First, some financial news. Ancestry, the family history website, has been sold for $1.6 billion (about £1 billion) to Permira, a European private equity fund. The Ancestry headquarters will remain in Provo, Utah, U.S., and the present senior executives of Ancestry will retain a financial interest, but this could lead to some interesting developments in the future.
The I.G.I. (International Genealogical Index) was the first big family history database, and has been available in various formats since 1969. It is now on the new FamilySearch website at www.familysearch.org. The IGI contains two sets of data – transcriptions of parish registers, and submissions by LDS church members. The transcription data will be included in any search you do from the FamilySearch home page, but if you want to check the submitted data, or to be sure that you are only seeing transcription data in the IGI, then you should click on “All Record Collections” and then choose the International Genealogical Index. You will then have to select either the Community Indexed IGI or the Community Contributed IGI.
Information about parishes and which are their neighbours is always useful. FamilySearch now has a selection of maps at http://maps.familysearch.org/ and using these you can identify the diocese, hundred, poor law union, etc relating to each parish. A useful list of places can also be found at http://www.ukbmd.org.uk/genuki/places/index.html, while Parish Locator is a downloadable program which can be found at http://www.parloc.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/. This program gives the location of a parish and lists the neighbouring ones.
The National Archives (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/) have introduced a completely new catalogue called “Discover”. This is now the route to downloadable documents like wills, and the old Documents Online section has been switched off. The new catalogue offers a simple search term box in which you type the keywords (name, place, subject) of what you are looking for, but there is also an advanced option if you want top narrow the search by date or type of collection. There is a page of FAQs if you require help.
We are so accustomed to using the major websites like Ancestry and Findmypast to search for census listings, BMD information, etc, that it is easy to ignore the other valuable material which they hold. Ancestry has a copy of Latimer’s Annals, directories, poll books and also tithe maps for Dorset. All can be found by searching the quaintly named Ancestry Card Catalogue at www.ancestry.co.uk. Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) has added a lot of parish records recently, but unfortunately none for our area. Parish records can also be found on the updated Family Relatives website at www.familyrelatives.com.
The Internet Archive is an international project to digitise old books and make them available to download free of charge in a variety of formats. Some of these files are very large, so downloading takes many minutes even with a fast broadband connection, but you then have the document permanently. A useful collection of UK material is available at http://archive.org/details/nationallibraryofscotland. This is all material contributed by the National Library of Scotland, but it does include some U.K. titles, such as the Army, Navy and Air Force lists. Family history books can also be downloaded from the FamilySearch site at www.familysearch.org., and I recently downloaded two volumes of Armorial Families. If your need is for local and family history books about the United States, then Genealogy book Links (http://genealogybooklinks.com) is a useful gateway to a number of hosting sites. For Australian books, newspapers and other sources, the government website Trove (http://trove.nla.gov.au/) gives access to over 300 million items.
Excerpts from local history books an also be found at Parish Mouse (http://parishmouse.co.uk). There are over 60 items about Bristol, most of them descriptions of various churches and chapels taken from Arrowsmiths Dictionary of Bristol 1884.There is a particularly useful section on churches which had become disused before 1884, but if the text begins to pall, you can always amuse yourself by watching the advertisements that appear half way down each page. That is how the site is funded.
On the subject of churches, here are two other sites which you may find informative, especially if you live away from Bristol but have ancestors who were baptised, married or were buried here. The Sacred Bristol webpage at www.sacredbristol.org is really part of the Visit Bristol tourism site, and it features ten of the most significant churches in the city. Each has its own page, which also links to the web pages of the Churches Conservation Trust. An alternative site is that of the Church Monument Society at http://churchmonumentssociety.org/Bristol.html, and this deals with the more spectacular monuments and plaques that can be found in Bristol churches. It is not a complete list of monuments, and it draws on the Church Crawler website, which can be found at www.churchcrawler.co.uk/.
Here are two other sites of local interest. St James Priory is the oldest building in Bristol and has been a centre of worship for nearly 900 years. Originally a priory, it became a parish church after the reformation and was one of Bristol’s major churches during the nineteenth century. As the population moved away, its use changed and it is now a centre for those recovering from addiction and home to a weekly Roman Catholic mass. The website at www.stjamesprioryproject.org.uk tells you all about it. St James Priory has a family history group who are researching the memorials in the church, including the war memorials, and the results of their research can be downloaded.
Chipping Sodbury was traditionally the market town for the villages in the surrounding area, and those with family interests there will find much of interest at Sodbury Genealogy (http://www.sodburygenealogy.com/). Compiled by Caroline Gurney, a professional researcher living in Chipping Sodbury, the site contains a variety of links, transcriptions and illustrations.
Now for something completely different and seasonal. Gloucestershire Christmas (http://www.gloschristmas.com/) is a collection of Christmas traditions and carols. Try listening and singing along.