Wakefield Family History Sharing



Abbreviations that are used when - talking to someone who is more experienced : reading family history books or associated texts. You will find these helpful if you are starting your family journey.

Association of Genealogists & Record Agents
Association of Scottish Genealogists & Record Agents
Association of Ulster Genealogists & Record Agents
British Isles Genealogical Register
British Library
Births Marriages Deaths
Bishops' Transcripts
County of London Record Office
County Record Office
Directory of National Biography
Diocesan Record Office
Electronic Mail
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
Federation of Family History Societies
Family History Centre (of the Latter Day Saints), aka FHL (FH Library)
Fellow of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies
Family History Library Catalogue
Family History Society
Family Records Centre
Fellow of the Society of Genealogists
Family Tree Magazine
Framework Knitter

Genealogical Data Communication
Guild of One-Name Studies
Genealogical Research Directory
General Register Office (St. Catherines House)
Honourable East India Company
International Genealogical Index
Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies
India Office Library & Records
International Reply Coupons
International Society for British Genealogy and Family History
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
London Metropolitan Archives
Monumental Inscriptions
National Genealogical Directory
National Genealogical Society (America)
National Library of Wales
Ontario Genealogical Society
Office of National Statistics
Office of Population & Census Studies
Personal Ancestral File
Prerogative Court of Canterbury
Prerogative Court of York
Public Record Office
Principal Probate Registry
Parish Records
Registration District
Society of Australian Genealogists
Somerset House
Society of Genealogists
World Wide Web (of the Internet)

(See Useful Addresses and Internet.)

Adoptions have been legal in
England and Wales since 1927. Previously children were "fostered" and tracing natural parents of a fostered child is close to impossible. The GRO maintains an Adopted Children Register and indexes thereto may be examined at FRC. The indexes give the adopted name of the child and date of adoption but not the names of the natural parents. Two forms of certificate can be issued but only the full should be ordered. The full certificate includes the adoptive name and surname, sex, date of birth and (where known) country or district of birth, details of the order (date and court) and particulars of the adoptive parents.
The Children's Acts of 1975 and 1989 enable an adopted person over the age of 18 years to exercise his/her right to obtain a copy of the original birth certificate after counselling. The National Organisation for Counselling and Adoptees and their Parents (NORCAP) exists to help adoptees and (presumably) both types of parents.

The Association of Genealogists and Record Agents was founded in 1968. Sooner or later you will need professional help in your research, particularly if you are researching your British ancestry from abroad.
AGRA has a code of practice so there is protection for clients located outside the UK.

Webster's defines ancestry as a line of descent or persons initiating or comprising a line of descent. Before you begin tracing your own ancestry, write on paper what you want to accomplish. Talk to relatives. Seek out old papers. Look for entries in family bibles. Know what it is you want to do before you spend real money. Access the ever increasing riches of the internet. Check whether someone has previously researched your area(s) of interest. Check what names are registered with the GOONS. Visit your local reference library. See if there is a FHS dedicated to your area of research. Visit your local LDS FHC. View the IGI and refer to the library's books and materials. If you live outside the
UK, complete your preliminary research before you contact organisations in the UK.

Many records exist for children and men learning a trade. Guilds, some dating from the Middle Ages, evolved to protect members of a particular trade (first) and the public (second). The Statute of Apprentices of 1563 required an individual to qualify in his trade by serving an apprenticeship. The apprentice would typically serve a period of seven years' training before being admitted to the guild. The apprenticeship indentures were signed by the guild master and the apprentice's father or guardian. Many of these indentures survive and not just for the famous
London livery companies. See what records still exist at local level.

There are many record repositories and libraries in the
UK that are of value to the researcher such as the various components of the British Library. Among hundreds of others are the PRO, the Guildhall Library, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales and the Library of the Society of Genealogists (SoG). Most initial research is likely to be undertaken at the FRC (perusing the Civil Registration indexes or winding through microfilms of the Victorian censuses). Every County has a CRO and there are LDS FHCs situated in major centres throughout the world. The FFHS issues a free leaflet called You and Your Record.

War deaths are accessible at FRC in separate registers to civil deaths. Most of the records relating to military service are held at the PRO. Various archives are held covering the Home Office, Foreign Office, War Office, Army, Royal Navy, merchant navy, Royal Air Force, etc. The
Imperial War Museum has a department of documents that include British private papers and captured German documents. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was set up to identify and maintain the graves of Commonwealth forces killed in World Wars I and II. Records are also kept of those who have no known graves. In late 1998 the Commission put its records online on the Internet. This is a phenomenal, and free, fully searchable archive for those researchers fortunate enough to own a PC with access to the World Wide Web. For those many researchers not online, information including photographs of known graves can be obtained from the Commission


Falling into debt was a crime until relatively recent times and was not an occasional misdemeanour. Over 30,000 debtors were arrested in
England in 1837 alone. An individual not engaged in business but declared insolvent prior to 1861 could not be made a bankrupt but could be sent to prison until his debts were settled. A commercial trader heavily in debt often escaped imprisonment but was declared a bankrupt. After 1861 an insolvent person and a bankrupt were treated similarly. The London Gazette, first published in 1665, regularly and remorselessly printed notices of bankruptcies. Complete copies of the Gazette are held at PRO, SoG and the British Library, and various indexes exist. Other journals publishing similar notices were the Scottish Gazette, the Times, Gentleman's Magazine and Perry's Bankrupt & Insolvent Gazette. The PRO also holds records of the Court of Bankruptcy and registers of bankruptcy actions as well as records of certain debtors' prisons including Marshalsea where John Dickens, father of Charles, was imprisoned. CROs and the Newspaper Library are useful if one is researching a known insolvent or bankrupt in a particular time frame.

A card index of about 4 million slips mainly relating to individuals involved in court cases, records of which are held at the PRO. The index relates chiefly to 18th century Chancery Proceedings and was compiled by the late C A Bernau. Microfilmed copies of the index may be viewed at SoG or ordered at any FHC

Old bibles often contain records of a particular family's births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. Check with your parents, grandparents and cousins to see if your family has the basis of a history. Also check in between the pages as I have found photographs, locks of hair and letters - the icing on the cake.

The British Isles Genealogical Register (BigR) is a directory of researchers' interests. The BigR was initially published in 1994 with similar aims to those of the GRD but limited to
Britain and with surnames sorted into county order. A further edition was published in 1997. The BigR is obtainable on fiche from FFHS Publications.

These are copies of the parish registers completed on an annual basis by the clergy and forwarded to the local bishop. The practice commenced in 1598 but those transcripts that still exist must be checked where possible with the original registers as not all copies are accurate.

Most collections of The British Library, the national library of the
United Kingdom, are housed in a huge custom built premise facing St Pancras Station in London. The Department of Manuscripts has huge collections from the Magna Carta through copies of most books published in Britain and the old Empire to Captain Scott's diary compiled on his last South Pole expedition. This department also contains catalogued collections of family archives including pedigrees, title deeds and correspondence. The BL was formed in 1973 from four previously separate national libraries. There are two further archives of particular interest to researchers: the India Office and the Newspaper Library The India Office has archives of the East India Company, the India Office and Burma Office and is an invaluable source if your ancestor served on the sub-continent.. The Newspaper Library has a large collection of 18th, 19th and 20th century publications. This is a useful repository if your ancestor "made news" and you are aware of the date(s). Obituaries were not so common in 19th century but newspapers carried news stories and advertisements, which could be useful if your ancestor was a local politician, land owner, tradesman or criminal. The newspapers are both national and local, and most are originals although some are on microfilm.

