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 17, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: London in 1700

Waller, Maureen. 1700:  Scenes from London Life. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000.

Most of my English ancestors are from rural areas. What I know about London life I learned from Oliver Twist and Tim Cratchit.  I needed a book to fill in some details and found the one above at a used book sale. The first five chapter headings were intriguing and should catch the eye of all genealogists: marriage, childbirth, childhood, disease and death.
I am not surprised to find that the author wrote an entire book about marriage after reading the first few pages of this book’s ‘Marriage’ chapter. She points out the constraints put on marrying couples by the church, including the costs. People were put off by the reading of the banns, seeing them as an invasion of privacy. Since this practice continued into my lifetime in my childhood church, I never really gave it any thought. Waller describes the clandestine marriage mills in London where about one-third of the ceremonies in 1700 were performed, in order to avoid the church requirements.
Waller later wrote a book that used all the information she gathered about London in 1700 called Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father’s Crown. This book is about the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Mary II and Queen Anne whose reign ended in 1714.

            Other books by Maureen Waller:
The English Marriage: Tales of Love, Money and Adultery
London 1945: Life in the Debris of War
A Family in Wartime: How the Second World War Shaped the Lives of a Generation
Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father’s Crown
Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice and Power – The Six Reigning Queens of England

All of the books are available on amazon.com.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Welsh Surnames

Rowlands, John and Sheila. The Surnames of Wales. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2014. (New Edition) $39.95 www.genealogical.com

First published in 1996 and recently revised in a new edition, The Surnames of Wales has been considered the go-to guide on this subject. The publisher promises a new updated and expanded resource seeking to dispel many of the myths that surround names in Wales. It is illustrated by evidence taken from a survey involving more than 270,000 surnames found in parish records throughout the country.

There are four new chapters including a groundbreaking survey and glossary of Welsh given games, an important addition to the text because the geographical distribution of given names can provide clues to the origins of early patronymic surnames.

From the publisher: The first chapters “give a historical overview of Welsh names, dealing in particular with the patronymic naming system and the gradual adoption of surnames. The central chapters include a comprehensive survey of Welsh surnames and an all-important glossary of surnames…also show[ing] the distribution and incidence of surnames throughout Wales. The final chapters cover the distribution of surnames derived from the ‘ap’ prefix, the incidence of surnames derived from Old Testament names, and surname evidence for the presence of people of Welsh origin in populations outside Wales.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Colonial UK Immigrants

In the Spring, I wrote four blog posts that described distinct immigrant groups that settled in various parts of the original thirteen colonies. These posts were based on a book by genealogist, William Dollarhide. He felt that if you knew where your ancestor settled in the colonies, you could narrow the range of places he could have come from in the UK. My posts dates and topics are:

            26 Feb 2014 - British Origin of U.S. Colonists (New England Puritans)
            12 Mar - UK Origins of Virginia Cavaliers
            26 Mar - Quakers from the North Midlands
            9  Apr - Scottish/English Borderlands to Rural America

Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998.

-A much expanded discussion of the four group's influence on American culture can be found in the following book:

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
I found this book which uses the same four colonial groups described by Dollarhide to illustrate the history of American culture as it has changed through time. It argues that our original British folkways underlie most of our regional cultures. Oxford press states, Americans “have assimilated regional cultures which were created by British colonists, even while preserving ethnic identities at the same time.”
-This Fall I was asked to speak on a topic where a summary of the above information would be helpful so I developed this chart:

New England
East Anglia (50%)
Chesapeake Bay
West Country & London
Delaware Valley
North Midlands (67%)
Rural Areas/ Borders
English/Scottish Border + N Ireland

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Eagle Lecterns in the Church of England

Unfortunately, I recently attended a funeral at an Episcopal church in New England, and I noticed the beautiful lectern with a shiny metal eagle holding the bible on its backs with its wings spread. Being Lutheran by birth, I had not noticed a similar one until a 1997 trip to England, where all the parishes I visited in Norfolk had a similar “bookstand.” I decided to find out about the history and symbolism.

