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, 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.