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The GRO website (www.gro.gov.uk/gro/), with its increased information and flexible search options has been of great value to family historians, but all is not perfect. It has now emerged that some index entries are missing, and in some cases, duplicated. The years currently known to be affected are births in 1838, 1847, 1860, 1881 and 1902, and deaths in 1863. Further details are available in the Lost Cousins Newsletter dated 7th January 2019, which can be found at www.lostcousins.com. It costs nothing to register on the site, and the Newsletter is always a good and informative read, which is sent to you regularly by e-mail.

Other news from the GRO is that the price of BMD certificates is going up from 16th February 2019. The standard charge for a certified copy is now £11, while uncertified pdf copies now cost £7. Charges for other services, like expedited delivery or orders where no index details are given, are also increasing. See the GRO website for details. These are the first increases since 2010. I understand that the charges at local register offices are also being increased.

Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) has introduced a new feature on its search screen. You can now extend the geographical area of search around the place you have entered. For example, searching on births in Bristol, 1850-1870, plus a 5-mile radius shows births registered in the Registration Districts of Bristol, Clifton, Barton Regis, Bedminster, and Keynsham. Extending the radius to 10 miles includes Bath, Chipping Sodbury, Thornbury, Chepstow, Clutton and Sodbury. This useful facility is not available at all subscription levels, and I only know that it can be used on the subscription at the BAFHS Research Room. It is available in all the search categories (e.g. censuses, organisations, education) except Travel and Migration.

FMP search distance scale

Findmypast has not added much of particular interest to our area in the past three months, although there is a steady drip of information for other cities and counties which may be useful. I did find some information for Westbury on Trym, including the church registers 1559-1713. These were originally published in 1912, and although clear still require some deciphering. Incidentally, I could not find any other instance of the surname Muckage.

WOT parish registers

Findmypast has added some services medical records 1914-1919. My own family was not listed, but it was interesting to see what people suffered from and which required admission to hospital. I also discovered that the index was searchable by service number only, which could be useful in certain circumstances.

Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk/) does not seem to have added anything significant in the past few months, but The Genealogist (www.thegenealogist.co.uk) has recently added parish registers for Warwickshire and Worcestershire

You may have read recently about the excavation of a Roman site at Stoke Gifford. There is more information at the Cotswold Archaeology site at http://cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/roman-villa-at-stoke-gifford-south-gloucestershire/. For more recent history of Stoke Gifford, there is an excellent website by Adrian Kerton at https://stokegiffordhistory.wordpress.com/. This extends over a wider area to include places like Patchway, Winterbourne and Bradley Stoke, and contains some interesting old photos.

Two other websites of local interest are Bristol’s Lost Pubs (http://bristolslostpubs.eu/index.html) and Sea Mills Centenary (www.seamills100.co.uk). Despite its title, Bristol’s Lost Pubs extends beyond Bristol and has a section on Bath pubs as well as covering places like Almondsbury and Bitton. The information contained has mainly been gathered from directories and the census, but curiously the site lacks any indication of who has compiled it or how to contact them. This is unfortunate, since there must be many people with further information which could be added. The Sea Mills estate in Bristol was built after the First World War as part of the programme of building “homes for heroes” and to help with slum clearance in the city centre. The website is both a history of the estate, and a record of the events organised to mark the centenary. It is therefore a work in progress.

I may have mentioned Britain from Above previously, but another look has revealed some real gems. There are 95,000 images dating from 1919 to 1953, and I was pleased to find an aerial photograph of the Sneyd Park and Downs area from 1948 showing army huts on the Downs and the whole area before its post-war development. The photos come from the Aerofilms Collection, and can be found at www.britainfromabove.org.uk/en. You need to register to download and enlarge images, but this is straightforward and free. Better quality images require payment. Many of the images are industrial, and there are some interesting ones of Whitchurch Airport, Bristol and the Polysulphin Chemical and Soap Works, Keynsham, a place I had never previously heard of.

In her talk Sisters of the Somme at the Bristol BAFHS meeting on 12th November, Penny Starns mentioned the scrapbook kept by Veronica Nisbet, a VAD nurse during the First World War. The webpage at http://museumstjohn.org.uk/collections/vad-nurse-veronica-nisbets-scrapbook/ has a link to the scrapbook, and you can scroll through the pages to see her photos, press cuttings and drawings. There is a database of over 90,000 VAD volunteers from the First World War at https://vad.redcross.org.uk/ . This includes both men and women. Henry Toghill (born 1876, Bristol) was a jobbing gardener by day, but also a volunteer hospital orderly in Manchester during the war.

We were recently trying to check when someone was awarded the OBE. These are all officially listed in the London Gazette (www.thegazette.co.uk/), but it is not the easiest source to search, especially if the surname is a common one. We were therefore pleased to find that some are listed in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page), although a more comprehensive source was http://everything.explained.today/1957_New_Year_Honours/.

Now that the PCC wills to 1858 are available on Ancestry as part of an ordinary subscription, it is not necessary to download them as pdf files from The National Archives website (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/). The same is true of many service records. However, The National Archives has many other records which it is happy to scan and e-mail to you in pdf format on request and for payment. This is not cheap, but it may be a better option than a visit to Kew if that is the sole purpose of your visit. TNA holds an inventory of the goods of Michael Miller, who was the son of an eighteenth-century Bristol merchant, privateer and slave trader. After an initial payment of £8.40 for the TNA staff to check that the document was available and suitable for scanning, there was a further £17.60 to have the work done. The whole process took about four weeks, and the inventory was 16 pages long. As you will see, it is quite legible.

Michael Miller inventory

I have recently been tracing various relatives in the Yeovil/Sherborne area with the surname Pollard, and this has thrown up a number of issues that surprised me. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, most of the men worked as hurdle makers, woodwards, or in a similar country occupation, while many of the women made gloves at home. As the century passed, they moved into towns and many started their own businesses such as bakers or ironmongers. Family historians generally assume that records are accurate and reflect reality, and that the closer one is to the original, the more accurate it is likely to be. We know that errors can occur in transcription, and sometimes people lie or exaggerate, but the following requires some different explanation.

While checking through the names recorded on my family history programme, I noticed that I had two people named Honor Teresa Pollard born 1841. One was recorded as the daughter of William and Margaret Pollard of Clifton Maybank, and the source was the baptism register for the neighbouring village of Bradford Abbas. A clear image of the original register is available on Ancestry. The other Honor Teresa Pollard is recorded in the 1841 and 1851 censuses for Clifton Maybank as the daughter of John and Elizabeth Pollard. John Pollard married Elizabeth Curtis in 1838, and the GRO index shows the birth of Honor Teresa Pollard as being registered in the second quarter of 1841, with the mother’s surname as Curtis. Honor died in 1859 in Staple Fitzpaine, Somerset, and her memorial records her as being the daughter of John and Elizabeth. As there is no evidence to show that there were actually two girls born at the same time and given the same name, I have come to the conclusion that the wrong parents’ names were recorded at the time of baptism. Incidentally, the William Pollard and John Pollard above were brothers and are listed consecutively on the 1841 census.

While checking my Pollards in the 1901 census, I came across this occupation for James Pollard, born 1883.

 James Pollard occupation 1901

I could not decipher it myself, and Ancestry does not try to transcribe it, but merely suggests you look at the original. Fortunately, someone at Findmypast worked out that it says “engine cleaner”.

Finally, I am not the first person to be researching the Pollards, although I have not yet had to offer a reward as this family historian did in 1939. But then I have the advantage of lots of information being available online.

Pollard information appeal

 Western Gazette 10th February 1939