Genealogy SIG Newsletter: April 2013

It was good to receive some very positive feedback from the first letter .. thank you! Let’s hope the second will be as useful. It seems the Easter period has been rather quiet with regards to new databases appearing on the main websites, so not many new additions to report on.

What’s new on Ancestry

Some of these are new, others are updates. I did read that updates are often based on feedback received, either through corrections being made to transcriptions or calls to the Member Services team of Ancestry, but equally they could relate to new records having been added. I suppose the only option is to recheck your names to see if anything new has appeared.

What’s new on Findmypast

Findmypast have added new parish records to their Canterbury Collection, bringing the total to over 2 million. The records date as far back as 1538 and provide rich details for family historians.

The British Newspaper Collection is growing rapidly, with apparently something in the region of 8,000 pages being added daily. The collection includes a selection of local British newspapers covering the period 1710-1963 – a great resource.

Whilst on the topic of newspapers I will mention another source which is free, providing you can get your hands on a UK library card! Many local libraries in the UK offer free online access to newspaper collections. The three main collections which are generally covered are:

  • 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers
  • 19th Century British Library Newspapers
  • The Times Digital Archives 1785-1985

These can be accessed in the comfort of your own home by logging into a UK county library website and entering your library PIN no. In the past there have been a couple of English county libraries who have allowed anyone (anywhere in the world) to register, but this loophole seems to have been closed now – so you need to have your own library card or a library PIN no. There is no restriction on using the PIN no. outside of the UK, in other words you can use it here in Spain - you just need to get one!

For this month’s topic I thought I would focus on death!

We always say that researching your family tree is more than just names and dates, however there are two dates in an ancestor's life which need to be researched and recorded, namely birth and death. Finding death dates is something that people often overlook.

How do we find them? For deaths prior to civil registration (1837) you are really dependent on parish burial registers. For post 1837 deaths then the obvious place to look would be FreeBMD or the BMD index on sites such Ancestry.

Prior to 1866 no age was shown on the death certificate, so it is often very difficult to pinpoint a death if you are researching a common name. When researching between 1841 and 1911, don't forget to glean information from the census. For example, you may find a married couple living together in the 1851 census, but by the 1861 census the man is shown as a widow, indicating that his wife died between 1851 and 1861. If you cannot find the exact date or year/quarter of death then you will find most family history tree programs allow you to record a date as “after 1851” or “between 1851-1861”, which is better than entering “unknown” or even leaving it blank!

After 1866 and up until 1969 the age was shown on death certificates (and transcribed to the BMD index) but remember this was given by the informant so may not have been accurate! After 1969 you have the added bonus of the deceased’s full date of birth being recorded which can often help to a gap in your research. Remember again, only as accurate as the information given by the informant.

Death dates and places for those killed during the 1st and 2nd World Wars can generally be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website.

An associated site, The War Graves Photographic Project, was originally set up to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, Ministry of Defence grace and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day. It now works alongside the CWGC as well as Australian, Canadian and New Zealand organisations in an attempt to extend its remit to cover all nationalities and military conflicts, making these available within a searchable database. If you find an entry on the CWGC for one of your ancestors, then take a look on the War Graves Photographic Project site to see if an image of the grave/memorial is available. High resolution images can be obtained for a small administrative fee.

Finding a final resting place is not always easy - place of death does not always equate to place of burial! You will need to investigate burial records and, for more recent deaths, cremation records as well. The following guide may help.

You may be lucky to find burial registers online, either through the major sites such as Ancestry and Findmypast, but also transcriptions via sites such as FreeReg or ones done by local Family History Societies. Very often google is the key to finding the more obscure sites!

The Probate Calendar on Ancestry, currently covering the years 1858-1966, is another resource for finding death dates. It was not only the rich and famous who left wills – I have even found one for one of my Ag.Lab. ancestors, so well worth a look. The entry in the Probate calendar usually gives place and date of death and may also mention family members where probate or Admin has been granted, which helps tie it in with your research.

Other useful links:

And last but not least, a little gem which has been doing the rounds on a couple of websites I use!

Dustydocs is a 'web-linking site' of English baptism, marriage and burial records for the years 1538 to 1900 with information being sourced from freely available parish records as well as validated user contributions.

I haven’t investigated it fully but on a quick look many of the links take you to OPC websites (Online Parish Clerk) and the IGI (International Genealogical Index available through Family Search). Well worth looking at, it may just bring up something you have missed!

Until next month … happy researching.

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