There is a lot to get through in this edition, so the details I can give will be a little briefer than usual.
First some news of the major sites. Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) has continued to add new databases, although which resources are available for the different subscription levels is not always clear. One interesting dataset is of U.K. company directors, and I was surprised that not only were my wife and myself listed (as directors of the management company for our flat), but so were some other members of the Society. Look under the “Newspapers, Directories and Social History” tag. More newspapers can now be searched (although not on our Research Room subscription) and there are staff records of the Royal Household. Brightsolid, the publishers of Findmypast is now called D.C. Thompson Family History, indicating its links with its parent company. It’s strange that a company once known as the publisher of the Dandy should now see itself as a major provider of online family history information worldwide.
The new data at Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) include overseas BMD registers for British subjects, over 2 million baptisms, marriages and burials for some (but not all) Birmingham churches, and some clandestine baptisms and marriages, some of which are commonly known as Fleet Marriages. These are all records which could help you track down an event which is proving elusive.
Following the discovery of a batch of wills made by soldiers, the Probate Service has started to make the originals available for download, and it is hoped that this will be the start of a programme which will eventually make all wills since 1858 available for online download. Each will costs £6. Details are at https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/, and although the site is not very informative, I understand that this first batch is of wills which were made “in the field”, rather than those written and proved in the normal way.
The Genealogist (www.thegenealogist.co.uk/) has added a collection of militia records from the late eighteenth century. They could be useful, but they can only be used by taking out the most expensive annual subscription, and details available openly are sketchy.
If you have Devon ancestry, you will be aware of the difficulties with Devon wills, many of which were lost in the Blitz. The Devon Wills Project aims to create a finding aid to those wills which still survive, and details can be found at www.origins.net/help/aboutNWI-DevonWills.aspx.
I have previously mentioned the Family Deeds website at www.familydeeds.org. I took another look recently and found a number of documents dealing with Bristol merchants. There were detailed abstracts of the documents, and you can buy a full transcription or a copy of the original. It costs nothing to search.
The Register of One-Place Studies (www.register-of-one-place-studies.org.uk/) is a directory of websites and other resources which relate to particular parishes or places. Very much in its infancy, the only Gloucestershire page is for Adlestrop, but the site for High Littleton maintained by the family of the late Michael Browning is included in the Somerset listing.
Hidden Lives Revealed (www.hiddenlives.org.uk/) is a website about children who were in the care of The Children’s Society in late Victorian and early 20th Century Britain. It contains photographs, case files, and details of the homes, but no personal details are given. There is a lot of information about Bristol, including photos of the Victoria Gibbs Memorial Home for Babies, in Durdham Park.
Connected Histories (www.connectedhistories.org/) brings together a range of digital resources relating to early modern and nineteenth century Britain with a single search that allows sophisticated searching of names, places and dates. It is free to use, although you are asked to sign in, and donations are sought. My only caution is that some of the databases included may not be available unless you are a paying member.
Last Chance to Read (www.lastchancetoread.com) is a database of newspaper articles, including the Police Gazette, easily searchable by name, etc. Although you can see an extract, downloading a copy is a chargeable option, but the prices are modest. A page of the Police Gazette costs £1, and the whole document £2.
A member wrote to me recently recommending Google Books (http://books.google.co.uk) as a useful source of family history information. The site contains images of the whole book, or snippets where the item is still in copyright, and the majority of items I found for my particular search (Ames Bristol) were in eighteenth and nineteenth century books about the city, although some published quite recently were also included. It is very useful if you want to trace unexpected references to individual family names. Another source of family history books is Family Search (https://books.familysearch.org) , which now has over 100,000 titles available for free download, with high quality scans. If those sources fail you, the Society of Genealogists Library Catalogue (www.sog.org.uk/search-records) can help you find relevant titles, while Abebooks (www.abebooks.co.uk) can locate available secondhand copies and show prices
Forebears (http://forebears.co.uk/) is another attempt to provide an index to family history websites. It is attractively designed, with good functions, but rather short on detail. The section on Surnames provides information on derivation, together with the frequency map derived from the 1881 census for the U.K. and the 1901 census for Ireland. Many of the links in the Resources section are to the national pay sites.
There are plans to expand the very useful website Know your place – Bristol (http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/knowyourplace/) to include the whole of Avon. However, it already now includes large scale 2013 Ordnance Survey mapping for Avon and also a wide area of south-west England and South Wales – as far as places like Crediton in Devon, Cerne Abbas in Dorset, Nailsworth in Gloucestershire and Pontypool and Neath in Wales