Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: London in 1700

Waller, Maureen. 1700:  Scenes from London Life. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000.

Most of my English ancestors are from rural areas. What I know about London life I learned from Oliver Twist and Tim Cratchit.  I needed a book to fill in some details and found the one above at a used book sale. The first five chapter headings were intriguing and should catch the eye of all genealogists: marriage, childbirth, childhood, disease and death.
I am not surprised to find that the author wrote an entire book about marriage after reading the first few pages of this book’s ‘Marriage’ chapter. She points out the constraints put on marrying couples by the church, including the costs. People were put off by the reading of the banns, seeing them as an invasion of privacy. Since this practice continued into my lifetime in my childhood church, I never really gave it any thought. Waller describes the clandestine marriage mills in London where about one-third of the ceremonies in 1700 were performed, in order to avoid the church requirements.
Waller later wrote a book that used all the information she gathered about London in 1700 called Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father’s Crown. This book is about the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Mary II and Queen Anne whose reign ended in 1714.

            Other books by Maureen Waller:
The English Marriage: Tales of Love, Money and Adultery
London 1945: Life in the Debris of War
A Family in Wartime: How the Second World War Shaped the Lives of a Generation
Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father’s Crown
Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice and Power – The Six Reigning Queens of England

All of the books are available on amazon.com.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Welsh Surnames

Rowlands, John and Sheila. The Surnames of Wales. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2014. (New Edition) $39.95 www.genealogical.com

First published in 1996 and recently revised in a new edition, The Surnames of Wales has been considered the go-to guide on this subject. The publisher promises a new updated and expanded resource seeking to dispel many of the myths that surround names in Wales. It is illustrated by evidence taken from a survey involving more than 270,000 surnames found in parish records throughout the country.

There are four new chapters including a groundbreaking survey and glossary of Welsh given games, an important addition to the text because the geographical distribution of given names can provide clues to the origins of early patronymic surnames.

From the publisher: The first chapters “give a historical overview of Welsh names, dealing in particular with the patronymic naming system and the gradual adoption of surnames. The central chapters include a comprehensive survey of Welsh surnames and an all-important glossary of surnames…also show[ing] the distribution and incidence of surnames throughout Wales. The final chapters cover the distribution of surnames derived from the ‘ap’ prefix, the incidence of surnames derived from Old Testament names, and surname evidence for the presence of people of Welsh origin in populations outside Wales.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Colonial UK Immigrants

In the Spring, I wrote four blog posts that described distinct immigrant groups that settled in various parts of the original thirteen colonies. These posts were based on a book by genealogist, William Dollarhide. He felt that if you knew where your ancestor settled in the colonies, you could narrow the range of places he could have come from in the UK.

            26 Feb 2014 British Origin of U.S. Colonists (New England Puritans)
            12 Mar UK Origins of Virginia Cavaliers
            26 Mar Quakers from the North Midlands
            9  Apr Scottish/English Borderlands to Rural America

-Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998.

-A much expanded discussion of the four group's influence on American culture can be found in the following book:

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
I found this book which uses the same four colonial groups described by Dollarhide to illustrate the history of American culture as it has changed through time. It argues that our original British folkways underlie most of our ‘melting pot’ culture. Oxford press states, Americans “have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time.”
-This Fall I was asked to speak on a topic where a summary of the above information would be helpful so I developed this chart:

New England
East Anglia (50%)
Chesapeake Bay
West Country & London
Delaware Valley
North Midlands (67%)
Rural Areas/ Borders
English/Scottish Border + N Ireland

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday - Genealogy in a UK Graveyard

Genealogists are interested in cemeteries, in part, because of the information on the gravestones themselves and in any written records maintained by the graveyard owner. When looking for information from an English graveyard, I think North Americans have heard many rumors before they even begin the process. They bury people one atop the other…they remove the gravestones of the first burials…and so on. What is the real story?

Visiting a UK parish church is an experience like no other. In almost all rural settings the church appears to be in the center of a cemetery. The graveyard is not confined to the space behind the building, as in North America.
In the past, all of the church ground was not considered consecrated. Until the last century, there was a common practice to bury the ‘good’ people on the south side of the church and the others on the shadowy north side. Those who took their own lives or the lives of others were buried on the unconsecrated north side, which also was used for secular activities such as games, festivals, and fairs in the 1600s and 1700s. Less charming were the cockfights also held there.

Until the eighteenth century, corpses were usually buried in a fabric shroud. As bodies decomposed, they would take less space. Because more people qualified to be on the south side, the land there may be higher than on the north side. Both facts lend some credence to the belief that more than one body was placed in what we think of as one plot, perhaps one atop the other.  Overcrowding was and is an issue.  Today more than 70 percent of those who die in the UK are cremated.
Notes: In 1667 and confirmed again in 1678, the shroud needed to be made of pure wool. The Wool Acts were intended to promote and support the wool industry. Clergy and later, the family needed to certify that the shroud was woolen or a fine would be levied. These acts were repealed in 1814.  Some parishes owned a casket for the body that was used during the service.

