Free genealogy records, newly available online, may be able to take you around your ancestor’s world! This week’s record destinations include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, France, Italy, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Russia, and South Africa.
Civil registration records–key genealogical resources–from several countries are among the free new family history records online in recent days and weeks. But you’ll also find probate records, church records, military personnel records, and even a digital archive meant to preserve ancient aboriginal languages. Which might mention your ancestors?
An exciting new Australian website houses a digital archive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language materials. It includes texts, audio, video, and ebooks about Australia’s First Nations languages. The hope of the site is to be a digital repository for gathering, preserving, and sharing materials that in effect preserve these languages and revitalize their use. The site managers will continue to work with partners to bring more content to the site. Click here to read more about the site’s launch, and click here to access it directly.
Two free Belgian civil registration collections at FamilySearch.org have been updated:
Both of these collections are comprised of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths from the Belgium National Archives, as well as marriage proclamations, marriage supplements, and some original indexes. Additional images will be added as they become available.
Several free Brazilian genealogy records collections have been updated at FamilySearch.org. Among them are the following:
Over 300,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s enormous free collection of Bolivia Catholic Church Records, 1566-1996. The collection hosts over 1.5 million digitized images of Catholic Church records created by parishes in Bolivia. “These records include: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, pre-marriage investigations, deaths, indexes and other records. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional indexed records will be published as they become available.”
Library and Archives Canada continues to update its free Personnel Records of the First World War database. So far, the database includes “digitized files for many individuals of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps (courtesy of the Rooms Provincial Archives).”
Newly digitized CEF files are added to the references every two weeks, states the collection’s landing page. To date, over 461,000 of an expected 640,000 files have been added. “Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order,” explains a blog post. “Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized.”
Over 175,00 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection, Dominican Republic Civil Registration, 1801-2010. Spanning over 200 years, the collection includes images of births, marriages, and deaths as well as some divorces and indexes. “Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection,” states the collection description. “Additional images and indexed records will be published as they become available. These records were obtained from public access sources in the Dominican Republic.”
FamilySearch has updated its collection of indexed Catholic parish record images for Coutances et d’Avranche Diocese, 1533-1894. Baptisms, marriages, and burials are all included. “Parishes within this diocese are within the boundaries of the department of Manche,” states a collection description. “French commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) does not allow publication of sensitive data below 150 years.”
FamilySearch continues to publish more Italian civil registration records! These are some of the latest:
Just shy of a million records have been added recently to FamilySearch’s free collection, Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records. “Archives around the Netherlands have contributed indexes which cover many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records,” says the collection description. “These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment and more. These indexes were originally collected, combined and published by OpenArchives.”
There are now over two century’s worth of records in the free FamilySearch collection, Nicaragua Civil Registration, 1809-2013. It includes “births, marriages, deaths, and other records created by civil registration offices in various departments of Nicaragua.” Civil registration in Nicaragua didn’t begin until 1879, and it appears that most records in this collection date from that year or later.
Nearly 125,000 browse-only images have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, Paraguay Miscellaneous Records, 1509-1977. According to the site, “These records include two complete collections: Sección Nueva Encuadernación (Rebinding Section) and Sección Propiedades y Testamentos (Properties and Wills Section). Copies of the original records are housed at the Archivo Nacional in Asunción, Paraguay. The “Propiedades y Testamentos” section can give a brief look at the personal wealth of clerics, economic bases of resident foreigners in Paraguay, or the fortunes of a given family over a period of time.”
FamilySearch.org has updated its free collection, Russia, Samara Church Books, 1779-1923. It includes “images and partial index to records of births and baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials performed by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in the province of Samara. These records were acquired from the state archive in that province.” Another brief statement in the collection description illustrates the incremental and ongoing nature of record additions to FamilySearch: “Currently this collection is 4% complete. Additional records will be added as they are completed.”
Probate records detailed the final settling of our ancestors’ financial assets. They often contain rich genealogical information and interesting insights into a person’s life. They are among the many records you might find at courthouses and government archives. More U.S. probate records are coming online (click here to learn more), but even if you have to visit a courthouse yourself or hire someone to do it for you, it’s often worth it. Click here to read why.
Thanks for sharing this post with those who will want to know about these free genealogy records online!
With about 1/3 of Americans claiming British ancestry, chances are that at some point you will need to extend your research across the Atlantic Ocean. Genealogical research in the British Isles has some important differences when compared to the United States. Guest blogger Kate Eakman, a Senior Researcher for Legacy Tree Genealogists, clarifies confusing terms and helps you get your research started on solid footing!
Britain? England? The United Kingdom?
When beginning British genealogy research, it’s important to first talk about the difference between British and English research. There are several terms which get used interchangeably but which really refer to different locations.
Great Britain is an island, the largest island in the British Isles.
On the island of Great Britain are three of the four sovereign nations which make up the United Kingdom, or the U.K.: England, Wales, and Scotland. Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland is the fourth country of the U.K.
