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, 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.