533 typewritten volumes of English marriages between 1538 and 1837 compiled by the late Percival Boyd. The index contains about 7 million entries or about 12% of all marriages before 1837 and is located at SoG. Like the IGI, Boyd's should be treated as an index with all extractions subsequently checked against the appropriate parish registers. There is a Boyd's Index in the Library in

Current arguments on whether the second Millennium ends on the last day of 1999 or 2000 fade into insignificance compared to previous radical changes in the calendar. Until 1751
England and Wales followed the Julian calendar whereby the year commenced on Ladyday, 25 March and ended the following year on 24 March. Lord Chesterfield's Act of 1751-52 stated that the year 1752 would begin on 1 January and end on 31 December. In addition, and in 1752 only, the calendar was adjusted to omit eleven days - 2 September 1752 being followed by 14 September. The "new" calendar, known as the Gregorian calendar, had been adopted by Scotland and the countries of continental Europe over 150 years earlier. Dates between 1 January and 25 March and prior to 1752 are typically dated for both calendars by researchers and historians. Thus, a baptism on 3 February 1712/13 means the event occurred in 1712 under the prevailing Julian calendar but by today's (Gregorian) calendar would be recognised as occurring in 1713. (Note: It is not unusual to find errors in transcription due to the confusion of the calendar before 1752.

Only marriages in the Anglican church were legal after the introduction of Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1754. Catholics were allowed to worship in their own churches from 1791 but they still had to marry in Anglican churches. Most surviving Catholic registers date from the late 1700s and most are from the north of
England. Many have been published by the Catholic Record Society, and the Catholic Family History Soc.has an index to over 200,000 Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials that took place in Liverpool.

Many cemeteries, parish churchyards and burial grounds have been mapped and/or indexed for those interred therein. Each modern cemetery has a register which can be consulted for relatives but sometimes at a fee. Many a FHS has indexed cemeteries within its particular area. Both the SoG and the Guildhall Library have cemetery register holdings. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's online Web site gives precise instructions on finding cemeteries (abroad and within the
UK) where gravestones or memorials commemorate men and women who fell in the two world wars.

The first official census of
England and Wales took place on 10 March 1801. Censuses have been taken every 10 years since with the exception of 1941. Details of individuals only appeared on a compulsory basis for the first time in the 1841 Census but a Sussex researcher was able to provide me with names and ages of individuals from the 1821 Census so do not assume the early years are not worthy of investigation. Because of the so-called 'One Hundred Year Rule', the census returns available for the genealogist are only those up to and including 1891. The 1841 census was undertaken on 7 June, 1851 (30 March), 1861 (7 April), 1871 (2 April), 1881 (3 April), 1891 (5 April) and 1901 (31 March.) The census returns were for all the population as at midnight on those dates.
The censuses of 1841 to 1891 are wonderful pools of research. 1851 to 1891 give more information than the 1841 census but all enable the historian to identify a family at a particular point in time. The addresses pinpoint a family to a particular location although the relationships, ages and occupations may not be precise. (An in-law in the 19th century meant something different to what it means today. A son-in-law could mean stepson of the householder, ie son of the householder's wife and therefore a son in the eye of the law.) The 1851 to 1891 Censuses provide pointers to an ancestor's parish of birth since there is a 'Where Born' column. The Industrial Revolution resulted in the migration of many people from the countryside to the major cities during the first half of the 19th century. By the time of the 1881 Census the population of
London was 3.8 million and living within its bounds were more Scots than in Edinburgh, more Irish than in Dublin and more Roman Catholics than in Rome. The censuses of 1841 through 1891 are available on microfilm at the FRC (having moved there when the PRO closed its Chancery Lane building). Certain copies are also available at CROs, at FHCs, FHSs and at other archives. Many of the streets have been indexed by various bodies including FHSs.


Abbreviations & terms used on census returns in England & Wales for the 1841-1891 census.

When copying out their returns, the census enumerators were given permission to use certain abbreviations for occupations and terms. This practice was most extensive in 1841, and gradually diminished thereafter. By 1871 the only abbreviation mentioned was 'Ag. Lab.' for agricultural labourer. In 1881 a more general instruction was given - such short-forms may be used as 'ag. lab.' for agricultural labourer, but care must be taken that the shortened term used are such as will be readily understood.

Ag. Lab. ~ Agricultural Labourer (1841-81 Census)

Ages ~ Children sometimes had their ages inflated to get around The Factory Act and other laws concerned with child labour.

Annuitant ~ This term describes a person on an annual allowance as well as someone receiving an annual income from some form of investment. It also could describe pensioners who were institutionalised.

Ap. ~ Apprentice (1841-61 Census)

Army ~ Members of HM land forces of whatever rank (1841 Census)

Birth Place ~ This was not always given as a true place of birth but earliest remembered place of residence. A person born in Wakefield, his family moved to Sheffield when he/she was young, he lived there, married and died there but nobody ever bothered to inform he/she was born in Wakefield. Hence yet another dead end!!

Boarder ~ A person who shares a dinner table with a family. Could also be termed as a lodger depending on the information given to the enumerator.

Cl. ~ Clerk (1841-61 Census)

Dressmaker ~ The occupation of dressmaker is not always the figure of a demure lady measuring and making garments for ladies of the towns and villages. Prostitutes sometimes gave dressmaker as their occupation to hide their true occupation.

FMK ~ Frame maker

F.S. ~ Female Servant (1841 Census)

H.P. ~ Members of HM armed forces on half-pay (1841 Census)

Idiot ~ A person who suffers from congenital mental deficiency

Imbecile ~ A person who has fallen into a state of dementia

Ind. ~ Independent - people living on their own means (1841 Census)

In-Law ~ Terms as brother-in-law and brother were swopped and changed, likewise for sister and sister-in-law and so can not always be relied upon to be correct.

J. ~ Journeyman (1841 Census)

Lodger ~ A person who has separate accommodation to the householder - see boarder

Lunatic ~ A mentally ill person with periods of lucidity

M. ~ Manufacturer (1841 Census)

m. ~ Maker - as in 'Shoe m.' (1841 Census)

M.S. ~ Male Servant (1841 Census)

Navy ~ Members of HM naval forces, including marines, of whatever rank (1841 Census)

P. ~ Pensioner in HM armed forces (1841 Census)

Rail. Lab. ~ Railway Labourer (1841 Census)

Scholar ~ From 1861 a child was described as a scholar if they were over 5 and received schooling daily either at home or at school. There were no set rules laid out as to how much education had to be given 'at home'. The 1871 census officials in London broke the confidentiality rule disclosing the names and addresses of all children between the ages of 3 and 13 to the London School Board - thus helping to enforce compulsory education.

Serv. ~ Servant (1841 Census)

Sh. ~ Shopman (1841 Census)

The 1881 Census Project was a noteworthy co-operation between the PRO, the FFHS and the LDS to index the 1881 Census of England,
Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The PRO holds the copyright to the 1881 Census and supplied the material. The FFHS provided most of the volunteers to copy the information and the LDS used their facilities at Salt Lake City and in England to process the data on computer and produce the output on microfiche. All the counties of England, Wales and Scotland were processed and published and are available at various archives including SoG, FHSs and FHCs.
The 1881 Census Project initially offered four indexes per county: the Surname Index, the Birthplace Index, the Census Place Index and the Arranged-As-Enumerated Index. The Surname Index enables researchers to quickly identify anyone by name; the Birthplace Index enables you to find people of the same name (families) born in the same parish; the Census Place Index lists people of the same name in the respective parishes at the time the census was enumerated and the Arranged-As-Enumerated Index is in the original order of the census. This would be used after referring to the other three, all of which refer back to this index.
The final component of this ambitious and invaluable project is the National Sort, recently released. The National Sort comprises two indexes: one a full alphabetical listing of all those enumerated in the 1881 census, and the other arranged as a national birthplace index. This final phase will enable a researcher to find ancestors who "strayed" into other counties. The National Sort is available on microfiche at FHCs, the SoG and elsewhere, and will be sold to the public by region on CD-ROM.