The four countries of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Map courtesy Nate Parker.
Usually, when people talk about their British ancestors, what they really mean are their English ancestors. Although we Americans often treat the two words as interchangeable they really aren’t, and I suspect our English friends giggle a bit when they hear us misuse the words.
The four countries of the U.K. have some similarities but many important differences, and that is equally true for genealogical research. Rather than trying to explain all of those differences, this post will focus on English research.
One last thing to keep in mind when we talk about genealogical research in England is that today the country is divided into counties, which are sort of the equivalent of states in the U.S. Older records might refer to those counties as shires, and over time the borders have shifted, shires and counties were added, divided, or absorbed into each other. So a good map or two will be a useful tool to keep handy while you research your English ancestors.
Usually, when people talk about their British ancestors,
what they really mean are their English ancestors
What do you know?
Before beginning British genealogy research and making that leap across the pond, it is a good idea to consider what you already know about your English ancestors. Of course, you have a name, and you probably have an approximate date of birth.
Were you fortunate enough to find the name of a town or county where that ancestor lived or do all of the census reports and vital records simply say “England”?
If the ancestor arrived as an adult, what occupation did he pursue?
When did he or she arrive in the U.S.? Are there any clues on the passenger list to tell you where to start looking?
Once you have reviewed all of the information you have already acquired about your English ancestor, it’s time to start your research.
Beginning British Genealogy Research with the Census
The first step in most genealogical research is to study the existing census reports. Designed as a means to count the population for a variety of years, the census of Great Britain (including Scotland) is taken every ten years with the earliest records available in 1841. Due to very restrictive privacy laws, the most recent census available is from 1911, with one really valuable exception being the 1939 Register, available at FindMyPast.
Used for genealogical purposes, the census can give a snapshot of the family at the time the census was taken, as well as provide invaluable information such as the birthplace of the individual being recorded, occupation, birth year, and familial relationships. Elderly parents, or widowed mothers, aunts, or sisters, can be discovered living with younger members of the family.
Drawbacks of using the census for genealogical purposes include inaccurate name spellings, inaccurate age reporting, and inaccurate assumptions made by the enumerator. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the 1841 census the enumerated rounded down to the nearest five years the ages of people over 15. So a person who was listed as 25 could have been 25 through 29 years old.
It is important to remember that for the census reports through 1901 the enumerator copied the household information into books, and these copies are what we have today. Of course, when information is copied it is susceptible to error. The person who completed the census form may have had difficult-to-read handwriting, or the enumerator may have entered things on the wrong line. The individual reports have been kept for the 1911 census and offer a greater likelihood that the information they contain is very accurate.
An example of a transcription from the 1891 English Census from Familysearch.org.
Detailed transcripts of English census records are available for free on FamilySearch and the images can be found for a fee at FindMyPast.
It is important to remember that for the census reports through 1901 the enumerator copied the household information into books, and these copies are what we have today.
Civil Registry of Vital Events
All English births, marriages, and deaths were required to be registered in a civil registration office beginning in July of 1837. In addition to the records themselves, there are indices which list the name of the person who was born, married, or died, the place where the event was registered, and the quarter and year in which the event occurred. Because the General Register Office (GRO) will only search one year on either side of the date provided, it is best, but not required, to include the index information when ordering documents from the GRO.
Free BMD is a free database which allows you the most freedom to search for the birth, marriage, and death index record of your relatives. You can enter whatever information you know including the place where the event happened, a specific year or range of years, age, and mother’s maiden name.
Depending on the time period, the index may be handwritten or mechanically printed. The information can then be used to order a copy of the actual record from the General Register Office (GRO) in England for about $10 per record.
An example of handwritten (left) and mechanically printed (right) birth index entries. Photos courtesy https://freebmd.org.uk.
The information contained in birth records includes:
Name, date, and place of birth;
Father’s name (if given at time of registration), occupation; and
Mother’s name, maiden surname.
The parents’ places of birth were added after 1969, and the mother’s occupation is listed after 1984.
Marriage records include:
Date and place of marriage;
Name, age and marital status (spinster/bachelor, widowed, divorced) of the bride and groom;
Occupation and usual address;
Name and occupation of the fathers of the bride and groom, with a note if either man was deceased at the time of the marriage;
Names of the witnesses;
Name of the person who solemnized the marriage.
Death records in the United States are often relied upon to provide the names of the parents. English death records do not include that information and therefore are not as useful for genealogical purposes. Each death record includes:
Name, date, and place of death;
Date and place of birth (before 1969 a certificate only showed age of deceased);
Occupation and usual address;
Cause of death;
The identity of the informant.
There are other records available, which we will talk about in a later post, which can be used to find and trace your English family members. The largest group are the religious records, and sometimes those can help you extend your family back in time to the 1600s – 400 years or more!
