We are all aware of Bristol’s role in the slave trade, and that many of the wealthy residents of our area made their fortunes from it. It is less well-known that, when slavery in the British Empire was made illegal in 1833, slave owners were compensated by the government for their loss. Some of the sums received were considerable.

Legacies of British Slave Ownership is the web site for two projects on slavery being carried out at University College London, and it has recently been enhanced with a database of slave owners. This shows the compensation each received, but also contains a lot of information of value to family historians. If you have additional information about any of those listed, you can submit it on a form provided. The site can be found at www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/.

The Family Relatives website (www.familyrelatives.com) has recently had a makeover, and deserves another look if you have not viewed it recently. It has an assortment of records, but is strong in the field of directories, military records and occupations, both in the U.K. and elsewhere. There are a number of payment options.

Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk/) continues to add new datasets to its website, and I only have space to mention two general ones, and not those which are only relevant outside our area. The Boer War records have been collected from a variety of outside sources, some in South Africa, and they bring together data relating to a particular individual. The record for someone who I believe to be my great-great uncle contains information from four sources, including a memorial plaque in Sherborne Abbey, and the records that he was wounded on 7th September 1900 and died on 5th October. The second set of new records is of criminals and their victims and comes from various collections at The National Archives. Some records may include photographs. One page of trials at Taunton Assizes that I found included 3 cases of attempted suicide, and one 62-year old with a long string of previous convictions who was committed for further punishment as an incorrigible rogue.

Few people know that Findmypast has a section where you can check for living relatives by using the electoral registers. Go to the section “Census, Land and Surveys” and you will find in the electoral registers the option “UK Electoral Register 2010-2013”. I tried looking myself up, and was surprised that I was not listed with my wife as another resident at any address. A little digging showed that I was listed at a former address where the “other person” shown was the person who bought it in 2005. My wife is listed at our present address, but with the “other person” the man who lived there until 2003. In no place were my wife and I shown together in the index, although they were in the full entry. The moral must be to use the database with care, but that it might help you track down a lost relative.

Many of the new records on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) are specific to other parts of the country, although you may find useful information in the London Poor Law records, or in the midlands electoral registers. However, a file of over half a million Wiltshire marriages before 1837 has also been added, which should please some of our members, and various Dorset records are also new.

Family Search (https://familysearch.org) has had a makeover, which may make some information less easy to find than previously, but equally allows you to search some new databases. A new feature, and one which is causing some controversy if you read the blogs on the site, is the section called Family Tree. You have to register to use this, but then you can add details of yourself and your family. You can also search for information about your ancestors, but unfortunately this only reveals the appalling errors that other researchers have made. You might find some hint there which could lead you eventually to the truth, but it can be as inaccurate as many of the previous LDS databases.

Of more obvious use on the FamilySearch website are some records of Merchant Navy Seaman, 1835-1941, which derive from The National Archives. Although there are extensive notes about the sort of information which should be available, all of those I found contained only scant information and all had the note “military service”. How this related to service as a merchant seaman was not explained, but some useful information could be gleaned. I was able to establish that the missing years of one man between a listing on the 1841 census age 11 and arrival in Australia in 1855 had been spent as a seaman.

Are you a relative of Lieutenant Reginald Charles Sidney Hewlett RAMC, who died in 1920 and is buried in Greenbank Cemetery? Lieut. Hewlett is one of a list of people who are buried in cemeteries in Britain and where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission would like to contact the next of kin in order to improve their records. To find the lists, type “next of kin” in the search box on the CWGC website at www.cwgc.org.

Finally, a useful summary of the sources for railway employees can be found on the National Railway Museum site at www.nrm.org.uk/NRM/ResearchAndArchive/researchhelp/FamilyHistory.