South Brent Archive – May 2021
With so many setbacks over the past year, the Archive team still haven’t been able to meet but the good news is that we are preparing to open in June. For those of you who haven’t seen the Beacon Room in its new guise as Library and Archive (lovingly designed by Lyn Dent) you are in for a treat.
We are looking forward to being able to put together a beautiful exhibition for you next spring along the Corridor Gallery, and are open to suggestions as to what you would like to see displayed. If you would like to get involved with preparations for that, or to volunteer to help us to catalogue and digitize our collections, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Steph: email@example.com or on 01364 644978.
The Archive’s first open session will be on Monday 21st June from 2.30 – 4:30 pm in the new library in the Beacon room (social distancing measures will be in place). Do come along!
Meanwhile, Sue Dean, a core member of the Archive team, has been busily compiling a useful guide for anyone who fancies dipping into their family history. Discovering your ancestors can be a very absorbing pastime. I spent much of the lockdown periods finding out about mine. Read Sue’s guide below to see how you can get started.
SEARCHING FOR YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
When our daughter began her first term at comprehensive school 27 years ago, parents and pupils were set joint homework. We muddled our way through most of the work and handed it in. The most difficult homework of all was set by the humanities teacher “research your family tree as far back as possible” we had until the end of term to hand in the work.
The project was quite a challenge, neither of us knew much about our grandparents or any further back. Luckily at that time both sets of parents were still alive, we asked them about our family history or as much as they could remember at the time and the project was started. Both sets of parents had some photographs and a few original documents which proved very useful later on. Not many members of the family wrote on the backs of photographs the person’s name or the date it was taken, so some went unidentified for many years. We handed in the homework, but the project for us has never ended.
Family history research is a little like trying to put together a huge jigsaw puzzle when the pieces have been scattered far and wide around the country and back through time. You need to put the pieces back together again, making absolutely sure you have all the correct pieces! You also need to be a really good detective. These days there a lot more resources on line to help you.
I wish we had recorded our parent’s voices at the time, something you can now do with your smart phone. Easier than trying to write everything down whilst they talk, you could miss something really important. You can photograph original documents with a camera or camera phone, items such as birth, marriage and death certificates, baptism certificates, burial or cremation certificates, property or land details, wills and probate documents, photographs, school, collage, apprenticeship and university records, family bibles with dates written inside them, newspaper clippings, postcards. Other useful items are service medals with the service number engraved on the side, you need this number to find war records. If you know the regiment as well, even better. Other personal items with dates engraved or printed on them are also useful for research. Old maps, address books and diaries are wonderful to find out where your relative was located at a particular time in their lives and what they were doing. This will save you a lot of time and money in the future.
Besides asking parents for information ask siblings if you have them and uncles, aunts, and cousins if they are willing to search for useful original documents, you will be surprised just how many of these people keep, they might well be as keen as you are to research the family history and have stories about the family to share. Sadly, sometimes things are thrown away when a person has died or they move house and have a “clear out”. Often a family story can later prove to be true and useful for your research, but be prepared to uncover some family secrets on the way, some may prove to be upsetting. Be aware that it can be an addictive and very expensive hobby!
When you have sufficient original, proven, information about your family you can embark on your journey through time. Aim to gather at least three or four definite facts about a person to verify you have the correct family member before launching into full research on them. Don’t take all your data from someone else on line and think, job done, no need to check it. Many people make that mistake and it is not only time wasting but a real shame when you find out later on that you will have to delete a large part of the family tree because they were not a member of your family after all.
I think it is best that you follow both the male and female line in your tree, otherwise you could be missing some really interesting stories. Establish the following details for each person in your tree, their full name, some people used a nickname or middle name. Where and when they were born. Where they lived and when, people moved around an area and sometimes the country to find work. Where and when they married. How many children did they have? What did they do for a living? Where and when did they die and what was the cause of death? Anything else you find out is a bonus.
Family history magazines are available in most newsagents. These are worth buying now and again if they have an article relevant to your family history.