The GRO registers cannot be examined by the public so a certified copy of an entry of a birth, marriage or death will be issued against a reference obtained from the indexes held in huge volumes at FRC or on microfiche at SoG, FHSs and FHCs. Certificates can be obtained in several ways. You can personally visit the GRO at FRC, write to the GRO at
Southport, use the services of a record agent or certificate service, or contact the appropriate Register Office if you know the district where an individual was born, married or died. While certificates are not cheap, they are often essential in proving ancestry. If you are uncertain of the district where an event occurred and/or you cannot visit FRC, use a reputable record agent or certificate service. The price of a certificate through an agent/service will vary according to whether you supply the full reference (ie Name, Year, Quarter, Place and, preferably, Volume and Page Number.), or not.

Chancery was the high court of equity in
England and Wales. The PRO holds Calendars of Chancery Proceedings containing records of disputes heard by the Court of Chancery from 14th to 19th centuries.


County abbreviations have been introduced by Government departments but the Chapman abbreviations have been used by family historians for many years and will no doubt continue as the universal code system.

 To view Chapman's County Codes

ONS now publishes annual statistics relating to the most popular first names registered in
England and Wales. The lists reflects current British preferences for names made famous by Hollywood stars, models, TV actors and presenters. Ancestral research can be helped by naming patterns established centuries ago. A first born son often took his father's name and a first born daughter would be named after her mother. In Scotland and the northernmost part of England a more sophisticated pattern was often used. With male offspring, the firstborn was named after the father's father, the second son after the mother's father and the third boy was given his father's Christian name. The pattern for daughters was a variation on the theme. The eldest was given the name of her mother's mother, the second daughter bore her father's mother's name and the third girl was given her mother's name. Researching Welsh names 300 or more years ago may be difficult because a child was given his father's Christian name as his surname. Even in relatively modern times Welsh research is difficult because of the popularity of surnames developed from forenames.
Another popular naming pattern in
England was the adoption as a second given name of the mother's surname. This was often given to daughters as well as sons so this helps research in extracting names from registers and indexes. Statistics vary regarding the number of illegitimate children born in any particular period but 5% is a reasonable estimate for the 1800s. The given name(s) may assist in tracking a line of descent. A "baseborn" child of (say) Sarah Brown may be named Thomas Woods Brown or Thomas Taylor Brown with the second name being the surname of the father. We all "lose" ancestors in the Victorian Census or in Civil Registration but they are often there but under another name. It is not uncommon to find a child born Anthony John to go through life as John and be buried as such or John A if one is lucky. Perhaps bigger problems are the diminutive forms of given names. Aunt Polly may have been born Mary. Other diminutives include Ann (Hannah), Nelly (Ellen or Helen) and Peggy (Margaret).

Lord Melbourne's government of 1836 introduced two major pieces of legislation: the Marriage Act and the Registration Act. The acts necessitated the creation of a new office, the General Register Office (GRO) in 1837. Under the new legislation, all births, marriages and deaths were to be recorded and appropriate certificates issued. Copies of the records were kept locally at a parish register office and centrally at the GRO and copies of the entries may still be obtained from either the local (district) Register Offices or the GRO - but see earlier comments about Certificates before ordering. Most, but not all, births, marriages and deaths were recorded until 1875 when it became an offence not to register an event. The GRO merged with the Government Social Survey in 1970 to form what is now known as the ONS. The Public Search Room was housed at Somerset House from 1837 until 1973 when it moved to St Catherine's House before relocating to the FRC in 1997. The Public Search Room has been variously described as "a researcher's dream" and "hell on earth". The civil registration system, parish registers and census returns are the three main research sources for genealogists. Civil registration commenced in July 1837 and today there are 8,500 leather bound volumes available on shelves for the public to examine. Births are in red covers, marriages in green and deaths, appropriately, in black. The volumes contain indexes with references not original entries. A researcher may consult the indexes without charge and obtain therefrom a reference to a particular event. Then, a form has to be completed for a certificate to be issued at a cost - see Certificates. No certificates are issued on demand, there is a delay of several days if a certificate is collected. There can be a delay of several weeks if a certificate is requested to be mailed. If you are researching at a distance and cannot personally visit FRC, DO NOT write to the GRO but engage the services of a record agent or certificate service. They are much cheaper and much faster since they make both the initial search/ordering visit and the collection visit on your behalf, and will furnish you with the same result - an official certificate of a birth, death or marriage. The Public Search Room of the GRO is located at FRC,
1 Myddelton Street, Finsbury, London, England, EC1R 1UW. You definitely do not need the address of the GRO postal unit in Southport. Scottish civil registration commenced in 1855. Although there may be an online link to Edinburgh, Scottish records are not maintained at FRC. Irish civil registration commenced in 1864. There are no Irish records at FRC

(See Army, Navy & Air Force.)

If you know where your ancestors were born or once you find out after initial searches at FRC and the PRO, you may want to target CROs. Each old county in
Britain had its CRO as a central repository for its records. CROs typically hold parish registers, probate records, rate books and local census returns. Every CRO will have a brochure or guide about its facilities which typically include fiche and microfilm readers that must be booked in advance.

This is a legal process to effect a name change for an individual. This can be confusing to a researcher of a 20th century ancestor as anyone can change his or her name under English law. (For example, you may search at the GRO for the marriage of a previously married male Jones to a female Smith and not find a matching reference being unaware that Smith changed her name to Jones by deed poll years before the marriage at a time when Jones still had a legal wife.)

Before the advent of the telephone and yellow/white pages, a company or individual may have been listed in a directory. Kelly's was the biggest publisher of directories in
England. Kelly's retained a copy of virtually every directory issued and the entire collection was deposited at the Guildhall Library but, until recently, was not available for public scrutiny. Nevertheless, the Guildhall Library has an extensive collection of its own which is available for visitors. Most directories were focused on counties (or parts of counties) and towns. Directories will be found in most CROs. Don't forget the local maps - they will be a guide to placing a building, family or tradesperson.

Very few divorces occurred before the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act. Indexes to divorces since 1858 are held at the Family Division, SH,
Strand, London, England, WC2R 1LP. Although a 75 Year Rule applies to files and a 30 year rule to the indexes, the Divorce Registry will consider a search in the records of decrees absolute for researchers for a fee and cover a 10 year period.

The registers of various universities and colleges from the Middle Ages to the 19th century are at SoG. There are also registers of public (in English terminology - private or independent) schools. The SoG publishes a guide of its holdings: School, University and College Registers and Histories in the Library of the SoG at #4.10 including overseas surface mail. You will find that many schools and universities maintain their own archives of registers and photographs, and records may also be found in libraries and CROs.

Electoral registers or poll books are historical lists of those entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. These are useful aids if you are seeking an ancestor in a particular parish or town. The Reform Act of 1832 increased the electorate by 50% but most Englishmen and all English women still had no vote. The Reform Act of 1884 ext Hundreds of thousands of British (including Irish) citizens left for the old colonies in 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. There have been giant strides made in 20th century to identify them. The Famine Immigrants by Ira A. Glazier is a seven volume schedule of Irish immigrants who arrived at the
Port of New York between 1846 and 1851 (and Sussex born ancestors of mine with no Irish connection have been found therein). The SoG's library has American shelves containing such publications as Filby's Passenger & Immigration Lists Bibliography 1538-1900 and Meyer's Passenger & Immigration Lists Index. The latter comprises 3 original volumes and numerous supplements and contains records of over 2 million passengers who arrived in the USA and Canada. There is excellent archive material for emigrants to the West Indies and India but less extensive collections for Australia and New Zealand. Immigrants to these countries should use the superb facilities in the Antipodes. The Society of Australian Genealogists has over 20,000 books plus extensive records on fiche and computer. There is also an Australian Association of Genealogists & Record Agents Moving on to the 20th century, over 17 million immigrant Americans passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1952. It is believed that at least 40 % of living US nationals can trace their ancestry back to these stalwarts. The Immigrant Arrival Records, currently held on microfilm at the US National Archives and Records Administration, are being digitised and entered into an electronic database that will be made available at the American Family Immigration Centre to be located on Ellis Island.