According to Stephen Friar, there are three types of lecterns in use in the Church of England. The first is a two- to four-sided revolving stand supported by a pillar. The second is a modern version of the first – a one-sided desk made in the 19th or 20th century.
The third and most often found is an eagle with outstretched wings made of wood or brass, the symbol of St. John who used the words ‘soared up into the presence of Christ’ in the New Testament books attributed to him. The bird’s open wings are functional for holding the bible or other liturgical books, but also symbolize carrying forth the word of God. Its feet are often resting on a globe or orb. Rarely, the bird might be a pelican, the mythical symbol of Christ.  

Medieval eagles are rare but Victorian Eagles are plentiful. Because of my Norfolk roots, I was happy to note that there was a fifteenth century East Anglican ‘school’ of artists who exported eagles to other parts of Britain and the continent. Here is a wooden example from St. Lawrence's Church, Biddulph, Staffordshire:
Source: Friar, Stephen. The Companion to the English Parish Church. London: Chancellor Press, 2000.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday - Genealogy in a UK Graveyard

Genealogists are interested in cemeteries, in part, because of the information on the gravestones themselves and in any written records maintained by the graveyard owner. When looking for information from an English graveyard, I think North Americans have heard many rumors before they even begin the process. They bury people one atop the other…they remove the gravestones of the first burials…and so on. What is the real story?

Visiting a UK parish church is an experience like no other. In almost all rural settings the church appears to be in the center of a cemetery. The graveyard is not confined to the space behind the building, as in North America.
In the past, all of the church ground was not considered consecrated. Until the last century, there was a common practice to bury the ‘good’ people on the south side of the church and the others on the shadowy north side. Those who took their own lives or the lives of others were buried on the unconsecrated north side, which also was used for secular activities such as games, festivals, and fairs in the 1600s and 1700s. Less charming were the cockfights also held there.

Until the eighteenth century, corpses were usually buried in a fabric shroud. As bodies decomposed, they would take less space. Because more people qualified to be on the south side, the land there may be higher than on the north side. Both facts lend some credence to the belief that more than one body was placed in what we think of as one plot, perhaps one atop the other.  Overcrowding was and is an issue.  Today more than 70 percent of those who die in the UK are cremated.
Notes: In 1667 and confirmed again in 1678, the shroud needed to be made of pure wool. The Wool Acts were intended to promote and support the wool industry. Clergy and later, the family needed to certify that the shroud was woolen or a fine would be levied. These acts were repealed in 1814.  Some parishes owned a casket for the body that was used during the service.

Gravestones became popular in the seventeenth century. The earliest in today’s churchyards often date from the eighteenth century. The stones are considered the property of the person who erected it, and defacing a stone is considered trespass. Check with the parish clergy to see if there is a map or burial records for you to read and to see what the rules and regulations are.
Many local family history societies have recorded the inscriptions on the gravestones and these are available online at the society’s website. You may need to be a member to access the records online, but the dues are usually less than £20 per year.

Source: Friar, Stephen. The Companion to the English Parish Church. London: Chancellor Press, 2000.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: 1875 Scottish Valuation Rolls

In late September, Scotland’s People announced that the Valuation Rolls for 1875 were now on their website www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. The index, covering all of Scotland, can be browsed free of charge until the 31 December 2014.

You can search by name of property owners, tenants and occupiers plus by addresses across all of Scotland from 1875 to 1915, at ten year intervals and also 1920. This search often can reveal valuable information about your ancestors between census years. “The latest addition comprises over 900,000 index entries and almost 72,000 digital images taken from 141 volumes of Valuation Rolls.”

A valuation roll which is essentially the same as an assessor’s list or a county appraiser’s list puts a value on real estate for tax purposes. At a minimum you can expect the owner’s name, the address and value placed on the property. You might find much more such as the acreage and a description of the land.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Quakers, Methodists and Irish Presbyterians

The British “Federation of Family History Societies” ezine appeared in my email box recently. It was full of help for researchers whose anccestors did not belong to the Church of England. If you are not receiving this newsletter directly, please go to the Federation website, www.ffhs.org.uk/newsletters/  and subscribe.

Below is a summary of this month’s religion-related articles about Quakers, Methodists and Irish Presbyterians:
The Quaker Family History Society - Quakers became a well-organized and influential group keeping records from the late 1650s, and it was about 50,000 strong in 1660s Britain. “The Quaker Family History Society was formed in 1993 to encourage and assist anyone interested in tracing the history of Quaker families in the British Isles. We are…open to all with a worldwide membership of around 200.” The group works with Friends House Library in London, one of the main repositories relating to Quakers and their activities.

