Category Archives: Researching your family history

How to use British trade directories #researching #familyhistory

The earliest known trade directory was probably a list of merchants in London published by Samuel Lee in 1677. The Little London Directory [below], searchable online at Archive.org, has ‘A collection of the names of the merchants living in and about the City of London. Very useful and necessary’. Merchants mentioned include Theodore Trotle whose address is listed as ‘near Fishmongers Hall, Thames Street’, and Anthony Depremont, of Austin Friars. Directories are a glimpse into another world, offering a chance to locate a relative and learn more about a specific trade. More recently, paper directories switched online and are still relevant for today’s workforce.

The Little London Directory of 1677

The Little London Directory of 1677

The directory business blossomed in the 18thcentury when trade directories were joined by local town guides and tourist guides, all useful sources of information for family history researchers whether looking for specific people, local history or background information about lifestyle at a particular period in time. With the Industrial Revolution, these directories became more professional, covering whole counties and included advertisements.

Kelly's Directory of Bexhill 1966

Kelly’s Directory of Bexhill 1966

Trade specific directories also started to appear and publishers updated the information every few years. Information included businessmen and their addresses, businesses listed by category, maps and classified listings. In 1836, Frederic Kelly bought the Post Office London Directory from the Post Office and went on to publish county titles, paying researchers to visit street and update information. Kelly’s Directories [above] continued publishing into the 20thcentury [below]. Read more about Kelly’s at The Genealogist [below].

Trade directories

Assorted directories [photo: thegenealogist.co.uk]

With the coming of the telephone, specialist directories soon appeared listing phone numbers. The national archive of British Telecom directories is held at the Holborn Telephone Exchange in London while Ancestry has digitised directories from 1880 to 1984.

To trace all trade and telephone directories, try the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, as well as your local library and county archives.

This post is inspired by an article in the December 2018 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Genetic map ‘People of the British Isles’
Researching European records
Did your relative train as an apprentice? 

WDYTYA the Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell

 

Don’t know where to start investigating your own family history? Try the Who Do You Think You Are? The Genealogy Handbook by Dan Waddell.
BUY THE BOOK

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Searching the bastardy records #foundlings #orphans

Trawling through records is difficult enough, but when you are trying to trace an illegitimate relative it can become disheartening. But now more bastardy records are available to search online.

Family tree

[illustration: @SandraDanby]

With the introduction of civil registration of births in 1837, the birth certificates of illegitimate children usually show only the name of the mother, who is the informant, though the name of the father may sometimes appear. From 1875 the registrar could not enter the name of the father, unless at the joint request of the father and mother, when the father also signed the register. When an illegitimate child marries it may leave blank the space for its father’s name, but it may then reveal the truth, if it has been learned in the meantime.To complicate things further for modern day searchers, it was all too easy to register the birth of an illegitimate child as though it were legitimate by inventing the name of a father. A woman may have invented a man with the same surname as herself (so that she is “Smith formerly Smith”) and given him her own father’s forename. A birth registered late by a woman may indicate that the child was illegitimate, particularly if a marriage cannot be found or if her husband’s surname is the same as her own.

More than 14,000 bastardy records held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service have been indexed and made available online at Ancestry. The records start from 1690 up to 1914 with documents including the maintenance of illegitimate children, bastardy bonds, and warrants for apprehending errant fathers who tried to escape responsibility for their children.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Find missing births
The #paternity question
Where to start your #familyhistory search 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How to find an illegitimate ancestor #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6y via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Researching children’s homes #foundlings #orphans

Lost children weren’t always adopted, as happens to Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. If she had been born a century earlier, she may have been taken to one of many children’s homes in London. In 1739 London’s Foundling Hospital opened, a basket placed at its door to allow infants to be left anonymously. In the late 19thcentury poverty in London’s East End was notorious and this is where, in 1866, Thomas Barnardo established his first boys’ home. Lampson House Home for Girls [below] opened in London in 1894. If you are tracing a relative who was in a children’s home, the records may be held in a variety of places.

Lampson House

Lampson House Home for Girls, London 1894 [photo: hiddenlives.org.uk]

Most children’s homes were privately run so the survival of documentation is inconsistent, records identifying individuals are widely held closed for 100 years. A useful website is The Children’s Homes which lists the location of existing records for many former homes. Other records which give an insight into lifestyle conditions [below] in children’s homes – such as reports of inspections, dietary diaries – can be found at the National Archives.

Records for workhouses can be found in the appropriate county/metropolitan record office where you may also find records for workhouses taken over by the local council, and for later council-run homes dating up until the 1980s.

