Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sharing BMD information

The really useful free BMD site to obtain the GRO reference for birth, marriage and death certificates has an often unknown free feature. “add a postem”

This is where individuals can “donate” and “view” information about a certificate. If everyone who purchased a certificate at £9.25 put the details on a postem it would be accessible to others. Of course most people would want to obtain the certificate but it would help fill in gaps on distant ancestors.

If you see an envelope next to the entry someone has added details which you can access. If you wish to post details:

First click on the red INFO symbol next to the entry                 

and then click “add a postem” which reveals a text box of up to 250 characters. Then click “create”. This will post an envelope next to the entry later for others to access.

This would help so many people in their research and also avoid the possibility of ordering the wrong certificate. If everyone filled these in for the certificates they held it would be an extremely cost effective way of conducting preliminary research for your family tree.

Family Tree Folk

Thursday, 16 December 2010

What information is on a UK census?

Each of the census returns from 1841 has a varying level of useful information for the family historian. The first useful census was the 1841 with limited detail but this requirement for additional information developed every decade and continues to do so. The last released census of 1911 provides so much additional information compared to the 1841.

So what does each census offer?

1841 (June 6th)
Address: often quite vague with just the name of the street or village
Name & Age: those over 15 years of age were rounded down to the nearest 5 years
Sex, Occupation & if born in the county: this only gave you a Yes or Scotland, Ireland or foreign parts

1851 (March 30th)
Address, Name, Relation to Head of Household (Head, wife, son, daughter, nephew, visitor, lodger etc)
Marital Status: (married, unmarried, widow or widower)
Age, Sex, Rank, Profession or Occupation, Where Born
Whether blind or deaf and dumb

1861 (April 7th)
The same as 1851

1871 (April 2nd)
The same as 1851 and 1861 but with the addition in the last column asking if the individual is blind, deaf and dumb an imbecile or idiot or a lunatic

1881 (April 3rd)
The same as 1871

1891 (April 5th)
In addition to the 1881 census householders were now asked
How many rooms in the house were occupied and if individuals were
Employer, employed or neither
The Welsh census also asked Language spoken Welsh, English or both

1901 (March 31st)
In addition to the 1891 census the additional question was asked of whether they worked at home

1911 (April 2nd)
There were major additions and changes to the 1911 census and this was the first census that was filled in by someone in the household. This person also had to sign the form so it shows the handwriting and signature of your ancestor.

In addition to the questions on the 1901 census women were asked to declare
The number of complete years their current marriage had lasted
The number of children born alive within this marriage
The number of children still living and how many had died
People were also asked
The industry in which they worked
Number of rooms occupied
Ageat which deafness, blindness or other infirmity began (however this information is currently blanked out until 2012)

Family Tree Folk

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Rossbret Institutions

This website is a free online gazetteer and has a mass of useful information to the family historian. It contains details of British institutions such as asylums, hospitals, dispensaries, workhouses, almshouses and orphanages.

There is also an interesting section on occupations and a group of images that can be viewed of certain buildings. In the main it is more useful for England as the information for Scotland and Wales is not as comprehensive. The level of detail in some instances is quite informative. The site can be searched by using the access menu on the left of the page. This can be narrowed down by country and county.

Unfortunately the site has not been continually updated since 2008 but since April 2000 has had nearly seven million visitors.

Family Tree Folk

Sunday, 28 November 2010

India Office Records

Have you ancestors who may have served in India? The India Office Records website contains a free database of archival records. These are extremely informative and useful to any family historian looking for details of ancestors who may have served there. Records date from 1600 to 1948 although not complete they are being added to.

The database contains records from:

  • East India Company (1600-1858)
  • Board of Control (1784-1858)
  • India Office (1858-1947)
  • Burma Office (1937-1948)

East India House, Leadenhall Street, London c.1817 (now demolished)

Records include births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials and biographical notes.

These include people who may have worked or served in the following occupations:

  • Civil servants
  • Military personnel
  • Mariners
  • Medical staff
  • Chaplains
  • Railway workers
  • Law officers
  • Non-official inhabitants such as merchants and planters, free mariners and missionaries
Contains an A-Z Dictionary and Glossary of abbreviations which are quite extensive and extremely useful when undertaking your research into ancestors in India.

Family Tree Folk

Monday, 22 November 2010

Friends of Dundee City Archives

If you have ancestors from Dundee this site is full of free searchable information.

The Friends of Dundee City Archives is an organisation that was established in 1989 to help and support the archivists by the purchase and preservation of old documents.