Beginning British Genealogy Important Take-Aways…
“Great Britain” is an island. “The United Kingdom” is a country. And “England” is a country. Normally, when people are talking about their British ancestors they are referring to their English ancestors.
England has counties, or what used to be known as “shires,” which function sort of like our states. The borders have changed over time, as have some of the names, so use a map when necessary to verify where you are researching.
Census records are available from 1841 through 1911. Really good transcriptions are available for free at Family Search, or on the for-fee site Find My Past. And remember that age idiosyncrasy about the 1841 census.
Finally, civil birth, marriage, and death records are available from the GRO. You can use the index listings to find the most likely match for your ancestor, and those can be found online at Free BMD.
Have fun and good luck finding your English ancestors!
Kate Eakman is a Senior Researcher for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls.
Click here to learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team.
(Read our Disclosure and Affiliate Disclaimer on this page)
With an update to PERSI for genealogy, Pennsylvania birth and death records, and a tidbit or two from the United Kingdom and Scotland, you will start this year off right! It’s a new year and we are ringing in some great new and updated genealogical record collections.
PERSI for Genealogy
A monthly PERSI update has been added at Findmypast. With over 67,000 new articles and five new titles, the Periodical Source Index is the go-to source for those looking for stories of their ancestors. The new titles cover the American Historical Society, Chicago, Maryland, and British family histories & heraldry and will allow you to discover articles, photos, and other material you might not find using traditional search methods.
This week, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released the 1911 births (105 years old) and 1966 death records (50 years old) to the public. This makes birth records publicly accessible from 1906 through 1911, and deaths 1906 through 1966. This collection index is free through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission portal.
Ancestry.com offers these records in digital form as well, but there is a subscription cost to use Ancestry. However, Pennsylvania residents can access these records free of charge through Ancestry.com Pennsylvania.
To access the index only, start with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission page on Vital Statistics for links to the indexes. You need to know the year of the event and the surname. If you do not know the year, you can search several years, one by one. These indexes are not digitized but are PDF files of the ones the State uses. If you locate a state file number for a certificate, you can order it from the State Archives.
However, if you are a Pennsylvania resident, you will be able to access the certificates digitally using the link to Ancestry.com Pennsylvania as mentioned above.
United Kingdom – Huntingdonshire – Marriages
New at Findmypast this week, the Huntingdonshire Marriages 1754-1837collection contains over 1,000 names taken from26volumes of marriage records from the Huntingdonshire district of Cambridgeshire. These records will allow you to discover when and where your ancestor was married.
Scotland – Roxburghshire – Patient Registers
Also at Findmypast, explore the Roxburghshire, Kelso Dispensary Patient Registers 1777-1781. These registers contain over 1,700 names that list the date and outcome of patients’ treatment (such as cured, relieved of symptoms, or died). This may be particularly helpful for those unable to find a death date.
It should be noted that these are transcriptions only and you will not be able to see a digital image of the original.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor unfolds from the horrified notes in deck logs of ships in this short video narrative. Learn more about these and other resources for researching WWII ancestors at Pearl Harbor.
Today is the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and we pause to remember those who suffered in that attack. In honor of them, we share these unique resources for understanding what they went through that day.
Pearl Harbor Eyewitness Accounts
the National Archives (US) unfolds the terrifying action of the day from the point-of-view of sailors on ships at Pearl Harbor as they made ongoing entries in deck log books.
5 Ways to Learn about Pearl Harbor and Your WWII Ancestors There
Ship deck logs. According to this article in a National Archives magazine, deck logs of those ships docked at Pearl Harbor are part of the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24, located at the College Park, Maryland facility in the Modern Military Branch. Click here to learn more about WWII-era deck logs at the National Archives, and here to learn more about naval deck logs and submarine deck logs in general.
National Archives guide. A new free guide can help you trace a person’s participation in World War II. The guide is “Finding Information on Personal Participation in World War II.” You’ll learn more about individual personnel files, military unit and ship records, merchant marine files, Army enlistment records, casualty records, and more.
Pearl Harbor casualty list. This free database lists all who died that day as a result of the attack. The dead and wounded included not only those who were on ships in the harbor, but civilians in Honolulu and military personnel in nearby locations.
Pearl Harbor: from Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson. Learn how “the America we live in today was born, not on July 4, 1776, but on December 7, 1941.” He follows the actions of leading characters on both sides of the conflict as it unfolded.
One more book we must recommend: Chris Cleave’s stunning novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven. As you follow the stories of its unlikely heroes through their unlikely wartime romance, you’ll feel like you were there. You will feel your heart pumping while reading about the ducking attacks on the island of Malta or imaging yourself driving through bombed-out London neighborhoods as fighter planes droned above you. We featured this book recently in the Genealogy Gems Book Club; listen to an interview clip with the author in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 195.
New U.S. records online for free this week! Explore military records from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, WWI, and WWII. Plus we’ve got a wide assortment of vital records, church records, county and criminal records, and more. You never know where your...