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Month: February 2017

Validating Old Place Names That No Longer Exist

Validating Old Place Names That No Longer Exist

Often when looking for ancestors, you will come across a place name that you don’t recognise and when you try to look it up, it doesn’t exist anymore. Usually you’ll find these in places that have changed governments or allegiances to differ countries throughout the last couple of hundred years. It’s good practice to record the place as it was at the time that the particular record was written. Some steps you can take to get the correct, or most accepted, spellings and locations are:



1 –  First you’ll need to know the rough area the place will be in, usually you’ll have at least a county or failing that a country or region. Once you have narrowed it down or know exactly where it actually is on a map then you can start to check various sources to verify its name.

2 –  Try referring to old maps, this will be the second step for finding a places original name. If you know the area then you can scan old maps from the time your original source was written.

3 –  The further back in time you go the more vague and blurred the spellings of places can get. So some times a place will have multiple spellings but no official spelling. When this is the case you might need to look for a local historian. There’s often at least one of these in each town and they shouldn’t be too hard to track down these days.

4 – Bare in mind the languages spoken in the location you’re trying to find. Some regions may have more than one spoken or written language possibly due to pre-existing borders that have changed between regions. One place may have two or more very different names which is why you might struggle finding it on a map.

5 –  Some places may be known differently locally compared to nationally or internationally so if you’re having particular trouble finding a place on a map, it might not actually exist as that name and could be a localised nickname.

6 – Don’t get too stressed trying to get everything standardised. Its your tree and can be personal preference. Some people like to standardise all of thier towns or villages whereas others like to name it as it was at the time that person was living and what they would have known it as. Both methods work but if you standardise the place names make sure the boundaries have stayed the same over time and haven’t moved meaning your ancestor was actually living in the next town over.



Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

Open Ended Questions to Ask Older Generations of Your Family

Almost everyone will have older members in their family that might not be around for that much longer, so it’s great to ask them about their lives and the lives of their Siblings, Cousins, Aunties, Uncles, Parents and Grandparents. The majority of the time they will jump at the chance to give you what you’re after as long as you don’t go down the ‘survey’ avenue. I’ve seen a lot of posts on forums and online communities asking about this and a lot of people write out pages of questions relating to the height, weight what colour eyes etc each ancestor had and it rarely gets any real response.

Questions should asked in a way that opens the person up and gets them talking, often going off on tangents completely unrelated to the original question, and this is where the really interesting stuff comes out.

– Favourite Memories Growing Up?

– Who were you closest to from your extended family (Cousins etc)?

– What was the house you grew up in like?

– We’re you evacuated during WW2 (If applicable)?

– What was the best time of your life?

– What was your alcoholic drink of choice when you were young?

– How did you meet your partner?

– Did you ever go on holiday when you were young? If so where?

– Who were your best friends in school?

– Do you have any family recipes and where did they come from?

– How many jobs have you had? And what was your favourite?

– Are you named after anyone?

A lot of the above questions might seem a bit pointless, but they are intended to open up conversation and not make the person feel like they are being interviewed. The most interesting stuff always comes from natural conversation. Ideally you want their personal impressions of subjects or accounts, rather than facts. Facts are easy to find but individuals opinions are not!

What Sources You Should Be Looking At In 15th-17th Century English Research

What Sources You Should Be Looking At In 15th-17th Century English Research

Most people can trace their tree back to at least the 1800s using conventional methods such as Birth/Marriage/Death and Census records but not many realise they can go back a lot further than this using other record collections. Most records still need a visit to an Archive especially older more specialist ones as they aren’t often digitised, and when they are they haven’t always been transcribed to be searchable. Your best bet for sources are:

1 – Wills

A great source of information if you can find one, they are often very detailed depending on how meticulous the person was. Especially useful pre-parish records as they’ll often list all living children.

2 – Property Transfers and Title Deeds

Before 1677 no written deed was necessary for a piece of property or land until the statute of frauds made it compulsory. Before this the only way land could be passed from one person or party to another was through enfeoffment which involved the passing of land in the presence of witnesses. These are mostly found in County Record Offices but some can be found in: The National Archives, British Library and Land Registry.

3 – Civil and Criminal Legal Cases

Recently loads of Prison Registers have been digitised by sites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast however these only start from around the late 1700’s. With regards to earlier records there are the Assize Court records which start from mid 1500s where the most notorius cases were heard twice a year by judges appointed by the Monarch. Old Bailey Trial Records start from 1674 and records related to over 197,000 court cases have been digitised and are available online at Oldbaileyonline.org. The majority of your time will be spend looking at local archive court records as you’ll have a lot more chance of finding an ancestor, unless they were particularly infamous.



4 – Inquisitions Post Mortem

These were local inquiries into the most valuable properties, these were issued to discover what income and rights were due to the crown and who the heir or heirs should be. These can be found at the National Archives.

These inquiries took place when people were known or believed to have held lands of the crown, and therefore involved individuals of considerable wealth and status. All have been indexed, and many are published in English.

5 – Manorial Documents

The majority of the other record sets will be catered more towards the higher classes however manorial documents will be catered more towards the working classes and can include: court rolls, surveys, maps, terriers, documents and books of every description relating to the boundaries, franchises, wastes, customs or courts of a manor. These can be found in the National Archives.

6 – Registers of Taxes and Oaths

This will usually be for Land or Business owners so if you suspect your ancestor might have owned one of these then looking at the taxes they might have paid will help you get a better picture of their life.

7 – University Registers

Primarily for the Oxford or Cambridge Universities but others may still have records too. A wealth of information can be obtained from university records and it could open doors to published literature in which your ancestor was involved.

8 – Clerical Records

If your ancestor was a part of the clergy then they could be in the Clergy of the Church Of England Database. This contains loads of records relating to Education, Appointment, Death and amongst other things.



9 – Livery Company Records

Records of London’s Livery Company Records can be found online and contains the details of 75,000 apprenticeship bindings, 49,000 admissions to the freedom, and over 350,000 named individuals from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

10 – Pedigrees of Titled Families

These are very colourful in the information that they contain however should be taken with a pinch of salt due to the fact that they would have been compiled with the vested interests of one or more people who might have had anterior motives.