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 It may therefore be a little out of date.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 list of Anglican clergy in North America 1690-1811, and those who travelled on the Winthrop fleet of 1630. New Welsh records include probate records 1544-1858.
Recent new records on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) include church records of births, marriages and deaths for Westminster and electoral registers for Lancashire, 1832 to 1935. New family historians are usually warned off too much reliance on the Public Member Trees on Ancestry, but I have found them a useful source of information if used with care. I find it best to look for records which identify their sources, and it is even better if there is a direct link to something like a census image which you can verify. Other people’s trees can also enable you to make contact with more distant cousins, who may have family information not shown on their Ancestry entry.
Several of us have had difficulty recently in finding known records on Ancestry. It all appears to depend on exactly what you have entered in the search screen, and seems to be a particular problem if you have chosen a dataset using the Card Catalogue. Even then you may have problems in specifying the details required in the Location box. You have to be persistent, and should always ensure that there is not some term from an earlier search left in one of the boxes lower down the page. I wish I could identify exactly what the problem is, and sometimes you just need to start again from scratch. You do not want to miss an important record by using the wrong search terms.
If you have London interests, then the maps website Layers of London (https://www.layersoflondon.org/) offers something similar to Know Your Place (http://www.kypwest.org.uk/) for Bristol and the neighbouring counties. Layers of London has been created by the Institute of Historical Research, and is a complex site with a lot of information, not just maps.
On the subject of maps, one of the best-known old maps of Bristol is that of James Millerd, originally published in 1673 and revised in 1728. Millerd’s map is one of the digitised files you can now download free from the Bristol Record Society’s website at www.bristol.ac.uk/Depts/History/bristolrecordsociety/links.htm#bhapamphlets, along with older BRS publications, publications of the Bristol Historical Association, and other titles which have been scanned recently, including books like Latimer’s Annals. BRS has a programme of scanning older titles and is inviting sponsorship from individuals and organisations. Cost depends on size, binding, etc, but is typically between £20 and £100. If you know of a historical publication relating to Bristol which you would like to make more readily available through digitisation, and would be keen to sponsor, details are at https://www.bristol.ac.uk/Depts/History/bristolrecordsociety/index.htm.
Many of the enquiries we had recently concerned burials, and this has shown up how records can be difficult to track down and how many possible sources there are. One of the enquiries was about the burial place of Alice Stickley, who died at Codrington in Chipping Sodbury R.D. in 1956. I checked the burial records for the local parish church in Wapley, but she wasn’t there. Burial records for those cemeteries run by what is now South Gloucestershire council are only available if you pay for a search, and in rural areas many parish and town councils also maintain cemeteries which are not listed anywhere. She might even have been cremated at Arnos Vale. Fortunately, the probate record gave a clue that Codrington was not her permanent home, but that still didn’t identify where she might be buried.
I checked a number of burial websites, and found her on Findagrave. She is listed there, buried in Hatfield Road Cemetery, St Albans, together with her husband Harry.
Various burial record websites have been listed in these articles over the years. Some may be concerned with a particular cemetery, while others are national or international in coverage. The best known are Findagrave (www.findagrave.com/index.html), Billion Graves (http://billiongraves.com/) and Deceased Online (www.deceasedonline.com/). The first two are international and are based on memorials which have been photographed, while Deceased Online is UK only and has burial registers, mostly from local authorities. Findagrave is free to use, while Billion Graves is fairly upfront on wanting you to register and pay. Deceased Online is free to search, but it charges to provide full details of the register entry.
Another website I found useful was the Gravestone Photographic Resource (www.gravestonephotos.com/). Most of the photographs are from England, but if it has what you want it can be invaluable. A photo of the memorial is provided, but you really need to order a high-quality image to see what is engraved, and for this a donation is invited.
It is important to stress that there is a difference between a burial register and a memorial, and that many graves are unmarked. Also, people are sometimes buried in a large grave with others to whom they are not connected. Even if you have seen the burial register, the memorial may have different information upon it. One of the enquiries we received concerned Alan Wills, who died and was buried in the Netherlands during World War II, but who is commemorated on a memorial in Avonview Cemetery. This memorial is on Gravestone Photographic Resource, and the BAFHS transcription of the cemetery registers also includes the other four people listed. They are David’s parents, and his aunt and uncle, the aunt being his mother’s older sister. The relationships are not shown, and while one name is shown as Ernest Day, the register has his full name of Albert Ernest Victor Day. For the full story, you need the register and the memorial and perhaps a visit to the cemetery.
Locating a particular grave in a cemetery is difficult unless a proper survey has been made. The Atlantic Geomatics website (www.atlanticgeomatics.co.uk/burial-ground-management-system) shows examples of how it can be done. A website which may help you locate a particular church is offered by the Church of England at https://facultyonline.churchofengland.org/churches , although it only shows churches currently in use and not any which may have closed but are still standing.
Finally, can I remind you again that the city boundaries of Bristol have always been tightly drawn, and that some of the records for what we think of as Bristol may be in Gloucestershire Archives (www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives ). The latest example I came across is the inquest for Samuel Smith, aged 48, who hanged himself at Stapleton Workhouse. He is described as a blacksmith and a lunatic, and the inquest is dated 8th April 1859.