Millions of records from around the world are new at FamilySearch this week, and are completely free! These new collections include Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, and South Africa. PERSI also got a big update this week at Findmypast, as well as new and updated records for Canada, England, and Ireland.
New collections free at FamilySearch
Australia. The new South Australia, Immigrants Ship Papers, 1849-1940 collection includes immigrants’ ships papers, containing a record of births and deaths aboard, 1849-1867 and 1873-1885. Indexed records in this collection include passenger lists arriving and departing from South Australia. (Original records in the State Records of South Australia, Adelaide.) Get started with Australian genealogy research with these tips from an expert at Legacy Tree Genealogists!
Denmark. FamilySearch has been adding census records for Denmark recently, and the latest new collection is the 1921 Denmark Census. This collection includes over 430,000 images, and these census collections were all provided by MyHeritage and previously from the National Archives of Denmark.
Finland. Church Census and Pre-Confirmation Books, 1657-1915: This collection contains church census books and pre-confirmation books kept by the Lutheran Church in Finland. These records come from a database at MyHeritage, citing Kansallisarkisto (National Archives of Finland), Helsinki.
France. Explore over half a million indexed records for Saône-et-Loire, Census, 1856, a complete indexing of the population censuses.
Italy. The Salerno, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1806-1949 collection includes civil registration (stato civile) records of births, marriages, and deaths within the custody of the State Archive of Salerno (Archivio di Stato di Salerno). Almost 6 million images are in this collection, and availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.
South Africa. Lastly, this collection of Pietermaritzburg Estate Files 1846-1950 is also new at FamilySearch. Records include death notices, vital records, wills, distribution accounts, and succession duty accounts.
Need help using FamilySearch? The Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org by Dana McCullough provides the guidance you need to discover your ancestors and make the most of the free site’s valuable resources. Learn how to maximize all of FamilySearch.org’s research tools–including hard-to-find features–to extend your family tree in America and the old country.
PERSI update at Findmypast
The Periodical Source Index (also known as PERSI) has had another large update at Findmypast. Almost 11,000 new articles and 30,000 new images have been added, covering Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Toronto, and Yorkshire. PERSI is an excellent resource for discovering articles, photos, and other material you probably won’t find using conventional online search methods.
Click here to learn more about PERSI for genealogy research. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can also check out Premium Podcast episode #135 for more tips on PERSI (sign-in required). Not a Premium Member? Click here to get started!
Canada – New & Updated Collections
From Libraries and Archives Canada: Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files. “As of today, 502,740 of the 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database…Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order.”
Ancestry.com updated two of their collections for Canada this week: Ontario, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage, and Death Notices) 1885-1980 and the Canada Obituary Collection, 1898-2017. Both of these collections come from microfilmed copies of the newspapers.
Recently announced on Twitter: “The General Register Office for England and Wales (GRO) is piloting a service from 12 October 2017 to provide portable document format (PDF) copies of digitized historical birth and death records. The pilot will run for a minimum of 3 months to enable GRO to assess the demand for this service over a prolonged period.” England and Wales records which are available as PDFs in this extended pilot include births (1837 –1916) and deaths (1837 –1957).
Ireland: Historical Newspaper
A new historical newspaper title was added to the British Newspaper Archive this week for Northern Ireland. The Coleraine Chronicle 1844-1910 was published by Alpha Newspaper Group in Coleraine, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The collection features nearly 3,500 issues and over 26,000 pages.
Get the most out of your genealogy records websites subscriptions!
Use the jammed-packed Genealogy Giants cheat sheet by Sunny Morton to quickly and easily compare all of the most important features of the four biggest international genealogy records membership websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com. Then consult it every time your research budget, needs or goals change. Tables, bulleted lists, and graphics make this guide as easy to use as it is informative. Available in print or digital download.
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Got ancestors from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Island? Check out these new UK genealogy records online: 1939 Register updates; newspapers; Scottish postal directories and local resources for Derbyshire and the city of York.
Featured Update: Additions to the 1939 Register online
Over 660,000 new records pertaining to empty, uninhabited addresses across England and Wales have been added to Findmypast’s unique and important online 1939 Register resource.
