In a very short space of time, Ancestry.co.uk seems to have become accepted as the principal online source of census information. The big news from Ancestry is that they now have the 1841 census available to complete their collection of census material for England & Wales.
Ancestry also offer as part of their subscription, at no additional cost, access to the indexes of births, marriages and deaths. You can either use the transcribed indexes produced by FreeBMD, which are not yet complete, or search images of pages from the GRO indexes. Searches can be time consuming, but are still quicker than traditional methods. Ancestry is at www.ancestry.co.uk .
Other providers are also expanding their offerings, and 1837online have now added the whole of the 1891 census to their website. Searches are quick and easy, but the pay-per-view nature of 1837online means that costs can escalate in comparison with the one-off subscription of Ancestry. 1837online has recently added a whole batch of new datasets, including passport applications for certain years, divorces and matrimonial causes 1858-1873, Soldiers who Died in the Great War and other sources previously available from The National Archivist. Prices vary according to the data, and if you prepay £25 or more, you have access to information about living people taken from the electoral role, telephone directory and director’s information. 1837online can be found at www.1837online.com
The Bath Chronicle Georgian Newspaper Project has made available an online index to the Bath Chronicle for the years 1700-1800. This can be found on the Bath Archives website at
http://www.batharchives.co.uk/ . The index contains lots of news and announcements about deaths, marriages, robberies, accidents and other events, and the area covered is much wider than the City of Bath. There are 21 entries for Brislington, for example, and 80 for Sodbury. This is an index only, but sufficient detail is given for you to know if a visit to Bath Central Library is justified to see the full text. I understand that it is hoped to provide digitised images of the newspapers themselves in due course.
The cause of death on an old certificate can sometimes be a bit of a puzzle. Words like Phthisis and Syncope are not used nowadays, but had quite specific meanings in the past. An explanation can be found on a website at www.paul_smith.doctors.org.uk/ArchaicMedicalTerms.htm . One of the explanations given, for example, is that “paralysis” usually indicated what we would call a stroke.
London Signatures is a new service from the London Metropolitan Archives, which makes available copies of 10000 wills from the Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex between 1609 and 1810. The site works in a similar way to Documents Online from The National Archive, in that you search on a keyword (typically the surname) and are presented with a list of hits. This should enable you to identify the person you are looking for. Downloading a copy of the will then costs £4.00. The site can be found at http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/corporation/wills/index.htm .
Another site using a similar system is The Original Record at http://www.theoriginalrecord.com/ . Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in this site and wonder how effective it will turn out to be. Searching is by keyword, with the possibility of restricting between specific years, and wild cards can be used. A successful search will bring up a list of entries, but there is no way of narrowing your results to identify the ones of real value. Only surnames are shown, for example, and there is no way of limiting entries by first name or by place. As an example, I looked for entries for the name TOGHILL. There were nine results, with dates between 1771 and 1881, six relating to insolvency or bankruptcy. One of these, dated 1835, was of interest, and the price of the document was quoted at £6. This is less than the cost of a BMD certificate, but more than the price of a download from The National Archives DocumentsOnline. My document was presented in .pdf format, which meant I could save or print it. It told me that Thomas Toghill of Avening, retailer of beer, appeared at the Courthouse at Gloucester on 27th February 1835 along with several other insolvents. The source of the information was obviously a printed book, but no source details were given, and the information provided is no more than can be found free of charge on the Gloucestershire Record Office Online Catalogue. This website may be of value to those researching very unusual names, but the high cost and inflexibility make it of less value to most users. Because the site uses the American provider PayPal as its payment method, VAT is added to all amounts at a late stage in the process.
The LDS church has a project to digitise their entire Family History Library, and make it available over the internet. This is a massive undertaking, but the timescale is shrinking as more resources and faster technology become available. Full details can be found in an article at http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,40-1-3384-9,00.html.
If you have family who went to New Zealand, a family history website from Christchurch City libraries may help you to locate where they are buried. It can be found at
http://library.christchurch.org.nz/FamilyHistory/WhichCemetery/, and includes a link to the Christchurch City Council Cemeteries Database. This database includes such information as age, place of birth, years in New Zealand, address at death, occupation, as well as the location of the grave. If only every cemetery was recorded online in this way.
Elsewhere in this Journal, you will find a review of a new website about the village of High Littleton. This is a model of its kind, as it includes narrative items about the history of the area as well as transcripts of church records and the census. It has been produced by Mike Browning, a founder member of our Society, one of its Vice-Presidents, and the person responsible for the marriage index. The website can be found at www.highlittletonhistory.org.uk/ .