Three Basic Family History Records


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Census, church and civil registration records are the basic sources for British family history.

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  • Holt parish register, image from
  • The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers provides parish maps within North, Central and South Wales and includes colored lines showing the boundaries of each diocese.
  • Copied from Family history : the journal of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies FHL book# 942 B2f v. 19, no. 153 Oct. 1997
  • Llangiwg, Glamorgan parish register, DGS number 425328, image 18
  • Book: Parish Registers of Wales lists surviving parish registers.
  • Llangiwg Banns register, 1825, DGS number 433537, image 6, page 4.
  • This is the parish register for Llangiwg in 1849 & 1850 showing Howell Llewelyn.
  • Three Basic Family History Records

    1. 1. Three Basic Family History Records: Census, Church, and Civil Registration By Darris G. Williams, AG®
    2. 2. CENSUS
    3. 3. Basic Facts <ul><li>Lists families together providing context </li></ul><ul><li>Wales began a national census in 1801 </li></ul><ul><li>1 st complete, useful census is 1841 </li></ul><ul><li>1841 through 1911 are available </li></ul><ul><li>All are indexed by name </li></ul><ul><li>All are available online </li></ul>
    4. 4. Potential Problems <ul><li>Indexes often have errors </li></ul><ul><li>Families & individuals moved </li></ul><ul><li>Naming customs were changing </li></ul><ul><li>A few records have been lost </li></ul><ul><li>Census information can be incorrect </li></ul><ul><li>12% of the 1911 census is on Welsh forms </li></ul>
    5. 5. Tips for Success <ul><li>Work from recent to remote time period </li></ul><ul><li>Find your family in each available census </li></ul><ul><li>If one index does not work try another </li></ul><ul><li>Always, always, always get a copy and write down where you found it </li></ul><ul><li>Look a few pages before and after the one with your ancestor for relatives </li></ul>
    6. 12. 1841 Census on
    7. 14. 1861 Census
    9. 21. Basic Facts <ul><li>Beginning 1538 parishes were to record baptisms, marriages and burials </li></ul><ul><li>Few parish registers survive from 1538, most start around 1700 </li></ul><ul><li>All Welsh parish registers will soon be online </li></ul>
    10. 22. Potential Problems <ul><li>Indexes often have errors </li></ul><ul><li>Families & individuals moved </li></ul><ul><li>Naming customs </li></ul><ul><li>Early records have been lost </li></ul><ul><li>Not everyone attended the state church </li></ul>
    11. 23. Tips for Success <ul><li>Work from recent to remote time period </li></ul><ul><li>Find the whole family not just the direct line </li></ul><ul><li>If one index does not work try another </li></ul><ul><li>Always, always, always get a copy and write down where you found it </li></ul><ul><li>Compare what you learn with other records </li></ul>
    12. 24. The parish was the center of the world <ul><li>Before 1834 the parish was the both the civil and ecclesiastical center of life. </li></ul>
    13. 25. Parish Registers <ul><li>Recording christenings, marriages and burials went into effect in 1538. </li></ul><ul><li>There are just over 1,000 ancient parishes (created before 1813) but only 71 survive before 1600. </li></ul><ul><li>Many parishes have no registers before 1754. </li></ul>
    14. 26. Jurisdictions <ul><li>Several levels of jurisdiction applied to the area where your ancestor lived. </li></ul><ul><li>The parish and diocese are very important for searches in church records. </li></ul>
    15. 29. What you need to get started <ul><li>A place, the parish name is good </li></ul><ul><li>Having the village or farm name is best </li></ul><ul><li>Name of the ancestor </li></ul><ul><li>Reference tools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gazetteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maps </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Book: Parish Registers of Wales </li></ul></ul>
