the start of a snowball rolling downhill. Selfish Researchers - there are some still out there who accept all your research but are reluctant to exchange their own.
Would they all make a resolution to be more cooperative in the future? WWW addresses change much more frequently than postal addresses so it is a battle to keep up to date. One feature of surfing the Web is the links that are built into some sites to carry you on to the next interesting genealogical site with a mere click of the mouse button. Here are a few Web sites but you can find 30, more at Cyndi's List!
A-Z of British Genealogical Research
I was born in Somerset and cannot spell. Much has changed since I wrote the last edition of the A-Z but the golden rule of genealogical research remains the same: The key thing is to enjoy your research and get the most out of it. If you live outside the UK, plan visits to Britain so you have a strategy and the time for your research. There are many areas of genealogical research that have not been touched on and there is insufficient space to explain in detail how to use the IGI or to elaborate on the extent of PRO's and SoG's archives. Then, I have not included opening hours of repositories or booking requirements because things change.
Finally, I have no connection with any of the companies or institutions mentioned herein although I have used some of the services offered and have visited many of the repositories. The opinions and recommendations are mine based on my experiences. I take no responsibility for any errors or omissions made or any subsequent loss suffered by any reader as a result of information contained herein.
Naturally, I would appreciate receiving suggestions, corrections or comments, and hope to continue to update the A-Z of British Genealogical Research on a regular basis. Feel free to contact me. My e-mail address is aemery[at]iafrica[dot]com. Open a form to report problems or contribute information. Help and advice for A-Z of British Genealogical Research If you have found a problem on this page then please report it on the following form. We will then do our best to fix it. If you are wanting advice then the best place to ask is on the area's specific email lists.
History of Painting in Three Easy Chapters. When Descendants Become Ancestors. The Victorian Elliots in Peace and War. A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Chinese Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Names. A Genealogist's Guide to British Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names. A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names. A Genealogist's Guide to French Names. A Genealogist's Guide to African Names.
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