News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Scottish genealogy at a glance

    Scottish research can be similar to tracing families in England and Wales, with General Registration records of birth, marriage and death, together with census returns creating the basis for nineteenth and early twentieth century research.

    As in England and Wales, the latest census available to genealogists with Scottish ancestry is the 1911 census.  Later enumerations are governed by one hundred year confidentiality rulings.  Once a family has been found here, they can be tracked back using earlier decennial census returns.

    Alongside census records, General Registration birth, marriage and death certificates are also available for Scottish research. Unlike England and Wales, Scottish General Registration only began in 1855, rather than 1837.  However, this is somewhat made up for in the level of detail given within Scottish certificates.

    In England and Wales, only the father’s name is given on a marriage certificate, whilst Scottish marriage records also include the mother’s forename and maiden surname.  Likewise, with Scottish death records both parents names are given for the deceased.  This is particularly useful, as English and Welsh records do not include this information on a death certificate, which can make the death of one John Jones hard to distinguish from another John Jones living in the same place.

    Prior to General Registration and the first census of 1841, Old Parish Registers, or OPRs, are the next genealogical resource to consider in Scotland.  These are records of the Established Church, and the particularly useful aspect of OPRs is that they have most been indexed and digitised.  Thus relatively comprehensive searches can be made for the whole country of surviving Church of Scotland records, whereas in England and Wales indexing of Anglican parish registers can be patchy.

    New to genealogy?  Why not contact us for assistance on your Scottish ancestry.

  2. Tips for researching Irish families in England

    Tracing family history in Ireland can be daunting, especially if the town, or even county, or origin is unknown.  An English census may simply read “Ireland” for the place of birth.

    A fire at the Public Record Office in 1922 destroyed most Irish census returns pre 1901, and if a family left Ireland prior to this, then this lack of records can be difficult to overcome.  As well as this, Irish General Registration only began in 1864, compared to 1837 in England.

    But there are ways to overcome these issues.  Firstly, find a person of Irish birth in as many censuses in England as possible: just one of these may give more information on place of birth.  If they lived until 1911 particularly, it is more likely that a precise place of birth would be given on this record.

    If both parents are born in Ireland, but they have children in England, buy the birth certificate of one of these children.  This should give the mother’s maiden surname, and this may lead to their marriage record in Ireland.  This could be essential if no specific place of origin is given in census returns in England.

    If these methods are fruitless, then the mid nineteenth century census substitute Griffith’s Valuation could help localise a surname.  This was taken between 1847-1864 in order to asses liability to pay the poor rate.  As such, it represents a useful resource where other genealogical records for the same period are lacking.

  3. How to start tracing your family history

    Most people are interested in some way about their family history, but to the uninitiated knowing where to begin can be difficult.

    Always start by talking to elder family members, who may be able to remember details back to the nineteenth century.  If they are vague on dates, ask about what time of year they remember particular events, which can help jog memories.

    From there, either progress to General Registration records of birth, marriage and death, or if possible, to the 1911 census.  There is currently a one hundred year confidentiality ruling regarding census access, so the returns of 1911 are the most recently available to the public.  Once a family has been found within census records, it should be possible to trace backwards using BMD certificates and census returns, back until 1841, which was the first census enumerated.

    Hit a brick wall with your research? Not sure where to start?  Why not contact us for a free quote to investigate your genealogy.

  4. It’s all in the signature . . .

    Sometimes in genealogical research, a brickwall can be reached in all sorts of circumstances.  This week our searchers were initially stumped by one George Jackson, waterproofer.  He was named as the father on the marriage certificate of Joseph Jackson.

    However, there was simply no Joseph Jackson, son of George a waterproofer in census returns or General Registration records.  A likely family was found however, with the father named Charles.  He was sometimes recorded as a waterproofer, but also as a labourer or french polisher.

    In order to prove this was the relevant family, it was necessary to think outside the genealogical box!  In fact, when one of the daughters of this Charles married, one Joseph Jackson was a witness.  His signature was recorded as follows:

    joseph jackson witness

    When comparing this to the signature on the ancestral Joseph’s own marriage record, they were certainly extremely similar:

    joseph jackson wedding

    But the final icing on the cake?  Joseph’s sister married one Sylvanus Musgrove: Joseph’s youngest child was named Sylvanus, clearly in honour of his uncle.  Thus some clever detective work helped identify the relevant family, despite a discrepancy on a marriage record.