We asked Jim Shaughnessy at Findmypast how these records can help a researcher. “There are a few things that an empty address can tell you,” he responds. “Knowing the house you are looking for was an empty address in 1939 may help you to direct further research. As with other record sets, the occupations of the neighbors can give you an idea of the area (in terms of the largest local employer).”
The ability to search even vacant addresses “can also give you information about areas [later] destroyed by aerial bombing during the War (and during the extensive regeneration in the decades following),” writes Jim. “The Register was compiled September 1939; bombing began in 1940 and a lot of houses wouldn’t have been rebuilt, particularly in impoverished areas where we had bombsites for years and years afterwards. So from that you could look at how the War changed that area or that street: what doesn’t exist now but did pre-Blitz.”
Jim also pointed out that “Findmypast is the only site on which you can search by address on the 1911 census as well as the 1939 register, plus we have the largest collection of electoral rolls, also searchable by address. You can search by address and then build the entire picture of what your family did.”
More UK Genealogy Records Now Online
The British Newspaper Archive recently added four new titles: the Willesden Chronicle, published in London and the Warrington Guardian, published in Cheshire; the Dudley Herald [Dudley, West Midlands, England] and the Monitor, and Missionary Chronicle, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland [Belfast, Northern Ireland]. The British Newspaper Archive now holds over 19.5 million pages of historic newspapers dating from the early 1700s to the early 2000s!
In addition, Findmypast has added over 186,000 records to its collection, Sussex, Eastbourne Gazette Newspaper Notices. “This indexed collection includes names found in the paper’s family notices section (announcements of births, marriages, and deaths) as well as other reports on events such as divorces, murders, tragedies, shipwrecks, lynchings, and paternity cases. The newspaper reported on stories in Sussex, but also internationally.”
Derbyshire, England. Over 800 records have been added to Findmypast’s unique collection of Derbyshire Hospital Admissions and Deaths 1855-1913. “The collection now contains over 5,000 records taken from two different sources: Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, Deaths 1892 – 1912 and Victoria Memorial Cottage Hospital, Ashbourne Admissions 1899 – 1913,” states an announcement. “Each record includes a transcript produced by the Ancestral Archives of Derbyshire. Records can include the patient’s admission date, reason for admission, condition after admission, marital status, residence, rank or profession, date of discharge or death, and cause of death.” Looking for other Derbyshire ancestors? Click here to read about online Methodist records for Derbyshire.
York, England. A new Findmypast resource, The York Collection, includes nearly 300,000 genealogical records documenting over 600 years of residents of the city of York. A press release calls it “the largest online repository of historic City of York records in the world….Fully searchable transcripts of each original document are also included, enabling anyone to go online and search for their York ancestors by name, location, and date.”
The collection is comprised of a variety of fascinating documents, including hearth & window tax records (1665-1778); lists of apprentices and freemen (1272-1930); city of York trade directories; electoral registers (1832-1932), city of York school admission registers; city of York deeds registers (1718-1866); city of York militia & muster rolls (1509-1829), and city of York calendars of prisoners (1739-1851). This collection was published in partnership with Explore York.
A snippet from an 1820s post office directory for Aberdeen and vicinity. Image on Findmypast.com.
Over 180,000 new record images have been added to Findmypast.com’s collection of Scottish post office directories, now spanning 1774-1942. The collection has nearly 900 browse-only volumes of directories that offer descriptions of Scottish towns along with lists of residents by occupation and address.
Here’s a little background from Findmypast: “Post directories are an excellent source for family historians wanting to trace ancestors on a yearly basis. Directories allow you to fill in the gaps between the census records. They can also provide vital information about your ancestor’s residence, which can lead to the discovery of more records….Directories can add historical context to your ancestor’s story. Directories will give you a better understanding of where your ancestor lived, such as how many businesses were in the town, how many schools, what day was the market day, and how big was the town.”
