Posts Tagged ‘Genealogy’

One of the most frustrating things about being a genealogist is not being able to find an ancestor’s birth or baptism. Often these ‘brickwalls’ can be very frustrating, both in our own ancestry and for those of us who are professional genealogists, there’s nothing worse than having to tell a client you can’t find their ancestor/s.

So how can we break down those brick walls? Sometimes it’s just a matter of attrition, searching through parish registers in the area you know your ancestor was from and working outwards from there. Where was the last place you located them? Are they on the 1851 census? If so, that’s great as it will give their place of birth, but be warned these are not always accurate, my great great grandfather William Singleton born in 1836, gives three different places of birth on different censuses, in 1851 he gives his place of birth as Muncaster in Cumberland, in 1891 as Ravenglass in Cumberland and in 1881 & 1901 variations on Low Eskholme (Low Escombe and Low Estham).

1851 census:

1881 census

1891 census

In fact, these all turn out to be the same place, Low Eskholme is a farm in the parish of Muncaster & Ravenglass is the nearest village to the farm; so you can’t really take the information they provide on the census at face value!

If not on the census, then the next place to look is where were there children born, do you have a marriage for them? If they were married in the same parish the children were born in, were they themselves born there? Does the marriage entry give any clues? Does it just same that bride and groom were “of the same parish”, or does it give a clue to the parish they were from, e.g. on 15 Oct 1807 my 4x great grandfather John Park married Susannah Lubbock in Kelling in Norfolk, the information given is:

John Park of the parish of Thornage, widower and Susannah Lubbock of this parish, singlewoman

Thornage was a small village some 6 miles south west of Kelling, and until I found this entry I was unaware that he had been a widower. Unfortunately I didn’t find his baptism in the parish register for Thornage, but after a bit more research, I did find his first marriage to Martha Chapman in 1798 in Corpusty, Norfolk, which gave his parish as Briston, further south than Thornage, and I finally found his baptism in Briston in August 1773, breaking down one of my long held brickwalls.

If no clues are to be found in the marriage entry, what is the parish their children were born in? Using that as your beginning parish, try and find their death or burial, this may give an age which will allow you to work out how old they were when they died. For example the following burial entry in the parish of Easington in East Yorkshire gives age at death;

Rachel Relict of Israel Hobson, Easington, 20 May 1819, aged 84

This gives a rough year of birth for Rachel as 1735, giving a time period to start searching for her birth/baptism. She was married in Kilnsea, East Yorkshire in 1766, a frustrating both of this parish, or botp. Israel himself was buried in 1785, a full 34 years before his wife dies, however neither were born in Kilnsea or Easington.

Working from here, I downloaded a copy of the parish register map for the East Riding available on http://www.genuki.org.uk and started working my way out ward from Kilnsea/Easington to cover the parishes of Easington, Hollym, Roos, Owthorne, Winestead, Patrington, Keyingham, Ottringham or Halsham: all to no avail, to date I haven’t found either Israel or Rachel, but I do know where they weren’t born!

And that’s where the negative positive result comes in! It’s a negative result in that you haven’t found the ancestor you were searching for; but it’s a positive as well, as you now know where they weren’t born! If that makes sense. The thing to remind yourself as you ponder the growing lists of parishes you have searched through is that they must have come from somewhere.

Another good source of information can be wills. Though it’s less likely that our Ag Lab ancestors left wills, sometimes they did, and sometimes they name cousins, or siblings, whose births/baptisms you can find and which allows you to extrapolate where your ancestor fits in, even if you don’t find their actual baptism. Wills can also tell us about family dynamics, and may mention relatives from outside the county, this could point to where your ancestor was originally from.

Of course, there is always the possibility that they were not recorded in the parish register where they were born; were they non-conformist? Or were they baptised in the local parish register and it’s no longer available, sometime in the last couple of hundred years its gone missing. Sometimes, these missing registers can be reconstructed from the copy that was sent to the Bishop, known as Bishop’s Transcripts, these sometimes include baptisms that weren’t in the original register, that weren’t for some reason copied into the parish register, but were copied to the Bishop, and sometimes neither copy remains.

Sometimes, just as you thing you’re never going to find that missing ancestor, a fellow genealogist or new found cousin will point you in the right direction, that’s happened with me a couple of times, an ‘oh by the way, did you know X was really from Y, not Z as previously thought?” can often send the researcher scurrying off in another direction.

It’s difficult to remain positive when all you find are negatives, but keep searching, as you never know what you’re going to find that will push you in the right direction.


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There are many websites that I visit during my genealogical day and not surprisingly many of them are pay-sites such as Ancestry or FindMyPast; however, the first website I nearly always visit when researching a parish or an area is Genuki. It is a mine of information, and I don’t know where I, or many of my fellow genealogists, would be without it.

