Such documents with which we are all familiar today, provide a more
than useful insight into a variety of general and often highly personal
pieces of information, including the names of all people residing in the
household at the time of the census, their ages, relationship to the
householder (from 1851), their occupations (from 1851), and the
place of birth of all members of the family or household.
Returns can be consulted in various ways, usually from Public Record
Offices and local County Record Offices, as well as from Mormon
Genealogical Libraries. From the latter source one can usually gain
immediate access to local returns, or else can, for a fee, be provided
with a copy of a return available from any part of the world.
Census returns are provided on microfilm for which reading facilities
are available on special machines, which can unfortunately prove more
than a little strain on the eyes of the viewer.
As more detailed information became required from the household,
censuses eventually provided the following information: Name of place
in which household resided, including details as to whether it was a
hamlet, village, town or borough; full address; names of all present
the house on the night of the census; relationship to head of
household; matrimonial status; age; sex; occupation; birthplace; and
various other information including whether any person was blind, deaf
Wills and Administrations
Wills can prove an excellent source of material for the genealogist and,
in addition to the relative recently deceased, can usually be relied
upon to provide information also regarding numerous other relatives,
whether beneficiaries or not.
It must be remembered that not all people made a will; it wasn't
always necessary since most people had nothing worth leaving to
others anyway. Consequently, unless the your ancestors were engaged
in trade or the professions there might be no information here of use
Other Sources of Information
It isn't just to official sources that one might direct time and energy to
uncovering facts about one's own family tree. A host of other useful
sources are available from family members, friends and relatives, as
well as commercial and other concerns. Family bibles, letters, books,
certificates and photograph albums can of course provide much
reliable information, as can word of mouth - usually - the latter
especially so if supported by other people or sources.
Newspaper articles and announcements can also provide useful
information not always available from any other source.
Announcements of births, marriages, divorces and deaths were often
placed in the personal columns of local and county newspapers, or
national newspapers where prominent families are concerned. Most
families would extract the printed material relating to their relatives,
usually keeping the same safe in bibles, photograph albums, shoe
boxes along with other documents of one sort or another, or
sometimes the more organised family might have its own personal
scrapbook in which such documented pieces of evidence might be
available for reference.
If cuttings are not available from the family, then most main reference
libraries and newspaper publishers' archives are able to produce back
copies often extending over several decades for reference by
interested individuals. Some County Record Offices are also able to
provide reference facilities to old newspapers and periodicals, usually
covering the area in which they themselves operate.
In some places, where you might find a complete collection of the
newspaper available on microfilm.
Microfilm incidentally comes on a reel which fits into the spindle of a
special viewing machine. The film runs between this and another
spindle, both of which have handles for the viewer to move around the
film in order to select those segments of particular interest.
It's all well and good talking of looking for newspapers through which
to probe for a few hours or so, but what exactly are we hoping to find
in the course of our endeavours? Perhaps first and foremost we might
seek straightforward announcements of births, deaths and marriages,
from which other information will almost certainly ensue.
The names, and possibly the address, of the new-born’s parents might
perhaps be contained in the announcement; a death notice might give
an indication as to where burial took place (if you don't know from
other sources); a death notice might also indicate cause of death and
disclose any suspicious circumstances or inquests that might have
arisen; an obituary might also be enclosed in respect of prominent
citizens who have lived in the locality.
Apart from announcements placed by family and friends, and perhaps
short write-ups on prominent citizens, there is also the possibility of
news coverage of accidents, strikes, and many other events to which
the family concerned might have once been party. You would of course
usually require information that a particular ancestor was involved in
something likely to be so documented as well as have access to a
likely date of such occurrence before you can scour the newspapers
with any reasonable chance of finding information worth the time and
The International Genealogical Index (IGI)
The Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints maintains a compilation of
names. Baptisms and marriages are included to approximately 1875,
usually broken down into counties, and then into surnames and
Christian names. IGI statistics are available on the Internet as well as
at a computer base located in Utah in the United States, a veritable
shrine for genealogists. There is a link to this index in the resources
section of this book.
Military and Professional Records
Records of those in the armed forces were maintained from 1660
onwards, though not always to the quality or accuracy that
researchers of today might have hoped for. Standards incidentally
improved shortly into the nineteenth century.
Those seeking out details regarding soldier ancestors might find official
discharge papers more than a little useful, particularly where ranks
below officer are concerned.
Close to home one might find military museums and military societies
maintain fairly extensive records on their colleagues of years gone by.
Many links to these records are also included in the resources section
of this book.
For those ancestors engaged in other employment and professional
sectors, a number of guilds and museums have emerged over the
years, both to protect the interests of living members as well as to
preserve the memory and traditions of those who aren't. Most of the
early guilds and professional associations now have their photographs
and other documents preserved in special museums dedicated entirely
to the trade itself.
Among other useful sources of data are town directories and town
books, more prevalent perhaps in the middle of last century than is
the case today. Primary among these directories were such as 'Kelly's',
in which each parish and its inhabitants were listed according to name,
occupation, address and much other personal and employment detail.
The Percival Boyd Index held at the Society of Genealogists, lists some
seven million names and-appropriate English marriages and London
burials between the period 1538 to 1837.
Various other departments regarding immigration and emigration,
poor law, and so on, can also increase the store of information you
gain on any particular family or specific individual.
Finally, a wealth of information is available in the various genealogy
libraries operating throughout the world, many of which maintain their
own records alongside copies of official documentation.
Contacting Other Resources
Although there are many resources on the Internet for genealogical
research, the information is still limited. The farther you go back, the
more difficult it will become to locate information on your ancestors
online. This is where some letter writing skills will prove useful.
Whether you use email or snail mail, be polite. Please and Thank you
can go a long way in helping you get the information you are seeking.
When using the mail always include a self-addresses, stamped
envelope. When writing your letter, be as to the point as possible
about the information you are looking for. Be patient-Many of the
libraries and societies that you contact have limited staffing and it may
take several weeks to get to your request.