    16. 30. Christenings <ul><li>Christenings often show: </li></ul><ul><li>child’s given name </li></ul><ul><li>Father’s name </li></ul><ul><li>Mother’s name </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes included: </li></ul><ul><li>Family residence such as the village, street or farm name </li></ul><ul><li>Father’s occupation </li></ul>
    17. 31. Post 1812 parish register
    18. 32. Bishop’s Transcript
    19. 34. Marriages
    20. 37. Marriages pre 1754
    21. 38. Pay close attention to all names
    22. 39. Typical post 1753 parish register
    23. 40. Details to watch for 1754-1837
    24. 42. <ul><li>I’d like to look at a Banns register for 1818 but according to Parish Registers of Wales the records do not exist. </li></ul><ul><li>Note that the BTs start a generation earlier than PRs </li></ul>
    25. 43. Banns register
    26. 45. Banns register
    27. 46. Marriage by license
    28. 47. Post 1812 Burial Register
    29. 48. Nonconformity <ul><li>By the mid nineteenth century 80% of the population were nonconformists </li></ul><ul><li>Before 1689 and the Toleration Act nonconformity was illegal so few records were kept </li></ul><ul><li>The church was unable to cater to the spiritual needs and growth of the population </li></ul><ul><li>Nonconformity offered religion in the Welsh language </li></ul>
    30. 49. Growth of Nonconformity Year 1716 1742 1775 1816 1861 Chapels 110 105 171 993 2927
    31. 50. Nonconformity <ul><li>High incidence of nonconformity </li></ul><ul><li>Many records have not been deposited. About 5,500 </li></ul><ul><li>chapels existed in Wales but less than thirty per cent </li></ul><ul><li>of the registers have been deposited at a record office </li></ul><ul><li>The records may still be with the chapel </li></ul>
    32. 51. Nonconformity <ul><li>No record made </li></ul><ul><li>Records may have been lost </li></ul><ul><li>Families may have traveled a considerable </li></ul><ul><li>distance to worship </li></ul>
    33. 52. Strategies for Success <ul><li>Identify the chapels in the area where your ancestors lived using the 1851 religious census and the six inch to one mile scale Ordnance Survey maps </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize chapel records other than the registers of birth, marriage, and death/burial </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    34. 53. Strategies for Success <ul><li>Search the National Burial Index compact disc. This database </li></ul><ul><li>includes 265 thousand entries for Wales (Glamorganshire, </li></ul><ul><li>Cardiganshire, Radnorshire, Monmouthshire, and </li></ul><ul><li>Montgomeryshire only) </li></ul><ul><li>Search for burials at the parish church. Nonconformist chapels </li></ul><ul><li>seldom had their own burial ground before 1800 </li></ul>
    35. 54. Strategies for Success <ul><li>Search monumental inscriptions </li></ul><ul><li>Examine chapel and local histories </li></ul><ul><li>Utilize histories about the chapel, area, and denomination </li></ul><ul><li>Search records within a five mile radius of where your ancestors lived </li></ul>
    37. 57. Basic Facts <ul><li>Government registration of births, marriages and deaths began 1 July 1837 </li></ul><ul><li>Local registrars sent a copy to the national office </li></ul><ul><li>Free online index is based on the national records </li></ul><ul><li>Marriages recorded at church or chapel then a copy sent to local registrar </li></ul><ul><li>Many marriages performed at Register Office </li></ul>
    38. 58. Potential Problems <ul><li>The national records have many errors </li></ul><ul><li>Common names complicate index searches </li></ul><ul><li>Most certificates will cost about $15 </li></ul><ul><li>Ordering certificates from local registrars requires a check in British pounds </li></ul>
    39. 59. Tips for success <ul><li>Search a wider date range </li></ul><ul><li>Name variations </li></ul><ul><li>Consider a broad locality search </li></ul><ul><li>Use local registrar vs national records </li></ul><ul><li>Was the event registered late </li></ul><ul><li>Use other records verify your findings </li></ul>
    40. 68. Civil Registration Birth Certificate
    41. 69. <ul><li>When and where born will usually give a farm or street name </li></ul><ul><li>The child’s name </li></ul><ul><li>Gender </li></ul>
    42. 70. <ul><li>4. Name and surname of father </li></ul><ul><li>5. Name, surname and maiden surname of mother </li></ul>