Recent issues of the monthly family history magazines have been full of what the websites will be offering new in 2013. I don’t have the benefit of the press releases, so what you read here is what is available now.
The most interesting new data I have found on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk/) are divorce records 1858-1911 for England and Wales. Divorce only became a practical option for most people in 1858, following a change in the law, and the documents on Ancestry are the court papers, with statements by the petitioner, respondent and co-respondent. One statement I found recently was interesting in identifying where the couple had lived at certain dates (and where adultery had occurred) and also that there had been a sixth child which had died.
These are the court papers, but they do not include a transcript of the court hearing. That detail can often be found in newspapers, for which sites such as British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/) are invaluable. Personal subscribers to Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) now have access to this database, although the search options are not as versatile as on the original site. Unfortunately, the Society’s subscription to Findmypast does not include this feature, so it is not available at the Research Room.
For several years, volunteers at Bath Record Office have been compiling a name index of various documents. The Bath Ancestors index can now be searched online on the Bath Record Office website at www.batharchives.co.uk/. The documents indexed include Quarter Sessions, Poor Law, school and vaccination records. You will have to go to Bath Record Office in person to examine the records, but the index will tell you in advance what is available.
With the approaching centenary of the start of the First World War, we are likely to see many new websites concerned with the war and its memorials. Memorials Online www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/) is a joint project involving the War Memorials Trust, the Imperial War Museum and English Heritage and seeks to locate, photograph and record war memorials in the U.K. The development of this resource depends on members of the public submitting and sharing information, so you should consider contributing to it as well as using it.
A lot of information about the Royal Navy, and naval casualties can be found at the Naval History.Net website at www.naval-history.net/. My grandfather’s neighbour, like him a Chief Stoker, died at Jutland when HMS Invincible was sunk. The website has lots of information about the ship, including extracts from the log books, and a full list of the casualties.
Although I remain uncertain about the accuracy of some of the indexes on FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org) and prefer to use it just to confirm what I already suspect, or where I can check the information in the original document, the site does contain a lot of data which could help unlock some your family’s past. In particular, FamilySearch does now contain a lot of records from European countries, some of which have been transcribed and some which consist of scanned images from registers, etc. If you have ancestors from Italy, Germany, Portugal or other mainland European countries, then it’s worth browsing the list of collections by continent and then country. Don’t also forget that many U.K. records are only available as scanned images and have not yet been indexed. You won’t find them through the search screen.
Thos who grew up with the IGI will remember the usefulness of being able to limit a search to a particular batch of records, which related to a single parish, type of record and specific time period. The IGI can now be found on the FamilySearch website under All Record Collections and its 670 million entries divided into Community Indexed and Community Contributed. To find the batch number for the records you want, there is now a new site from Archer Software which lists them and can be found at www.archersoftware.co.uk/igi/index.htm. It is easy to use, will tell you how many entries there are in each batch, and offers an easy way input an enquiry into FamilySearch.
The Joiner Marriage Index (http://joinermarriageindex.co.uk/) is a pay site containing an index of over two million English marriages. You can check which parishes are covered, but can only search by county, with a date range if required. The cost is £2.29 for the first record, plus 10p for each subsequent record, so the ten marriages of a Joseph Cooper in Gloucestershire and results would cost £3.19.
The 1909 budget required a survey of land values, and those for Gloucestershire are in a new website at www.glos1909survey.org.uk/index.html. Supported by the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and Gloucestershire Archives, the website shows the owner, occupier and value of each property, and the data can be searched in a number of ways. This is work in progress, and I was not able to establish the boundaries of the project, and whether it covered the Gloucestershire as it was in 1909, or used the current boundaries. It is certainly a useful complement to the 1911 census and probate records.
If you are new to family history and are still trying to get your head round all the different sources, how they work, and what they mean, you ay like to look at Family Tree Resources at www.familytreeresources.co.uk/. It will explain things such as when the census was taken, what the returns will tell you, and how to interpret census references.
Finally, one subscription website that I seldom mention is The Genealogist www.thegenealogist.co.uk/). If you have experience of this site, I would be interested in hearing your views and could then include them in a future article. You can contact me via the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that this article was written at the end of January 2013. Developments since then will be in the article iin the June Journal.