Tag Archives: England

Visiting County Record Offices


For most family historians with English ancestors at some point you will have to visit at least one County Record Office. So here are few tips if it will be your first time.

Plan your visit

Where is the record office?

This will be listed on the relevant county council web site. Remember county boundaries have changed over the centuries so you may need to confirm with a site like Genuki as to which record office you need. Some counties like Cumbria have more than one record office.

What records does the record office have?

There is no point travelling to the record office if it doesn’t have the records you need. This may include census records, parish registers, newspapers or other historical documents. Some of these may need to be requested in advance so check on the web site or telephone ahead.

Opening hours

The office may not be open 9-5 six days a week. This information should be on the web site too. It may be that you have to leave the building at lunch time if it closes. It may also be necessary to make an appointment if there is restricted space.

What should I take?

Identification

To join the County record office network (CARN) you need to bring along ID such as passport or driving licence. Once you have a card it makes access to all similar archives so much simpler.

Notes

Take a printout of the part of the family tree you are interested in for that visit. You may be able to take a laptop but check first.  Have a list of what you are hoping to achieve – this may help you stop getting side tracked.

Equipment

You will be restricted on using pencils in the research rooms. Take more than one and a good notebook to write down your discoveries. If you want printouts of what you find then you will need some cash to pay. Anything else will probably have to be left in a locker and mobiles set to silent/turned off.

In the record office

Don’t be afraid to ask

If it’s your first visit then ask the archivist for help on finding what you need to save time. They will also show you how to use micro film readers and point out the rules of use.

Be Systematic

Start with your initial target and work your way through the records just looking at them. If anything else catches your eye note where you find it and come back later. Write down the source references so that you can double check at a later date if necessary.

Above all enjoy the records and finding out more about your ancestors.

Key Sources for Family History: Census Records


The census was used to count the number of people living in the United Kingdom. These have been taken since 1801 but it is only from 1841 that they start to really be of use for family historians. With each census more information was requested so they become even more useful. With data restrictions there is a 100 year embargo in England & Wales so family historians were only just allowed access to the 1911 census in 2010.

Each page of census data has the locality it was taken in so you can see County, District and Town/Village information. The road and house number or name should also be included. Below I have listed the years of the main census and the information that was added each time.

1841

  1. Name.
  2. Age (For those over 15, this was rounded down to the nearest 5 years).
  3. Profession or Occupation.
  4. Whether born “in county”, elsewhere in the UK or in “Foreign Parts”

1851

  1. Relationship to head of household
  2. Age at last birthday
  3. Marital status
  4. Rank, profession, or occupation
  5. Place of birth more exact
  6. Blind, deaf or idiot
  7. In Ireland language spoken

1861

1871

  1. Economic status
  2. Whether blind, deaf, dumb, imbecile, idiot, or lunatic.

1881

  1. Language spoken (Scotland)

1891

  1. Language spoken (Wales)
  2. Whether an employer, an employee, or neither.
  3. Number of rooms occupied, if fewer than 5

1901

  1. Number of rooms in dwelling.
  2. Whether an employer, worker or working on one’s own account.
  3. Whether working at home or not.
  4. “Language spoken (children under 3 years of age to be excluded)” (in Wales)

1911

  1. Industry or service with which the worker is connected.
  2. How long the couple has been married.
  3. How many children were born alive, how many who are still alive, and how many who have died.

1921

  1. Place of work

1931 (destroyed in World War 2)

  1. Place of usual residence

1951

  1. Household amenities

1961

  1. Qualifications
  2. Migration
  3. Household tenure

1971

  1. Car ownership
  2. Travel to work

1981

1991

  1. Ethnic group
  2. Long-term limiting illness
  3. Central heating
  4. Term-time address of student

2001

  1. Size of workforce
  2. Supervisor status
  3. First question on religion on the main census form (England, Wales, and Scotland)

2011 (scheduled for 27th March)

  1. Includes questions relevant to civil partnerships.
  2. Other new questions involve asking migrants their date of arrival and how long they intend to stay in the UK, and will also require respondents to disclose which passports they hold

Family History: English/Welsh Birth Certificates


Birth certificates were first introduced in England and Wales on the 1st July 1837 but were not made compulsory until 1864. They are a very valuable source of information because of the data they contain:

Registration District

This gives the county and sub-district the child was registered in. These have not been static over the years so you will need to be careful.

Date of Birth

Just remember this is as supplied by the person registering the birth. They may give an inaccurate date in order to make the registration appear to be within the legal time frame. Or as in the case of my 2x great grandmother to date the birth after the marriage of the parents!

Place of Birth

This often is the family’s home address but it may also be a hospital or workhouse.

Forenames

This is the name as given at registration and may have been changed at a later date or the person may have become known by their second name. In some cases a child may even have been registered with no forename.

Sex

You would think this would be straight forward with boy or girl up until 1969 and male or female since. However there have been well documented cases of children being given the wrong gender at birth.

Father’s Name

This field may not be filled in if the parents were not married. The rules over this have varied over the years but in general if an unmarried father didn’t go with the mother to register the birth then his name will not appear. Where the name is recorded it is the name at the time of the child’s birth and may not be the birth name of the father. If the parents were not married then both of them will have signed the register.

Mother’s Name

Again this is the name the mother was known by at the time of the birth. After September 1911 the mother’s maiden name (where applicable) was also included. Until the 1980s only unmarried mothers had their occupation included in this column. More recently (1984) an extra column was added for mother’s occupation.

Father’s Occupation

The paid employment of the father at the time of the birth. This may or may not be specific and can include “Independent Means”. If the father died before the birth his occupation will include deceased after it.

Signature, Description and Residence of the Informant

If this person was illiterate it will say The mark of. The following people are allowed to register a birth (listed in the order currently allowed by Registrars):

  1. The mother
  2. Father but only if he is married to mother
  3. Father and mother jointly where they are not married to one another
  4. A person present at the birth
  5. The owner or occupier of the house or institution
  6. The person in charge of the child

The residence of this person may be quite useful if not the same as the place of birth.

Date of Registration

The date the birth was actually registered. There have always been time limits on how long after the birth it can be registered. Before Registrars had access to the medical records of the actual date of birth parents were known to change the date of birth to be legal.

Change of name

If within a year of registration the child is subsequently baptised with alternative forenames then this can be recorded on the certificate too.