Just after I wrote my previous article, it was announced that North Somerset maps had been added to Knowyourplace (www.kypwest.org.uk/), and that there was now complete coverage for Bristol and the old counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset. The home page now includes a helpful video showing what the site can do, and it includes a contribution from our own Geoff Gardiner. New maps and information are being added all the time, including a wonderful collection of old maps of Bath, including one from 1610.

Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk/) recently added parish records for Wiltshire, and now Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk/) have done the same. The big difference is that Ancestry has images of the original documents, which confirms the index and makes the information a bit more reliable. It’s always worth looking for different records of the same event in different sources. For example, Ancestry has the record of a marriage at Rodbourne Cheney in 1892 between John Kelloway and Annie Carpenter. That marriage is entirely missing from Findmypast. For other marriages, the opposite could be true.

Kelloway Carpenter marriage


In my article in the June Journal, I described the newly-released Ancestry records of Somerset and reported the wrongly indexed baptism of Bertram Sage at Milton Clevedon. Findmypast have now released their own indexes to the records, and again they do not have images of the original documents. In fact, they appear to have no Sage baptisms in Milton Clevedon in the index at all. As with the Kelloway/Carpenter marriage above, Ancestry is the better source, because it has the images, but checking both is best.

The various errors and omissions that I report are found purely by chance when I am searching for records of family members or others on my database. I don’t go looking for them, but of course they are useful examples when I come across them.

Both Ancestry and Findmypast help you keep up with new data releases. On Ancestry, you will find them under “See all new records” or “View all new records”, and new and updated records are listed by the date they were added or changed, with the latest first. On Findmypast, it requires a little more work. Click first on “Blog” at the top of the screen, and then choose “Latest Records”. New records are normally released on a Friday, and you have to open a separate page for each Friday listed.

It’s always worth looking at these lists of new datasets. I recently noticed that Findmypast had some Surrey institutional records 1788-1939, and discovered that one of my wife’s great-grandfathers had been admitted to Godstone workhouse in 1871, shortly after the death of his father. This was not something that I would have looked for, but it all added to my information about the family. It was easy to find the records and look up the surname.

A similarly useful dataset for me was the record of pensions of Metropolitan Police officers, which can be found on Ancestry under London, England, Metropolitan Police Pension Registers, 1852-1932. I had identified George Jeffery as a London policeman in the census, and his age and birthplace confirmed that he was a member of my family. The pension record added more about his rank, his retirement date and pension.

George Jeffery police pension






George was later a licensed victualler, and died in the “Pembury Institution” in 1932. The Pembury Institution was the contemporary name for the old Pembury workhouse, just outside Tonbridge, which became a public assistance institution in 1930 and is now the site of a major hospital. Since George Jeffery left a will and an estate of nearly £1600, he was clearly not a pauper, and was presumably at the Institution because of his poor health or old age. You can find lots of information about Pembury, and other workhouses, at Peter Higginbotham’s excellent workhouse website at www.workhouses.org.uk/.

Some older workhouse records now available on Ancestry are those of long-term workhouse inmates, the result of a special published survey taken in 1861. I looked up some of the Bristol records and found a list of 21 at St Peters Hospital, and many more at Stapleton Workhouse. I checked Hannah Masters who had been in St Peters Hospital for 26 years with dislocation of hip and the census shows her born 1801 in Chepstow – a needlewoman, unmarried. The “no” in the final column refers to whether the person went to a workhouse school.

Long term inmates 1861

Ancestry – Long Term workhouse inmates 1861

When I first started writing these articles, many of the websites I listed where the work of a single individual. They were free to use, and sometimes limited in scope and rather amateur in their design and presentation. Now, most family history websites are professionally created and usually charge a fee or have a subscription. It’s refreshing therefore to come across Toms Wills (www.haine.org.uk/toms_wills/toms_wills.php), which is something of a reminder of how things used to be. It is part of the Haine website (www.haine.org.uk) which has a miscellaneous collection of family history information, but the wills part is an index covering a limited range of years and the index terms are the surname and the residence at time of death. So, if you want a list of Lovells who died in Bristol, the result will show you the first line of their address, and reveals that two of them lived in Two Mile Hill.

Daniel Fripp was a member of the Bristol soap making family, and in 1851 he lived at Eagle House, Brislington. He is listed on the 1851 census, but the entry is curious.

Daniel Fripp 1851 census








His occupation of “Merchant (General)” is in fact on the line of the entry for his wife Sarah, but on the lines above and below appears to be written “per letter 2 April 1851 By directions from Registrar General”. The entry for Daniel and his family is quite ordinary, and one wonders why it required intervention from a higher authority, or what that intervention was.

I came across another curiosity concerning the same family in the 1881 census. Edith Innes Fripp was a teacher at Avondale School in Clifton. The head of the household was Louisa Harris, and Edith’s relationship to her is described as “partner”. What should one take this to mean? Was she a partner in the ownership of the school? Why was she not just shown as a teacher like Marie Young, the person above?

Edith Fripp 1881

Finally, here is some information about internet data which you are not able to access from home. Wills are some of the most interesting and important of family history sources, and since 1858 all wills for England and Wales have been proved in a civil court. Indexes to these are available on both Ancestry and Findmypast, but most comprehensively at Findawill (https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills). You can order wills online at the same website at a cost of £10.

Andrew Gough has now written to tell me that all wills proved in England and Wales between 1858 and 1925 have been digitised and can be seen free-of-charge on the computers at LDS family history centres worldwide, including our local one at Whitchurch. To find a particular will, you would need to search one of the existing indexes, e.g. on Ancestry or https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#calendar, and note the date and place of probate.

You then go to the FamilySearch "Catalog" (NOT "Records") at https://familysearch.org/catalog/search , and choose one of

  1. Record copy wills for the Principal Registry, 1858-1925:(for wills proved at "Principal Registry" or at "London")
  2. Record copy wills from the District Probate Registries, 1858-1899
  3. Record copy wills from the District Probate Registries, 1900-1925

Each of these contains about 1000 files, so look for the one containing your will. The wills seem to be arranged by year, initial letter of surname, month, probate registry, and then roughly by date, but usually with men before women. This much you can do at home, but the final step, which is to click on the camera symbol next to the file you want, and open up the images of the wills within it, can only be done in an LDS library.

This facility is part of an LDS project to digitise their huge collection of microfilms. They are providing access from most parts of the world to images of many records which are not otherwise available online,e.g. most (but not quite all) pre-1858 Bristol wills:

Probate records, 1571-1857, for Bristol Co., England

and many Bristol parish registers, such as

England, Gloucestershire, Bristol, St. Mary-Redcliffe, parish registers, 1559-1932, and

England, Gloucestershire, Bristol, St. Phillip and St. Jacob's Church, parish registers, 1576-1932

If there is no camera symbol, then those particular images are not yet available.

Thanks to Andrew for that information.