The Federation of Family History Societies links together over 200 societies throughout the world. FFHS publishes guides and books on family history research, and a half yearly magazine, Family History News & Digest. FFHS initiates and coordinates national projects (see 1881 Census Project) and liases in the running of family history training.

There are many Family History Societies located in the
UK and of interest to the researcher. Most are geographically tied to old county boundaries. The FHSs cater for those with interests in former residents and/or historic locations. An FHS meets regularly and publishes regular journals and a directory of members' interests there is also a full programme of speakers. The FHS may undertake research from the IGI as well as from local sources such as census returns, monumental inscriptions, parish registers and newspapers. In my experience these groups are very friendly places and welcome new members and those new to family history with open arms, only too willing to share knowledge. But, there is always the exception who leave new members or out of town members on a visit to fend for themselves - you only go once.

The Family Records Centre (FRC ) opened in 1997 and houses the Public Search Room of the ONS, previously at St Catherine's House, and the Census Rooms of the PRO, which were previously in the
PRO Chancery Lane building. There have been complaints about this facility, as there were bound to be, but it is a vast improvement over St Catherine's. The GRO Search Room is on the ground floor of FRC and the indexes are generally set out much better than at St Catherine's. There is no charge for searching the indexes which cover births; deaths; marriages; war deaths; deaths at sea; births and deaths in aircraft; consular births, marriages and deaths; deaths abroad; marriages on ships; marriages abroad; and Commonwealth marriages.
The PRO occupies the first floor of FRC where visitors will find access to the Victorian census, wills and non-conformist registers. The census returns are held on microfilm and copies of relevant pages may be made and purchased for a nominal charge. A PRO Reader's Ticket is not required for access to FRC. Both the ground and first floor are designed for serious research..

Family historians who are also PC users frequently wish to exchange pedigrees with other researchers who may use different genealogy software packages. The Genealogical Data Communication package enables researchers to exchange files irrespective of package used and also submit their research to LDS under the Ancestral File project. In addition, IGI CD-ROM entries can be downloaded to researchers' floppy disks in the GEDCOM format.

This monthly journal was published between 1731 and the early 1900s. It is a rich source for births, marriages, deaths, obituaries and bankruptcies. Various indexes have been compiled over the years: some specific to births, marriages and obituaries, and some cumulative for the early years. The SoG, the BL and the PRO all hold the complete run of the magazine.


The Genealogical Research Directory is published annually. Each edition runs to about 1,200 pages and contains well over 100,000 entries submitted by thousands of researchers worldwide. The GRD enables researchers to find fellow researchers with similar interests. It is published in
Australia in April and is distributed worldwide to contributors, societies and libraries. Each edition gives addresses and other details of genealogical societies, record offices, archives and libraries. Before the internet this book was my 'bible'.

The General Register Office is located at FRC. The GRO holds records of civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths from 1837. The registers may not be examined by the public but the national indexes to these vital records can be searched at no charge. Anyone can access the volumes and may purchase any official GRO certificate for which a reference exists.

This library is located in the City of
London and holds an extensive collection of genealogical material relating to the City such as lists of freemen and records of livery companies and guilds. It has a superb collection of Kelly's directories and some old manuscripts relating to ships and shipping such as Lloyd's Register, Lloyd's List, Captains' Register and Loss Books.

Halbert's Family Heritage is an American company that publishes 'World Books' of various surnames. The books are expensive and portrayed as something they are not, ie beautiful coffee table editions rather than the reality of cardboard covered books containing computer produced listings of names and addresses. However, they offer two possible benefits for the researcher:addresses of individuals carrying the same surname are listed and you may find a relative in another country. Secondly, the names are listed by state (for the US) and by county (for the UK) so a researcher can draw a modern day distribution of the specific surname since most of Halbert's research is extracting names from more or less up-to-date telephone directories. In recent times, Halbert's acquired a licence to the name Burke's Peerage and have attempted to add status to their publishing operation. Halbert's don't like printing their address and there is none in the book I purchased. I have a very unusual surname, only 4 other people share my married name in the
UK. I had waited years for a letter from Halbert's, eventually it came and I sent off. Jokes had gone around my local family history group about me getting the book. I waited and eventually I received a letter, there were not enough of us to fill a paragraph, never mind a weighty tome worthy of a coffee table. So obviously not enough of us listed in directories for people to collect together. What a disappointment but my bank balance was happy. (a personal opinion)

Even if you cannot trace your ancestry back to William The Conqueror, it could be that your family is entitled to a coat of arms. Forget those organisations that will supply you a crest for a fee. A coat of arms belongs to the family to whom it was granted and only to male heirs. In Tudor England, King Henry VIII was concerned by the misuse of armorial bearings and commissioned Kings of Arms to travel throughout
England and Wales to survey and record all arms. From 1530 until the late 1680s heralds travelled the countryside on horseback on a regular basis that became to be known as the heralds' visitations. The control of coats of arms is still today in the hands of heralds. Many areas have local Heraldic Societies, see useful addresses for the address to contact for a local group.

The International Genealogical Index is produced by LDS and is a valuable tool for the genealogical researcher. It is an index to entries in parish registers. The IGI is divided into countries and then, for example, is further subdivided into counties (
UK) and states (USA.) The IGI is currently being delivered on microfiche and CD-ROM and the user should be warned that there are differences between the versions; your ancestors may be in one and not the other. The IGI is developed by the LDS from a combination of members' temple submissions from 1840 to the present day and the systematic (carefully scrutinised) extraction program. Most of the IGI entries are baptisms but there are some marriages and a few wills. The IGI should be consulted by surname within county or state (fiche) or by surname (CD-ROM.) Any promising entries should then be verified against the original records which can be ordered (on microfilm or fiche) through LDS. The worldwide IGI includes hundreds of millions of names and is available at FHCs, the SoG, the PRO, most CROs and many FHSs. Since the LDS started making available IGI editions on CD-ROM it is now feasible for a researcher to take floppy disks to his local FHC and download selected IGI entries. Multiple downloads will entail use of several disks. The data may be downloaded in GEDCOM or ASCII (text) format. Serious researchers will require further software such as IGIREAD, GIPSI or IGI255 to use this data on home PCs.

The Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies offers training by correspondence for both amateur and professional family historians. The institute's library contains many indexes including Pallot's Index of Marriages; county maps; and many genealogical books. IHGS publishes a quarterly journal, Family History, which contains family histories, genealogical and heraldic articles.

Indexes are valuable research tools and note that family historians insist that they are indexes, not indices. The most famous index is the IGI but there are many others of value to the researcher including many surname indexes produced by various FHSs for the 1851 Census; the shoemakers index at Northampton; the US Social Security Index on CD-ROM available at FHCs; the Great Card Index at the SoG; the Pallot Index of marriages at the IHGS; the small indexes at virtually every local history society and FHS; and Bernau's, Boyd's and Currer-Briggs indexes described earlier. Many MIs are indexed and available for examination at SoG, various FHSs and CROs, while the 1881 Census project was a major undertaking that has proved invaluable to researchers. Another major initiative is the National Burials Index being compiled under the auspices of FFHS. A great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction can be gained from indexing as an individual or as part of a group.

Without a doubt the best thing for genealogists since sliced bread. The internet has made communication between like-minded people so easy. The reliance on the mail service a thing of seldom usage. Gedcom give quick family information. Replies to questions and the hopefully awaited answers are quick. Newsgroups and family groups relay messages to all members. Search engines locate sites - the only hard part is remembering your search criteria, with all the information laid before you. Many companies, family history groups, Genuki, repositories (Scotland's vital records indexes are on-line for a fee of approx. £6 for 24 hours access), the Commonwealth War Graves let you do a free on-line search and you can print out information the general public have space awaiting visits. Let search engines do the hard work. The number of sites with family history information are growing everyday And don't forget if you find an interesting site put in your favourites - you may never find it again otherwise! Although it will be listed in your history the site address could be totally alien to the name of the site.

