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.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

To all my followers and genealogy friends:

May the season of light bring you happiness and peace.

Until next week,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Land Patents

A land patent is the first deed granting federal land to a private person, company or local government. The federal government received land in 1783 after the Revolution when Britain ceded all lands south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River to the fledgling country. In 1785, a land ordinance passed authorizing the sale of public lands and establishing the Public Land Survey System to measure and identify the property. (See blog posts from August 15 and 22, 2012 for details of survey system.)

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 almost doubled the size of the country, all of this land owned by the federal government. In 1812, the General Land Office (GLO) was created to oversee the disposition of ceded and acquired land, first as part of the Treasury and since 1849, as part of the Department of the Interior.

You can find details of the land patents at www.glorecords.blm.gov. Four types of documents are described on the home page. The first two are of most interest to genealogists – land patents, and survey plats and field notes. There were about 7,500.000 land patents issued and about 5,000,000 are now searchable at this site. Like all land records, they put people in a specific place at a specific time.
Click the “Search Documents” button on top of the home page. Select a state from the drop down menu. You must add one more criteria.  Most likely a surname or a county name are the two most commonly used ones. Then click the “Search Patents” button. For example, I chose the State of Ohio and the surname, “Starr.” The first page of the results are below:

To see the original document, click on the blue items in column two. The third from the top is a Military Warrant for David Starr, a veteran of the War of 1812, who transfers his rights to the forty acres to James McFarland.
                                                                                                             ©2012, Susan Lewis Well


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 3

Two of Thomas and Martha HAYLETT BRETT’s daughter were Methodists in this country. Please refer to previous posts for details of other family members.

Hannah BRETT PARSONS, her husband, John PARSONS and three children accompanied her father, Thomas BRETT, to America in 1854. With them were Thomas’ youngest daughter, Eliza, my great grandmother; and his two sons, Thomas and James. They settled in Niagara County, New York, joining family member, Rachel BRETT BARKER at first in the town of Cambria.
Eliza BRETT married William LEWIS on 17 Dec 1856. The ceremony was performed by a Justice of the Peace, witnessed by Joseph and Rachel BRETT BARKER. Eliza and William lived in one more Niagara County town before settling sometime prior to 1870 in the Town of Newfane. The records of the United Methodist Church on Main Street which begin in 1863 show both she and her sister, Hannah PARSONS, were active as early as 1878, while their husbands were ‘probationers’ who never became full members. (See FHL US/CAN Film 1378854)

The first family event recorded was the marriage of Hannah’s son, John B. PARSONS in 1874. In 1878, Hannah, a probationer, and Eliza belonged to the same twelve-member class, led by H.S. Earl that met in the center of town. Hannah was received into full membership on 5 Oct 1884 and remained a member until 1905.
My great grandmother was involved in this church and encouraged other family members, too. Her new daughter-in-law, Addie L. FISK, wife of William N. LEWIS, and her infant son, Clinton B. LEWIS, were baptized on 29 Sep 1897. Addie was on the probationers list for about one year after that; then became a full member in Aug 1898. A German immigrant niece of her husband joined the church and was married in the Lewis’ home by the Methodist minister.

Thomas Brett’s two sons’ religion is harder to track. Like their sisters, they were baptized in the Church of England, according to the registers in Swaffham, NFK. Thomas H. Brett lived most of his life in Michigan. Civil records of his first wife’s death and his remarriage do not include information about clergy. His brother, James Brett, was married by a Justice of the Peace in Ashkum, Iroquois, Illinois before he enlisted in the Civil War and died at Andersonville Prison Camp, Georgia.
Methodism: The Methodists trace their beginnings to a popular movement begun in 1738, when John Wesley and his brother, Charles, later the great hymnist, undertook evangelistic preaching with an emphasis on conversion and holiness. The brothers established a Holy Club at Oxford University devoted to study, prayer and serving the underprivileged. They were labeled "Methodist" by other students because of the way they used "rule" and "method" to perform their religious duties.

Though both Wesley brothers were ordained ministers of the Church of England, they were barred from   most of its pulpits because of their evangelistic methods. They preached in homes, farm houses, barns, and open fields - wherever they found an audience. Neither Wesley set out to create a new church, but instead began several small faith-restoration groups within the Church of England. Soon however, Methodism spread and eventually became its own separate religion in the 1740s.