It contains searchable databases on the following:

·       Methodist Baptisms (Wesleyan Register of Baptisms – Dundee) 1785 – 1898
·       The Howff Graveyard Burials (over 80,000 records)
·       Vehicle Registrations, owners and licences 1911 – 1952
·       Index of Poor Registers
·       Dundee War Memorials and Roll of Honour

In addition to the above searchable databases there is so much more to access and view for anyone researching Dundee and ancestors who may have resided there.


Family Tree Folk

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

HHARP – Historic Hospital Admission Records Project - Children as patients

A useful database of 19th century children’s hospital records providing an insight into Victorian and Edwardian healthcare. This free site (after registration) gives access to almost 120,000 individual admission records between 1852 and 1914. Detailed history of the hospitals with many images and allowing you to locate patients by a name search.

In many instances you can view and download the original handwritten admission case notes which can result in a number of pages providing so much information to family historians.

I found an ancestor admitted on the 22nd March 1871 to Great Ormond Street Hospital when she was aged just 5 years old. I managed to download and print three pages of informative hand written notes.

The hospitals included so far are three London Hospitals:

The Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street
The Evelina Hospital
The Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease


The Royal Glasgow Sick Children’s Hospital

The Glasgow hospital records cover the period from 1883 when the hospital was opened until 1903 and gives information on the health of Glasgow’s poor children.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Cause Papers

The Cause Papers database is a searchable catalogue of more than 14,000 cause papers relating to cases heard between 1300 and 1858 in the Church Courts of the diocese of York. These cover in the main Yorkshire but do extend beyond to other counties.

The Borthwick Institute holds the original records which are the most extensive of their kind in the UK. These can be extremely useful in your research.

An example case of Grace Allenson c. Charles Allenson, 1676 below by Joanne Bailey (the author) makes for interesting reading

Joanne Bailey, Cause Papers in the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishopric of York

 22 October 2008

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Emigrant Ancestors

Following on from my previous post below about immigrant ancestors with some useful websites this post now looks at emigrant ancestors.

If you have been unable to locate a missing ancestor on a UK census it may well be that they left these shores to find a better life, by assisted passage schemes or forced migration. It is interesting to note that passports have been in existence since the 15th century. However it was not until 1914 when migration from the UK came under stricter control with the outbreak of WWI that they became a requirement.

Emigrant passenger lists from 1890 – 1960 with over 24 million records can be found at

Some other useful websites to search are:

Ellis Island for emigrants entering the USA from 1892 with over 700,000 entries. This is a free and searchable website however you need to register for free to access the manifest images.

Library and Archive Canada has a free searchable database. Between 1869 and 1930 over 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain.

Convicts to Australia. Free searchable database of convicts and convict ships arriving in New South Wales from 1788 to 1849, Western Australia from 1850 to 1868.

The Ships List carries a huge amount of useful information as well as passenger lists for the USA, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Immigrant Ancestors

Many migrants have been landing on British shores for centuries from the early invaders through to merchants, slaves, refugees and workers.

Many immigrants did so fleeing religious persecution or war such as the Jewish refugees in World War II or earlier with the Huguenots in the 17th century. The Aliens Act in 1836 forced legislation to record each migrant arrival giving the date of arrival, port of entry, name and occupation. This often meant an abundance of written records until the individual went through the “naturalisation” programme and became a citizen and entitled to more rights. Many of these records are becoming available to search online. and The National Archives are popular sites to visit but there are lesser known and useful websites.

Two useful websites to search are:

The Moving Here website is searchable and original documents can be viewed and downloaded

The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild website can be searched by port of arrival or departure with over 11,000 passenger manifests

Monday, 1 November 2010

A 1570 census of the Poor in Norwich

Information back in the 16th century is not easy to find but if you had ancestors in Norwich, Norfolk, England you may find this link to a census taken in 1570 of over 800 poorer residents of the city. These residents were all located in the wards around the wonderful castle of Norwich which was built in 1067. The magnificent keep was added in 1120 and still remains today.

Norwich Castle Keep

Recorded with details of their families, residence and employment. The data was first transcribed from the original documents and analysed in detail by John F Pound in the 1960’s and published on paper by the Public Record Society. The data was converted into electronic form by Paul Welbank in 1999.

Use the following link to access Paul's website:

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Researching Family History in Ireland

Any genealogist who has tried to research their ancestry in Ireland will realise it is not always easy and often encounter many problems in finding online information.

A free and useful searchable site for Ireland for the 1901 and 1911 census with access to the original returns can be found here:

Another very useful free online site to visit is the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland based in Belfast. The PRONI website has online digitised archives fully searchable.