“Directories may focus on a particular town or district or you can find national postal directories. The majority of post directories comprise a description of the place, along with lists of people by occupation. For example, you will find lists of magistrates, councillors, sheriffs, police officers, and merchants. It is important to remember that post directories are not complete lists of all the residents in the town or county. Also, many directories fail to include women.”
TIP: A browse-only collection of digitized Scottish post office directories for 1773-1991 is available to search for free online at the National Library of Scotland.
Start researching your English ancestors with this free two-part article series:
British Research for Beginners (“English” v. “British” and more)
English Parish Records: Finding English Ancestors Before 1837
English Parish records are a rich genealogical resource. England’s earliest useful census is from 1841, and civil records only go back to 1837. Let us help you trace your English family history before that time. English parish records might hold the key, and we’ve got all the information you need to get started searching them.
This post is the second in a series on finding your English ancestors by Kate Eakman of Legacy Tree Genealogists. Click here for the first installment on the difference between “Great Britain,” United Kingdom,” and “England;” census records and civil birth, marriage, and death records available through the General Register Office, or GRO.
Census and civil records are extremely useful and important for genealogical research in England. But the earliest useful census is from 1841, while the civil records only extend back to 1837. So what do researchers do to trace their English ancestors back to earlier times? How can you find your family if they emigrated in the 1700s or even earlier?
English Parish Records: The Back Story
Genealogists owe a debt of thanks to King Henry VIII’s chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell. After England’s split from the Roman Catholic Church, Cromwell issued an injunction in September of 1538 requiring every church in England to maintain a register of baptisms, marriages, and burials. The law was followed with varying degrees of consistency until Queen Elizabeth I, and the bishops of the Church of England reaffirmed the injunction in 1597. Wars, insects, water, and carelessness have led to the loss and destruction of many of these parish records, but there are still thousands of registers listing these important events available for our use today.
There are some Catholic Church records available for the years prior to 1538, but in general, the bulk of the ecclesiastical records begin with the Church of England or Anglican Church records starting in the mid- to late-1500s and extending into the late 1800s.
So what are you looking for, where do you find them, and what do those records provide? To explain that, we need to review how the church, whether Roman Catholic or Church of England, divided up the country.
- At the lowest level, we have parishes. The size of a parish can vary, and not every town or village had a parish church. Some parishes include a chapelry or two (small local churches or chapels which were under the jurisdiction of the parish priest). Within the records of the parish church is the most likely place for you to find information about your ancestors.
- Parishes were then grouped together under the jurisdiction of a bishop who was in charge of a diocese. There could be archdeaconries or rural deaneries within a diocese as well. Don’t overlook a record set for the archdeaconry or the rural deanery with the name of your ancestor’s town (Archdeaconry of Richmond or the Deanery of St. John).
- You will also see bishop’s transcripts which are just what it sounds like: copies of the parish records which were sent to the bishop of the diocese. These were generally made annually, and were required beginning in 1598, with most extending to the mid-1800s. Bishop’s transcripts were supposed to be exact copies of the parish records, but they may contain either less information (the local parish priest abbreviated the registers) or more information because the local minister had the luxury of time when recopying the registers and so added details not found in the original parish registers. Of course, there is always the possibility of error creeping in, as is true any time that someone is recopying text from one page to the next. It is wise to consult the bishop’s transcripts as well as the parish registers when they are both available so that you are certain that you have every detail available.
Finally, the parish church was not always the closest church to a family’s home. A baptism, marriage, or burial could have taken place in a neighboring parish. If you are unable to find the parish records where you expect to find them, use a map to search for neighboring parishes and try searching for your ancestors there.
Finding Your Ancestors in English Parish Records
It is not uncommon to find that several children from a family were baptized in one church and the others were baptized in a different church, so look around and keep in mind what is a reasonable walking distance for parents with a baby, a bride and groom, or to carry a dead man’s body for burial. Look for places less than three miles from the home of your ancestors.