Gravestones became popular in the seventeenth century. The earliest in today’s churchyards often date from the eighteenth century. The stones are considered the property of the person who erected it, and defacing a stone is considered trespass. Check with the parish clergy to see if there is a map or burial records for you to read and to see what the rules and regulations are.
Many local family history societies have recorded the inscriptions on the gravestones and these are available online at the society’s website. You may need to be a member to access the records online, but the dues are usually less than £20 per year.

Source: Friar, Stephen. The Companion to the English Parish Church. London: Chancellor Press, 2000.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: 1875 Scottish Valuation Rolls

In late September, Scotland’s People announced that the Valuation Rolls for 1875 were now on their website www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. The index, covering all of Scotland, can be browsed free of charge until the 31 December 2014.

You can search by name of property owners, tenants and occupiers plus by addresses across all of Scotland from 1875 to 1915, at ten year intervals and also 1920. This search often can reveal valuable information about your ancestors between census years. “The latest addition comprises over 900,000 index entries and almost 72,000 digital images taken from 141 volumes of Valuation Rolls.”

A valuation roll which is essentially the same as an assessor’s list or a county appraiser’s list puts a value on real estate for tax purposes. At a minimum you can expect the owner’s name, the address and value placed on the property. You might find much more such as the acreage and a description of the land.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Quakers, Methodists and Irish Presbyterians

The British “Federation of Family History Societies” ezine appeared in my email box recently. It was full of help for researchers whose anccestors did not belong to the Church of England. If you are not receiving this newsletter directly, please go to the Federation website, www.ffhs.org.uk/newsletters/  and subscribe.

Below is a summary of this month’s religion-related articles about Quakers, Methodists and Irish Presbyterians:
The Quaker Family History Society - Quakers became a well-organized and influential group keeping records from the late 1650s, and it was about 50,000 strong in 1660s Britain. “The Quaker Family History Society was formed in 1993 to encourage and assist anyone interested in tracing the history of Quaker families in the British Isles. We are…open to all with a worldwide membership of around 200.” The group works with Friends House Library in London, one of the main repositories relating to Quakers and their activities.

QFHS meets three times a year, including once in London, for all day seminars. “All new members receive a starter’s information pack, and members receive the magazine ‘Quaker Connections’, three times a year with articles, queries and members’ interests. The Society also maintains a Rootsweb Mailing List QUAKER-BRITISH-ISLES.” For more information, check the website at www.qfhs.co.uk.
Early Stages of the Quaker Movement in Lancashire - If you have Quaker ancestors from Lancashire, you may be interested in the book, ‘Early Stages of the Quaker Movement in Lancashire’ written by Rev. B Nightingale, a prolific writer whose other titles include Lancashire Nonconformity. A PDF copy of the book which includes many names can be viewed or downloaded free at www.archive.org.

Museum of Methodism - The museum which is housed at Wesley’s Chapel, 49 City Rd, London, tells the history of Methodism from John Wesley to the present day and its contribution to shaping Britain’s political and social history. The building, built in 1778, is still in use today as a place of worship. John Wesley’s house stands next to the chapel. For further information, check www.wesleyschapel.org.uk/museum.htm.
Presbyterian Church in Ireland - If you have Irish ancestors who you believe may have been Presbyterian, it is worth looking at the website of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland www.presbyterianireland.org, where you will find a lot of useful information about where to find copies of church records and how to extend your research. It is worth noting that The North of Ireland Family History Society has a very active group of volunteers transcribing church records which include those from many of the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. The society offers a ‘Look Up’ service for members unable to visit the Society Library. For details about the society and how to join, visit them at nifhs.org.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Finding Electoral Registers

Last but not least, let’s talk about where to find an electoral register. The source for these records on a national basis is the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, www.bl.uk which has a partnership with www.findmypast.co.uk. The website has begun its digitization in 1832 and is moving forwards.

Beginning with 1947, the British Library has a complete set of registers for the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).  A complete list of their holdings is in a publication titled, Parliamentary Constituencies and Their Registers Since 1832, which also includes earlier burgess rolls and poll books. Once in hard copy, it can now be downloaded at www.bl.uk/reshelp/finhelprestype/offpubs/electreg/parliamentary/constituenncies.html.
Because of concerns about identity theft and commercial use of the lists, restrictions apply to the electoral registers from the past ten years.

Having voting information after 1832 is not always helpful to American genealogists because it is just too late. Locations of earlier records can be found in the following pamphlets:
Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers Gibson. Poll Books c. 1696-1872, a directory of holdings in Great Britain. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1994.

Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers since 1832and burgess rolls. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990.
Check on purchasing copies at www.ffhs.org.uk. Even the British Library states that if the early roll you need is not listed in one of the above, “it may well be that no copies of the register sought survive.”