The fourth episode of this season’s WDYTYA? featured Annie Lennox.
If you have Scottish ancestors, this episode should be considered essential viewing. Containing tales of poverty, illegitimacy, and royalty this episode is extremely educational.
The Annie Lennox episode of Who Do You Think You Are? will be available on BBC iplayer for the next month.
Has this episode inspired you to make a start on your own family history?
This post is the fourth in a series for beginner family historians researching their English ancestors. The first covered first steps in family history, the second focused on obtaining birth, marriage and death certificates, and the third looked at using the census.
If you have located the birth, marriage, and death registrations of your ancestors in the GRO indexes, and learnt about their occupations and extended families in the census you may now have a family tree that extends back to the early 1800s. General Registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced in 1837, and the earliest census for which information has been retained at the household level is 1841 (you may be able to find earlier census records for some areas), so if you want to trace your family back further than this you must seek out other records.
The first place to look for your ancestors before 1837 is the parish registers, where baptisms, marriages and burials were recorded by the church. You may find birth and death dates recorded, but not necessarily.
Parish registers are local records, and have mostly been deposited in local county record offices, although a few registers are still held by the church.
Task 1 – Locate your family in a parish register
Use the birth place information gleaned from the census to help you locate baptism records. If you live in the same area as your ancestors, consider a visit to your local County Record Office. Before your visit use their website to check opening hours, as some are not open every day, and use their online catalogue, if they have one, to check that they have the registers you want and the dates covered.
Many of us live too far away from the relevent record office for a personal trip to be practical, but if you can view images of the original registers, either online or on microfilm at a local library, that is often just as good as you are likely to be restricted to looking at microfilm copies at the record office anyway.
Tip 1 – Some parish registers images are available online
Read my post on Online Parish Registers to learn more. New sources are appearing online all the time, so check Family Search, Ancestry, Findmypast and the website of the relevant County Record Office for new additions regularly.
Tip 2 – Microfilmed registers can be viewed at your local Family History Centre
An enormous number of parish records have been filmed by the LDS church. Search their Family History Library Catalaogue to find out what they hold. If copies of the films you are interested in are not held by your local LDS Family History Centre, you might be able to order them.
Tip 3 – Use indexes to locate the correct parish
One of the great difficulties that arises when trying to locate your family in parish registers is knowing which parishes to search. Fortunately there are indexes and transcripts that can be used to help locate them.
- The International Genealogical Index (IGI) was compiled by the LDS church and has been used by genealogists for many years to help locate their ancestors, it now makes up part of the Family Search site. The IGI contain mainly baptisms and marriages, with few deaths. The IGI is incomplete, some counties have better coverage than others. The IGI is best treated as a finding aid to allow you to locate the original record. Transcripts and indexes can be incomplete and can contain errors.
- Boyd’s Marriage Index is held by the Society of Genealogists (SOG) in London, read the description of Boyd’s Marriage Index on the SOG Library page. SOG members can search the Index online, non-members can find it at Findmypast, you may also be able to locate it in libraries and elsewhere on microfiche.
- Pallot’s Marriage index is held by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies and can be accessed online at Ancestry. Pallot’s has very comprehensive coverage of the London parishes.
Tip 4 – Were your ancestors non-conformists?
Be aware that if your ancestors were not members of the Church of England you may find their marriages and burials in the Parish Registers but fail to find their baptisms. If you suspect that your ancestors were not Church of England or you fail to find entries in the Church of England parish registers, then read this excellent guide to nonconformists by The National Archives.
Tip 5 – Use the Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers
The Phillimore Atlas is a very useful addition to a genealogist’s bookshelf, alternatively it can often be found in the reference section of libraries. As well as containing maps for each county showing the parish boundaries, it also contains a guide to the coverage by parish of the IGI, Boyd’s Marriage Index, and Pallot’s Marriage Index.
No Task 2 this week as Task 1 is massive!
An excellent Research Guide to Nonconformists is provided by the National Archives.
If the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? has inspired you to start researching your family history, I would love to hear how you are getting on!
Locating your ancestors in parish registers can be difficult, sometimes taking years of research rather than hours. If you have any problems or questions please get in touch.