International Reply Coupons were devised as a means of payment for the cost of a reply from a foreign correspondent. IRCs can be purchased at post offices in many (but not all) countries, can be mailed overseas and can then be exchanged for postage stamps to enable the foreign correspondent to reply. An unwieldy and expensive system but many a British FHS or genealogical service insists upon IRCs.

Irish research is more difficult than that in the rest of the
British Isles. Civil registration commenced in 1864 but many Irish records at the Public Record Office in Dublin were destroyed in the 'Unrest' of 1922. Records from 1864 to 1922, for all Ireland, and from 1922 for the Republic are held at the Office of the Registrar General. Northern Irish records since 1922 are held at the GRO, Oxford House. Virtually all 19th century census returns have been destroyed but the Irish censuses for 1901 and 1911 may be examined at The National Archives in Bishop Street, Dublin 8, Ireland. (Researchers should note that the 100 Year Rule prohibits disclosure of the 1901 and 1911 returns for the six Northern Ireland counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone but they may be scrutinised in Dublin.) The SoG has a collection of printed books on Ireland including Dublin directories from 1761 to 1846. You will almost certainly have to use a researcher in Ireland, try to do this from a recommendation. The Irish Genealogical Research Society has a library located at the Irish Club. The society publishes The Irish Genealogist annually

See Non-Conformists.

Lay subsidies were early taxes from 14th century. Lay subsidy rolls may be examined at the PRO. The rolls record details of parish inhabitants and taxes due for a period of about 300 years.

LDS (The church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints)
Part of the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires members' ancestors to be baptised into the Church. It follows that all Mormons are interested to a greater or lesser degree in genealogy. Many years ago the LDS began a worldwide program to microfilm parish registers in order to identify deceased ancestors for temple work (ie baptism into the Mormon faith.) The Mormons were pioneers in the development of computer indexes for the family historian and today produce the International Genealogical Index (the IGI) every few years. Initially available on microfiche, the IGI is now produced in both fiche and CD-ROM versions. The hundreds of millions of entries in the IGI represent a combination of members' temple submissions from 1840 to the present day (with many inaccuracies) and the professional systematic extraction program. Users of the IGI should treat it only as an aid. All information should be verified with the original parish records or with microfilmed copies available at a small fee from the LDS.
The LDS set up FHCs throughout the world. Use of these libraries is available free of charge to non-members of the church and the facilities include many other genealogical data on fiche and microfilm including census returns. The LDS regularly publishes The Family History Library Catalogue (FHLC) which is a computer produced guide to books, parish records, census returns and other historical data, and is available on fiche and CD-ROM. Searchers use the FHLC as an index to other fiches and microfilms that may be ordered at a nominal viewing charge. There is also extensive paper-based material including guides and books. The LDS encourages genealogists who are not members of the church to submit their own work for worldwide distribution. Pedigrees can be submitted as part of the LDS Ancestral File computer database, and published works are gratefully accepted for microfilming.
In 1998 the LDS embarked on a new phase of making genealogical information available to the public on CD-ROM. The first release was a single CD containing the 1851 Census for the three counties of
Devon, Norfolk and Warwickshire. These were the counties used in the "dummy run" for the 1881 project and there will be no further 1851 Census releases. The 1851 CD-ROM is fully indexed and contains comprehensive details from the enumerators' returns. The LDS quickly followed up with three multiple CD-ROM packages of Vital Records for Australia, British Isles and North America. The British Isles package contains a database of five CD-ROMs, one for marriages and four for births and baptisms. In all there are 5 million records indexed and the vast majority are new (ie not in the IGI) and are from the controlled extraction program. All these CD-ROMs are user friendly and are ridiculously low priced.

There are local history societies throughout the
UK who publish valuable material relating to their areas of interest. Addresses and contacts can be obtained through local libraries

The LMA, formerly the Greater London Record Office (GLRO), is the largest local authority archive in
England. The LMA's extensive array of records includes parish LONDON METROPOLITAN ARCHIVES:
records (many indexed), bishops' transcripts, electoral registers, school registers and other records relating to persons, places and institutions within the former counties of
London and Middlesex. There are collections of maps, prints and drawings and a library of old photographs.


   These are typically found in a CRO. Manorial records extend back to the time of the Conqueror and cover such events as the conveyancing of land and the holding of courts to hear major crimes and petty offences. There is a Manorial Documents Register which is an index giving the location of known existing records. It may be examined at The National Register of Archives, The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Quality House, Quality Court, Chancery Lane, London, England, WC2A 1HP.

Maps and gazetteers are essentials for the serious researcher. These can be examined at (and purchased from) various FHSs, FTM, IHGS, CROs and SoG. Every FHC has such aids for examination. Parish maps are organised by the old county boundaries.

Marriages can be traced in the civil registration system from 1837 on and in the old parish registers before 1837. A couple could marry by banns or by licence. A marriage by banns necessitated the banns (announcement of marriage) being called in the parishes of both the intended at three weekly intervals before the marriage. Wealthier people frequently married by licence to avoid the unnecessary publicity. Many old banns books and copies of licences are still available. It is worth checking the FHLC at an FHC or the archives at the appropriate CRO. Be aware that an entry in a banns book or the existence of a licence does not prove a couple was married.

These are the people who moved within the
UK. The Industrial Revolution brought phenomenal changes to the population distribution in Britain. Hundreds of thousands moved from the countryside to the city. Manchester's population grew from 75,000 in 1800 to 400,000 by 1850. The populations of London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham all tripled during this period. Tracing ancestors during the first half of 19th century can be difficult.

Genealogical research is not limited to tracing through the civil registration system, the Victorian census and old parish records. There are extensive records available to the family historian in many archives. The PRO and the SoG have huge holdings whilst the CROs have records relevant to their area. Miscellaneous records that may interest the overseas researcher include American & West Indian Colonies records before 1782 (PRO), apprenticeship records (CROs), apprenticeship registers (PRO), Chancery proceedings (PRO), coastguard records (PRO), foreign office records (PRO), heraldry publications (IHGS and SoG), Huguenots collection (SoG), land grants in America and American loyalist claims (PRO), militia muster rolls (PRO), operational records of the British Army, Navy and Air Force (PRO), professions - biographies and listings of architects, lawyers, doctors, MPs, etc. (SoG), shipping, seamen and shipwrecks (PRO), Royal Irish Constabulary (PRO), etc., etc.


Monumental inscriptions can supplement information obtained from parish registers. Gravestones are subject to the ravages of the British weather but many are still legible and a church or chapel often contains MIs, (which are not unique to tombstones.) Gravestones are also subject to the ravages of local authorities who prefer to maintain level lawns for easy mowing and thus remove the headstones. Fortunately, many FHSs have recorded and indexed their MIs. Transcripts may have been lodged in the CROs. Churches and graveyards are worth visiting since the MIs may offer details of births and deaths of previously unknown family members.

The Latter Day Saints. In my opinion family historians have much to thank them for. A visit to your local FHS will only be a pleasurable experience. Helpful volunteers will be only too pleased to guide you through the vast amount of records available. But please be aware not all records are at each library, you may have to contact before hand to determine this. But don't worry records can be ordered for a small fee and are kept for a limited period of time before returning to central storage. (list of libraries in
UK see useful addresses)

There are some magnificent museums with archives waiting for the genealogist. Some with obvious interest are: Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London, England, SE1 6HZ (British & German documents); National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, London, England, SW3 4HT (military papers covering British and Commonwealth forces); National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London, England, SE10 9NF (crew lists, Lloyd's Surveys and ship plans); and the British Telecom Museum, Baynard House, 135 Queen Victoria Street, London, England, EC4V 4AT (Historical Telephone Library with telephone directories from 1880.) And don't forget your local museum they are also a bottomless pit of local knowledge along with the local studies section of your local library.