QFHS meets three times a year, including once in London, for all day seminars. “All new members receive a starter’s information pack, and members receive the magazine ‘Quaker Connections’, three times a year with articles, queries and members’ interests. The Society also maintains a Rootsweb Mailing List QUAKER-BRITISH-ISLES.” For more information, check the website at www.qfhs.co.uk.
Early Stages of the Quaker Movement in Lancashire - If you have Quaker ancestors from Lancashire, you may be interested in the book, ‘Early Stages of the Quaker Movement in Lancashire’ written by Rev. B Nightingale, a prolific writer whose other titles include Lancashire Nonconformity. A PDF copy of the book which includes many names can be viewed or downloaded free at www.archive.org.

Museum of Methodism - The museum which is housed at Wesley’s Chapel, 49 City Rd, London, tells the history of Methodism from John Wesley to the present day and its contribution to shaping Britain’s political and social history. The building, built in 1778, is still in use today as a place of worship. John Wesley’s house stands next to the chapel. For further information, check www.wesleyschapel.org.uk/museum.htm.
Presbyterian Church in Ireland - If you have Irish ancestors who you believe may have been Presbyterian, it is worth looking at the website of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland www.presbyterianireland.org, where you will find a lot of useful information about where to find copies of church records and how to extend your research. It is worth noting that The North of Ireland Family History Society has a very active group of volunteers transcribing church records which include those from many of the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. The society offers a ‘Look Up’ service for members unable to visit the Society Library. For details about the society and how to join, visit them at nifhs.org.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Finding Electoral Registers

Last but not least, let’s talk about where to find an electoral register. The source for these records on a national basis is the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, www.bl.uk which has a partnership with www.findmypast.co.uk. The website has begun its digitization in 1832 and is moving forwards.

Beginning with 1947, the British Library has a complete set of registers for the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).  A complete list of their holdings is in a publication titled, Parliamentary Constituencies and Their Registers Since 1832, which also includes earlier burgess rolls and poll books. Once in hard copy, it can now be downloaded at www.bl.uk/reshelp/finhelprestype/offpubs/electreg/parliamentary/constituenncies.html.
Because of concerns about identity theft and commercial use of the lists, restrictions apply to the electoral registers from the past ten years.

Having voting information after 1832 is not always helpful to American genealogists because it is just too late. Locations of earlier records can be found in the following pamphlets:
Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers Gibson. Poll Books c. 1696-1872, a directory of holdings in Great Britain. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1994.

Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers since 1832and burgess rolls. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990.
Check on purchasing copies at www.ffhs.org.uk. Even the British Library states that if the early roll you need is not listed in one of the above, “it may well be that no copies of the register sought survive.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Voter Disqualifications

In my last post, I mentioned very generally who would be included in the election records because they were qualified to vote by age and land ownership or tenancy, above a certain assessed value or rental amount. In the Gibson and Rogers booklet cited below, there is a nice list of who was disqualified and that may be a better beginning point. You simply will not find your ancestors if they fall into any of the categories listed.

The occupations that disqualified a potential voter will surprise North Americans.
                    -          Before 1887, active policemen, while serving and six months after leaving the force.

-          Before 1918, election agents and other paid election workers; postmasters; those receiving welfare, their spouses or children; collectors of government revenues.
Less surprising to North Americans are these types of non-voters. People who were and are not allowed to vote in the UK and who also might not be allowed to vote in some U.S. states includes:

              people with mental disorders

anyone serving a prison sentence (UK laws prohibit anyone convicted of election bribery from voting for five years after the crime.)
A purely British reason for disqualification was being a conscientious objector between 1918 and 1923. Another is being a peer. On the other hand, peeresses were allowed to vote by the reform bill of 1918 but the right was taken away again in 1963.

Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990. www.ffhs.org.uk

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Voting Records – An Introduction

This post is the first in a series about voters’ records in the UK. Because they list addresses, the members of a family of voting age, and land ownership and leasing details, genealogists can use them as an alternative to the census and to further their understanding of land records.

