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 18, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Tracing Ancestors by Occupation, Part II

There are two more sets of records that can help you understand your ancestor’s trade. In the mid-1500s, it became illegal to practice in a field without an apprenticeship so much information about masters and their apprentices was created. Documents from some businesses were deposited in archives throughout the UK, and a directory of where these records are held is maintained by the National Archives.

Apprenticeship records at the National Archives are being digitized. Check them at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk. The Society of Genealogists Library in London (the largest genealogical library in the UK) also has some transcriptions: www.sog.org . You must be a member to view the online apprentice records, but you can join easily on the website.
Society of Genealogists
14 Charterhouse Buildings
Goswell Road
London EC1M 7BA

If you have a lot of tradesmen in your family, you might want to get a copy of this book:
          Raymond, Stuart. My Ancestor was an Apprentice. London: Society of Genealogists, 2010.

If you would like to research your ancestor’s company, the National Archives has an index of material held in all archives in the country at their National Register of Archives: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra. One of the tabs allows you to search by company name. When I inserted the word ‘Colman,’ I found that the Norfolk Record Office holds documents from the venerable mustard manufacturer. The other tabs let you search by:

personal name
family name
place name

This is an interesting site because when looking under personal or family names, you may find diaries which could be invaluable. In larger communities, there may be more than one brewery, for example. A place search might supply all the names of these businesses for you As would a historical directory (See the last post.).  According to the website, a place name “search will not retrieve all the records relating to a place. It will only find the archives of families, businesses and organizations based there, as well as diaries of residents and visitors who have on it in detail.” (I added the emphasis.) That seems like a lot of info to me!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Tracing Ancestors by Occupation, Part I

Genealogists quickly find that British research has distinct differences from U.S. research. One example is that the paid websites for UK research are usually ‘pay per view’ versus a subscription. Another is an emphasis on searching for an ancestor using occupational records.

What resources are available about jobs and trades? Since 1841, the British Census has asked about occupation so find your ancestor in all the censuses you can. If you do not understand the term used for his occupation or you are not sure what that job entailed, you can google it or consult one of these references:

Culling, Joyce. An Introduction to Occupations: A Preliminary List 2nd Edition. Federation of     Family History Societies, 1999. ISBN 9781860061035
Stuart, Raymond. Trades and Professions: The Family Historian’s Guide. Family History Partnership, 2011. ISBN 9781906280253

Waters, Colin. A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations. Countryside Books, ISBN 9781853066016

The first two are sold at the National Archives Online Bookshop, but the high cost of postage may be prohibitive. (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk)  Try www.amazon.com instead.

The Society of Genealogists publishes a series of books, each title beginning with the phrase, “My Ancestor was a ___________” A private company, Pen and Sword Books, have a series  whose title all begin with “Tracing Your _______Ancestors.” I would consult either the National Archives or Amazon as listed above or directly at www.sog.org.uk or www.pen-and-sword.co.uk.

Here are examples from both series:
            “My Ancestors Were Watermen”
            “My Ancestor Was a Merchant Seaman”
            “Tracing Your Railway Ancestors”
You will probably wonder whether your ancestor was the only person in his trade in the parish where he lived. You can consult historical directories of the era which are the equivalent of a U.S. city directory.  Read more about them in my blog post on 9 Jan 2013. The website www.historicaldirectores.org  is changing and was having technical difficulties in mid-November, as I write this post. Generally, the entry for the parish describes it and lists the gentry, professionals and tradesmen living there.

 Next post:
            Finding and using apprenticeship records
            The National Archives – National Register of Archives

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: 10 Dates In History of Non-conformity

In 2012, I wrote several blogs about my family and their religious beliefs. Although I could find their life events from the early 1700s to the 1850s recorded in the local parish registers, they became members of non-Church of England sects when the emigrated. I am still interested in non-conformists as the Brits call those who are not members of the Church of England (COE).