“George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a minister in the Church of England and also one of the leaders of the Methodist movement. Some believe that he more than John Wesley is the founder of Methodism. He is famous for his part in the Great Awakening movement in America...Whitefield parted ways with Wesley over the doctrine of predestination.”  Source: www.christianity.about.com, Mary Fairchild, Methodist Church History

The website of the Newfane, New York, United Methodist Church states, “Methodists have believed, from the beginning, that each of us is called to participate in the outreaching ministry of Jesus Christ. John Wesley described this work in simple, practical terms: ‘Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can.’ Putting our faith into action is at the very heart of our Christian calling.” The LDS filmed records of this congregation start in 1863, and it is noted that the name until 1881 was the Newfane Circuit. After that, it was called the Second Methodist Episcopal Church of Newfane, and still later the United Methodist Church. See FHL US/CAN Film [1378854]

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 2

After coming to Niagara County, New York, USA, three of Thomas BRETT’s daughters remained there. One was most likely a Universalist and the other two were active members of the Methodist church in the town of Newfane. (Please see last week’s post for details.)

Second daughter, Rachel BRETT, was married to Joseph BARKER in the Swaffham, Norfolk parish church and had her sons baptized there, but then they moved to Cambria, Niagara County, NY.  They were the family “pioneers” coming to the U.S. about five years before Thomas Sr. and the other children. Rachel and her daughter, Martha, are buried next to her father, Thomas BRETT, in the North Ridge community cemetery. I have not been able to confirm that she was  a Universalist like her father.

Universalism: “Universalists are Christians who believe in universal salvation, meaning that all people will eventually be reconciled with God.” The faith did not become a widespread religious movement until English Universalists came to America in the late 1700s to escape religious persecution. Because of its inclusive doctrine, Universalism became popular in America, and the Universalist Church of America was formed in 1793.

Universalists were best known for supporting education and non-sectarian schools, but they also worked on social issues including the separation of church and state, prison reform, capital punishment, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights.

The Universalist faith declined after the Civil War. As the concept of damnation became less central to many American religious groups, the Universalist faith seemed less unique in its teachings, and its membership waned. In 1961, The Universalists merged with the Unitarians to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, whose website, www.uua.org, details the above history.

“The First Universalist of the Town of Cambria [Niagara County, NY] was organized in 1867, consisting of 34 members; at the present time it has 50.” (1878) A brick church was built in 1868 on donated land at a cost of $6000. Two wooden churches nearby housed a catholic and a German Lutheran congregation with a community cemetery dominating the landscape, directly behind the Universalist and the Lutheran Churches. There was a Methodist Church on the same road a short distance away. Source:_______. History of Niagara County, N.Y., New York: Sanford and Co. 1878

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Brett Family and Non-Conformity, Part 1
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to explore the non-Anglican religions in Norfolk, England to see if my family in the market town of Swaffham might be involved. Because they were agricultural laborers and thus poor, they might have had a tendency to leave the Church of England (COE), either before or after they immigrated to the U.S. and Australia. In the chart below, I summarized the results by listing my GGGrandfather, Thomas BRETT, and his five daughters, including my great grandmother, Eliza BRETT LEWIS:

Baptisms & Marriages-
Norfolk, England
Religion as Older Adult-UK/USA/Australia
Thomas Brett, father
Church of England
Universalist (USA)
Sarah Brett Blyth
Church of England
Church of England (UK)
Rachel Brett Barker
Church of England
Universalist? (USA)
Hannah Brett Parsons
Church of England
Methodist (USA)
Susan Brett Griffin
Church of England/Particular Baptist
Church of England/ Wesleyan (Australia)
Eliza Brett Lewis
Church of England
Methodist (USA)

While living in England, all six family members were baptized and five were married in the COE. Susan BRETT was married in the Particular Baptist chapel. The five who left the UK were active and buried with rites of non-conformist denominations.
Thomas BRETT married Martha HAYLETT in Great Dunham, NFK on 8 Dec 1823 in the Church of England (COE) parish church. They lived in Swaffham, Thomas' home town, and had 7 children baptized in the COE parish church: Sarah (1824), Rachel (1826), Hannah (1829), Susan (1832), Thomas (1835), Eliza (1837), and James (1839). Martha HAYLETT BRETT died in 1850, and her burial is recorded in the COE register. The three eldest daughters married in the COE church in Swaffham. 