The United Kingdom has kept voting records, called Poll Books, Burgess Books or Rolls, and Electoral Registers, depending on the time period. Poll books are generally early records of those who voted and how they voted in parliamentary elections. Secret ballots did not begin until 1872.
Burgess books or rolls listed the freemen of a borough who were often entitled to vote for members of parliament and for members of the borough corporation. Note: A borough is a self-governing place with a corporation and privileges granted by a royal charter. This term has wider uses today; see www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borough.

Since 1832, electoral registers of people eligible to vote in parliamentary elections have been compiled annually, with the exception of the war years: 1916-1917, 1940-1944. They were compiled twice a year from 1919 to 1926 and again from 1945 to 1949. Registers for voters in local elections were kept was well, such as those for county council kept since 1889.
Voting was not secret?! Before telling you how to find these registers and books, it may help to discuss the differences in voting between the UK and North America because they can be distracting when working with this data.

            Voting Age
Until 1971, men could vote when they reached age 21. Since then, the voting age is reduced to 18 years. The exceptions were soldiers and sailors age 19 and 20 after World War I. Women over age 30 got the vote in 1918. That age was reduced to 21 in 1928 and 18 in 1971.

Who was qualified to vote varied between the counties and the boroughs in the UK, and the various boroughs had customs that widely varied with each other. To be simplistic, citizens could vote if they were of legal age, and owned or rented property, based on the value of the real estate or the amount of rent paid. The necessary values were changed over time.

            Plural Voting
You might find an ancestor on more than one voting list and wonder how that can be. In 1948, ‘One man, One vote’ became the law of the land. Before that year, there were three geographic categories; residence, business and university. You could vote in all three before 1918 and between 1918 and 1948, in two of the three.

_____________. UK Electoral Registers and Their Uses. London: British Library, Social Sciences Collection Guides, Official Publications. www.bl.uk/socialsciences
Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990.

Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2006.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Gretna Green Elopement

In the second season of Downton Abbey, Lady Sybil Crawley and the chauffeur, Tom Branson, headed for Gretna Green, Scotland, with plans to elope. Since Lord Grantham’s estate is in Yorkshire, if any of us North American’s were listening carefully, it probably seemed they were just heading for the nearest border where marriage laws were different.

Indeed that was the case, but people came from further away to marry in this first town inside Scotland on the main road from London to Edinburgh. In fact, the phrase “Gretna Green Elopement” came to mean any marriage ceremony performed without complete parental approval away from the local parish church. The village today advertises itself to couples wanting a destination wedding, similar to Las Vegas without the neon.
For genealogists with English families, it might pay to look at the Scottish records if you are having trouble finding a marriage in the south.

In 1754, the Hardwicke Marriage Act declared that brides and grooms under age 21 needed parental approval and all weddings needed to be performed in a Church of England. However, the laws of Scotland differed and much younger teens could marry without permission. About fifteen years later, Gretna Green had become the border town most known for these ceremonies.
Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests" because the blacksmith’s shop was at the main crossroads in town, and the smithie performed so many marriages over his anvil. (wikipedia, Gretna Green)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Scottish Games and Festivals

Last weekend, I went to my local highland games. I am still humming the tune played by all of the pipe bands in the competition. While I didn’t spend a lot of time doing genealogy, I could have.

These games featured a tent with genealogists from the Mormon Church who were doing individual counseling. They did two workshops during the day, one “Basics of Genealogy” and the other “Genealogy and Your Scottish Records.” Not all games will have this element, but if you are headed to one, check the schedule on their website before you leave home. Only pack your genealogy notes and questions, if you can consult with a genealogist.
On the other hand, every Scottish festival has clan tents or booths. These are almost always together and separate from the vendors and food purveyors. Most of the booths have some info for family researchers, if only a map* and list of septs (branch families). I saw some pedigree charts Saturday so some genealogy was taking place. I did observe that visitors had to talk to the clans people and not wait for them to begin the conversation.

As my program said, in that combination of English and Scottish perhaps spoken or written only in North America:
“Search for a bit o’ yer ancestry ‘neath ane o’ the mony clan tents.”