Newspapers have been published in
Britain since at least the 17th century. A family history may be "fleshed out" with information from papers such as obituaries, editorial or advertisements. Unless your ancestor was a well-known personality or criminal, local newspapers are likely to provide more information than nationals. The largest collection of national and local newspapers can be found at the Newspaper Library, which is part of the BL (see earlier for address.) The Guildhall Library holds a complete set of the London Gazette and further newspaper holdings will be found at the SoG, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and most CROs and museums. Many FHSs and local museums have indexed their holdings and I was surprised and delighted to read about my great grandfather in 19th century newspaper archives on a chance visit to the Dorking & District Museum. The (London) Times is indexed and the SoG library has Palmer's Index to the Times on CD-ROM for issues covering the period 1790 to 1905. Local libraries hold film copies of most local papers an easy place to start when looking for family members - local advertisements are also of historic and family value.

Non-conformists or dissenters were people who did not follow the doctrine of the Anglican Church (the Church of England.)
Britain broke with the Catholic Church of Rome when Henry VIII declared himself 'Supreme Head of the English Church' by the Act of Supremacy of 1534. Some priests refused to accept the new Anglican Church and religious meetings were held by Roman Catholics, and people were baptised and married in secret by RC priests. Mary I reigned as a Catholic queen for five years but Elizabeth I reintroduced the Church of England in 1558. Religious persecution continued in 17th century and independent (dissenting) chapels were established by Presbyterians, Quakers and Baptists. James II briefly reigned as a Catholic king in the 1680s but was overthrown in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. Non-conformists include Huguenots, Congregationalists, Methodists, Moravians, Lutherans, Quakers and Jews. Many non-conformist registers have survived and are today in the safe-keeping of the PRO. Jews and Roman Catholics refused to submit their registers to the PRO. CROs or existing synagogues should have Jewish records. The Anglo-Jewish Association can help historians trace their Jewish ancestry. The AJA is at Woburn House, Upper Woburn Place, London, England, WC1H 0EP. The American Jewish Archives has comprehensive records of Jews arriving in the US before 1900. The Archives are located at Hebrew Union College, USA. Some Presbyterian and Congregational records may be found at Dr Williams Library, London, England, WC1B 4AB. Huguenot ancestry may be traced through the Huguenot Society, London. Quaker records are reputed to be the most comprehensive of all non-conforming faiths since the registers were transcribed before being deposited at the PRO. An index to the registers may be examined at The Society of Friends Library, London.

Your family members may have been kings or bodgers. Many of us will have agricultural labourers (ag. labs.) in our family history as well as individuals whose occupations have disappeared over the years. Trade Directories are very useful and can be found in most local libraries, many researches and companies have scanned, or transcribed directories into CD form and can be purchased through groups and at family history fairs.

A one-name study group is focused on a single family or surname. The contact person usually has thousands of records relating to the surname: extractions from the IGI, Civil Registration, parish records, wills, the censuses and directories. Family Historians should check with the list of groups in the GRD and with GOONS to see if there is useful research previously undertaken

A bishop's diocese comprised parishes. Many parishes were villages with a church and a clergyman (or incumbent). Larger towns and cities would contain several parishes. Records of British baptisms, marriages and burials have been maintained by law since 1538. Not all churches date back to 16th century and not all clergymen kept proper records in the early years. The early baptism, marriage and burial records were usually jumbled together and some of them were written in Latin but by 1732 all registers were required to be written in English. During 18th century the baptisms, marriages and burials were maintained in separate registers or on separate pages. For the first 200 years it was normal to record only the father's full name and that of his child in baptismal entries so proving ancestry for a popular surname is often difficult. Most original parish registers are today in CROs but some are still in churches. From 1598 the clergy had to send a copy of their entire year's parish register to the local bishop. These copy entries are known as the Bishops' Transcripts or BTs. Thanks to the efforts of LDS, microfilmed copies of most parish registers and BTs are available for loan at most FHCs. (There is a delay whilst copies are made from masters at Salt Lake City.) There are also holdings at the PRO. Microfiche and microfilm copies are available for scrutiny at the SoG and various libraries. Considerable work has been undertaken by FHSs in indexing the registers, some of these indexes have been deposited in Local Archifes. There are numerous surname variations and, as many of our ancestors were illiterate, the surname was written phonetically. One point to remember is that the date in a baptism entry is not the birth date and the burial date is not the date of death and this should be noted on your record system. Typically, a child was baptised a few days or weeks after birth but this is not always the case. A burial followed within days of a death. As Civil Registration in
England and Wales only commenced in 1837, parish records are the genealogist's main focus of research in developing a family history. The obvious starting place is the IGI. From the IGI there may be entries pointing to a particular parish, and films can be ordered from the LDS. Be aware to the fact that your ancestors may have been non-conformists, therefore check those records if you cannot find entries in the Anglican church. In the case of marriages check the banns books.

Many family pedigrees have been published. The SoG's library has many books of family histories filed alphabetically by surname. The SoG also holds a unique collection of 14,000 unbound pedigrees,. This material is known as the Document Collection and is filed alphabetically in envelopes within box files. There are also many pedigrees placed on the internet - some placed there on specific family history sites and others can be picked up by search engines.

Libraries and Local Archives hold collections of photographs. Although not always indexed they are always of historical interest.

There have always been poor people - and records to account for them. Overseers of the poor were first appointed in 1572 and the Poor Law Acts of 1601 and 1604 established the poor law administration which existed until 1834. Churchwardens were tasked with taxing parish inhabitants to pay for the upkeep of the poor. Poor Law records, including Overseers' account books, provide detailed records of those living on the edge of existence. Some of this information can be obtained from Local Archives or The LDS FHLC will direct a researcher to the appropriate microfilms.
Public Record Office:
The Public Record Office houses the national archives of
England and the United Kingdom. Stores there are the records created by central government and the courts of law of England and Wales. The millions of documents span the period from the Norman Conquest to the current day. The majority of public records are available for inspection thirty years after the end of the year in which they were created. Some records of vital interest to the family historian, such as the census records, are subject to the hundred year rule so the census returns of 1901 will become available to the public in January, 2002. The bulk of PRO records are now housed at Kew, south-west of central London. The archives embrace legal records and records of mediaeval through to modern government including the holdings of the Treasury, Admiralty, War Office and Colonial Office. The microfilmed copies of the census returns for England and Wales for 1841,1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891, together with non-parochial registers and probate records, have moved from the old PRO Chancery Lane building to the FRC. The facility at Kew are custom built or recently refurbished. A P Reader's Ticket is required for visitors to Kew and is issued with proof of identity.
The PRO publishes scores of leaflets and are free of charge many maybe read online at the PRO's Web site. PRO has extensive military and merchant navy holdings and must be visited if your ancestors were in the army, navy or RAF.

The Probate Registry is the home of wills and administrations proved since 1858 and wills are easier to trace from that date. Indexes to these can be examined free of charge in bound volumes. When searching cover a twenty year + period because some wills were only proved years after an individual died. Many of your ancestors may have left property but died intestate. In this case, letters of administrations (or admons) may have been issued. Admons also appear in the Probate Registry indexes. Many of the CROs have holdings of local probates.

Many records of railways and railwaymen survive and the bulk are held at the PRO. Further records will be found at the Scottish Record Office, CROs and libraries.

