After their big release of local parish records at the beginning of the year, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) has been rather quiet. Local records for other parts of the country have been published, but perhaps more interesting for us are images from the Ordnance Survey Popular Series maps 1919-1926. These are already available in hard copy from Cassini and are of a scale which shows the relationship of villages and urban districts and the routes of roads and railways. Looking at the detail of the Bristol maps, I think the publication date is probably in the 1930s.
In contrast, Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) have released a lot of general interest material, especially sets of crime and punishment records. Other datasets, some of which are quite small, include British prisoners of war, Australian criminal records (which appear to be available to those with U.K. subscriptions), and a further 157,000 crew lists records. Some of these are of Lascar seamen, many of whom later settled in Britain. Transcriptions of 1915 Crew lists are also available at The National Archives site http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
The criminal records complement those already available on Ancestry and elsewhere, but unless you are dealing with a very unusual name, it is hard to be sure of the identity of a criminal, even with the photographs which are part of the latest release. The best course is to use as many different sources as possible, since one may give you an age, one a previous occupation, one a place of residence, etc. Once you have the date of a trial, much more detailed information may be available from newspaper records, available at either Findmypast or British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/). Official sources reveal very little of the 1867 trial and public execution of Ann Lawrence (no relation!) at Maidstone for the murder of her child. In contrast, the newspaper reports contain a lot of detail of the background to the crime.
Findmypast has recently incorporated data on 400,000 English graves from the Billion Graves project. This started as a U.S. project with photos of gravestones, but now has similar collections for Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Personally, I don’t find it quite as useful as Findagrave (www.findagrave.com), which can also be accessed through Ancestry... If you don’t subscribe to Findmypast, Billion Graves can also be found at www.billiongraves.com and on FamilySearch (www.familysearch.com)
Know your place – Bristol (http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace/) has unsurprisingly proved very popular with local and family historians, and there have been ambitions to expand coverage to the areas around the city. Following a successful pilot scheme, a grant has now been received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and it is planned to include Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire over the next eighteen months in a new site to be called Know your place – West of England.. Another recent development is a version of the Bristol site for smart phones and tablets.
The volunteers at FreeReg have been transcribing parish registers for many years, and the website is particularly useful for parts of northern Somerset. The search screen has recently been redesigned with a cleaner appearance and better functionality. It can be found at http://freereg2.freereg.org.uk/ and also on the FamilySearch website at www.familysearch.com.
The Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) was created in 1909 to support the Territorial Army and was made up of civilian nurses working in civilian hospitals. Over 7,000 women served in the TFNS during the First World War, both in the U.K. and overseas. These women were awarded a number of medals for their efforts, and Forces War Records (https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/) have now published the records of 5-6,000 women who received medals after the Great War
Many of you will know the Facebook page “Bristol Then & Now”, but there is also a “Bath Then & Now” page. Another useful local page is “Chipping Sodbury Photographs”, especially if you like markets and sheep. Facebook is at www.facebook.com. Looking at the contributors, and the memories they have, these pages are very egalitarian. Many of the members must be in their late seventies, since they recall their first jobs in a bombed-out Bristol in the 1950s.
The Thornbury Roots website at www.thornburyroots.co.uk contains much interesting material, including some family photographs. It complements the Scribes Alcove site (http://www.scribes-alcove.co.uk/) which has parish records. Thornbury Roots has a useful page of links, one of which is to a website about the history of Tytherington (http://www.tytheringtonroots.co.uk/). The parish records for Winterbourne, together with a lot more family history information for the village and surrounding area, can be found at http://www.frenchaymuseumarchives.co.uk/NewHomePage.htm.
In 1939, the Government compiled a register of the population to help with planning for the war that was then anticipated. The records produced are currently being scanned and will be made available on Findmypast, probably before the end of the year. Since there is no census material available between 1921 and 1951, this will fill a great gap in our understanding of the recent past.
Finally, can I recommend part of the FamilySearch website which I have mentioned before, but have found useful recently. This is the “Books” section (found under “Search”) which contains scanned images of books and files in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and other major collections. Although much of the material is North American, it is not exclusively so, and you can easily search the catalogue by surname, place name, etc. The documents are pdf files, so can be searched and downloaded. The only problem is that some of the files cannot be accessed at home, only at an LDS Family History Centre.