I found a new UK genealogy magazine at Barnes and Noble, called “Discover Your Ancestors". It is really an annual publication of TheGenealogist.co.uk. The good article that caught my eye was by Luke Mouland, a Dorset-based genealogist. In “Preaching to the People,” Mouland puts the relationship of the non-anglicans to the state-run church into historical context.
For example in 1662, the Act of Uniformity was passed calling for all ministers to be ordained in the COE. Over 2000 Puritan ministers broke away. The government wanted to discourage any further dissent and imposed fines on anyone worshiping anywhere other than a parish church so the 1670 Conventicles Act was enacted. (Mouland defines a conventicle as “any religious assembly outside the Church of England.”) The people who attended these services were fined between five and ten shillings. A much greater fine of 20 or 40 shillings was levied on a person who allowed their home to be used for a service.

Mouland’s article is accompanied by a timeline with ten important dates from the time of Henry the eighth’s founding of the COE and 1902 when some form of equality of religions was agreed to in the country.

1662 – Act of Uniformity required ordination of clergy within the COE and 2000 minsters left the church, mostly to become Puritans. Laws to punish non-conformists were enacted.
1672 – Declaration of Indulgence – an attempt by Charles II to give religious freedom to dissenters.

1689 – Toleration Act – religious freedom given to those willing to take oaths of allegiance.
1714 – Schism Act – People must be a member of the COE if they wanted to found a public or private school or act as a tutor.

1753 – Marriage Act – marriages must be performed according to the rites of the Church of England. See 1836.
1812 – Relief Act – repealed most of the 1670 Conventicle Act and generally made concessions on dissenters’ places of worship

1828 – Prohibitions against holding political offices by non-Anglicans were removed.
1836 – Marriage Act – changed 1753 law and non-Anglican churches were given the right to marry people; civil marriage allowed.

1868 – Abolished payment of church rates for non-members.
1902 - Education Act – parochial schools integrated into the government school system and begin to be supported by taxes.

None of the equality of religion we know in this country came easily in Britain. For example, in the early 19th century, three acts gave different rights to three separate religious groups: 1813, the Unitarian Relief Act; 1818, the Wesleyan Methodist Metropolitan Registry Act; and 1829, the Catholic Emancipation Act. I recommend consulting a lot of experts, if you need to search in the early records of any non-conformist religion.

Mouland, Luke. Discover Your Ancestor, Issue No. 2, “Preaching to the People” Tring, Herts: Discovery Media Group, 2013.
Christensen, Dr. Penelope. Researching Non-Anglican Records. Toronto: Heritage Productions, 2003.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Pub Research

When I mention ‘publican’ and you think of St. Matthew in the Bible, you may not have spent enough time in British pubs. There the owner of the license or the keeper is called a publican.

If these beloved British institutions are part of your family story, there are many, many places you can turn to online to learn about the history of public houses. One is the ever-present Wikipedia…I never ban it for my students because it gives them an overview and a bibliography: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pub
Now try these more specific sites:

www.sfowler.force9.co.uk/page_12.htm - a comprehensive page with links to other resources on this website by Simon Fowler. The page has not been updated recently and some of the external links are broken. Nevertheless, he wrote a book in 2009, Researching Brewery and Publican Ancestors (ISBN: 1860061745 / 1-86006-174-5) (Try www.abebooks.com for a good price used.)
I also recommend this site despite the issues I raised because Fowler was an archivist at the Public Record Office for twenty years. After receiving a PhD, he edited the former Family History Monthly, before returning to the National Archives from 2004 -2010 to edit their Ancestors Magazine, now not published either. He is an expert on pubs, breweries, workhouses and the role charities played at the time of WWI. Fowler is a long established writer on family and local history. Check his other publications out on www.amazon.co. From his websites…

www.pubs.com/history.htm - lengthy, comprehensive article. Across the top, you may want to click on the ‘Pub Heritage” tab and choose from its dropdown menu for further information about signs, etiquette or games.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Census Changes Discussed

After a census, every country takes some time to assess how things went and how they can improve. The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) is exploring options to change the census in England and Wales through a program called ‘Beyond 2011’. I like to think of myself as progressive and a bit of a risk taker, but proposed changes to documents so at the heart of genealogy are unnerving.