James’ birth, Martha’s death and the three girls weddings happened after 1837 when civil registration began so the fact that the events are recorded in the COE registers may be evidence that they were faithful COE members at those times. According to the 1851 Religious Census, there were non-conformist groups in the parish, if they had an inclination to participate.
On the other hand, between 1754 and 1837 all marriages had to occur in the COE to be recognized. This would include Thomas BRETT’s marriage to Martha HAYLETT in 1823. The COE was reluctant to marry people who had not been baptized in the church. The daughters may have been baptized in the COE to avoid future problems.

Then Susan BRETT married Allen GRIFFIN on 5 Mar 1854 at the Particular Baptist Chapel in Swaffham, the first documented evidence that I have found that anyone in the family had non-conformist tendencies. This couple emigrated to Australia in 1855, declaring themselves as Baptists on the ship’s manifest. However, the baptisms of their many children are recorded in the Wesleyan and two Anglican churches. The ministers at Susan and Allen’s funerals were listed as Wesleyan and Methodist respectively.
Who were the Particular Baptists: Baptists are set apart from other protestant groups because they believe in adult baptism by immersion. An Englishman founded this religion while in the Netherlands. One of his followers came back to London and established the first Baptist chapel there in 1612. About twenty years later, there was a split – one group was called the General Baptists and the other the Particular Baptists. The latter sect put a greater emphasis on predestination.

By 1851, the Particular Baptist Chapel in Swaffham, NFK was on White Cross Lane in its own separate building. Founded in 1823, it had Sunday Schools in two other locations.

Thomas Sr., Thomas Jr., Eliza, James, Hannah and her husband, John PARSONS, and her children arrived in the United States in 1854. Thomas Sr. died in upstate New York on 11 March 1875. The funeral was held two days later at the Universalist Church at North Ridge, Niagara, NY, and he was buried in a community cemetery behind the church, a second incidence of non-conformity.
It is in the lives of Thomas’ children, especially his five daughters that the religious diversity is further illustrated. His oldest daughter, Sarah BRETT, is the one exception. She married William BLYTH or BLIGH in Swaffham, remained in Ashill, Norfolk, England, and seemed to record events in the Church of England records throughout her life. Her first husband’s burial and her remarriage were recorded in the parish register also.

Note: This family’s immigration and religious beliefs are the subject of two future blog posts.
  ©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Happy about Past and Upcoming Opportunities

Happy Thanksgiving!

-I am thankful for my fledgling ‘career’ in genealogy, especially that I can write this weekly blog, mostly without stress to meet my self-imposed deadline.
-I was pleased with my Beginning Genealogy class at the Lifelong Learning Academy in Sarasota, Florida. Eight weeks gave most people time to meet their initial goal.

-Several groups in Florida took a chance on a relatively new speaker. Thank you to the Englewood and Sarasota genealogy groups for their faith and attention. I think they know a little more about reading a deed now.
-I enjoyed meeting my sister in Cincinnati for the NGS conference, May 9 – 12. We had a good time and loved Fountain Square and the Underground RR Museum. By a stroke of luck, I was selected to be an official blogger for the event. I found it really hard to write with a such tight deadlines and when exhausted. I need the gift of stamina soon.

Hot News for 2013 (1)
Ohio Genealogy Society – Annual Conference

Expanding Your Ancestry Through Technology
25-27 April 2013, Millennium Hotel, Cincinnati

I will speak twice on Saturday afternoon: Accessing Land Records Online, Deeds: An Insider’s View.

Hot News for 2013 (2)

The Lifelong Learning Academy, Sarasota, Florida – Intermediate Genealogy: Researching Abroad

Beginning the week of January 7 for eight weeks - $75 plus a parking pass www.thelifelonglearningacademy.com

                        From the soon to be published catalog:
You are ready to search for your ancestors abroad, if you have previously taken a beginning genealogy course and have conducted extensive research with records here in North America. We will develop a research plan and strategies to find your ancestors so come to the first class with a person’s name and village of origin in a European country.

