to family and for family history research
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The following sites are the most useful we have found for researching into family history or history in general and into the background. They are all very big sites and regularly updated and all of them have links to other sites. If you are unable to find any of them do let us know - people do change their addresses sometimes!
Since this site was begun - in 1995 - there have been enormous changes in in all areas and there are now thousands of sites online. The sites below were those found most useful for the whole period of its development but they are still among the most popular and provide good places to start. With comments ont some that were useful - and some with problems - in the development of this website.
A distinction should be made between Primary and Secondary sources. This site contains mostly Secondary sources, those obtained from other people, other websites, research from books, libraries, record offices etc. However, there is one Primary source - the account book written at the time for the village of Templeton in Devon concerning properties belong to the Chichesters (a branch of the well-known family) of Calverleigh, near Tiverton. (It begins with it in .pdf format - sample page - on the Templeton 'sub-site' which you can browse to from the index) George Jackson kept his notebook and took it with him to Sussex when he went to live near his daughter. It runs from 1946 to 1864, detailing rents and payments with the names of the occupants of the properties for every half-year. This information is unobtainable from anywhere else except Exeter and Tiverton who were sent printed copies of those online. With additional research - and details sent by descendants of the people concerned - this has been a very worthwhile study. Your Primary scources may be letters, school reports, photographs, memorabilia and much more - you can use them all!
& UK BMD
Free Cen &
Pay per record
(International Geonealogical Index) the IGI
and Family Search
The old IGI has now been replaced by Family Search. It was initially a collection of baptism and marriage records collected by volunteers from parishes throughout the country, but by no means all as some refused them access and others weren't reached. As the motive of the LDS church (Mormons) was mainly to baptise their ancestors into the Mormon faith posthumously, a process carried on daily in Salt Lake City with the names of the 'candidates', they do not provide much information on deaths. Parallel to the IGI and available with it was a further collection from submissions from members of the general public. These have now all been integrated into the newer FamilySearch . Records provided by the public often claim to be submitted by members of the church, but this is an assumption. Some London records used on this website were from a CofE minister, quite definitely not a Mormon!
The result is actually a very valuable and free to access site, but with certain provisos:
1. Church records with dates and the name and place of the church are very useful, especially for the time before our system of registration began in September 1837 and frequently for a long time after as it was not compulsory uni towards the end of the century.
Also with the first useful census not till 1841 - and then with serious shortcomings not improved till 1851 - BMD records are frequently the only source you my have for many ancestors.
2. The 'submitted' records often have no dates or a bit of guesswork (e.g. 'about 1792' , no source and if the submitter's name is given there is not usually any contact information. If there is and you decide to write and ask for more information be wary of sending too much yourself. That may have been my mistake as I received no answer. But of course the submitter may now be deceased!
Births, Marriages and Deaths
* The first of these was FreeBMD which was begun by enthusiasts for free records, along with FreeCen for the censuses and FreeReg. Free BMD raced ahead of the other two as the one most favoured by volunteers and now provides a fairly full list from 1837 right into the 20th century. Senior citizens will soon find their own records on it if they haven't already! (The limit on all 'open' records is 2005-6 on all sites)
* FreeCen aims to put all the available censuses online, (1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911) and is now developing rather faster. You can find out what is available from the opening page.
* There is also the FreeReg website run entirely by volunteers and free. They say, 'The FreeREG Project's objective is to provide free Internet searches of baptism, marriage, and burial records, which have been transcribed from English parish registers...' This should begin to grow rapidly as the other projects near completion. (All three are always looking for more volunteers with an hour or so to spare - at home - in a week!)
You can access many records at your local record office and some in large libraries, but they do tend to be local rather than national records. Directories and maps as well as books on local history are great sources and are usually on the open shelves in the reference library. Maps can of course be accessed online, as well as historical directories . In some counties there is a wealth of free information - for example the Medway area of Kent has put hundreds (or perhaps all) of its pre-1837 records online. These records do take some fnding as there is no index other than date and parish but the Arrowsmith records on this site, originally obtained from the IGI, have all been checked there (without having to stay there for a week to do it!) The Medway records are photocopies from the original registers so as authentic as you can get! You do need to find those dates and parishes first of course - you can't expect to go straight to the site and start searching there with no prior knowledge! Another county, Devon has put a variety of its records online, one on gamekeepers with dates for certificates awarded to them has recently been invaluable in dating employment and employer's name in a Jackson record on this site (which is currently being updated so not online yet)
Early parish registers
Quite a few early registration documents have been printed, or put on CDs for local areas by the Parish Register Society. You would need to join the Society to pay for these but they may well be accessible on reference library shelves as well as in the record offices. One registers of St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, on CD and a later one, 1766 to 1837, have been of great use on this site (and will no doubt continue to provide more useful information in the future) The CD is 'interesting' as including the change of the calendar!
Catholic Record Society (CRS)
Another set of books to be found on open shelves are those of the Catholic Record Society, CRS. Among the many volumes, many produced throughout the whole of the 20th century, are early records of Catholic BMDx, arranged by county and 'mission.' (There were no 'parishes' until Catholic Emancipation in 1830 and no 'Bishops' until the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1851. Chapels were forbidden to have any religious additions like crosses, bells or steeples and many resembled barns in the attempt to be inconspicuous as a Catholic was still 'persona non grata' even after not being executed, imprisoned or otherwise persecuted for the 'offence'.
