Although I usually prefer to work out how to do things rather than read the instructions, it is always interesting to receive helpful hints, and the following comes from the “Lost Cousins” newsletter.

Free BMD (http://freebmd.org.uk) is the most flexible database for tracing births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales, but finding a death registration can be long winded and involve much mental arithmetic when you do not know when it occurred, but do have the date of birth of the person concerned. The trick is to use the box marked “Death age/DoB” and to enter an @ symbol followed by the range of years when the person is known to have been born. You can also use information from the census to exclude years when you know the person was alive, and death could not have occurred. 

Even if you do not wish to use the search facilities of the Lost Cousins website, it is worth registering to receive the regular free newsletters. Lost Cousins is at www.lostcousins.com

The latest major new database at Findmypast is of Chelsea Pensioners. This does not just cover men who lived at Chelsea Hospital, but anyone who received an army pension, of whatever rank. The records usually consist of several pages, and the current database covers 313,000 men who were pensioned out between 1883 and 1900. The full database, covering the period 1760 to 1915 will be available by November 2011, and a publication timetable is available at www.findmypast.co.uk

While there are a number of transcription projects being progressed by the Society at present, these are only really available to members living in the local area. Now there is an opportunity for members living anywhere in the world to get involved in some useful transcription work. The LDS church has a programme of transcription through its FamilySearch website, and this has already provided us with some useful data. Now, there is a scheme to transcribe Bristol parish registers from 1837 to 1900, and you can find out all about it at http://tinyurl.com/y4yones

The Ancestry website also offers the opportunity to help with transcribing records. There are records from all over the world, but some of the more interesting British ones available for you to transcribe are the British Postal Service Appointment Books, the London School Admissions and Discharges 1841-1911 and the Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books 1802-1849. They can be found on the Ancestry website at www.ancestry.co.uk under Collaborate – World Archives Project. 

The latest U.K. census data available is for 1911, and no census was taken in 1941 because of the Second World War. However, the civilian population was recorded in 1939, and this data can now be searched for a fee and provided the individual concerned is now recorded as deceased. The non-refundable fee is £42, and the web page at www.ic.nhs.uk/news-and-events/news/nhs-ic-launches-the-1939-register-service has the full details. The data available is generally the same as you would find on a census entry. The service is available from the NHS Information Centre, which deals only with England and Wales, but there are links to similar services for Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Some years ago, Ken and Megan Edwards transcribed some Bristol crew lists, and this information is now available on Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk). A further database of Welsh mariners can be found at www.welshmariners.org.uk/index.php, but this only includes men who held a certificate and who were born in Wales. There are other exceptions, but it is possible you will find some of your ancestors listed. 

The websites of the public libraries in the former Avon area all make available indexed nineteenth-century newspapers, including the Bristol Mercury. An Australian website offering a similar facility can be found at http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home. Newspapers of this era contained reports of matters which we would now consider quite trivial, so I was delighted to find that the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser of 7th January 1873 reported some comments on the advantages of education made by great-great-grandfather William Homard to the Sabbath School at Mount Pleasant. 

Many of you will have bought reproduction maps published by Alan Godfrey and Cassini, and ones for the local area can be bought from the Society website. Cassini now offer a service of downloadable maps of various dates and scales at their website at www.cassinimaps.co.uk/. These are not particularly cheap, but do offer the opportunity to buy a well-printed copy of an old map centred on the particular place that interests you. An alternative site for modern maps is now available from the Ordnance Survey at www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/opendata. Click on “View” under “About” and type in the name of the place you are looking for. The indexing is a little unreliable, as I was able to find Bouncers Bank in Kent, where my Lawrence ancestors lived, but not Slap near Burley in Hampshire where they can be found in the 1851 census. 

Finally, two websites with maps and photos of old Bristol. The first is Jo Jeremiah’s website at www.ianandjo.dsl.pipex.com/bristolbits/bristol.htm. Jo is well known as a contributor to various local message boards and websites, and is always very supportive of the Society. Her own website contains 18th and 19th century maps of Bristol and some images from Skelton’s Antiquities of Bristol. The second is Flickr, which has many million photographs and images that will be of interest, but on this occasion I would suggest “Bristol before your time” by Fray Bentos. This can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/fray_bentos/sets/72157594155572977/ and includes lots of photos from the 1960s and 1970s, complete with extensive descriptions and history.

Bob Lawrence