If you will be in the area, please consider taking this course. Most genealogists learn about advanced topics by attending society meetings, reading and researching on their own. Here is a rare chance to interact with others on your level in a supportive atmosphere.
Hot News for 2013 (3)

South Bay Genealogical Society, Sun City, Florida
Tuesday, 19 Mar 2013

"Basic English Research"

Meetings at the South Shore Regional Library and the year’s programs are listed on the website.
Hope you can make it to one of my talks or classes.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: National Burial Index

Yet another source of death/burial information is the National Burial Index (NBI) for England and Wales. This project of the Federation of Family History Societies is a finding aid to over 18.4 million burial records taken from Anglican parish, non-conformist, Quaker, Roman Catholic and cemetery burial registers that are held by local repositories, family history societies and groups. For an overview of the content, the process used to create the NBI and the area of coverage, consult www.ffgs.org.uk/projects/nbi/nbi-overview.php.

The project started in 1994 and published its first 5 million+ results in 2001. “The majority of the records cover the period from 1813 - 1850 but the index does extend significantly in both directions from these dates.”

The latest edition, the 3rd, is available on CD from FFHS or is online as part of the Parish Records Collection 1538-2005 at www.FindMyPast.co.uk.  Find My Past is a subscription site that also has a pay per view plan. Considering the high postage costs you might incur ordering the CDs, Find My Past may make sense. You can purchase the CDs from the National Archives online bookshop. They were recently offered at the sale price of £25.
Another relevant website is www.findmypast.co.uk/content/ffgs/nbi. Besides a description of NBI, there is much information about burial practices among the religions of the UK. The section begins with the intriguing statement, “There are traditionally three types of Christians in England.” It then goes on to talk about the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and Non-Conformists. It ends with a paragraph or two about Non-denominational and Atheist Burials.

I know I have faithful readers who may think that over the summer I have said most of what there is to say about non-conformity in the UK. Do NOT believe it! Please go to this website and enjoy!
©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Burial Grounds for Non-Conformists

I have written about cemeteries as I have given details about non-conformist movements, the Quakers and the Jews, during the summer and fall. To summarize, all towns had a cemetery controlled and paid for by the Church of England (COE) with local taxes, and other denominations owned their own burial grounds. In the U.S., we would call all of these ‘private’ cemeteries and be baffled that the government paid for those owned by the COE. Are there any places in the UK that correspond to our ‘public’ cemeteries where anyone can be burial no matter what their faith or lack thereof? Yes!

Thanks to the September 2012 Norfolk Ancestor, I know that the first non-denominational cemetery in the UK was in Norwich, the seat of the county. The Norwich subgroup of the Norfolk Family History Society took a tour of it last June.
The Rosary Cemetery was originally a five acre market garden, and then it was purchased by Thomas Drummond, a retired Unitarian minister. The first burial took place in 1821, and it was not wildly popular. However, gradually more people began using it so that by 1900 about 18,000 burials had taken place. Later, an additional five acres plot was added. It is located on Rosary Road in the eastern area of the city, off Yarmouth Road. The cemetery was operated by a private board of trustees until 1954, when it was purchased by the city.  

A website to learn more about its history and burial customs generally is found at: www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/social-innovation/rosary-cemetery.htm. Topics of general interest include: body snatchers, water contamination and high death rate. In a section called ‘Restrictions on Dissenters,’ there is a nice summary of how difficult burials were for those not affiliated with the COE.
©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Deceased Online

Happy Halloween! What better day to talk about www.deceasedonline.com, a UK website specializing in cemetery and burial records.  
As you might guess, I write my blog posts ahead in case something comes up or I’m scheduled to be out of town so I am writing what you are reading on Friday, 12 Oct 2012. Today, Dick Eastman (www.eogn.com), premier gen blogger, notes that Deceased Online has added new records for the Greenwich Cemetery, down river from London.

Some of the following information is from a Deceased Online news release. The addition completes this cemetery which has about 93,000 records covering 1856-2000. Many people buried here were associated with the military.