ONS research has resulted in the view that there are two possible approaches to census-taking in the future. In late September, a public comment period was started to gauge reactions to these proposals:

·        a census once a decade - similar to the 2011 Census but primarily online; or
·        a census using existing administrative data and compulsory annual surveys.

“Both approaches would provide annual statistics about the size of the population, nationally and for local authorities, as we do currently. A census using existing data and annual surveys would provide statistics about population characteristics every year. An online census would provide more detailed statistics but only once a decade.” (ONS)

Various users will have different views on the approaches, depending on how they use the data, and ONS welcome input from anyone. They will accept comments until 13th December 2013. You can find the consultation documents and a link to the online questionnaire
If you look through the documents, especially supplement C2 –Summary of Uses of Census Information, you will see a nicely written and accurate summary of how genealogists use the censuses already in the public domain. However, I don’t find the sentence that says they will continue releasing the censuses through 2111 all that comforting. ONS seems to think I should not worry about the genealogy community one hundred years from now, but I do.

Please contact ONS at beyond2011@ons.gov.uk if you have any questions, comments or wish to discuss further.
Thanks to FFHS for forwarding the original release from ONS.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Land Description by Map Reference

Of the essential clauses in a deed, the land description is the most unfamiliar to the average genealogist. I explained the metes and bounds system of land measurement in a blog posted 13 Oct 2011, and I described the Government Survey System in two posts, 15 and 22 Aug 2012. The first system is used in the state land states; the thirteen original colonies and Maine, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas and Hawaii. The other 30 states are called federal land states.

A third system that is used in both state and federal land states refers to a lot number on a plan for a subdivision. Depending where you live in the U.S., it might be called the recorded plat, recorded map, recorded survey or the lot-block-tract system. Briefly, a map of a large tract of land has been surveyed into smaller lots, the subdivision named and the new lots numbered. Then the resulting map is recorded at a county land records office. From that time, a legal description of one of the small lots can just refer to the number on the recorded map.
You might think this seems like a modern suburban subdivision which it is.  If you think that you would not be able to find an older deed that uses this method to describe land, you would be wrong.  I have found a deed from 1843 in Massachusetts and 1850s Pennsylvania. So be ready.

Here is an example from a turn of the 20th century Montana deed:

Necessary information:
            Name of subdivision: Seymer Park Addition, Block 17, City of Helena
            Lot Number(s): 1,2,3
            Where map recorded: Office of the Clerk and Recorder, Lewis and Clark County

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Essex Pilgrims and Adventurers

The first time I saw the trailer for the new PBS series, Last Tango in Halifax, I was on vacation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I remarked to my husband that it would be fun to watch because we might see places where we had just been. As most of you now know, the TV series takes place in Halifax, Yorkshire. Um…

Luckily, a recent find at a used book sale was easier to decipher. I quickly realized it was not about pilgrims in Essex County, Massachusetts.
      Smith, J.R. Pilgrims & Adventurers: Essex (England) and the Making of the United States of America. Chelmsford: Essex Records Office, 1992, 64 pp.

John Smith has written at least nine local history books for the Essex Records Office where he was the senior archivist in 1992. In this book, he concentrates on the contributions of Essex men in Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The book is notable because of its illustrations which include maps, drawings and paintings from the ERO collection which are impossible to find on this side of the Atlantic. There are at least a dozen photos or old engravings of parish churches, for example.
Some of the names included are John Winthrop, Thomas Hooker, George Washington, and William Pynchon, but lesser known settlers, names abound. It has an extensive index.  This is the type of book that could have a big impact on a small number of researchers and serves as a reminder that each county record office may have a similar publication. (The Norfolk Record Office has an online exhibition titled, “Norfolk’s American Connections” at www.archives.norfolk.gov.uk. )

To see if the book is still available new, contact the Essex Record Office that does not seem to have a shop on their web site.
Essex Record Office
Wharf Road, Chelmsford, UK Cm2 6yt
+44 1245 244644
www.essex.gov.uk (Click on “Libraries and Archives” at left on screen.)
email: ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Visiting a Parish Church – The Interior

A visit to the UK and some of the ancestral villages is exciting. The parish church should be near the top of the agenda. Not only did family events take place here, but there may be important genealogical clues in the monuments and memorials on the interior.