The same folks who provide us with a free index to civil birth, marriage, and death records also have provided transcripts of ecclesiastical baptismal, marriage, and burial records at FreeReg. Here you can enter the name, a range of dates, the county, and select the type of records. Be sure to click on the “Name Soundex” box in case your ancestor’s name was spelled slightly differently than the modern version. Although these are transcripts with no links to the actual records, this site can help you to narrow down a broad range of choices to the one most likely to belong to your relative.
English Parish Records: Baptismal Entries
Baptismal entries generally include the date of the baptism, the place of the baptism (including the church name), and the names of the parents of the child. The mother’s maiden name is almost never included unless the child was illegitimate. It is also important to remember that baptisms could occur anywhere from the day of birth up to three or more years after the child’s birth. Unless the record specifies the date of birth, assume that it occurred up to three years earlier when continuing your research.
Transcripts of parish register on the left and bishop’s transcript on the right for the same person, John Parker. Due to the use of Latin and the different sentence construction, the names appear to be slightly different, but both are translated as John Parker, son of Joshua and Catherine Parker. Images courtesy https://freereg.org.uk.
English Parish Records: Marriages
Marriage records will include the date and location of the marriage, which was usually the parish church of the bride. Both the bride and the groom will be named, but it is rare to find any additional information such as the occupation of the groom or the names of their parents.
The examples of a parish register and the archdeacon’s transcripts provide variant spellings of the groom’s surname: Wasy and Acye or Wacye. The bride’s given and surnames have different spellings as well: Amie and Amye and Cots or Cottes. This is why we encourage researchers to use the “Name Soundex” box, particularly since these records are for the man known as Thomas Wise today.
Note the different spellings of the names although the archdeacon’s transcript was supposedly a copy of the parish register. Images courtesy https://freereg.org.uk.
English Parish Records: Burials
Burial records, which are not the same as death records, provide the name of the deceased, the date and place of his or her burial, and the names of the parents. If the deceased was married, the name of the husband or wife is also included. Most burials occurred between one and three days of death, but unless the record specifies a specific date of death, it is best not to assume a particular day.
The burial record below is an excellent example of additional information which can be included on a bishop’s transcript. The parish records no longer exist for burials from the cathedral church of Durham, but the bishop’s transcript provides very useful additional details. From this record, we learned that William James, who was buried on 3 April 1634, was baptized on 24 June 1632. His father, also named William James, was buried 21 January 1659/60.
The split date for the burial of William James, Sr. (21 January 1659/60) indicates the date differences of the Julian and Gregorian calendars. This type of annotation can be seen during the first three months of each year in English records until 1751 when England officially accepted the Gregorian calendar. Image courtesy https://freereg.org.uk. Click here to learn more about Julian and Gregorian calendars.
Online Parish Clerks Websites
There are also a number of Online Parish Clerks (OPC) websites which allow you to search for transcriptions. Lancashire’s OPC site is one of the most complete sites and is easy to use. If you are fortunate enough to have ancestors from Lancashire, definitely use this site. For other OPC sites, go to UKBMD.org for links to about 20 other projects.
Obtaining Copies of English Parish Records
Once the transcripts of your English ancestor’s baptisms, marriages, and burials have been located, you can turn to several sources to locate the actual copies of the records. There are some digital copies available on FamilySearch.org. (Note that the agreement that the Family History Library has with a number of the repositories requires that you access the records from a local LDS Family History Center and not from your home.) You can also find copies of the documents on the for-fee site FindMyPast.com (and click here for English Catholic parish records at Findmypast.com).
Devon Parish Registers showing 1660 baptisms from http://findmypast.com.
Parish registers and bishop’s transcripts are very useful for tracing English ancestors back to the mid-1500s. The registers include baptismal, marriage, and burial records and although they often contain only the bare minimum of information, that can be used to research and extend your family tree. Because everyone in the parish was included–not just the wealthy and powerful–these records can allow us to trace our English ancestors for many generations.
Get more help finding your ancestors
About our Legacy Tree guest blogger: Kate Eakman grew up hearing Civil War stories at her father’s knee and fell in love with history and genealogy at an early age. With a master’s degree in history and over 20 years experience as a genealogist, Kate has worked her magic on hundreds of family trees and narratives.
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.
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