Other details about Greenwich Cemetery and the others covered by the site are available at the ‘database coverage’ area of
www.deceasedonline.com. You need to click on the lower right side of the home page. A list of records will appear, listed by the date they were added to the database. That is good for former or regular users of the site who just want to know what’s new. There is a drop down menu that lets you choose to see the list ‘By Name,’ that is alphabetically.

If you have ancestors in Greenwich, home of Greenwich Mean Time, you are lucky. Your chances of finding their burial information at this site is better than average because four of the five cemeteries and a crematorium are here with a total of over 400,000 records. They are anticipating that the fifth cemetery will go online soon. 

At this point in my posts I often go into detail about using a site, but I am going to refer you to the official Deceased Online blog at
http://deceasedonlineblog.blogspot.co.uk. When I first went to the site, the newest post was titled, ‘How to Find Your Ancestors in the Deceased Online Database.’ Just scroll down a little, if there are newer posts in the past two weeks. Please read this information and I will not reinvent the wheel. 

I will highlight these facts: you must register for the site but that is free; full details are not always free, and you will find a chart for buying credits, as is common on UK sites. I did a search for a fictitious Angus MacDonald and 45 possibilities appeared with burial dates, birth dates and cemetery names.

Note: I do have travel plans but hope not to disrupt my posts.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Jewish Records – Part Two

Luckily a place to start looking for online UK Jewish Records is the same site you have been using for your North American research. The massive site called jewishgen provides two ways to get to the same search screen to do a name search for an ancestor.  The first, www.jewishgen.org/database/uk, opens a screen whose heading says JCR-UK (Jewish Community Records-UK). Below are two data lists; one headed Jewishgen UK Data Base and the other called Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain.  From this page you can enter a name to search in all the databases listed.  The combined databases contain more than 220,000 records referring to individuals in the United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and Gibraltar, as well as the Republic of Ireland.” (Source: www.jewishgen.org, accessed 10 Oct 2012.) The second way to get to this search screen is www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk. You are first taken to a home screen and need to click ‘search the database.’

Other parts of jewishgen are its family finder (JGFF) and Family Tree of the Jewish People which can be found at www.jewishgen.org/jgff and www.jewishgen.org/gedcom respectively. Family Finder is a list of surnames and towns around the world being researched by almost 50,000 genealogists. You can search for someone else’s research on your family or add your research to the Family Tree portion of the site. 
The International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies is heading up a cemetery project which has over 400,000 names in 22,000 cemeteries worldwide that you can find at www.iajgsjewishcemeteryproject.org.

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain offers other services besides their databases on jewishgen. Their home site is www.jgsgb.org where you will find membership information, regional Jewish genealogy groups to consult and publications to order. Their journal is called Shemot.
There is a site that specializes in UK Ashkenazi records, www.synagoguescribes.com.  “Synagogue Scribes offers a unique and fully searchable database of London Ashkenazi Synagogue records, with the emphasis on pre UK civil registration, which began on 1st July 1837.”

The Jewish Chronicle published since the 1840s has back issues at www.thejc.com. It has all the usual genealogical content: births, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, and obituaries. On the home page scroll down, until you find ‘our 170-year archive’ near the right side. Unfortunately, you can search once free and then you must subscribe to the print version. Since postal costs usually make me wary of subscribing to UK publications, you may want to explore this option more than I did. Perhaps they would be willing to give you access without mailing paper copies of the present day newspaper to you, saving you the postage costs.
©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Jewish Records-Part One

Every year, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) sponsors a Jewish Genealogy Month which takes place during the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (17th October to 14th November 2012). It is probably not a coincidence that the Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain will hold its annual conference on Saturday, 28 October 2012, at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Maida Vale, London. Clearly, it is the perfect time to talk about UK Jewish records.