It is exciting to be there, and it is tempting, and for some of us unavoidable, to hurry through and try to see everything at once. Try to slow down, or do the run through and then start again for a slow leisurely stroll around the interior, pencil and notebook in hand. Okay, ipad or iphone in hand.
The walls and floors of even the small churches have some stone or brass tablets or monuments that can help in family research. To have such a memorial, a family would have to have considerable means, however.

If you enter by the front door, your will probably see a rack of pamphlets highlighting the history of the church building and the interesting plaques or memorials it contains. This information may be available on the parish website so you can preplan your visit.
Among the newer memorials might be ‘Rolls of Honor’ for casualties of the Boer War (1899-1902), World War I and World War II. They give the name, rank, regiment and sometimes the battle where the service man or woman died. No matter where your family fell on the economic scale of this parish, a relative’s name might be found here.

There are two types of older stone monuments – tombstone effigies and memorial tablets. Effigies or figures representing a dead person have been used in church monuments since the twelfth century, usually lying on top of a coffin or coffin shaped stone box on the church floor. The older carvings are flatter and the later ones more three dimensional.
Memorial tablets, also called wall monuments or wall tablets, are stone panels engraved with genealogical information and commemorative poems or phrases. They look like one sided tombstones embedded in the wall, and they could usually fit within a rectangular space 2-3 feet wide and 3-4 feet tall.  Having been in common use between the 16th and 19th century, their decorative style depends on when they were produced.

Last, but hardly least, are the monumental brasses. These are engraved metal plates attached to the wall or floor which shows both human figures and symbols to represent the person who has died. There may be as many as 8000 remaining in England, but many were destroyed during the English reformation and later in the time of Oliver Cromwell.
The deceased and members of his family are commonly depicted wearing the clothing and uniforms of the time period.  Others have Christian symbols or are depictions of biblical stories. They date from the thirteenth to the seventeen century.

Rubbings of these brasses have been a popular pastime, but ask permission before attempting an art project. Many parishes forbid it and have reproductions for sale as an alternative.
Friar, Stephen. The Companion to the English Parish Church. London: Chancellor Press, 2000.

Mellen, Rachael. A Practical Guide for the Genealogist in England, Second Edition. Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 1987.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: FFHS Notes from the Field

Mid-September will bring some happenings at research facilities in the UK. The Federation of Family History Societies has sent notices of these events and closings. You can get this information firsthand by subscribing to the ffhs-news at their website www.ffhs.org.uk. (It is the second link at the top right of their home page.)

Friday, 13 September 2013– Closing of Reading Room at the Royal Free (Hospital) Archive Centre, London

The Royal Free Hospital is transferring its archive collections to London Metropolitan Archives. The collections are due to become available there in early 2014. During the move, the staff will continue to answer as many enquiries as possible, subject to staff and document availability. Contact them at www.archive.enquiries@nhs.net

Saturday, 14 September 2013 - Essex Record Office, Chelmsford
75th Anniversary and Open Day, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, free admission; details at

Essex has one of the longest-established Record Offices in England. This year, it will celebrate 75 years of preserving the county’s past by holding an Open Day with various activities including behind-the-scenes tours, displays, archive films and an opportunity to ask questions at the research helpdesk.

15 September 2013 – Spring 2014 - Manchester City Library, Deansgate

The current temporary arrangements will change on 15 September, when the Manchester Room at Central Library, Elliot House, Deansgate, and the Greater Manchester County Record Office will both close. From then until Manchester Central Library re-opens there will be restricted access to their holdings. You can find more details at
www.archiveslocalstudies@manchester.gov.uk which has a fair number of online resources available.
Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society will remain open during this period.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Overseers v. Guardians of the Poor

Overseers and guardians of the poor are not interchangeable terms for people who administered the early UK poor laws. The important factor is the time period. Overseers were in charge of relief before 1834, when the new poor laws created Poor Law Unions and Boards of Guardians.

