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, April 24, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Catholic Records

Continuing a thread of posts started last summer about non-Anglican church records, let’s look at Roman Catholic records in the UK. A good place to begin is the National Archives for a quick tutorial: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/catholics.htm

Dr. Penelope Christensen reminds us that most people with British ancestry have Catholics in their family tree before Henry the VIII’s split with the Church of Rome in the 1530’s. “There was little or no tolerance for the Roman Catholic religion in England between 1558 and 1829…” (Page 127) Statutes passed by parliament at that time are referred to as ‘penal laws.’

There are several groups trying to make pre-1837 Catholic records accessible. One website will lead you to most of them: www.catholic-history.org.uk/index.php. From this very humble home page, there are nine buttons to click across the top. Beginning with the first on the left, ‘cas’, click to link to the site of the Catholic Archives Society, www.catholicarchivesociety.org . This group promotes preservation of documents and trains archivists who do the day to day work. They do not have a collection of documents for genealogists.
The next link is to the CFHS (Catholic Family History Society) that accepts memberships from people who are researching their English and Irish ancestors in England, Scotland and Wales, www.catholic-history.org.uk/cfhs/index.htm . They publish a journal called the Catholic Ancestor, once known as the ECA Journal. The titles of the journal articles since 1983 are listed at the site. The bookshop has books and CD-ROMs available from transcription projects in London, Manchester and Lancashire.

The third link is to the Catholic Records Society, www.catholicrecordsociety.co.uk that according to its web site is “the premier Catholic historical society in the United Kingdom and is devoted to the study of Roman Catholicism in the British Isles from the Reformation period to the present day.” Since 1904, it has been producing transcriptions of records. The National Archives web site notes that “the majority of Catholic registers remain in the custody of parish priests, although a number have been transcribed and indexed by the Catholic Record Society.” (See above.)

The fourth link is to Benedictine history, www.plantata.org.uk. There is a searchable list of monks and nuns of the order.

The five links on the right connect with regional Catholic history societies with journals and publications, and dues in the £10 per year range. Note they are not ‘family’ history societies.
Last but not least, a resource you may want to check is the Catholic National Library www.catholic-library.org.uk which has most of the transcripts from the Catholic Record Society in its 70,000 volume collection. The Library is located at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire and is open three days each week.

Source: Christensen, Dr. Penelope. Researching English Non-Anglican Records. Toronto, Canada: Heritage Productions 2003.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: How Catholicism Survived the Penal Laws

There was great political and social, really personal , upheaval when Henry VIII decided to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the pope did not give his permission. After long negotiations and threats, Henry declared himself head of the church in England. The king’s decision affected his realm well into the nineteenth century.

Not all of the aristocrats, much less the people, were one hundred percent convinced that this was a good idea so Henry imposed a series of laws that outlawed Roman Catholic worship in the realm. Catholics could not attend university, own land or serve in Parliament.
How did Catholicism survive?

-After decreasing to only one percent of the population in the mid-1700s, the numbers of Catholics began to climb with the immigration of Irish and Italian craftsmen and workers. It is estimated that in 1780, there were 80,000 Catholics in the country.
-Sons were often brought up in COE to preserve their rights of inheritance, while daughters were schooled at home in the Catholic way. A husband might attend COE services without his wife and children.

-Catholic families of means sent their sons abroad to train as priests, although that was illegal. They returned to England and ministered to congregations in small, but illegal family or estate based chapels. There were few legal public chapels until after the Catholic Relief Act of 1791. See below.
-In London, each embassy of a Catholic country was allowed to have its own chapel, but their registers indicate they served a greater population.

-There were pockets of Catholicism where laws were not enforced vigorously – Lancashire and rural Yorkshire – areas about as far away from London as you can get. Certain large cities also gave some relief from oppression.
The Catholic Relief Act was passed in 1791, allowed Catholics to enter the legal profession and granted toleration for their schools and churches.  In 1829, full equality was given by the Catholic Emancipation Act.  In 1850, the Catholic Church organized into dioceses again, but it was after World War I before geographical parishes were set up.  In the intervening time, people could choose their own place of worship. This may account for your finding your family records in a variety of registers.

At the beginning of civil registration of births, deaths and marriages, the government asked for the clergy to turn in their old registers. Only a few Catholic ones were included. See next week’s blog post to find out how to get UK Catholic information.
Source: Christensen, Dr. Penelope. Researching English Non-Anglican Records. Toronto, Canada: Heritage Productions 2003.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: U.S.- Based UK Family History Societies

There are at least two UK/British Isles family history societies that are based in the U.S. that deserve some attention. The first is the British Isles Family History Society-U.S.A. and the second is the British Institute whose formal name is the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History.

British Isles Family History Society-U.S.A. www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bifhsusa

The moving force behind this Los Angeles-based group is Linda Jonas, who with Paul Milner, co-authored "A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors." Besides information about society membership, events and study groups on the website's home page, there are links to several research tools:

-Guide to British Isles Research
-Using U.S. Records to Trace Immigrant Ancestors
-Links to:
          British Isles Resources
          Irish Resources

These sections contain the best online British how-to information I have discovered. Enough said.

International Society for British Genealogy and Family History

This society's claim to fame is the British Institute, a week of classes about British genealogy held each fall in Salt Lake City. The classes meet in the morning, and the group then heads to the Family History Library for research. This year's Institute is 7-11 October and is at the Radisson Hotel, a short, easy walk from the FHL. April 8 is the first day you can register for one of the four classes offered.

Membership includes a journal and other benefits detailed on their website.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kent's Family History Societies

After writng a post about research in the Fenlands, I wondered both whether there were other regional family history societies (FHS) and whether there were societies for areas smaller than a county. It seems many of the smaller societies exist. Let's look at the county of Kent, for example.

Kent is east of London and contains such well known communities as Greenwich, Canterbury, and Dover with its white cliffs. The Thames River and the sea form the northern and eastern boundaries of the county. Present day East Sussex and London form the bounds in the southwest and northwest.

According to the website www.genuki.org.uk the North West Kent FHS and the Kent FHS cover almost all the parishes in the county. You can find out about the North West group at their web site www.nwkfhs.org.uk. The Kent FHS was founded in 1974, making it the oldest in the county. Find it at www.kfhs.org.uk. (The other source about the English FHS is www.ffhs.org.uk.)

Three other smaller groups exist in Kent:

-Besides the NW Kent Society, there is another abutting London, the Woolrich and District FHS. It covers 8 parishes listed on its homepage at www.woolrichfhs.org.uk.

-Folkstone and District FHS covers a 44 parish area in the east of the county by the sea. Reach them at www.folkfhs.org.uk.

-The Tunbridge Wells FHS is a hybrid. While it covers only a thirteen parish area, they are in two counties, seven in Kent and six in Sussex. Find the society at www.tunwells-fhs.co.uk.