The history of the Jewish people in the UK is long, complicated and at times, not very pretty. The records available today are affected by the community’s history. The first Jews came at the invitation of William, the Conqueror, who needed their financial expertise, but the Church put restrictions on their ability to earn a living in other ways, such as trade and agriculture. They were Sephardic Jews, who are from Spain, Portugal and other places in the Mediterranean area. Jews were expelled from England in 1290.
In the 1650s, Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to return, and a small group of Sephardic Jews were allowed to lease a building for a synagogue and land for a cemetery in London. The congregation still exists and will host the annual conference mentioned above. A fascinating history of the Spanish and Portuguese community is found at www.sandp.org/history.html. For this group, records are written in Portuguese from 1657 to 1819 and then in English. The oldest, 1657 records are for burials.

Ashkenazi Jews from northern Europe spoke Yiddish and began arriving in the 17th century. There was some friction between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi who opened their first synagogue on Duke Street, London in 1690. Generally, they were poor but reasonably well educated when they arrived.  After 1880, new Ashkenazi immigrants settled in the east end of London and were the driving force in the clothing industry. Jews were in trade and established retail stores in many UK cities, not just London.
The records of the Ashkenazi community are usually handwritten in Hebrew using a person’s Hebrew name. Further complicating matters is the fact that the earlier arrivals were still using patronymic names, such as Rachel bat Ezra. However the records are ‘modern’ enough to make searching worth the effort.

North Americans are probably surprised to note the Sephardic community still intact today in the UK. We have an overwhelming number of Ashkenazi Jews on this side of the Atlantic. Now the Ashkenazim are the majority group in the UK as well.
©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: British History Online

The new-to-me site with lots of background information is British History Online at www.british-history.ac.uk, which describes itself as a “digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.” It is a collaboration between the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London and the History of Parliament Trust so it can boast that it has as a primary resource, “the texts of original documents, such as the Journals of the Houses of Commons and Lords, Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, and the Statutes of the Realm. “ This site was mentioned in 26 Sept post because it has digitized the Victoria County History and is strong in maps, gazetteers and dictionaries.

On the left side of the homepage, there are two lists so you can search by top sources and by region. The five top sources listed are - Local history, Historical geography, Urban & metropolitan, Parliamentary, and Ecclesiastical & religious. If you are like me, the location of counties are in England is a bit of a mystery to me. I know that Norfolk is one of the four counties included in the region known as East Anglia.  Therefore, I click on ‘East’ to find a list of resources from the four counties I expected plus Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
The chart below comes from the website. Its strength is that a modern day Brit has divided the UK as he/she was taught in school so we see regions as a native would see regions. Its weakness is that the modern slang for the county names will challenge some of us.

East - The historic counties of Beds, Cambs, Essex, Herts, Hunts, Norfolk and Suffolk
London - The area now covered by the 32 London boroughs. Includes the historic county of Middlesex, and parts of Surrey, Essex and Kent

Midlands - The historic counties of Derbys, Hereford, Leics, Lincs, Northants, Notts, Rutland, Salop, Staffs, Warks and Worcs
North - The historic counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancs, Northumberland, Westmorland and Yorks

Scotland - The 32 historic counties of Scotland.
South East - Includes the historic counties of Berks, Bucks, Hants, Kent, Oxfords, Surrey and Sussex. Parts of Surrey and Kent are included in the London region

South West - The historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucs, Somerset and Wilts
Wales - The 13 historic counties of Wales.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: News from the FFHS

About a year ago (14 November 2011), I described the website of the Federation of Family History Societies at www.ffhs.org.uk.  That day I subscribed to the FFHS news feed which sends information from their 160 member societies about closings, new hours, and new addresses. What a great way to be in the know especially if you are going on a research trip to the UK. (Note that Scotland has its own Scottish Federation of Family History Societies at www.safhs.org.uk.)

I didn’t know how helpful this would be for travelers until I read a few of their email blasts. I quote below from just this week’s list of closures:

Pembrokeshire Record Office Move

The public search room is no longer available to visitors. 

The Pembrokeshire Record Office is on track to move in to its new home on the former site of Prendergast Junior School in Haverfordwest at the end of this year.

Work preparing for the move has been going on for several months in the background at the Record Office - based in Haverfordwest Castle - while maintaining a public service for historical research. ..

To facilitate the move it will be necessary to close the public search room to visitors temporarily from the early autumn.

It will be ready to open again to the public at the new site early in 2013….