During the 1500s, the ecclesiastical parish took over local government from the manor. Parishes did their work through the local vestry (town council) and the Justice of the Peace. From 1572, the vestry appointed one or two overseers (depending on the size of the parish) for a one year term.  Because they were unpaid, these administrators were from what we would call the middle or upper classes.
The job was a complicated balancing act between deciding who needed assistance and the taxpayers’ ability and willingness to pay. Through it all, they kept good records of their work which allows us to see who paid rates and the assessment of their property values and who received assistance…how much, for how long and why.

In 1834, the philosophy of how to assist the poor changes. Workhouses become universal. Little relief is available to anyone who will not live in the workhouse. The administrators are now called guardians but their balancing act is much the same.
The LDS Family History Library and www.familysearch.org are the best places to find copies of rate and account books generated by any poor law officials.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Other Names for Paupers

Did you know that paupers were also called collectioners and bearmen/bairmen? The first of these terms is used today, that is, in books written in the late 1990s and the early 2000s about poverty in Britain. However the term bearman or bairman sent me googling with interesting results.

Googling ‘bearman’ found a host of men’s clubs and references to hirsute men. Looking for “bairman” got one hit in a glossary of ‘peculiar words’ in a book called, Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh: AD 1403 -1589. The Extracts includes an alphabetical list of names contained and a list of topics covered in the records of this period. The third and last section is the glossary which defines bairman as an insolvent debtor. This book is downloadable as a PDF from Google Books. There are options for ipads and ereaders as well.
If you are intrigued by the glossary of words from the 15th and 16th century but wish there were indexes to the records of other cities, you will be happy to find that the Extracts are a series which includes Glasgow, Leith, Stirling and others. Edinburgh is Volume 5, first published by Scottish Burgh Records Society in 1892.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Canadian Museum of Immigration/Pier 21 - O/T

With Ellis Island closed because of damage from last fall’s storm Sandy, I headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia to visit the immigration museum of our northern neighbors. Well more truthfully, I included the museum on my vacation in Atlantic Canada.

My husband was born in Calgary, Alberta so he was enthusiastic about this stop. His grandfather who arrived in Canada at Halifax in 1912 did not enter through the building at Pier 21 which houses this museum. It was not in use until 1928.  
A video of a train journey across Canada to Alberta with comments from people who had taken the trip was mentioned in some of the promotional material. In his family, that trek was taken by his parents and grandparents plus an assortment of other relatives. HOWEVER, the video has changed. Now there are four or five small booths where you can watch oral histories given by people who came in at Pier 21.  The new video was the highlight of our visit, powerfully showing the activities at the pier over its 43 years of use.

Between 1928 and 1971, Pier 21 was a landing point for more than a million immigrants arriving in Canada by ship. The brick immigration center on Pier 21 housed customs and immigration and also a nursery, hospital, dormitories, kitchen and dining hall, as well as a rail connection. There is a small model of the layout in one of the exhibits. In another exhibit, I found a picture of four ships on which members of his family arrived.
During World War II, Pier 21 also served a role for the Canadian Armed Forces as the departure and reentry point for more than half a million troops. After the war, refugees and war brides entered through this building.

Pier 21 is the only surviving immigration pier in Canada and was a historic site before being officially appointed the national Canadian Museum of Immigration in February 2011.
There is a free Scotiabank Family History Centre on the first floor of the museum. (The museum exhibits and multimedia presentation have an entrance fee.) A word about the Family History Center - there are a few computers with www.ancestry.ca. The staff seems very knowledgeable about finding passengers on ships. The person I worked with found a grandfather whose name was very misspelled, and it was fun to watch him use *** and other tricks to tease out the right record. I have to say this is probably not the place for serious research in the other areas of genealogy.

1055 Marginal Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4P6
(902) 425-7770 or toll free 1-855-526-4721

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The Royal Museums Greenwich include among others, the Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum (NMM). If you are interested in all things nautical, then the Maritime Museum will amaze you with its collections from both the merchant and royal navies.