They also had to marry in the local CofE church or risk their children being labelled as illegitimate and therefore unable to inherit, so a marriage in such churches does not prove allegiance to the Church of England. This applied to everyone unless they were Jews or Quakers, from Hardwick's Marriage Act in 1854, until Emancipation (There were many other restrictions as well).
The county with most records is Lancashire (beginning from about 1785) but there are others too, especially for London where there were always chapels in the embassies for countries like Spain, France and Italy. Even after 1830 there were so few of such chapels that few Catholics were able to use them. The problem was that only the Anglican minister was licensed as a registrar, even until the 1980s so there would have to be a registry office marriage either in the office itself or later in the sacristy of the Catholic chapel. An example that occurs in these pages is of a marriage in the registry office on a Friday and in the Catholic church on the Saturday in 1898. When asked for the information some of the family gave one day for the marriage and some gave the other! But another similar case nearly a century later happened because the place chosen for the 'real' wedding was not licensed for marriages!
From time to time there were noisy debates in parliament about the numbers of Catholics, sometimes sparking riots during which mobs burnt down Catholic chapels. The reaction quite a few times was to demand that local magistrates should investigate and then make lists of these 'recusants' or 'Papists'. The early 18th century ones mainly just list names but the one made in 1767 went further and sometimes gives a lot of information. One or two in Lancashire state not only occupation and age but also how long that person has lived at their preent address - in fact more information than in a census, especially as they are listed as families. Some of these records have given details about family which would otherwise have been quite unobtainable, idetifying children with the right parents etc. at atime when a name could be duplicated several times over in the same village, especially among cousins.
These have multiplied over the years, with all sorts of records, not just projects like those above, but wills, newspapers, etc now offered by dedicated sites as well as some by the main genealogy websites. The PRO and associated websites like A2A and DocumentsOnline give information on these and there are books and magazines available in many public libraries to make more suggestions. (Just put those 3 into your favourite search engine!)
Wills can be downloaded instantly and of course provide details about the deceased person (the opening 'blurb' sounds good but may not be exactly honest!) and their family if any. Some of them may have been written yers before - or some just altered with a codicil. Why did John, for example, ,(a purely hypothetical case, though I know of a similar one) ignore his five children or other family, and leave all his money to the local cats' home? The average will with 3 or 4 pages costs £3.50 to download, and it will usually be in handwriting which may be difficult to read. Fortunately there are sites which offer (free) training sessions where you can learn to read these more easily.
The Federation of Family History Societies
This group is publishing its own results of members research online at Family History Online and entries rarely cost more than 5p or so to download. This hasn't been used much here but some useful records of deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk were found and identified from their information (nothing being except from from the IGI and of course the various mf or printed copies in local offices or at LDS Family History Centres, or printed register books for purchase, or in local libraries. There are now at least two other sources.
The companies producing census records, plus BMDs, like Ancestry and FindMyPast and theGenealogist have proliferated since this page was first uploaded - there was then only the sngle CD for 1851 in Devon and Cornwall produced as a pilot for the 1881 census which came next and covered the whole of England and Wales. Very gradually others appeared, all slowly being put online. (It won't be long before there are demands to release the 1921 census early, just like the 1911!)w ithout internet access the CDs still have a place but must be much diminshed. The 1881 census remains free even on these pay-to-view sites and is straightforward to search. Other censuses vary according to the company, some censuses may be more difficult to search than others being produced earlier as they didn't all appear in chronological order. Odd (and free) copies have been made by volunteers and appear in somewhat random fashion on county sites. Genuki might give some information on these. The pay-to-view sites are also each vying for custom by offering all sorts of 'specialist' information such as school records, records of trades and/or professions, newspapers, army, navy and air force records, war diaries etc some or all for other countries as well. Browse the ones of interest before choosing!
Public Record Office - PRO
The Record Office at Kew can be explored on PRO Lots of information, special pages for children and schools, up-to-date topics, links, all PRO leaflets (otherwise only obtainable by going to Kew) and the 1901 census (with free index). The records at Kew are among the most important in the country - miles and miles of public archives and documents all carefully indexed and preserved. (They now also run guided tours and various courses - you can read all about them here) Other departments are the A2A which locates documents in record offices around the country, Documents Online and the CWGC with its lists of those who died in WW1 and WW2 both in action and in raids at home.
Genealogy UK and Ireland
This site, Genuki, a genealogical forum for the UK and Ireland, is run by volunteers. It has been going for many years and was developed as a 'linking' system for all local record offices, local societies and just about every other history society. One very useful service to watch out for is the Look-up Exchange where volunteers offer to find information for you from a variety of local (county) sources with advice on how to submit requests. (There's scope for helping with this too!) This 'service' has been used on this site too.
Everyone recommends Cyndislist and it really is invaluable. There are articles and links for beginners and plenty for the more experienced researcher. You can also meet the family on Cyndi's homepage! Cyndi and Mark Howell have both written books on family history and on the web - and have hundreds of useful links. A great site.
The list above is only the tip of the iceberg! If you set out to help others they will help you too!