During closure the office will respond to written and telephone enquiries in line with the County Council's policy on dealing with external communications. Any questions concerning the service and, in particular, the temporary closure of the public search room may be directed to:

The Pembrokeshire Record Office,
The Castle,
SA61 2EF.

Tel. 01437 763707; fax 01437 768539; E-mail record.office@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

Gwynedd Archives Service, Caernarfon Record Office, Caernarfon
will be closed from the 8th to the 15th October. Reopens Tuesday 16th.

Anglesey Archives, Llangefni will be closed for annual stocktake from Monday November 5 - Friday November 9, inclusive. The service will reopen as normal on Monday November 12, 2012.

Perhaps the most important news did not fall in the above category but dealt with changes to the National Archives website:
From this week, Discovery, our new catalogue, will become the primary way to search our collections.

We have now added more browse functionality to Discovery, which means that users can browse our collection by hierarchy or by reference, as requested by many of our users. For a more detailed explanation of using Discovery to browse our collection, read our
frequently asked questions.

We want to gather feedback on the new browse feature over the next couple of weeks before we decide when we can switch off the old Catalogue. We want to make sure it's as useful as it can be, so please try it out and let us know what you think - you can browse from any page of Discovery, including search results and descriptions. Please send your feedback to discovery@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk.

We will be switching off DocumentsOnline this weekend [29-30 September 2012], along with three other features on our website that have now been replaced by Discovery: Your Archives, Equity Pleadings Database and Person Search. We've integrated the digital document delivery service provided by DocumentsOnline into Discovery, making it easier for users to search our records and download digital copies (where available), all in one place. Discovery also features an image viewer, which means that users can see a low-resolution version of a document before paying to download it.
To get this news directly, go to www.ffha.org.uk and click the button on the right, second from the top. The first button allows you to subscribe to the FFHS Ezine which comes every two months. Older editions of the magazine can be read on the site.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Websites for Village Histories

Finding the village or city name for your ancestors is critical to UK research. Once you have the place name, you can look at historical maps for research and contemporary maps for travel. Two of the more obvious places are www.maps.google.com and www.maps.familysearch.org. The latter covers England only and was described in an earlier post.  www.genuki.org.uk has maps of the UK with links to county pages that have further links to maps and other information.

Recently, I found www.visionofbritain.org.uk, a free site, with information from the Imperial Gazetteer containing maps and short histories of places in England.  On the site’s home page, there is a box labeled “Find A Place” in the upper left corner.  Enter the name of the village or its post code, and click the ‘search’ button. You will now have a historical map and the description from the Imperial Gazetteer.  I tried Swaffham, Norfolk and Milton Keynes, Bucks with good results.
Wilson, John Marius. Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales. Edinburgh: A Fullarton & Co., 1870-72.

There is a list on the left side of the screen with ‘Location’ highlighted and five more choices for you to explore about this village – Historical Places and Writing; Historical Photographs; Units and Statistics; Related Websites; and Place Names. When I clicked on ‘Related Websites’, I found a link to Victoria County History, an encyclopedia of county histories begun in 1899 and dedicated to Queen Victoria. ”It records England's places and people from earliest times to the present day. Based at the University of London since 1932, the VCH is written by historians working in counties across England.” From the Milton Keynes search results, a click on the VCH link will take you to a site titled ‘British History Online’:
'Parishes : Milton Keynes', A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4 (1927), pp. 401-405. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=62605 (This site will take a whole post to describe. Stay tuned.)
©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Scotland’s People Website

ScotlandsPeople is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month. It is a huge site with over 90 million digital records and images. Even as the staff takes a moment to savor its longevity, there are plans to post records of wills from 1902 to 1925. Congratulations!

I have one Scotsman in my family tree, Andrew Bruce Stewart. If I could find his parents and birthplace I would be one happy genealogist.  ScotlandsPeople is the best website for me to begin my search. Its URL is www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. Since it is a pay site, The first things I want to know are what is available without paying and how much it will cost to search for my GGgrandfather.

