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, 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 These acts were repealed in 1814.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.