Buy yourself a really good family history database to keep your information on and always back it up! At the same time keep paper records as well, then if anything should go wrong with your computer or laptop you still have the records to hand.
Look for a Family History Society in the area you are researching, they have lots of local information and can offer very useful advice. They also hold family history fairs where you can meet society members in person and perhaps purchase items to help your research and understanding of the subject. If you are really lucky, you may find someone with a family connection to you.
Visit local libraries, they often have a local history section containing Trade Directories, useful if your ancestor ran a business. Records Offices and Archives in the area you are interested in have a huge range of documents, newspapers and films including parish records for research. Here you will have to book a place before the day of your visit, check on line for opening times. They usually ask you to obtain a reader’s ticket. Make sure you take with you some ID, a driving licence and a utility bill or other correspondence with your current address on it, passports are not accepted. Readers’ tickets are usually free and last for a few years. If you cannot travel to the Record office or Archive you may be able to get the Archivist there to search for you, charges will apply per hour of work plus the cost of document copies. You may opt to hire a qualified family history researcher or company, details in family history magazines.
The local parish church and church yard or council burial ground could also be worth investigating, council burial grounds usually have a site office you can contact on line.
The local Registration office is a good place to find Civil Registration documents. Look on line for the Register Office and then send your inquiry by e-mail or telephone the office. They will do a search for you if you have the following details for your person, the event, the year, the quarter, these are March, June, September and December. Remember that an event in late December might appear in the March quarter of the following year. They only go back to July 1837. Also needed are the volume number and page number. These are available on www.freebmd.co.uk and Ancestry also Findmypast websites, see below. Once found, you can purchase a certificate. These are now £11.00 each in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland charge £8.00 each, so make sure you have the correct information or it could be a very expensive error. You can also use the official Government website www.gro.gov.uk to order certificates. For adoptions see www.gov.uk/adoption-records
In March 2021 we will all fill in the very last national census. Kept for 100 years before being released to the public. Censuses are available to view dating from 1841 to 1911. In 2022 the 1921 census will be released for the public view on line by Findmypast.
The wartime 1939 census is available to view now on the Findmypast website. Here you will find your grandparents and parents. The aim of this census was to issue ration books. The Government calculated from this census how many men could be called up for war service in 1939. It helps your search if you know the person’s birth date.
The census returns are really useful to find out the approximate ages of your family members (often rounded up or down) their occupations, where they were born (but not always accurate, some just did not know, or said the last known county of origin) marital status and home address. Until the 1911 census the details were filled in by official enumerators who visited every household in their designated “patch” writing down the census details in the evening of the census day. Transcription errors have been made so always look at the original page on line. Some people may have been missing from the census because they worked at night. Or they were serving in the armed forces or merchant navy. Every institution was included. If the household had a visitor in their home they were also recorded, though sometimes “visitor” was used to disguise an illegitimate child. They had to rely on being given the correct information for the records.
These days a great deal of information is available on line from many different family history websites. The two most often used are Ancestry www.ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast www.findmypast.co.uk both offer a fourteen- day free trial before you are committed to purchasing a year’s subscription. Other websites to look at are www.thegenealologist.co.uk and www.familysearch.org, run by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints who have a collection of parish Records before 1837. This is free to use but you must register to use it. Useful websites are listed below, there are many more on line covering different aspects of family tree research, explore the many different resources on offer, this is just a very small sample, most use “cookies” when you view them.
South Brent Archive firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of Devon are available from www.devonhistorysociety.org.uk
The Commonwealth War Graves commission www.cwgc.org
For Freemasons see www.ugle.org.uk
For the Society of Genealogists www.sog.org.uk
For the British Library see www.bl.uk/#
For death records see www.deceasedonline.com
If you are lucky enough to have an unusual surname try the email@example.com
If you are looking for local images www.francisfrith.com
There are old Ordnance Survey maps available, the Godfrey Edition, published by Alan Godfrey Maps see www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk there are 3,000 maps available of the UK, most are £3.00 plus £2.00 p&p. Coloured maps are £4.00.
Sue Dean, Archive Volunteer