A number of recent developments mean that this is proving to be a bumper year for family historians who use the Internet.
For people with interests in the Bristol area, the best news is the latest news from British Origins.
They have started to index the 1841 census, and the first areas covered include Gloucestershire and Bristol. When you have found the person you want by searching the index, you can then see an image of the actual census page. Unusually for the 1841 census, these are very legible, much better than most microfiche or CD images. British Origins offer a number of subscription options, starting at £5.95 for 72 hours access to British data up to £22.50 for a whole year. These subscriptions give you unlimited downloads, and you can save and print the images. Other areas currently covered in 1841 are Devon and Cambridgeshire, and indexes to the 1871 census for Wiltshire, Glamorgan and most of London are also included. The site is still a bit clunky, and you have to download a special viewer to see the census images, but the benefits much outweigh those few problems. The image sizes are quite large, so you may find the site a bit slow if you use a dial-up Internet connection. The site can be found at http://www.britishorigins.com/.
Another new census site is provided by 1837online, who have started to index the 1861 census. The first areas covered are London, together with the surrounding counties of Surrey, Kent, Middlesex and Essex. Once you have joined 1837online, you can use your credits to search both the census and the birth, marriage and death indexes. For the census, it costs about 30p to download a transcription of a household, and the same to view an image of the census page. Unfortunately, you have to do both if you want to know the reference number. You can save and print the images. The site can be found at http://www.1837online.com/
On the subject of the census, there have been a number of changes recently to the TNA 1901 Census site. If you pay by credit card, your session can now last up to 7 days, rather than the 48 hours previously. As before, a session ends when you log out, so you should be careful to “suspend” your session if you intend to return within the seven-day period. There is a minimum charge of £5 for each session if you are paying by credit card. If you use the vouchers (obtainable from the Society), then a session can also last up to seven days if you “suspend” rather than “log out”, although the voucher can be used over a six month period. Within a session, you can view an image or transcript again without further payment. The TNA 1901 Census Site now also has the option of “Direct Access” where you type in the page reference number and go straight to the page you want. Another new option is “Intelligent Search”, where you are presented with possible variations on the search criteria which you chose. You can also now advise The National Archives of transcription errors that you find. Go to “Contact us” on the home page. The TNA 1901 Census is at http://www.1901census.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.html.
If your ancestors came from the Frenchay Winterbourne and Hambrook area, then the information available at Winterbourne Family History Online will be of interest to you. This is provided by Frenchay Village Museum, and contains Parish Records, Censuses, School Records, Photographs, and Biographies. New material is being added all the time, and the site has both transcriptions of official records and material submitted by local people. This is a real feast, and an inspiration for other parishes. Go to http://www.frenchaymuseumarchives.co.uk/
In the last issue of the Journal, I described the new Family Relatives site, which has full transcription of births, marriages and deaths between 1866 and 1920, and is useful for finding events not yet covered by FreeBMD. I have found this very good for filling gaps in my records, but it is also impressive in that it retains a list of all the searches that you have done. You can look again at the results you obtained, without paying more. This feature can be found by looking at “My Account”. Family Relatives is at https://www.familyrelatives.org/.
British History Online is an academic site containing full-text documents, largely about medieval England, but also containing some of the Victoria County History and other county histories. The section on Gloucestershire includes three volumes of the VCH, covering much of the Forest of Dean, the area around Westbury on Severn, and the towns of Stroud and Tetbury and their neighbours. It contains a lot of London information, and also some useful links. The site can be found at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/register.asp.
Getting started on family history research can sometimes be a challenge. A new website aimed at students gives a taste of what to expect at both national and local archive and record offices. It is a project called Archival Research Techniques and Skills (ARTS, for short) and contains a tutorial about planning your visit and the rules and regulations you may encounter. It can be found at http://www.arts-scheme.co.uk/.
Finally, a site which has taken the data about public houses in the 1881 census transcription and made it available as a single database. It includes establishments which are not listed as pubs, but just a number and a road (e.g. 10 High St), but where the head of the household is a “publican”, “inn keeper”, “licenced victualler, “beer seller” etc. It can be useful for tracing who lived at a particular pub, what pubs there were in a particular village, how many pubs there are with a particular name, and various other queries. Who would have thought there were only 3 inns called the “Blue Bowl”. One is Compton Martin, one in Bedminster and one in Wells. The site is minimalist in appearance, and can be found at http://www.1881pubs.com/.