Websites for Family History
Listed below are the websites which are particularly useful for family history research in the Bristol and former Avon area. There are many other more specialist online resources available. Most of the sites listed are free to use, and the pay sites do not always need an expensive long-term subscription if you only need a small amount of data.
Originally an American site. There are now various editions to which you can subscribe, and all are different to the edition available in public libraries and record offices. Each English-speaking country has its own edition, and there is a world edition if you want to research overseas. Now includes Bristol Diocese Parish Registers and Bristol area nonconformist records.
Annual subscriptions - U.K. Census £110; U.K. & Ireland £140; Worldwide £200
Originally a U.K. site, but now expanded worldwide, with different editions available.
Starter U.K. subscription £80; Plus U.K. subscription £120; Pro subscription (worldwide including British Newspaper Archive) £160
Has only U.K. data. Three annual subscriptions.
Starter £55; Gold £99; Diamond £140.
Free General Websites
U.S. based but world-wide in scope including non-English material. Also has family histories and other books available for free download, and user-submitted genealogies. Data is not always reliable, so needs to be used with care, but contains information not readily available elsewhere.
Brings together three sets of U.K. data which have been transcribed by volunteers. FreeBMD, FreeCEN and FreeREG all offer reliable data and versatile search options. FreeBMD is the best known with the most comprehensive coverage.
This site gives access to the projects transcribing the indexes to local BMD records. The advantage of the local transcribed indexes is that they include information not available on indexes to the nationally held records.
The National Archives
You can search the Discovery catalogue free of charge, but you will have to pay to download wills, service records and other documents. Documents can be digitised on request and e-mailed to you.
General Register Office
Now has new indexes to births and deaths for early years which contain details missing from the transcriptions of the old indexes which are available on Ancestry, FreeBMD, etc. You also use this site to order certificates online. Now includes birth and deaths 1984-2019.
Burials and Memorials
A U.K. site with burial records, mostly from municipal cemeteries. Free searching, but you pay to see the full record. Restricted scope. Now has some municipal burials from BANES.
A U.S. based site with world-wide data. Lists memorials and includes photos. Easy to use, and free, but requires registration. Also available through Ancestry.
Billion Graves Project
Another U.S. based site with world-wide data. Lists memorials and includes photos. Free to use, but requires registration and more commercial in approach than Findagrave.
Bath Record Office
Amongst various datasets, look for the Bath Burial Index.
Announcements which have been published in certain local newspapers
Wills and Probate
The subscription sites all give access to will calendars and some original documents. The site which lists all wills from 1858 to the present day, and where you can order online copies is Find a Will at https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills. Searching is free, but a copy of a will costs £10.
Know Your Place
Contains maps of different periods and editions for Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Devon. Maps can be enlarged and compared side by side to show changes. Also has photographs and other illustrations. Separate sections for each present-day local authority area. Hours of pleasure and hidden depths to the information.
Lloyd George Survey
The transcription of this survey of property ownership is still in progress, but what is available can be found free of charge at www.glos1909survey.org.uk/info.html. Gloucestershire includes Bristol. I can find no similar websites for other counties, but a separate set of survey documents is in The National Archives and a street index of these for Bristol compiled by David Hawkings is available in the BAFHS Research Room.
The British Newspaper Archive (Annual subscription £80) currently contains over 700 titles. These are available at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk but are also included in a Findmypast PRO subscription, with marginally less functionality.
Nineteenth Century British Library Newspapers contains full runs of 48 national and local newspapers including the Bristol Mercury. It is available through local library websites to any registered user.
The three general websites all contain much military and service material, and there are many specialist websites. There are many specialist military websites, and the principal one is Forces War Records (annual subscription £55) which is at www.forces-war-records.co.uk.