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British and Welsh Research

  • A big difference between England and Wales is the naming system.
    • Most families in England adopted fixed surnames by 1400.
    • In Wales, the patronymic system prevailed into the 19th century.
      • The child was given the father's given name as a last name.
      • The word ap or ab ("son of") might be inserted between the son's name and the father's name.
      • i.e. David ab Owen meant David, son of Owen.
      • Closely analyze historical records to distinguish your ancestors from those with the same name.
  • UK has taken a census every 10 years since 1801, with the exception of 1941
    • The 1801 - 1831 were taken at the county level, with the Overseers of the Poor, clergy, and local officials serving as enumerators.
      • These census only recorded the name of the head of household, number of families in a dwelling, and the number of males and females.
      • Most of these records were never microfilmed and have been lost or destroyed
    • Beginning in 1841, the census was organized and collected centally under the office of the Reistrar General
      • They also began to list the names of every individual in the household
      • Information requested included name, age, ender, occupation
    • Compulsory civil registration requirements for birth, marriage and death records began around 1874.
      • Researching in civil registrations is a two-step process:
        • 1) look for an ancestor's event in the quarterly indexes produced by the UK Office for National Statistics, and
          2) Order a copy of the record here.
    • Parish Records:
      • In 1537, a law required the Church of England to record all baptisms, marriages and burials in their parishes.
      • Parish registers contain gaps between 1553-1558 (when Mary I ruled) and 1642-1660 (during the English Civil War and its aftermath).
      • Most records continue until 1874, when civil registration began.
      • Records can be found here however, coverage varies by county.
    • Probate Records post 1857:
      • Ancestry has a catalog for "England & Wales National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966"
      • For people who died between 1967 and 1995 you must search by mail, for more information click here
    • Welsh records often refer to people by the farm name where they lived.

    • Websites

    • Association of Family History Societies of Wales
    • BBC contains historical information about British history.
    • Vist Commonwealth Graves Commission for military deaths.
    • $ Deceased Online is a central database for UK burials and cremations.
    • $ Family Relatives
      • Contains both English and Welsh documents.
    • Free UK Genealogy
      • Previously known as Free BMD - a project to digitized UK Civil Registration documents.
    • The Gazette - newspaper database
    • The General Register Office maintains vital records for England and Wales beginning in 1837.
    • Genuki contains UK and Irish genelaogical records.
    • The National Archives
    • Vision of Britain is an online version of Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer for England and Wales.
    • Welsh Newspapers Online
    • The Workhouse is a great website to learn about poor laws, work houses and poor law records for UK and Ireland.
    • $ World Vital Records

    Empire Emigrants
    • Empire Emigrants are British Citizens who migrated to British Outposts

    • India
      • Documents are well preserved and accessible.
      • Documents were kept locally and generally organized by presidencies (provinces)
      • The Imperial Gazetteer of India can help you discover which province your ancestor's town was in.
      • India Office Family History Search from the British Library
      • Church Register Returns served as civil registers of vital events.
      • Families in British India Society contains registrar marriages from 1852-1911.
      • If your ancestor was a civil servant visit here for their "writer's petitions" (job applications).

    • Australia

    • South Africa
      • Church records are the go-to source for British colonial vital statistics before 1870.
      • Original records are scattered. Check the local parish office or local archives.
      • The Department of Home Affairs houses birth, marriage and death records.
      • Records are accessible by request through South African Consulates
      • It isn't expensive to order records, but it takes forever to receive a response.
      • Genealogical Society of South Africa holds cemetery records.