When you find an entry you are interested in, you can then view a digital image of the original document. The following are currently available:
A project is nearly complete to index and digitise 1858 - c1900 wills from the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry.

PRONI can be found here:

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Research using Inquest Records

Research using Inquest Records

Whenever you visit a record office it is always worth checking if they hold any old surviving inquest records. The parish where your ancestors lived can hold valuable information on inquests not just from the deceased but also details of the jurymen, innkeepers (where often the inquest was held) or proprietors of other establishments.

There may also be witness statements recorded in the inquest record. So as you can see your ancestor could possibly turn up in an inquest – not necessarily the corpse!

When an inquest verdict results in the case being taken to trial due to a possible criminal act then follow this up with criminal records too. Although all the information recorded at the inquest will be repeated often additional information comes to light. Another important point to make is although the jury at the inquest may deliver a verdict this could be completely different at the criminal hearing.

A number of common Inquest Verdict Terms

  • Visitation of God – sudden deaths often unexplained or possibly heart attacks and strokes.
  • Mishap/Casual/Misfortune – usually used for an accidental death
  • Natural Causes/ Natural Death – a long standing illness such as cholera, TB, smallpox etc
  • Murder or Manslaughter
  • Justifiable Homicide- generally a self defence verdict
  • Suicide *see note below
  • Inclemency of the weather – exposure to the elements
  • Want of the Necessities of Life – usually referring to a death by starvation

When the jurors were unable to determine the cause of death at an inquest they passed an open verdict with terms like “Found Dead” or “Died from a fall from a Horse.

*Suicide – interesting facts
If a suicide verdict was returned the jury had to decide if the person was deemed sane at the time. Persons committing suicide who were classified as a lunatic strangely enough were allowed a full church rites burial in consecrated ground.

If they were deemed to have “all their faculties” however they were given the verdict of felo de se (self murder).

A felo de se until 1823 was buried at a crossroads and usually had a wooden stake driven into the body! Better to be insane!!
After 1823 they allowed a felo de se to be buried in a churchyard but only between the hours of 9pm and midnight and with no burial service conducted. Also until 1871 the Crown laid claim to all the suicide’s property which had to be forfeit.    

Monday, 25 October 2010

Information from Family Photographs

We will all have a box of old family photographs handed down or left by our ancestors. It is unfortunately rare to find our ancestors have written any details on the photographs with the date, where it was taken and the names of the people on it.

This is a lesson we all need to learn for our current photograph collection. However ensure you write the details using an acid free pen as this ink will not fade or damage the photographs. You can also buy an acid free pen that can be used safely on the front as well as the back.

However all is not lost. Even if you can identify the people on the photograph estimating the date can still be undertaken by clues:

·       The approximate ages of any children in the photograph (far easier to estimate than adults)
·       Clothes or uniforms the people are wearing
·       Buildings or location landmarks
·       Cars or other transport can offer approximate years
·       Really useful if the photograph has details of the photographer stamped on the back
·       The type of paper and process used to develop the photograph

For close examination of photographs use a Photo Magnifier.

The following site is useful for helping to indentify Victorian and Edwardian photographs

Finally Street Trade Directories will help you locate photographers who have stamped the photographs. By looking through the years you can see what years they were in business.

See my blog article below with a link to Trade Directories.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Trade Directories with searchable database

Trade Directories can be another really useful source of information for tracing our ancestors and their occupations and trades.

The first London directory appeared as early as 1677, Birmingham was 1763, Glasgow 1783. Many individuals across the UK started to compile and put into print Trade Directories including some of the better known ones – Slater, Pigot and Kelly. These often came out more than once a year during their popular period. One problem however being by the time they were compiled and printed they were often already out of date.

For example in a 1859 directory your ancestor listed at an address probably meant he was there in 1857/8. Often some of the information can be a bit suspect so tread with caution on what you may find.

To view a number of these directories free of charge and also the ability to print and download the original pages you can visit the University of Leicester who ran a project digitising these.

They have English and Welsh directories for the years 1750 to 1919.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The 8 Bastardy Documents for Family History

In the mid 18th century with the Industrial Revolution illegitimacy began to rise sharply with around 3 in every 100 births in 1750. By the early 19th century this had risen to nearly 7 in every 100 births. Changes in social attitudes reversed this trend in the early 20th century when illegitimacy fell to around 4 in every 100.

This rise in illegitimacy called for a wealth of records to be created mostly by the local parish and stored in the County Record Offices. The Old Poor Law instructed the local parish churchwarden and the overseer of the poor to force a pregnant unmarried mother to identify the father. This was due to the increased burden that could fall onto the parish.