The NMM Library, also known as the Caird Library has resources for family researchers. The website is www.rmg.co.uk/library. Before you decide to visit in person, you will want to read a few of its 78 research guides online. From the home page, click ‘researchers,’ then in the right hand column, double click on ‘The Library’ and pick ‘research guides’ from the dropdown menu. 
The number of topics listed is very comprehensive, for example, The Royal Navy, The Merchant Navy, HMS Titanic, Medals, and World War Two. Perhaps starting with guide A3: Tracing Family History from Maritime Records is most sensible. Guide E2 is, World War Two: The Dunkirk List. Let me quote from its first sentence:

"This guide provides an introduction to the official record of Operation Dynamo, the mass evacuation of British troops from France in 1940 during the Second World War, largely carried out by a fleet of 'Little Ships' that sailed from the south coast of England and the Thames Estuary."
Other titles include:

                  B1: The Royal Navy: Tracing People
                 B7: The Royal Navy: Ship Records

                 C1 & C2: The Merchant Navy: Tracing People
If you can visit in person, the Caird Library is open Monday- Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and 2:00-4:45 p.m. Admittance is free with a reader’s card that you can order online. In fact, you can use the online catalogs and have the items you want to search waiting for you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: forces-war-records.co.uk

My post a few weeks ago has inspired me to learn more about researching UK military records. A tiny item in the June 2013 issue of the Norfolk Ancestor, the journal of the Norfolk Family History Society, led me to the ‘forces war record’ site whose URL is in the title of today’s post.

Although a subscription site, there is plenty of useful free information, and the subscription rate is low at £8.95/month. You can search for a person by first name and surname and specify a war or era. Thinking about my timeline of a few weeks ago, I am happy to share this sites categories: Napoleonic, 1799-1815; Early 19th Century, 1815-1853; Crimean, 1853-1856; Victorian Conflicts, 1857-1899; Boer, 1899-1902; WWI; WWII.
Searching World War II records for the surname BRETT, I got a free list of 330 names with rank, year and the unit or ship where the person served. It was fascinating to see that the last category included people marked as “civilian war dead.” There were also names of military personnel serving in foreign units like the Royal Canadian Air Force and the South African Engineer Corp.

There are at least two ways to get to a very complete Military Genealogy Tutorial. The easiest is on the home page, click ‘search’ and then tutorials. Topics include the army, royal navy, and medals.
There is a place to click to perform a free search of medieval records so again I searched for BRETTs. Among others, I found William Le Bret, an archer in 1440. Next to his record was a lengthy explanation of the Hundred Years War. Be sure to try a medieval search because the results come up with the heading, ‘Thy search hath yielded 943 results.’ Too cute!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: PRONI Update

On 12 Sep 2012, I wrote a blog about the two main resources for Northern Irish research, GRONI and PRONI. The first is the General Register Office Northern Ireland, the place to obtain birth, marriage and death certificates. Today I’d like to update information on the second, PRONI (Public Records Office of Northern Ireland).

PRONI has a series of 2-4 page leaflets that give the basics for research in the country and can be downloaded as PDFs from their website. At the time I wrote the earlier blog post, these very helpful publications were almost hidden on the site. Now they are prominently featured.
Go to www.proni.gov.uk. Scroll down on the homepage until you find the question, “What Can I Do at PRONI? Click on the choice ‘Research Local and Family History.’ Under the photo, the first choice is ‘Browse our information leaflets.’ If you click, these are the first ten of the 28 titles in the series:

As you can see, here is comprehensive genealogy information in small bites.

Besides the ‘Family Tree Leaflet’ series, there are series for local history and another for emigration. Print some and take them to the beach!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Timeline of British Wars

I highly recommend making a timeline for each of your ancestors or for a family, usually not more than two parents and their children.  They are a great research tool – a person’s or family’s life in outline form. You can see at a glance what information is missing, and it can also serve as an outline for that book you are writing. I also think you will love timelines because they are portable when on a research trip.