A researcher must have a system that they can understand, even if you put family history on the back burner for a while - you will sooner or later go back to your information and need to understand the scribblings made so enthusiastically at an earlier time. There are many computer packages available, try to find one that suits you, as buying the same as a friend or fellow researcher may be hard going - not everything suits everyone. There are also companies that produce sheets for manual storage plus certificate and photograph storage, files + more, including forms for census and parish register notes

Civil Registration commenced in July 1837. The process of registration was through over 2,000 registration districts formed from the union of parishes established under the Poor Law Act of 1834. The register offices still exist and still store the original records of births, deaths and marriages. Copies are sent each quarter to the GRO where the central index is compiled. Certificates can be obtained from the district register offices if you know that the event occurred in the area. Registration district numbers changed in 1946 and 1974. It was not made compulsory to register until later in the century and therefore, some entries, like that of my great grandfathers birth is not entered

In theory at least, research in
Scotland is easier than it is in the rest of Britain. Scottish records (civil registration, the census and parish registers) are all held in the same place, New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3YT. There are no CROs in Scotland but there is a Scottish equivalent of the PRO, the Scottish Record Office, which holds the public records north of the border including surviving archives of Scotland prior to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, together with court and legal records. The Scottish Record Office is at H M General Register House, Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3YY. A major difference between New Register House and FRC is the fact that you must pay to use the facilities. A big plus is that you are then allowed to view copies of the original civil registration documents, not just indexes as at FRC. Although Scottish civil registration commenced later (in 1855 rather than 1837), the certificates contain more information than the English and Welsh equivalents. A birth certificate contains the mother's maiden name (only from 1911 in E & W) and from 1861 the date of marriage of the child's parents. Marriage certificates contain full names of both mothers and death certificates of women give maiden and previous surname if the deceased had remarried. Other registers include marine registers of births and deaths; war registers including deaths of Scots in the Boer War and the two World Wars; and births, marriages and deaths in foreign countries.
Indexes to the Vital Records of Scotland can be accessed on the Internet. An arm of the Scottish Record Office called Scots Origins has a indexed the Old Parish Registers (1553 to 1856), the civil registration or Statutory Index (1855 to 1897) and the 1891 Census for
Scotland. A pay-as-you-view access allows up to 30 pages of index references to be downloaded for #6 within any 24 hour period. Copies of a certificate or census return costs a whopping #10.
Scottish censuses were taken every decade as in
England and Wales and returns may be viewed at New Register House. (As stated earlier, there are no CROs in Scotland but there are libraries and FHSs within the old counties with census holdings.) Scottish parish registers, known as the Old Parish Registers, are at New Register House. These are the registers of the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church. (Anglican churches were not officially permitted in Scotland until the mid-19th century. Such churches are part of the Episcopal Church of Scotland.) There were almost 1,000 parishes in Scotland but not all of the old registers have survived to the present day. Baptismal entries are typically more detailed than the England and Wales equivalents with the mother's maiden name given. Wills (or testaments as they are known in Scotland) are held for the years up to 1823 at the Scottish Record Office. Indexes for these have been published by the Scottish Record Society and are available at FHSs and libraries both north and south of the border. Jurisdiction was under the old counties after 1823 and some have deposited their wills at the Scottish Record Office. From 1876, the Office holds a consolidated calendar of confirmations (probates) for the whole of Scotland. Before 1868, testaments only covered personal (movable) property. Land transfer was recorded in the Sasines Registers and indexes to these can be found at the Scottish Record Office.


Some family historians still believe that the Public Search Room of the GRO is still at Somerset House. It was there for over 140 years but relocated in 1973. SH was home of the Principal Registry of the Family Division (Probate Registry) for many years but the Public Search Room of the Probate Registry has moved to First Avenue House, High Holborn. One component of The Principal Registry of the Family Division remains at SH, Strand, London, England, WC2R 1LP. The Family Division maintains relatively recent divorce records (since 1938) and permission to look at divorce papers before and after 1938 must be obtained from the Family Division, SH. (Divorce records from 1858 until 1937 are held at PRO, London.)

The Society of Genealogists houses the finest genealogical library in
Britain. Members and non-members are welcome. If planning to visit more than once it is probably more economical to become a member.The SoG has among its posessions: the IGI (147 million entries); Boyd's Marriage Index (7 million entries); Great Card Index (3 million slips); Parish Registers (9,100 transcripts); MIs (8,500 burial grounds transcribed); Will Indexes (for most probate courts); Census Indexes (5,600); Family Histories (5,500 volumes); Numerous Deposited Collections (for 14,000 surnames); The list is endless. The SoG also holds the Civil Registration indexes for England and Wales and is an absolute treasure house for all family historians. There is also a bookshop. Check times of opening before making your visit. (see useful address)

It is generally accepted that English and Welsh surnames derive from various sources: Christian names or forenames (eg John, Williams, Adams); occupations (Smith, Wright, Miller); locality (Hill, Brook, Bridges, Moore); and personal peculiarities (Brown, Black, White, Redhead.) Nicknames are also used as surnames (Blackie, Little, Armstrong). There are, as in most theories exceptions to the rule; King, Bishop, Knight for example. Surnames ending '...thwaite' are likely to originate in
Lancashire, ending '...hurst' in Sussex and '...combe' in Devonshire. Surnames not only take on the geographic characteristics but they use village names i.e. Blakeney, Wakefield, Ormsby. Names ending in 's' or 'ing' indicate a family relationship, Richards, Richardson were originally 'son of Richard', while 'ing' denoted a tribal group or clan. In Scotland and Ireland 'Mac' and 'O' also meant 'son of', these were in use long before the surnames we acknowledge today. Tracers should beware of name variations, whoever wrote the name did not want to show ignorance and spelling variations occur i.e. Siddle, Siddall, Siddell, Riach, Reoch, Reach. The accent of someone saying their name could also affect the way it was written by a member of the clergy or the census enumerator before the days of DIY census forms. There are some very interesting and informative books that go into far greater detail.

Income tax was introduced in 1799 to help fund the wars against Napoleon, but there are other tax documents that may be of interest to family historians. The Hearth Tax of 17th century was a tax based on the number of hearths in a home. Few parish returns exist for the period 1662 to 1674 and are at the PRO and CRO's. The Window Tax, based on the number of windows in a dwelling, was as unpopular as the Hearth Tax and many householders bricked up their windows rather than pay the tax the evidence can still be seen today in older dwellings. The Window Tax was in force from 1696 to 1851 and returns can also be found in CRO's. Land Tax Assessments were also imposed in 1696 and were discontinued only in 1832. The records at the CRO's give details of the land owners, who the tenants were and taxes paid.

