We start this issue with some news from FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org). New data in considerable amounts is being added every week, but only some of this relates to the U.K. and only a fraction of that is relevant to our area. However, it is an interesting indication of the way that the website is going
. To find out what is newly available, ignore the search boxes on the home page and choose “British Isles” under “Browse by location”. You will see a list of databases, and the date when they were added. Click on the one you wish to search. This is the best way I have found of restricting your search to a particular area of interest, and excluding material of no value to you.
The new databases that I have found most interesting have been the Kent ones, especially the Land Tax assessments. These are not indexed, but you can browse through them by parish. In other databases, you can browse through type of record. You cannot get an easy fix with these records, but diligence will bring up some interesting background information.
The other useful source on FamilySearch is under “Books” on the main page. This section contains scanned images of out of copyright books of interest to family historians held by various LDS and public libraries in the United States. Don’t dismiss this as being of no value to you, since such libraries collected many books published in the U.K. My research into the Ames family of Bristol led me to look for a copy of a book on their history privately published in 1889. I had previously obtained a copy produced using optical character recognition which is unreadable, but led me to a pdf file which is better but still clumsy to use. The version on FamilySearch is of much better quality, and cost nothing to download and save. It even has a dedication from the author, and a note about the author’s death. This source is well worth checking if you know of an old book about your family.
Land Tax records can also now be found on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk). This is a complete set for 1798 from The National Archives which is described as “U.K.” but is in fact England and Wales only. It is indexed, so you can search by surname, or you can browse by county and parish. Land tax records are very useful for discovering if your ancestors held land, either as owner or tenant, and can reveal land holdings in parishes other than those where they lived.
If you have London connections, two useful new databases on Ancestry are those of school records and electoral registers. In the school records I found my grandmother and her sister, and could confirm not only the school they attended but the date they moved home. The electoral registers are particularly useful for the period after 1911, as they can indicate where someone was living. This is helped for the period after 1918 when most women over 30 could vote by the listing of married couples.
Ancestry is gradually indexing the 1911 census, although I have to say that I still find the Findmypast version easier to use. For those with United States interests, the big development this year is the release of the 1940 census. Although the page images are available on Ancestry and many other U.S. sites, indexing has only just begun, so it is hard to find the entry you want unless you know the exact address.
Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) has also been expanding its offering. There are new parish records for Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Dorset and Kent and burial records for Birmingham. A large collection of nearly 4 million Welsh parish records includes Glamorgan, together with images of the original registers. A further addition is 359,000 merchant seaman’s records.
Deceasedonline (www.deceasedonline.com) has recently added records from Cirencester, as well as from London and Cheshire. As well as burials, these records also include cremations, which tend to be more elusive. This is a very useful site for more recent deaths.
Now for two sites with military connections. The Aircrew Remembrance Society is dedicated to preserving the memory of aircrew who died in the Second World War. They record accidents and events and the website contains details of those involved with photographs where available. There is also information about the recovery of crashed aircraft, separate sections on the RAF, Luftwaffe and USAF and much more. The site is free to use and can be found at http://www.aircrewremembrancesociety.com.
Another site with military records is Forces War Records at www.forces-war-records.co.uk. This covers the period from the Napoleonic wars to the present day, and is a pay site. In some cases, the information provided is very brief, and could be obtained free of charge from websites like that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org). However, some general information is provided about the service or regiment in which the person served, and there is information (for example, about prisoners of war) which may not be so easily found elsewhere. The site is a discrete part of Forces Reunited, which is a contact website for forces and ex-forces personnel.
Finally, a tip which is not about internet sites, but which could be useful for anyone who keeps their family history data in a computer program and who also has an Android smart phone. Some software called Family Bee lets you download a GEDcom file onto your phone, so that you can have all of your family history data with you in a convenient form at all times. It costs a mere $10 (about £6.25) and further details can be found at www.mobilegenealogy.com/family-bee. Mike Hampton showed this to me during the visit to Bath Record Office, and I found it easy to download and to use.