Want to know more about Irish research?February 9, 2022
On the Internet – June 2022October 15, 2022
The 1921 Census was published online by Findmypast on the date previously announced, and everything seems to have gone smoothly, with none of the system crashes or other problems that accompanied the release of the 1911 census or the 1939 Register. Searching is free, and I had few problems identifying the entry I wanted, even without using the advanced search option.
It costs £2.50 to see a transcription and £3.50 for a high-quality scan of the original. These records are not currently available with any Findmypast subscription, including the Society one for the Research Room, and are not available elsewhere on line. You can search the census free of charge at The National Archives at Kew, or at libraries in Manchester and Aberystwyth. To access these records elsewhere, you must register with Findmypast and give credit or debit card details, but you do not have to take out a subscription. Payment is by system of micropayments which means that once you have registered, you do not need to enter any security or other information each time you pay for something. One deterrent to spending too much is the constant arrival of e-mails confirming your purchases.
Although I have read complaints about the cost, it was not long before I realised that the number of “must see” addresses was small. My parents were living with their parents, and the whole family was together in one place. All but one of my great-grandparents died before 1921. There was nothing unexpected about where they lived, and in general differences in the occupation listed could be readily understood. The only surprises so far have been a great-aunt in service in Cheshire, when I expected to find her in Bournemouth, and a great-uncle whose occupation was “Attending hospital, wounded soldier”. I have yet to trace his military record. On the matter of cost, it would have been good if there was some discount if one purchased both the original and the transcript, since both have their uses.
Addresses are written on a separate page by the enumerator, but this page and others containing useful information, are available without paying more. Click on “Open Filmstrip” and then on “Extra (Address)”. Unfortunately, the addresses can be hard to decipher. I looked for someone living in the South Wales valleys, but could not read the address. The transcriber had decided it was Vajangsglyd Street, which didn’t seem right. Fortunately, the family had been at the same address in 1911, which was Ynys Glyd Street.
Searching an address was not always as straightforward as was indicated. For some streets, there seemed to have been changes of name or number, and I was unwilling to pay to go through several households when I had no way of knowing which would be the right one. Even when I was fairly certain about an address, I discovered that there could be two or more separate households living in a small four-roomed house, and the address was therefore listed twice. Such was the case of my gt-grandmother, who lived at 28 Paradise Street, Warwick. Unless you notice that there are two (or more) households listed at a particular address, it is easy to look at the wrong record, which can be misleading and of course costs more. You can avoid this mistake by hovering your mouse over the address to see the surnames listed. It’s also worth remembering that, if you search for a census entry by name, you would not be aware that there was another household at the same address.
There have been many comments about transcription errors. My grandfather was born in Winchelsea, Sussex, and wrote that clearly on the census form. The transcriber had obviously started typing this, but wrongly chose Winchester, Hampshire from the drop-down menu. Generally, however, I think my greatest disappointment was that the original questions were not as wide as I had expected. One ancestor is described as an employer, but not how many he employed, which was recorded in earlier censuses. There is a box with the number of rooms at the property, but no indication of what counted as a room. Was the scullery considered a room? I had been hoping to learn how many houses had bathrooms, or indoor sanitation.
One benefit of sharing your family history data on Ancestry is that you are notified of new information that becomes available, and I recently learned that one of my ancestors had left a will. Solomon Pollard had been born illegitimate, and only took the Pollard surname when his mother married. He died in 1832, so records about him are sparse, and but he is described variously as a labourer and as a hurdle maker and he lived in the tiny village of Hermitage in Dorset. His will was proved locally, not at the PCC, which makes it easy to read but it reveals that he owned a house and had strong ideas about how his children should behave and how his assets should be divided. A reminder that you did not need to be especially wealthy to write a will, and that wills can reveal a lot about the lives and personalities of your ancestors.
During the Second World War, the probate records from the Diocese of Bath & Wells – most of the old county of Somerset, were deposited at the Probate Office in Exeter, which unfortunately sustained a direct hit in the blitz. All the original documents were lost. Wills proved in the PCC were not affected by this. Although some indexes to the wills exist, and copies of the lost wills do turn up from time to time, knowing what wills were proved is hard to discover. The Society of Genealogists has a hand written calendar of these wills, listing name, year and place of residence, and volunteers have now digitised and transcribed this. It is only accessible to members of the Society, which guards its copyright carefully. Membership is not cheap, and details are at https://www.sog.org.uk/members, but it has advantages for those who want to take family history as far as possible. An interesting aspect of the wills included in the SoG list is the number of peculiars in Somerset – parishes where wills were proved locally rather than higher up the ecclesiastical chain. Peculiars included Easton in Gordano, Compton Bishop and Yatton.I recently wanted to trace a friend’s father. She was adopted, but knew her father was born in 1919. It seemed unlikely that he was still alive, but I could find no record of his death, and the records on the GRO and other websites do not come up to the present day. As a last resort, I checked the probate records at https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate and found he had died in 2021. On a Friday, I ordered a copy of the will and grant of probate, and it arrived by e-mail on the following Sunday.
I have previously written about the maps available on the website of the National Library of Scotland. The site can be complicated to use, with a wide variety of options. The various options are covered in much more detail in the January 2022 issue of the Really Useful Bulletin which is published by the Family History Federation and can be downloaded at https://www.familyhistoryfederation.com/resources-newsletter.
A local arrival on the British Newspaper Archive website is the South Gloucestershire Gazette, covering many years in the twentieth century. The newspaper has rather a lot of advertisements, and the area covered is much larger than is currently considered South Gloucestershire, as you will see from the full title.
It does have some illuminating but rather random material, and includes detailed reports of council meetings in various parts of its area. There was this on the manufacture of vehicles by the Bristol Tramways company on 13th February 1926.
Finally, last year, we had an enquiry about the burials at Quakers Friars in Bristol, which had been removed during one of the redevelopments of the area. They were traced to the Meeting House in Bedminster, and Ancestry has the records which are listed under UK, Records of the Removal of Graves and Tombstones, 1601-1980 (https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/collections/61802/).