  5. General Registration around the world

    General Registration is where most people start when tracing their family tree.  English, Welsh and Irish records provide both parents names, including mothers’ maiden surnames, on birth certificates, as well as address and occupation of father (or sometimes mother is she is unmarried).  Marriage records give the age of parties, occupation, address and the father’s name and his occupation.  Death certificates provide an age, occupation and residence.

    Apart from additional information gleaned from witnesses or informants names, this tends to be the limit of information provided.  But when looking into General Registration, or vital records, of other countries, extra information can be given.

    In terms of the UK, Scottish General Registration is particularly useful, for marriage certificates also provide the mother’s name and maiden surname, and death certificates (should) give both parents’ full names.  This can be particularly useful if dealing with a death in the 1850s for example, of an elderly person perhaps in their 80s: if known, their parents names should be stated.

    When considering General Registration from further afield, again additional information is often given when compared to English records.  Australian and New Zealand certificates include place of birth on marriage and death certificates, as well as place of birth of the parents on birth certificates.  This information is invaluable, particularly due to the large number of incomers to these countries in the nineteenth century.

    Other countries with particularly good civil registration records, include Holland.  So if you find links to other countries, investigate their records of civil registration and see what additional information can be found.

  6. How to trace your family history, a quick start guide.

    Starting family history research can be daunting, when presented with an array of websites online offering various records available to search.  However, it is important to start with the basics.

    1. Collate what information you have.  Talk to any older relatives about anything they remember.  Ask questions to prompt them, to help with dates etc.  For example, what was the weather like at your grandfather’s funeral?

    2. Birth, marriage and death records.  General Registration (GRO) began in 1837, and in theory every birth, marriage and death should have been registered since then. Various websites provide the quarterly indexes to GRO records, to obtain the relevant volume and page number required to order copies of the certificates.  With this information a certificate can then be ordered via the GRO website for a small fee.

    3. Census returns.  With the information from GRO, searches can then be made of census records.  The most recently available for public scrutiny is that of 1911, and again various websites allow access to these records.  These provide information such as age, place of birth and occupation which are essential when building up a picture of our ancestors’ lives.

    4. Parish registers.  Prior to the earliest census of 1841, and the beginning of GRO in 1837, parish registers are the most useful resource for genealogists. They record baptisms (rather than births), marriages and burials (rather than deaths).  The Anglican church should be the first place to start, unless the family has known links to non-conformists denominations or Roman Catholicism, which have different registers (where they survive).

    5. Probate records.  Wills can represent an excellent resource to add to our knowledge of our ancestors, and even labourers sometimes left such documents.  They are mostly available from the appropriate local record office, although records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are now available online.

    These are the main sources to use when starting out on your family history journey, but of course this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Delving into genealogy can take you on unexpected journeys – just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!

  7. Tracing ancestors in death records

    So often in family history research, records of life are examined – such as census returns, and records of birth, baptism and marriage.  These build up a picture of where our ancestors were living and what they did for a living, but it is important to remember that death records can also provide valuable information.

    General Registration began in 1837, and the death certificates created provide a cause of death, where the death took place as well as the usual residence of the individual.  An informant’s name and address is also provided.  This record can provide an idea of the circumstances of ancestor’s death: for example, it could show whether an individual had to seek medical care in a workhouse at the end of their life, or whether the death merited a post-mortem.

    In turn, this could lead to other records, such as newspapers for an obituary or information on the post-mortem.  The certificate could also provide clues regarding family members, such as if a married daughter acted as the informant.  With information on her married surname, further research could be undertaken on her branch of the family.

    Prior to 1837, parish registers are the best source of information regarding deaths, although it is actually the record of the burial which appears within the registers.  After 1813 a standard amount of information is given – specifically, name, abode and age.  It is the information on age which is so important to genealogists: with this knowledge, an approximate date of birth can be calculated.

    Prior to 1813, it was up the clergyman how much information was recorded in the parish register.  Whilst a great deal of information could be provided by the incumbent, equally the entry could simply read “John Smith, buried”.  The burials of children are often noted as “John Smith the son of John Smith”, or sometimes “John Smith, infant”.

    Searching for burial records within parish registers can help to confirm whether a baptism found is relevant.  If a marriage took place a few miles away, and a possible baptism has been found in another village, check to make sure that the person baptised did not remain in the village: if he was buried there, then this suggests that he stayed living in the parish where he was baptised. In this way it is possible to  ensure that a family tree is as acurrate as possible.

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