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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.



A Guide to Manchester & Lancashire Genealogical Research

A Guide to Manchester & Lancashire Genealogical Research

A lot of my personal research has been around the Manchester and Lancashire area. So I’ve used a lot of sources in my research, these “Extra” resources used along with the usual suspects (Ancestry, FamilySearch etc.) can yield some very colourful results.


Lancashire Parish Clerks

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks

“This site aims to extract and preserve the records from the various parishes and to provide online access to that data, FREE of charge, along with other data of value to family and local historians conducting research in the County of Lancashire.”

Lancashire Parish Clerks is great because it has fully searchable free data relating to the entire county. You can search by church, town or the whole of Lancashire.


Lancashire BMD

Lancashire BMD

The Register Offices in the county of Lancashire, England, hold the original records of births, marriages and deaths back to the start of civil registration in 1837.

The county’s Family History Societies are collaborating with the local Registration Services to make the indexes to these records freely searchable via the Internet.

Although the indexes are not yet complete for all years and districts, we hope that the database will eventually cover all Lancashire births, marriages and deaths from 1837.”

Like FreeBMD, Lancashire BMD has transcribed the Birth Marriage and Death records for Lancashire, however they have also transcribed many maiden names of mothers and list the “Age at Death” on most records up to 1837 as opposed to 1866 for FreeBMD.


Manchester City County Council Burial Records

Mancheser City Council

The Manchester City County Council Burial Records website is a fully searchable database of all the big cemeteries in Manchester. Its free to search which can also tell you the names of others buried in the same plot but if you want any more information a fee is required. Worth it if it breaks down a brick wall. The best way to use this resource is by combining it with Lancashire BMD to search for correlating deaths.


Manchester’s “Unfilmed” 1851 Census

Unfilmed 1851

“Family historians with ancestors in mid-19th century Manchester face a particular difficulty. Following transfer of the enumeration books to the Home Office in London and analysis of the contents, the area where the books were stored was flooded and the books were badly damaged. Some of the books were in such poor condition that it was not considered worth filming them. Others were filmed but much of the image appears blackened and the writing is not decipherable. Since the original books were considered too fragile to permit public access, the returns relating to over 200,000 people were effectively unavailable.”

This site has transcribed and made a searchable database of all of the names they could get out of the damaged 1851 census.






Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society

Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society

Manchester &  Lancashire Family History Society is a good resource to use as like most Family History Groups it has a member directory and local record sets. Some records are free to search but a small fee is payable if you want to access members directories. These members will often help with local research which is good for anyone not actually from the area. Their record sets also contain employee records from mills in the area. If you have working class ancestors from the Manchester and Lancashire area there’s a relatively large chance they could have been involved in the Mills.


Artus Family History

Artus

Whilst this is not specific to Manchester and Lancashire it does offer some very high resolution images of street maps of some of the cities in the area such as Manchester and Stockport. These maps stretch from the mid 1850s up until the 1940s.

Guide To Researching French Records

Guide To Researching French Records

The further you go back in your tree and the more branches you find, chances are you’ll find a French ancestor. Unfortunately with French research you need to know the exact place that person was born (Or get very lucky with a unique surname) to be sure you’re looking at the correct person.

French records are indexed by town (Archives de la ville de ____) and/or Departement (Archives Departementales de ____) Plus modernised versions i.e. Rouen incorporated adjacent towns so some records are in the Archives Municipales (Old Rouen), some are in the Mairie de Sotteville or Grand Quevilly or Petit Quevilly, some are in the Seine Maritime Archives. The key is that there is no National Register like the UK BMD.

Cordier Birthplace

Often finding the starting point is the hardest thing. In my research almost all records that I have linked to a French ancestor have simply listed a birth place as “France” which might as well say “Born on Earth”. If you’re reading this though, chances are you have a rough idea or exact location in France the person is from. Finding that missing record that gives an exact location is what will open the door to your French branches.

GeoPatronyme

One really useful website if you don’t know where exactly in France a person is from is GeoPatronyme. It plots where a certain surname is popular and when used on quite unique names, it can narrow down locations massively. Using the French name I have been researching the picture below shows where the majority of people with the Cordier surname live.

Cordier Distribution
Genealogie.com

Genealogie.com is probably the most popular French Genealogy website currently and although it is a paid site it can be manipulated in such a way that allows you to get the basic information you’ll need to search the relevant archive for the actual records. An example I came across that will help demonstrate this was when researching “Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier”. All I knew about him came from English Records and luckily one census listed his birth place as Vendee, France.

Genealogie

On Genealogie you can do a free search but can’t view records and they are vague about the year i.e they’ll show 1900-1925 for any year between them. In this case, I searched ‘nom’ as Cordier, ‘prénom’ as ‘Pierre Oscar’ and then on the results page, under ‘Initiale du prénom’ chose ‘O’ to pick up the ‘Oscar’. Straight away, at the top of the list is a Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier born sometime between 1850 and 1875 in La Roche-sur-Yon. Narrowing it down by going back and searching again using exact years each time i.e searching 1850, 1851, 1852 etc and putting in ‘Cordier’, shows this man was born 1842.

(Edit: This particular search doesn’t work now but a similar one can be found for his marriage which leads to the same conclusions)Pierre Cordier Search

You can then choose to either pay for the record and get it straight away with no fuss or head over to the Vendée archives and try to pick it up on their free Etat civil database. If you want to learn more about French records and plan to do a lot more French research it’s worth using this method as you’ll get used to using and reading French Records.

Unfortunately most district archive sites don’t make it easy to directly link, but a quick check of the index for 1842 (at the back of the births section, not right at the back) shows me he’s there, number 192 (image 92 of 357).

Battle of Waterloo 1815



French Military Records

If the person you are looking for was in the French Military there are a few different avenues you can persue in order to find the sources you need.

The French military records, held at the Service historique de la Défense in Vincennes, have in the past been difficult to access until recently with a change of leadership, things are getting slightly easier. This however will require a trip to the archives either by you or a local researcher.

Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier

Gallica.bnf & Google Books

Another way is by looking at official documents, gallica.bnf has loads of searchable records that can be viewed for free, so is definitely worth a look. One way I’ve found particularly fruitful is using Google Books to search for French Military results. One good way to find sources relating to a member of the military is by searching for the surname followed by first names. For example searching for an ancestor called “Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier” in Google books should be done “Cordier Jean Baptiste Alexandre” as well as trying abbreviations of each, like bte or bapt in place of baptiste as well as using initials only.

Ste Helene Medal

The Ste Helene Medal was given to soldiers that fought for Napoleon and we’re still alive in 1857. If the person you are researching falls in to this date range then this can be a very valuable resource. The Ste Helene website not only has documents and translations but also portraits of many of the higher ranking officers.

Ste Helene Medal