This was known as the Bastardy Examination but there are eight documents which can help to find the father of an illegitimate child.

·       Bastardy Examination – the mothers information on the identity of the father
·       Notice of Application for a Bastardy Order – sent to the accused father ordering him to appear before the Quarter Sessions
·       Bastardy Recognizance – like a bail bond instructing the believed father to appear at the Quarter Sessions
·       Bastardy Warrant – orders for the apprehension of the believed father of the child
·       Bastardy Summons – instructs the local constable to bring the man in front of the court
·       Bastardy Order – this highlights who is to pay what
·       Bastardy Certificate – this certifies that the father has paid what was due and releases him from the Bastardy Recognizance
·       Bastardy Bond – this is a promise by a bondsman to pay the parish any costs incurred by the father.

A good place to search is the National Archives

By entering ‘bastardy’ in the search as the key word if will produce a list of all the relevant records held by various archives in some counties.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

York County Gaol with searchable database

Opened in 1705 York County Gaol was classed as the most stately prison ever built, both internally as well as the wonderful magnificent architectural exterior. It closed at the end of the 19th century and is now York Castle Museum.

Fully searchable database free for thousands of prisoners incarcerated there during the 18th and 19th centuries. A great resource for family historians to help track down their convict ancestors and victims of crime.

The most famous prisoner imprisoned there was the highwayman Dick Turpin. He spent his last 6 months in York prison before being hanged in 1739 for horse stealing.

Gives details including dates and places of birth, occupations and detail of crimes and debts – both for perpetrators and their victims of:

Criminals transported to America between 1704 and 1775.

Criminals executed between 1710 and 1889

Insolvent debtors between 1710 and 1813

Monday, 18 October 2010

A list of treasured possessions for Family History research

I always promote the safe preservation and use of archival products for family memorabilia passed down having seen so many instances of poor storage and presentation. Ensure you do this correctly using acid free products.

However this posting is to highlight what memorabilia could be useful to further your research. Often these only come to light after a family death or a house move and can either be the starting point of your research or fill in a lot of gaps.

·       Certificates (birth, marriage, death, adoption, baptism and confirmation)
·       Memorial cards
·       Photographs and drawings
·       Correspondence (letters, postcards)
·       Scrapbooks
·       Family bibles/prayer books, diaries
·       House or business account books (invoices, receipts)
·       Passports, identity cards
·       Ration books, war letters, medals, badges
·       Membership books (clubs and organisations)
·       Examination or school leaving certificates and school reports
·       Old newspapers/cuttings
·       Insurance policies
·       Wills and legal documents

For more information on correct storage and preservation products visit

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Have you placed your valuable research in clear PVC sleeves? Oh No!

Widely found and used to store documents and other memorabilia, PVC clear plastic pockets are a definite NO to any family historian. The number of people who approach me at Family History Fairs with old and fragile original family documents (certificates, wills etc) in PVC pockets is astonishing. What is more surprising is they are not aware of the long term damage PVC can cause to their precious documents.

PVC has plasticisers added that make the PVC soft and pliable. These plasticisers over time migrate into the document and destroy the print and also eat into the paper. You will have seen examples of this when you try to remove a long term stored document and the PVC pocket is sticky and has some of the print transferred from the paper onto the plastic.

The archival way of storing your documents is to use acid free inert clear PP (Polypropylene) or PET (Polyester) pockets. These two are widely used by professional archivists to ensure safe storage of valuable documents and memorabilia. PP is by far the most common type used mainly because of availability and the lower price. The benefit of using PET (used by more professional bodies) is the ultra clarity and generally more lightweight gauge of pocket.

If you want more information on archival pockets see

Writing out your family history research

In this age of technology we all store our information and records on various media. Long gone the days of the “floppy disk” and even current media storage will and is becoming outdated. We all have stored our family history research of many years hard work on CD’s, DVD’s, Memory Sticks, Hard Drive back up’s etc. Even places on the internet such as Dropbox where we can “safely” store our hard sought research.

However bringing family history to life is not just about having everything backed up. It is about presenting it in written hard copy format with information, photographs, BMD certificates, census copies etc. This done on archival acid free safe materials and presented in a binder to future generations (remember how many family bibles were passed down through the family).

I was approached by a lady today who wanted to handwrite her research on acid free paper but wanted to use acid free ink with a fountain pen! Admiration for this wonderful initiative from a family historian who wants to present her findings in this way. Family Tree folk sell a range of acid free papers and pens but have never been asked for a bottle of acid free ink.

What are other views out in the genealogy world? How do you write up your research? More importantly are you using archival safe products to ensure long term preservation?