First, I need to log in at the top right of the home page – no payment required. Just under the log in area are five tabs – search the records, about the records, help and resources, FAQs, and features. I click on the ‘about the records’ tab and select ‘records availability’ from the dropdown menu. There is a chart of what indexes and images are available on the website. There are few that are free, but don’t be upset.
ScotlandsPeople is notable because it has indexes and images of most of its records. It has the censuses from 1841–1911. Civil Registration began in 1855, and the site has indexes for birth, marriages and deaths (BMDs) from that date to 2009, which are called the Statutory Registers. Because of privacy laws, the actual images can be viewed as follows: births, 1855-1911; marriages, 1855-1936; deaths, 1855-1961. ScotlandsPeople has indexed records of Church of Scotland, called Old Parish Registers and some catholic church registers beginning in 1553 to 1854. The site has a Valuation Roll from 1915. A segment is called ‘Free Search Records’ and includes wills dating from 1513 to 1901 and coats of arms.

What is Free?
Like many sites, information about the databases, directions for using the site and general genealogy tutorials are free. I found a few interesting things.

There is detailed information about each record group held so click on the “Search the Records” tab and then ‘Old Parish Records’. There you will find a description of the records of the established church, the Church of Scotland. In the 3500 registers that have been deposited are the BMD records, baptisms, banns and burials before 1855. However, “Registration in Church of Scotland's registers was costly and unpopular, so many people did not bother to register events at all.” In the early 19th century, it was estimated that only 30 percent of the events in urban areas were recorded.
Under the tab ‘Help and Resources’, c lick ‘Getting Started.’ Near the bottom, you will see links to two topics I have posted about before. One is the Scottish Association of Family History Societies at www.safhs.org. It has a list of all the local societies around the country so you can contact or join the one that could be most helpful to you.

The last sentence on the screen states, ‘Handwriting help is available here.’  By clicking on the word ‘here’ you will be taken to a screen titled ‘Handwriting Help’ which is somewhat misnamed because it contains two links, only one about handwriting and the other vocabulary. The first link is to the Dictionary of the Scots Language (Dictionar o the Scots Leid) at www.dsl.ac.uk/dsl/index.html.  The following from their website:
“The Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) comprises electronic editions of the two major historical dictionaries of the Scots language: the 12-volume Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) and the 10-volume Scottish National Dictionary (SND). DOST contains information about Scots words in use from the twelfth to the end of the seventeenth centuries (Older Scots); and SND contains information about Scots words in use from 1700 to the 1970s (modern Scots). Together these 22 volumes provide a comprehensive history of Scots, and a New Supplement now (2005) brings the record of the language up to date. These are therefore essential research tools for… historical or literary scholars whose sources are written in Scots…”

The second link is to www.scottishhandwriting.com. There is a one-hour basic tutorial along with three more specific ones in the category ‘tutorial’ in the list on the left of the home screen. Before leaving the main page, you might want to click on ‘this week’s poser’. The one for 5 Sep 2012 is a baptism certificate from Edinburgh which is quite challenging.
What is the cost?

The site runs on credits. You buy credits with your credit card, and when they are used up, you buy more.  The charges are detailed under the ‘About Our Records’ tab; click ‘charges.’
For seven Great Britain pounds (7 GBP), you receive 30 page credits that are good for one year. The Statutory Records, Old Parish Records, Catholic Records and Censuses cost one page credit for an index page with 25 results and five page credits for an actual image. The description of the process of charging for viewing an index page sounds complicated to me, but I haven’t used it yet.  I quote from the Scotlandspeople website:

·         Charges for index-searching are based on the number of pages actually displayed, not on the number of records retrieved.
·         Each time you do a search, you are told how many records have been found; each record refers to a specific event, ie a particular birth/baptism, marriage or death.

·         Before displaying the records, you have the opportunity to re-define, and narrow the search, without displaying the results.

·         If you decide to view these records, they are displayed in pages each containing a maximum of 25 records. One page of results costs 1 credit.

It is free to view the index to wills and coats of arms. Images of wills can be purchased with 10 credits no matter the length. A coat of arms image is 10 GBP per document.
ScotlandsPeople Centre
General Register House
2 Princes Street

A companion website answers questions for those who want to visit the Centre in Edinburgh: www.scotlandspeoplehub.gov.uk
I am going to spend time looking for Andrew Bruce Stewart now. If I find him or have insights on  using ScotlandsPeople, you will hear from me soon.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well