For information about the larger highland games that might be near you, consult the website of the Association of Scottish Games and Festivals: www.asgf.org. Next year’s Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival will be in Look Park, Northampton, Massachusetts Saturday, 18 July 2015, www.glasgowlands.org.
* To find where your surname is most prevalent in Scotland, consult the Great Britain surname project, University College, London, at www.gbnames.publicprofiler.org

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Easter Books

The happy holiday of Easter in Britain was the traditional date for paying the required ‘dues’ or tithes to the parish coffers. This was convenient because Easter nearly coincided with the beginning of the calendar year until 1752. Before that date, the first day of the year was Mar 25, Lady Day, celebrating the conception of Jesus (nine months before Christmas). In most parishes, each person was accessed two pence from the lord of the manor to his humblest servant. Another tithe based on ability to pay was collected at the same time. The practice was stopped by national legislation in 1836.
Records were kept in Easter books or rolls. There is quite a bit of variation among the parishes about what was collected and what was recoded. Some books have alphabetical lists of what was owed while others list the amounts paid in the order in which the money was received.

In 1989, Sue Wright wrote two articles about the Easter Books that are now downloadable as PDFs at www.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/authoridx.htm. The first article describes the records and the second one lists the books that exist and where they were archived. Now the first place to look is the holdings of the local County Records Office (CRO).

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Scottish/English Borderlands to Rural America

From 1717 to 1775, 275,000 people came from the border counties in England and Scotland to settle the northern and western areas of the American colonies. Some acted as a buffer between the Native Americans and the settlers on the seacoast. The skills and mindset from over 700 years of violence on the English/Scottish border served them well.

During the reign of KIng James I of England (James VI of Scotland) from 1603-1625, the first king of all of Great Britain gave people in the border area peerages and land in Northern Ireland to try to calm the troubles. Thus the Scots/Irish were created. They are not welcomed by the Irish, and as we know, there are still problems today.
One way to avoid the troubles was to emigrate. One hundred fifty thousand people came from ports in Northern Ireland in the sixty years before the American Revolution. The seaports were Belfast, Londonderry, Newry, Larne and Portrush. Another 75,000 came from ports in Scotland including Wigtown and Kirkcudbright. The northern English ports where another 50,000 immigrants departed were Liverpool, Maryport, Morecambe and Whitehaven. These immigrants had two things in common. First, they all lived on or near the Irish Sea, the body of water between Great Britain and Ireland, or they were former residents of that area or the borderlands

A study of the surnames in the 1790 U.S. Census showed that these immigrants went to all the colonies except the small coastal places - Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. The largest concentration was in southwestern Pennsylvania, and western Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Later their descendants would settle in large number in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Source: Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-877677-69-8

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Quakers from the North Midlands

The Quakers who came to the Delaware Valley and especially to William Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania were primarily from England’s North Midlands. About two-thirds of this wave of immigrants came from the counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derby, Nottingham and Staffordshire. The remainder of the settlers were from Bristol and London. (Source: Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-877677-69-8)

A notable exception to these geographic generalities is William Penn himself. The son of an admiral, Penn was born in 1644 and lived much of his first twelve years at his family's country house in Wanstead or at school in Chigwell, Essex. Later at Oxford, he was influenced by the Quaker Thomas Loe. Penn refused to attend chapel and was kicked out for nonconformity. His father eventually sent him to Ireland where he had another estate. While there, Penn connected with Loe again in Cork, and by 1667 he had become a convert and regular attender of Quaker meeting.

In 1675, the first settlers came to the Delaware River’s eastern shore in what is now New Jersey but was then known as West Jersey.

On 29 Aug 2012, I posted a blog entry about the origins and records kept by Quakers. You can easily find it in the list of topics under, ‘UK Quakers.’

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Origins of the Virginia Cavaliers

Another migration began as the Great Migration of Puritans to New England was ending. Settlers with more conventional religious beliefs came to the Chesapeake Bay region to supplement the people who had begun settling there in 1607. Between 1641 and 1675, the face of Virginia would change.

England itself was in turmoil. Religious differences between the established church and the Puritans had taken on political overtones. The Civil War of the 1640s brought Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans/roundheads to power, and King Charles I was beheaded. Some of the Royalists or cavaliers needed to leave.
Virginia was an inviting possibility. Sir William Berkeley who had been knighted by the king on a battlefield was made Royal Governor of Virginia in 1641.  When he arrived here, Jamestown had 8000 poor residents. Berkeley quickly set out to reproduce the privileged society he had known in the West Country of England. He attracted many ‘second sons’ who could not inherit land in the UK, but having grown up on an estate, this kind of farming was all they could do.