Whatever your purpose, you may want to include events that happened in the outside world. What things influenced your ancestors’ decisions? Did the depression send them West looking for greater opportunity, for example?
I keep timelines of historical events that I find in books or online in a file.  I recently was looking at an old paperback I own titled, Kings and Queens of England, edited by Eric R. Delderfield.  I keep it handy when I’m watching royal movies because it has a brief bio of all the monarchs beginning with William, the Conqueror.

To my surprise, there is a list of ‘British Wars and Campaigns’ near the end. Some were given unfamiliar names so I went to Wikipedia to check names and dates. That website had a much longer list of conflicts, and the dates sometimes varied widely with the first source so you may want to do much more research, if you have anybody in the British Armed Forces. What is listed below is an amalgamation and summary of what I found for the 1700 and 1800s:

War of the Spanish Succession      1701-1714 (Queen Anne’s War)
Seven Years War                               1756-1763
American Revolution                       1775-1783
War with Revolutionary France     1793-1802
Napoleonic Wars                              1803-1815
                Peninsular War                 1808-1814
Second Anglo-Maratha War           1803-1805
War of 1812                                      1812-1814
First Anglo-Afghan War                  1839-1842
Crimean War with Russia               1854-1856
Indian Mutiny                                   1857-1858
Second Anglo-Afghan War             1878-1880
Anglo-Zulu War                                1879          
With Egypt                                        1882
Sudan Campaign                              1881-1898
First Boer War                                  1880-1882
Boxer Rebellion                                1896-1900
Second Boer War                             1899-1902

I hope this list is helpful or gets you thinking about the other world and national events that influenced your family.

Note: Sometimes very local happenings are the impetus for action, and they will not appear on a list. For example, my great grandfather was a blacksmith who worked on a bridge over the Niagara River near The Falls, according to family lore. I was able to consult several history books about The Falls to see if a bridge was being built when he was a new immigrant. When it was finished might coincide with his move to a farm in the center of Niagara County. Now I have avenues to pursue.

Delderfield, Eric R., editor. Kings and Queens of England. New York: Stein and Day 1972.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Dating Letters

Genealogists have to be history detectives too. A woman in one of my groups recently asked how to date a letter with no envelope and just the month and day noted at the top of page one. I think a little history of the U.S. Postal Service and the Royal Mail might help.

First, I would consider whether the letter ever had an envelope. In the U.S., envelopes came into use at the time of the Civil War. Until then, writers would fold the letter sheet into quarters, seal the edges with wax, and then write the address on the outside. From the many pages and the one horizontal fold, it seems an envelope would have been the only way to secure the above example so it probably dates after 1860.

Hand-made envelopes were all that were available for both commercial and domestic uses until a British patent for the first envelope-making machine was granted in 1845. However, nearly 50 years passed before a commercially successful machine appeared for effectively producing the pre-gummed envelopes we know today.

Not having envelopes made postal workers jobs easier because they could determine the number of sheets of paper used and the distance it had come quickly.  These two factors determined the postage until the advent of stamps. One piece of paper cost one price and two sheets of paper cost double the first amount. The fee for the distance the missive traveled was harder to calculate.


If a letter is folded twice with an address on the outside, it is early correspondence. You should take note if there is a stamp.  In the earliest days, postage was paid by the receiver.  Postage stamps were first used in Britain in 1840 and in the U.S. in 1847.  Before that postal workers wrote ‘paid’ on the letter.
The Royal Mail can be traced back to 1516 when Henry VIII established a "Master of the Posts". The Uniform Penny Post Law was enacted on 10 January 1840 establishing a single rate for mail delivery anywhere in Great Britain and Ireland that was pre-paid by the sender.  A few months later on 6 May, a sender could affix the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, to certify that postage had been paid on a letter.

Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General of the United States, appointed in 1775. Here are some significant dates from the Postal Service’s first one hundred years of operation:
1847 - U.S. postage stamps issued
1855 - Prepayment of postage required
1860 - Pony Express began

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Essex Police Museum

The Federation of Family History Society recently emailed a message from the Essex Police Museum. They have a large archives and a website to help people tracing their family history. The museum is open every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, although the office is staffed Monday to Friday for enquiries and group tours. Further information can be found on their website http://www.essex.police.uk/museum/

Note: This seemed like a small museum that may only help a few people, but their website is a big surprise. I recommend you spend some time reviewing its features, and I wonder if other counties have similar facilities or websites.

It is easy to look for the service records of an ancestor that you suspect might have been a policeman in Essex. I entered the surname “BRETT” and got four results. They had the full records for one person, and I could order the file for £20. The other three were considered incomplete, but here is one as an example which I think contains a fair amount of information.

145 Alfred Brett served between 1842-05-24 - 1842-07-31

Unfortunately we have no complete record of service for Alfred Brett but we do have the following information:

Date of birth: 1814

Place of birth: West Hanningfield

Occupation: Labourer

Date of death: 0000-00-00

Reason left force: Discharged - Incapacity

Copyright: the Essex Police Museum

The museum also publishes a series of booklets collectively known as ‘History Notebooks’. There are over 50 titles many of which have a person’s name included, such as ‘The Murder of Sergeant Eves’. Each one is downloadable as a pdf file at no charge.


Becky Wash, Museum Curator
Direct Dial: 01245 457 150
Essex Police Museum, PO Box 2, Headquarters, Springfield, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 6DA

Are there other police museums out there? Yes! I googled ‘police museum UK’ and got the following and a few more.

Greater Manchester Police Museum www.gmpmuseum.com
City of London Police Museum www.citypolicemuseum.org.uk
West Midlands www.westmidlandspolicemuseum.co.uk

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: First Jewish Family History Fair

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (www.jgsgb.org) has announced its First Family History Fair, being held at:

The De Vere Village Urban Resort
Elstree’s Centennial Park
7th July 2013 - 10am to 6pm.

The JGSGB is a national organization with close-to-a-thousand members. Their announcement of the event says that "as well as offering its unrivaled expertise in Jewish immigration, settlement, naming patterns and genealogy, it has access to extensive sources, including exclusive online databases" Its website will also give you membership information, regional Jewish genealogy groups to consult and publications to order. Their journal is called Shemot.
The 1st JGSGB Family History Fair is supported by ancestry.com, familysearch.org, findmypast.co.uk. myheritage.com and the London Jewish Cultural Council.

If I was going to be in London, I would attend with a smile on my face.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Heritage Productions

I’m back! It’s been awhile since I posted here, so let me tell you about the Ohio State Genealogy Conference in Cincinnati and a new resource for books and online classes for UK, US, Irish and Canadian research.
1.       The OGS Conference was great with about 700 people registered. My travel plans went without a hitch even though the air controllers were having a job action due to the Sequester.  Thus I arrived on Thursday and only missed the morning keynote speaker.

I spoke twice on Saturday about land records and had a large number each time. They applauded at the end so I must have done something right.

Next year’s OGS Conference is in the northern part state in Sandusky at a facility called the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center from April 30-May 4, 2014.

2 .      Last year at NGS, I bought a book at the Heritage Productions booth, titled Researching English Non-Anglican Ancestors by Dr. Penelope Christensen. You can see that I referred to it many times through the year as I wrote about researching religious groups in the UK who were not affiliated with the Church of England. This year in Cincinnati, I picked up another of Dr. Christensen’s books, Researching English Poor Law and Parish Chest Records.

This publisher based in Toronto, Ontario, has a huge number of books arranged into a number of series on their website www.genealogystore.com. There are over twenty titles in their General Series, which I would term the non-geographically specific books about organizing data or writing a family history.  Then there are a number of books grouped together in the American Series, the Canadian Series, the English Series, the Irish Series and the Scottish Series. Finally there are several books about research in other European countries.

Heritage Productions is an arm of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. They have online courses which you can take for pleasure or to receive a certificate for genealogy research in either Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland or the United States. Check this out at www.genealogicalstudies.com.