As well as information on the whole of the United Kingdom & Ireland, it has a section for England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and within each of these are sections for each county, area, or island within the wider area.

Map of British Isles showing constituent countries

My first port of call is usually the England Page, as most of the research I do is in England (though I have a large Scottish presence in my own family tree), and from that page you can access each individual county.

You can see which links I use on a regular basis, as they’re a different colour than the others.

Each county page includes a section on information that is related to the whole of that county, e.g. Archives & Libraries, Cemeteries, Census, Churches, Civil Registration, Gazetteers, Nobility, Occupations, Probate Records, etc. All of these are extremely useful.

As well as general information on each county, there are many pages for individual parishes, in the case of Yorkshire, each ancient parish has a description similar to the one below for Langtoft in the East Riding:

The Ancient Parish of LANGTOFT

[Transcribed information mainly from the early 1820s]
“LANGTOFT, a parish in the wapentake of Dickering and liberty of St. Peter’s; 6 miles N. of Driffield. The church (see Churches for photograph) is dedicated to St. Peter and the living, which is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Prebendary of Langtoft, is enjoyed by the Rev. Jones Thompson. Pop. 416,

Peter Langtoft, an eminent Chronicler, so called from this place, was a Canon regular, of the order of St. Austin, at Bridlington, and wrote a Chronicle of England in French verse, in the time of Edward I. or II. which was afterwards translated in the latter of those reigns, by Robert of Brunne, and edited by Hearns in 1725. He died in the beginning of the reign of Edward II.”

“COTTAM, in the parish of Langtoft, wapentake of Dickering, and liberty of St. Peter’s; 1¾ miles SW. of Langtoft, 5 miles NNW. of Driffield. Here is a Chapel of Ease (see Churches for photograph) to Langtoft. Pop. 16.”
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. © 2010]

Colin Hinson is one of the Trustees of the Charitable Trust that is Genuki.

Below that can be found information on the Churches within that parish, including photographs, the whereabouts and dates of the Registers for that parish, in Langtoft’s case they are deposited at the East Yorkshire Record Office; information contained within three directories, Baines’s Directory of 1823, Post Office Directory of 1857 and Bulmer’s Director of 1897; a map of where the parish appears in the East Riding and a link through to other maps, and information on which family history society covers this area.

In all the information above is extremely useful to any genealogist or family historian. Especially the directories, which often include a description of the parish, along with a list of the prominent members of that parish. Knowing with record office keeps the various parish records throughout Yorkshire is invaluable, in such a big county, with several record offices, it’s a great way to track down where records are kept.

There is a search engine which will search the whole of the Genuki website, so if you are looking for mentions of a particular place but are not sure which county it is in, then you can use the search engine and this will bring back entries for that place, e.g. is I search for Lantoft then I get back 143 responses, including the main entry mentioned above.

I could extol the virtues of Genuki for a long time, but really the only way to get to know its contents is to go use it, browse it’s pages and enjoy it. I do, each and every day!

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I had a great weekend last weekend at the WDYTYA Live show in London at Olympia. I arrived on the Friday afternoon and had a quick look around, but the main reason for getting there then was to catch up with people who I’d met on twitter and other social media; it was great to meet people and put faces to names. Had a great meal that night with some fellow professional genealogists and some good discussions on practising as a professional and our own family histories.

Exhibition Hall at Olympia


On the Saturday I returned to have a good look around all the stalls and stopped by to say hello to a couple of people. I even managed to come away without buying any books, a first for me!

I attended a couple of talks, this one was with Audrey Collins from the TNA talking about the replacement for the Catalogue there, it was very interesting and I look forward to seeing how this works out over time. As you can see from the picture below, the talk was well attended.

SOG Workshop talk

Saturday lunchtime and it was time to listen to Nick Barratt talk about Ancestral Tourism, there was a long queue for this talk, and we had to wait longer for it to start due to the previous session with Emilia Fox overflowing.




Nick talked about the need to link in the heritage business to tourism in an area, citing the Scottish Homecoming even in 2009 and various initiatives in Ireland, he and others are talking to Visit Britain and other tourism giants on this.

Saturday was the busiest day at the show, so much so that at lunchtime the only place to sit down and have a sandwich was the floor!! Sunday was a much quieter day and I only attending one talk in the morning given by Gill Blanchard on Writing your Family History, Gill had some good tips, some of which I’d already come across and some of which were new to me. After that I spent the rest of the morning in one of the coffee spots talking to other people I knew from twitter etc., before heading off to catch the train home.

All in all it was a great weekend, I’m glad I went, despite the foot ache from walking to and from Earls Court every day. It was great to catch up with people and listen to some of the talks, the family history show side of things practically passed me by as I wasn’t interested in buying things I would then have to carry home on the train, but the social side of things was great! Not sure if I’ll go again next year, maybe the one after!





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