All counties in England are represented in the wave of migration but again a majority came from two areas – the West Country including the counties of Gloucester, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Wiltshire and Hampshire; and London and its surrounding counties. George Washington’s great grandfather, John Washington, immigrated to Virginia in 1656. John’s father had been an Essex clergyman. Essex although usually considered part of East Anglia borders on the city of London.
These families, not those of the earlier, original settlers, are known as the ‘first families of Virginia.’

Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-877677-69-8

Smith, J.R. Pilgrims and Adventurers: Essex (England) and the Making of the United States of America. Chelmsford: Essex Records Office, 1992.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: British Origins of U.S. Colonists

Finding the UK parish where your ancestors lived is one of genealogy’s most difficult tasks for some of us. If your family came to America before 1837 when civil (government) registration was required, you must rely on the church records in a parish.

This week I found a slim but very helpful book by the famous genealogist, William Dollarhide.
Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-877677-69-8
He suggests “if an American today has a British ancestor who arrived during the colonial period, there is a very high chance that he was part of one of these four waves of migrations.”
·         From East Anglia came the Puritans to New England during the Great Migration, 1629 to 1640.
·         From the West Country came the cavaliers and their servants to the Chesapeake, 1641 to 1675.
·         Quakers from the North Midlands came to the Delaware Valley, 1675 to 1715.
·         People from the English-Scottish borderlands came to the rural areas of the colonies 1717 to 1775.
If you know where your colonial ancestor lived in America, you can begin to pinpoint where he came from in Britain.
During the Great Migration about 21,000 Puritans came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although they came from all counties in England, over half came from East Anglia; Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex plus Cambridge, Hertford, Huntington, Lincoln and parts of Bedford and Kent.
Another group of Puritans came from the west of England where the counties of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire meet. Their beliefs were less strict and their customs different from the East Anglicans so they moved on to Connecticut, Maine and the Island of Nantucket once on this continent.
If you check my post on 2 Oct 2013, you will find information from a book by J.R. Smith about American connections in Essex, England including John Winthrop and William Pynchon, Puritans in New England, but he also highlights other Essex men in the Delaware Valley and Virginia. For example, William Penn was born in Wanstead, Essex.
Next post: Details of the Quakers and other groups of British colonists who went to specific places in America.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Scotland By the Numbers

In 1851 there were 901 parishes in Scotland with a total population of 2,888,742 people. The country had grown by about 250,000 since 1841, when the population was 2,620,184. Ten years later, in 1861, the population had grown again to 3,360,018.

To get more family friendly facts, you may want to visit the website www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk . Click on the 'Census Timeline' button on the left listing. There you will find a section that highlights each census year with three ‘census facts’ in the areas of population, culture and health.  For 1851, the 'population fact' is that children under the age of fifteen were 36 percent of the total, but now that group is only 15 percent. The population is aging.

The 'health fact' for that decade shows that life expectancy for men was 40 years and for women was 44 years. Worse there was a one in seven chance that a baby would die before its first birthday. That's all a little sobering.
Each section also has a few ‘contemporary historical facts’ – headlines from the decade. In the mid-1850s, “David Livingstone , the Scottish missionary-explorer and human rights campaigner, reaches the Victoria Falls and describes them to a European audience for the first time.”

The 1851 census had a religious component. The Established church was Presbyterian, called the Church of Scotland, and the other groups, including the Church of England (COE), were classified as non-conformist.  The other sects seem to be mostly Quaker, Roman Catholic, COE, and the Free Church. The last is a denomination that broke away from the Church of Scotland in the 1840s.
What was your ancestors’ Scotland like - by the numbers? Your look into their world will be helped by this site.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday – World War I Appeal Tribunal

Last week The British National Archives announced that they were posting World War I soldiers diaries to their site: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war . They have the potential of being a fantastic genealogical resource, and there launch was widely reported by my fellow bloggers so I held off.   
On Thursday, 23 January, the Archives has announced that they are “making the digitized records the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal, which heard the cases of men seeking exemption from conscription into the army during the First World War, available online.”

