Our Journal

Our quarterly journal has been published continuously since the Society was formed in 1975.  A complete set is available for reference in our Research Room in Bristol. Each issue aims to keep members up-to-date about events that may be taking place and presents regular features and a range of articles about family history and local history. On the Internet articles are reproduced here in the month of publication and My Parish articles are published 12-18 months after publication in the Journal.

Journals are distributed to members each quarter (June, September, December & March) and members who join part way through the membership year (which begins in April) are sent copies of past Journals for that year.

We have an index of all family names in our Journals and another of all article titles in our Journals.

Journal Editor
Jane Bambury

Most issues of the Society's Journal contain an article about recent family history developments on the internet. However, please note that links in older articles may no longer work.

October 15, 2022

On the Internet – September 2022

The most important local news from Ancestry is that they have added to the parish births, marriages and deaths information from the records at Bristol Archives. These now have baptisms to 1921, marriages to 1937. and burials to 1994. All are accompanied with images from the original records, and more recent records tend to have clearer images and more accurate transcriptions than many of the early records, since the handwriting is more legible. In fact, it is interesting to see the handwriting in burial entries from the 1980s and compare with nineteenth-century equivalents. Burials at inner-city churches had stopped well before 1974, but have continued up to the present day elsewhere. The municipal cemeteries have largely taken over, and church baptism has become less popular during the twentieth century. However, these records can offer an alternative and cheaper alternative to certificates in the search for family information. The Women’s Royal Air Service was established in 1918 and was disbanded in 1920. About 30,000 women were in the service, and their records are now available on Ancestry. Most of the women were young and single, and were classified as either mobile or immobile, which meant that they worked near to their home. One local married woman I found was Mrs Florence Weeks, of Poplar Farm, Iron Acton, who worked as a fitter at the aircraft repair depot at Yate. As often with military records, interpretation takes time. Recruitment seemed to be very local and unreliable. I tried to track down Florence Weeks in other records, but was unsuccessful with so little […]
October 15, 2022

On the Internet – June 2022

While the 1921 census continues to reveal new stories and situations, this article begins with some other interesting data that has become available recently. If you have family that lived in China, you will be interested in China Families (https://www.chinafamilies.net/), which has a local connection. The site is directed by Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol, and the site is hosted by the University. Professor Bickers is a historian of modern China, and it is good to see further evidence of academics and institutions acknowledging the interests of family historians and their contribution to our understanding of the world. The website currently lists 60,000 names, and although much of the information is limited at present there is scope for adding more information as it becomes available. For those looking for family members born overseas whose father was in the armed services, then Ancestry has a dataset UK, Military Records of Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages and Burials 1813-1957. There are over 38,000 records in this collection, but I was unable to find the baptism of my wife’s brother who was born in Singapore in 1949 and was baptised in the military chapel there. Other records I hoped to find were also missing, so this appears to be one of those sets of records which may offer the information you need, but cannot be relied upon. From China and the British Empire to Portishead. The memorial inscriptions at St Peter’s Church, Portishead, have been transcribed, and are available at https://graveyarddb.z33.web.core.windows.net/. The work is comprehensive, as it lists memorials in both the […]
March 23, 2022

On the Internet – March 2022

The 1921 Census was published online by Findmypast on the date previously announced, and everything seems to have gone smoothly, with none of the system crashes or other problems that accompanied the release of the 1911 census or the 1939 Register. Searching is free, and I had few problems identifying the entry I wanted, even without using the advanced search option.
January 3, 2022

On the Internet – December 2021

Neither Ancestry nor Findmypast have recently published any data of particular relevance to our area, so let’s start with something specialist and local. A recent article in Bristol Times, a supplement to the Bristol Post which is published every Tuesday but cannot be found online, concerns an accident at Stapleton Road Station in which six track workers were killed. The account came from Railway Work Life & Death, a website published by the University of Portsmouth. Much of it is based on research done by Prof. Mike Esbester, but it is a joint project with many contributors, including family historians. The Stapleton Road accident can be found at http://www.railwayaccidents.port.ac.uk/stapleton-road-26-september-1921/, but there is a lot of other fascinating information on the website, including the family history of those involved. They invite contributions from all who might have information about this and other accidents.
January 3, 2022

On the Internet – September 2021

It is good this issue to begin with a website that is about Bristol and has been created by someone who is a long-standing member of BAFHS and a regular contributor to this journal. Bristol History (https://www.bristolhistory.co.uk/) is the work of D.P. Lindegaard and contains much of the research she has done over the past fifty years. Although it contains her own family history, there is much more which will be of value and interest to those researching the social and economic history of Bristol and its surroundings. In particular, there are indexes like the Kingswood Index, the lists of those who died in mining accidents, and the list of black Bristolians, which dates back to the sixteenth century. The website has plenty of useful information, and some good, well-written stories.
June 8, 2021

