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, 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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Research in Northern Ireland

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) has moved to the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. In an effort to revitalize the former shipbuilding area, new housing, offices and a museum about the ship called Titanic Belfast are being developed. The doomed Cunard vessel was built on one of these very docks.

Although the move was in 2011, many books and lists still give the old address while the website remains the same, www.proni.gov.uk
                    2 Titanic Boulevard, Belfast, BT3 9HQ

PRONI can help you flesh out an ancestor's life. They have church records, the 1901 census, wills, national school records, and valuation records, including the famous Griffith’s Valuation.  The church records have the baptisms, marriages and burials before 1864.
On the home page, click on the choice ‘Research Local and Family History.’ (Lower left side with photo) Then click on the highlighted words in paragraph three ‘Your Family Tree series of leaflets’. You will find a list of free pdf files on about 50 topics including ‘Latin Terminology in Roman Catholic Church Records.’ I mention this one because it has translations for Irish/English names not often found on other lists, like Cecil (Caecilius) and Winifred (Winifrida).
However, PRONI is not the place to find Indexes and BMD certificates. Records of events since 1864 are found at the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI), www.nidirect.gov.uk, 49/55 Chichester Street, Belfast, BT1 4HL. To order a birth certificate online, for example, you will need:

-full name of the child
-date and place of birth
-parents’ names, including the maiden name of the mother

-mother’s address at time of the birth

£14 plus postage
At the GRONI website home page, click on ‘Ordering Certificates’ and follow the instructions.  On the 'Ordering Certificates' main page, click on the phrase ‘Leisure, Home and Community Online’ in the right hand column. A long list should come up with links to other research sites under a subcategory ‘Family and Local History.’ One click will take you to the:

-PRONI Online Records
-PRONI ecatalogue
-National Archives (Kew)

-National Archives of Scotland

-1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland (www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search)

-World War casualties (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Military Bounty Land Records

A few posts ago, I mentioned land given as compensation for military service while describing the Homestead Act that was passed after the U.S. Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, there were bounty lands available for military service. This post will give some resources for colonial America, the Revolution, War of 1812 and the Mexican War.

Bounty land given to encourage and reward military service began as a British practice and was continued by the founding fathers who as early as 1776 had a plan for revolutionary era soldiers and sailors.

Noted genealogist, Lloyd Bockstruck, notes several other reasons for the bounty programs: to gain support for a war, to protect borders, and to encourage settlement. See his full article at www.genealogy.com/24_land.html  Bockstruck may be the leading expert on bounty land programs because he authored two books on the subject of this country's earliest veterans:

     Bounty and Donation Land Grants in Colonial America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 2007.
     Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants: Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1996.     

Genealogists need to know what records exist so looking first at a general site makes sense. You will find where bounty land applications are filed, and that both the approved and rejected ones were kept. Veterans received a warrant saying they were entitled to the land, but the warrant could be sold or assigned to another person. Many people wanted to stay in their hometown and not go to the frontier.

For a general discussion and good  links to other sites, try one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Kim Powell, at about.com. www.genealogy.about.com/od/records/p/bounty_lands.htm

Ancestry.com has some records online:

-Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application FIles
-U.S.Revolutionary War, Bounty Land Warrants Used by the U.S. Military District of Ohio and Related Papers
-U.S. War Bounty Land Warrants, 1789-1858
-War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index, 1812-1815

Here are the specifics on each early war and eligibility for bounty land:

Revolutionary War

As mentioned above, the Continental Congress in 1776 began passing a series of bills to compensate soldiers with land. They were refined until 1855. All ranks of service men were eligible, and the amount of land changed with their rank. The land was in Ohio.

General info with links is available at the family serach wiki. www.learn/wiki/en/revolutionary_war_pension_records_and_bounty_land_warrants

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Enabling legislation was passed many times between 1811 and 1855. In summary, only enlistees were eligible for 160 or 320 acres in specified areas of Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. Warrants could not be assigned. See the Winter issue of "American Ancestors" for more info on the War of 1812:

Deeben, John P. Pension and Bounty-Land Records Relating to Military Service in the War of 1812, "American Ancestors"Winter 2012, Vol.13, no. 1, Boston: NEHGS.

Mexican War (1846-1848)

Congress enacted a law in 1847 to give enlisted men only 40 or 160 acres of land or scrip to locate on any public land. Records for this war are harder to come by but can be found at NARA Record Group 15 (RG15) T317, Index to Mexican War Pension Files.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well