The records of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal include the cases of over 8,000 individuals, as well as administrative papers reflecting the changing policy towards conscription as the war progressed. “The records reveal men seeking exemption on medical, family or economic grounds, as well as the relatively small proportion wishing not to fight on moral grounds as conscientious objectors.”
The Middlesex Appeal Tribunal was one of the county-level appeal tribunals, part of a national system of tribunals that were established across the UK to hear applications from men seeking exemption from military service. The collection is one of two sets of appeal tribunal records officially retained as a benchmark following the end of the war, and provides a unique insight into the impact of the World War I on families, businesses and communities far from the battlefields. (Emphasis by this blogger)

Local and county appeal tribunal records also survive in many local archives, within personal and local government collections, and with the Federation of Family History Societies, The National Archives has begun a survey of surviving material in local collections.
Search the case papers through our First World War 100 web portal at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war. Contact The National Archives with questions relating to the project or the records at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/. Questions might be ‘What is the second place for which the Archives retained records?’ and ‘If they anticipate putting those records online later, when will it be?’

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Gazetteers of Scotland

Genealogy is an ever-changing field. Now we are not only concerned about the major events in our ancestors’ personal lives but in the history of their communities and their relationship to major national and international events.

A gazetteer describes places within a country or area, but not all of these reference books are equal. In 1846 and in a second edition in 1851, Samuel Lewis wrote A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, an alphabetical listing of the then 33 shires and all the parishes, villages and hamlets in the country. It is filled with facts, history and statistics. For example, here is part of the entry for Abercorn from his work:
“ABERCORN, a parish, in the county of Linlithgow, 5 ½ miles (E. by N.) from Linlithgow; containing the villages of Newtown and Philipstown, about 950 inhabitants. This place which derives its name from the situation at the influx of the small river Cornie into the Firth of Forth, is of very remote origin. Its ancient castle occupied the site of a Roman station between the wall of Antonine and the port of Cramond on the Firth, in the harbour of which the Romans moored their ships...”

The website www.visionofbritain.org.uk has a small map when you search for Abercorn that shows the villages of Newtown and Philipstown when you put 'Abercorn' in the search box on the home page.

Frank Smith condensed the information from Lewis’ book and added a few other sources in the 1970s for his book, A Genealogical Gazetteer of Scotland. His entries include the location and population of a village in 1851. In separate lists, he gives the years and locations of parish registers for Church of Scotland and non-conformist congregations. Here is the entire entry from the Genealogical Gazetteer:
 “ABERCORN parish 1585 Linlithgow 5 ½ m e Linlithgow pop 950 Free Church” (Smith, A Genealogical Gazetteer of Scotland, page 1)

The Free Church mentioned were a group that left the Church of Scotland in 1843 and had a congregation there, but according to Lewis, the Abercorn parish of the Church of Scotland had an ancient church which was enlarged in the mid-1500s. Now we might eagerly relish the details of the longer entries in the Lewis book.
Sometimes we want to know where a village is immediately and other times we want a slow stroll through the history of a place. It seems both books and the website have their uses.

Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Original issued in 1846, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1989.

Smith, Frank. A Genealogical Gazetteer of Scotland. Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc., 1971.
Note: Frank Smith is the compiler of the two-volume set A Genealogical Gazetteer of England, Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, Inc, 1977.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: The Great War Commemorations

World War I in Europe spanned the years from 1914 to 1919.  The commemorations of this muddy, lice-infested, entrenched war will begin this year – one hundred years later.  Special websites are appearing and established websites are announcing specific WWI projects. I will keep you posted as new sites and projects come to my attention.

One of the first new websites is a unique digital archive The Welsh Experience of the First World War (cymru1914.org). It has been developed as a collaborative initiative led by The National Library of Wales, in partnership with the Archives and Special Collections of Wales which itself includes the country’s major universities; BBC Cymru Wales; The People’s Collection, Wales; and archives and local records offices that are part of ARCW: the Archives and Records Council of Wales. 

The site is somewhat spare right now with no pictures but a search box that allows you to look within the entire collection or only one of the universities or archives.
If you don’t know if you have an ancestor in this war, you can consult the relatively new site www.forces-war-records.co.uk. Quite a bit of information is free, but more details require a subscription of one month for £8.95, three months for £25.95 and several longer choices.