On the Internet – June 2021

The major family history websites continue to add new resources to their holdings. The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/) has added over 2000 pages from the Bristol Observer in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s and a number of South Wales newspapers, which frequently include news from Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire. Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk/) has an extended list of England & Wales death 2007-2020. This list comes from a partnership with Wilmington Millennium and has been “compiled from civic records and funeral homes”. In my experience the records are usually accurate, but the list is not comprehensive. The GRO website (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/)  offers its own list for the years from 1984 to 2019, but it may be worth checking both.
April 8, 2021

On the Internet – March 2021

Although you will read this in March, when hopefully the worst of Covid is behind us, the days are longer and the skies brighter, it is being written in those dog days between Christmas and New Year. Just the time perhaps for some on-line research, and I am certainly finding that the recent new releases are giving me the opportunity to push back through the years and find some details from the eighteenth century that were not available previously. It is always good to go through one’s old research and see what might have been unavailable the first-time round. The major national sites have not released anything recently of real importance to research in our local area, but there is new material that will be useful to some people. Findmypast have a big new collection of Welsh probate and parish records from 1544 onwards, which could help resolve a few problems. There was a lot of migration from South Wales, especially Monmouthshire, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Another useful addition on Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) is an index to the records on the Billion Graves website (https://billiongraves.com). Both this and the Welsh records benefit from the simpler search methods available on Findmypast. The Billion Graves data includes coverage for Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, United States and other countries. There is a link to Billion Graves itself so that you can see a photo of the gravestone, but you may need to register with Billion Graves to see the full details. A recent development on Billion Graves is a smart phone app […]
January 9, 2021

On the Internet – December 2020

I was unable to write an internet article for the September 2020 Journal, so this one includes some of what I already had drafted. It may therefore be a little out of date.  Other material has resulted from some of the enquiries we received when the Research Room was closed. These enquiries often revealed good sources of information for subjects we had not needed to research before. Many of you will already know about the London Gazette, which is a government publication listing things like official appointments and announcements, dissolution of partnerships, awards, and bankruptcies. It was first published in 1665, and historically it covered the whole of Great Britain and Ireland. The website now called The Gazette at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/ includes the three Gazettes now published in London, Belfast and Edinburgh. London Gazette, 10th July 1832 Pages are presented as pdf files, but the search options are not always easy to use. Fortunately, Findmypast now has pages from London Gazette and the other Gazettes, including the one now published in Dublin. I found searching easier on Findmypast. The Dublin Gazette seemed to be more “newsy” than the others, but requires an international subscription. There have been many new Releases on Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) over the past few months, so these can only be some highlights and surprises. The Caribbean Marriage Index 1591-1905 shows the long timespan of British occupation of a number of islands, and may include people with Bristol connections. For example, a Judith Pinney was married In Barbados in 1703. Other files relating to British settlement overseas include a […]
January 9, 2021

On the Internet – June 2020

The big data release for us locally in 2019 was the publication of the Bristol Diocese parish registers on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk). These were described at length in the December 2019 Journal, but experience of using these records has highlighted some problems and peculiarities. Now Ancestry has taken the next step with publication of over 400,000 nonconformist records held by Bristol Archives. These will be a useful resource for many people, but to avoid disappointment you need to be aware of what is included and what is not. As with the Church of England records, there is an index and transcription, together with a high-quality digital image of the original document. However, the coverage of this later batch of records is significantly different from the Church of England registers. “Nonconformist” includes Quaker and Roman Catholic records, and the originals of the latter are often in Latin. A much wider geographical area is covered, so Methodist records from Shepton Mallet and Burnham on Sea are included, although the coverage depends very much on the denomination. While Anglican records for the Bristol Diocese are as comprehensive as the survival of records has allowed, and date back to 1538 in some cases, the nonconformist records tend to be later in date, although there are both Quaker and Baptist records from the mid-seventeenth century. In addition, some records for important local churches are not held locally, or may have been lost at some time. There are no registers for the Moravians, for example, although these are available elsewhere online While Broadmead Baptist church is included, […]
March 7, 2020

On the Internet – March 2020

The main piece of news this quarter is that the GRO website now includes recent deaths. The new index covers the years 1984 to 2019, which presumably is the period covered by electronic record keeping.