A list of major repositories/organisations in alphabetical order.
· American Jewish Archives: Hebrew Un. College,
3101 Clifton Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220, USA.
· The Anglo-Jewish Association,
Woburn House, Upper Woburn Place, London, England, WC1H 0EP.
· American Sociaty of Genealogists,
1228 Eyre St, NW Washington, D.C. 2005
· Archives Authority of
New South Wales: 2 Globe Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.
· Association of Genalogists and Record Agents, 1 Woodside Close, Caterham,
Baptist Church House: 4 Southampton Row, London, England, WC1B 4AB.
· Borthwick Institute of Historical Research: St Anthony's Hall, Peasholme Green,
York, England, Y01 2PW.
· British Association for Local History:
PO Box 1576, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, SP2 8SY.
· British Library:
Euston Road, London, England, NW1 2DB.
British Telecom Museum: Baynard House, 135 Queen Victoria Street, London, England, EC4 4AT.
· Catholic Record Society, c/o
114 Mount St, London, W1Y 6AH
College of Arms: Queen Victoria Street, London, England, EC4 4BT.
· Commonwealth War
Graves Commission: 2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, SL6 7DX.
· Department of Manuscripts:
Euston Road, London, England, NW1 2DB.
· Dr Williams Library,
14 Gordon Square, London, England, WC1H 0AG
· Faculty Office, the, The Sanctuary,
Westminster, London, SW1
· Family Division/Principal Registry (Divorces):
Somerset House, Strand, London, England, WC2A 1LA.
· Family Division/Principal Registry (Probates):
First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London, England, WC1V 6NP.
· Family Records Centre:
1 Myddelton Street, London, England, EC1R 1UW.
· Family Tree Magazine: 61 Great Whyte, Ramsey, Huntingdon,
Cambridgeshire, England, PE17 1HL.
· Federation of Family History Societies: The Administrator, The
Benson Room, Birmingham & Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham, England, B3 3BS.
· Genealogical Research Directory:
UK& Ireland, Mrs E Simpson, 2 Stella Gr., Tollerton, Nottingham, NT12 4 EY, England
· General Register Office (Public Search Room): Family Records Centre,
1 Myddelton Street, London, England, EC1R 1UW.
· General Register Office (
Ireland): Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.
· General Register Office (
Northern Ireland): 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT1 4HL.
· General Register Office (
Scotland): New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3YT.
· Gibson Guides: J S W Gibson, Harts Cottage, Church Hanborough, Witney, Oxon, England, OX8 8AB. (Also obtainable from FTM, FFHS and SoG.)
· Guild of One-Name Studies: Box G, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London, England, EC1M 7BA.
· Guildhall Library: Aldermanbury,
London, England, EC2P 2EJ
Hebrew Union College, 3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220, USA.
· Heraldic Society,
28 Museum St, London, WC1
· Huguenot Society,
54 Knatchbull Road, London, England, SE5 9QY
Imperial War Museum: Lambeth Road, London, England, SE1 6HZ.
India Office: 197 Blackfriars Road, London, England, SE1 8NG.
· Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies: 79-82 Northgate,
Canterbury,Kent, England, CT1 1BA.
· Jewish Historical Soc.
33 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5AP
· John Rylands Library,
Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PP
· Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C. 20540
London Metropolitan Archives: 40 Northampton Road, London, England, EC1R 0HB.
· Lord Lyon, King of Arms: New Register House,
Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3YT.
· McLaughlin Guides: Eve McLaughlin, Varneys,
Rudds Lane, Haddenham, nr. Aylesbury, Bucks, England. (Also obtainable from FTM, FFHS and SoG.)
· Methodist Archives - see
John Rylands Museum
National Army Museum: Royal Hospital Road, London, England, SW3 4HT.
· National Archives of Ireland:
Bishop Street, Dublin 8, Ireland.
· National Archives (
USA), Pennsylvannia Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20408
· National Archives of
Canada, 395 Wellington St, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0N3
· National Library of
Wales: Aberystwyth, Dyfed, Wales, SY23 3BU.
· National Library of
Ireland, Kildare St, Dublin 2.
· National Library of
Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh
· National Maritime Museum:
Romney Road, Greenwich, London, England, SE10 9NF.
· National Register of Archives: Quality House,
Chancery Lane, London, England, WC2A 1HP.
· Newspaper Library:
Colindale Avenue, London, England, NW9 5HE.
New Zealand Society of Genealogists, PO Box 8795, Aukland
· Office of National Statistics: Family Records Centre,
1 Myddelton Street, London, England, EC1R 1UW.
· The Principal Registry of the Family Division,42-49 High Holburn,
London, WC1V 6NP
· Public Record Office:
Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England, TW9 4DU.
· Public Record Office (Census Records): Family Records Centre,
1 Myddelton Street, London, England, EC1R 1UW.
· Rallymaps, PO Box 11, Romsey, Hampshire, England, SO51 8XX
· Registrar-General, Registre de la Population, 1279 Blvd, Charest ouest, Quebec, PQ, Canada, G1N 2C9
· Registrar General, PO Box 46900, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, P7B 6L8
· Scottish Record Office: General Register House, Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3YY.
· Society of Friends Library: Friends House,
Euston Road, London, England, NW1 2BJ.
· Society of Genealogists: 14 Charterhouse Buildings,
Goswell Road, London, EC1M 7BA.
· Vital Statistics Div., (The Registrar General), Dept., of Health,
Confederation Building, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada A1C 5T7.
· Vital Statistics Div., Deputy Registrar Dept., Department of Health, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Canada, B3J 2M9
· Vital Statistics Div., PO Box 2000, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, C1A 7N8
· Vital Statistics Div., Department of Health, PO Box 6000, Centennial Building, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, E3B 5H1
· Vital Statistics Div., Manitoba Family Services, 245 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3C 0B6
· Vital Statistics Div., Community & Occupational Health, Texaco Building, 10130-112 Street, Edmonton, Alaska, Canada T5K 2P2.
· Vital Statistics Div., Ministry of Health, 818 Fort Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, V8W 1H9
· Vital Statistics Div., Government of the Yukon Territory, PO Box 2703, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Y1A 2C6
· Vital Statistics Div., Department of Justice and Public Services, PO Box 1320, Yellowknife, North West Territory, Canada, X1A 2L9

The date of death of an ancestor can lead the researcher logically on to a quest for a will. Not every citizen made a will but there may be papers of administration (or admons) granted to a relative, typically the next of kin.. Searching for wills is relatively easy for the period from 1858. Please refer to Probate Registry. In the years before 1858 stretching back for centuries the granting of probate and administration was conducted by the church. Probate jurisdiction occurred in the lowest church court if the deceased lived where his property was. The ecclesiastical courts were structured upwards from parish (only those known as Peculiars) through the Rural Deanery and the Archdeacon's Court to the Bishop's Court. The Bishop's Court had jurisdiction if the deceased's property was in multiple archdeaconries. (The Bishop's Court might be known as an Episcopal Court, a
Consistory Court or a Commissary Court.) If the deceased was a wealthy land owner, his property may have extended outside the diocese so jurisdiction would occur in the Archbishops's Court, either the Prerogative Court of Canterbury or the Prerogative Court of York. The PCY covered the northern counties and the PCC the southern. The PCC was the senior court and had jurisdiction over probates of people who owned property in both provinces. Readers should be warned that there are exceptions to these ecclesiastical rules. Pre-1858 probate records for the PCC are held at the PRO. Pre-1858 probate records for the PCY are held at the Borthwick Institute. Probates for the lower church courts are held at CROs, while Welsh wills are at the National Library of Wales. Indexes to most of the courts are held at SoG. Scottish wills (testaments) are held at the Scottish Record Office.
Wills can contain a wealth of information whether made before 1858 or after. You may locate a will before a death so you then have a rough guide to that event. Wills contain names of family members and can assist in establishing relationships. They take us back to a time when property, lifestyles and values were very different. Take note of the executors who were frequently relatives or close friends of the person making the will. As stated earlier, a grant of administration was typically made to the next of kin, as deemed by law, so one can determine who was the nearest surviving relative at the time the intestate made his will if not when he died.

WWW addresses change on a regular basis but you should be redirected hopefully!!
· Abney Park Cemetery Burial Index: http://www.cam.org/~hopkde/abney.html
· Ancestry Genealogy Library: http://www.ancestry.com
· British Columbia Vital Events: http://www2.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/textual/governmt/vstats/v_events.htm
· Commonwealth War Graves Commission: http://www.cwgc.org/
· Cyndi's List: http://www.CyndisList.com
· Family Tree Magazine: http://www.family-tree.co.uk
· GENUKI: http://www.genuki.org.uk/
· Guild of One-Name Studies: http://www.one-name.org
· London Metropolitan Archives: http://pitcairn.lib.uci.edu/largo/glr/glrx.html
· Public Records Office: http://www.pro.gov.uk
· Scots Origins: http://www.origins.net/GRO/
· Society of Genealogists: http://www.sog.org.uk/
· Wakefield Family History Sharing: http//:www.wakefieldfhs.org.uk

Finally, if you plan to visit in person any of the places mentioned, please, please contact them before hand to make sure that a) they are open and b) that they have the information you have travelled to find. There is nothing more frustrating than planning a journey, sorting through your records to see what information is needed only to find that the building is closed today, closed for renovations or the records are not even at the building you have spent a lot of time and money to get to. A cup of refreshing tea or coffee doesn’t always work in this case.

Good hunting!!


Some of this information has been collected from outside sources and sometimes these sources have given me an idea for a little snippet.

All sources of information are acknowledge and listed below:

Dr Ashton Emery
D.M. Field
C E Wilkinson








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