If your relative disappears from the records, it is possible that the child was moved on. An institution only had so many places, so in order to accommodate new arrivals some of the existing inmates were boarded out/fostered or have emigrated. If the child was older, it is possible he/she trained for an occupation. Below are girls in the sewing room of a children’s home, in 1900.

Sewing room, children's home 1900

Sewing room 1900 [photo: hiddenlives.org.uk]

This post was inspired by the article ’Focus on Children’s Homes’ in the February 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
How #adoption became a legal process #UK
The #paternity question
Commonwealth War #Graves Commission 

family history

 

When Rose Haldane starts to research the story of her own adoption in Ignoring Gravity, the private nature of her adoption means available records are minimal, so she applies to see a counsellor. First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. BUY THE BOOK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Researching children’s homes #foundlings #orphans https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6q via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

How #adoption became a legal process #UK

Only in 1926 did adoption of children in England and Wales become a legal process, it was part of a process to remove illegitimate children from their ‘unfit’ mothers and place them with a respectable married couple. Until the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, adoptions were often arranged privately or via the mother-and baby-home where the birth took place.

Falloden Nursing Home

The Falloden Nursing Home [photo: motherandbabyhomes.com]

In the 19th century there were hundreds of mother-and-baby homes where an unmarried pregnant woman would be housed and her pregnancy and birth overseen. She would remain with her baby during the early weeks while an adoption was arranged. Many women attended these homes secretly to avoid the stigma of bearing an illegitimate child. As an alternative to adoption, some single mothers left their child in the care of baby farmers who would care for the child for a fee, supposedly enabling the mother to return to work. However some baby farmers were found guilty of abuse and neglect.

Prior to the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, ten bills had been introduced to Parliament by 1922 in an effort to regulate adoption. Finally the act became law on January 1, 1927. It provided assurance for the adoptive parents that the birth parents could not demand their child be returned. The court making the adoption order had to make sure that the birth parents understood the implications of what they were doing. The Act also cut out the practice of baby farming, as the exchange of money for an adoption was illegal unless sanctioned by the court. At this time the Adopted Children Register was established. This can be consulted at The General Register Office.

For more information about mother-and-baby homes, check these two websites: Mother and Baby Homes, and Children’s Homes.

The Adoption Act of 1976 was another piece of legislation affecting the adoption process. Prior to this it had been assumed that adoption was final and there would be no reunion between the respective parties. The Act altered this and gave individuals adopted after 11 November, 1975 the right to access their birth records after reaching the age of eighteen. Those adopted before that date could also seek their birth records provided that they saw a counsellor beforehand.

Adoption was finally legalised in Scotland in 1930 with The Adoption of Children (Scotland) Act, 1930. Advice on tracing Scottish adoption records can be found on the National Archives of Scotland website and Northern Ireland records are kept at the General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI).

This post is inspired by an article in the January 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The #paternity question
Films bring history to life
Check your local records

Sandra Danby

 

When Rose Haldane starts to research the story of her own adoption in Ignoring Gravity, the private nature of her adoption means available records are minimal, so she applies to see a counsellor. First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How #adoption became a legal process in the UK #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-64 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Did your relative work in a pub? #familyhistory #searching

British pubs, or public houses, can be traced all the way back to Roman taverns. If you are tracing a modern relative who works or worked in a pub, the archives can also help.

Becketts Bank

Becketts Bank, Leeds [photo: JD Wetherspoon]

Public houses have changed over the centuries. After the departure of the Romans, there came the Anglo-Saxon alehouses based in domestic dwelling. The ‘alewife’ would put a green bush up on a pole to let people know her brew was ready for drinking. These alehouses rapidly developed into popular meeting places for the community so in 965 King Edgar decreed there should be no more than one alehouse per village. In 1393, Richard II made it legal for pubs to have to display a sign outdoors to make them easily identifiable to passers-by. Then in the 19thcentury came the development of tied houses [when a pub is linked to a particular brewer].

The pub is different from the inn, in that the latter was located along a highway or in the country [above] and provided stabling and fodder for horses, accommodation for travellers, and [if on a mail route] fresh horses for the mail coaches. Inns tended to be larger and grander than pubs. Many pub names date from times when customers were often illiterate and could only recognise pictorial signs. Pub names have a variety of origins, from objects used as simple identification marks to the coats of arms of kings or local aristocrats and landowners. Other names come from historic events, livery companies, and occupations or craftsmen’s guilds. Traditional English ale was made solely from fermented malt. The adding of hops to produce beer was introduced from the Netherlands in the early 15th century. Alehouses would each brew their own distinctive ale, but independent breweries began to appear in the late 17th century. By the end of the century, almost all beer was brewed by commercial breweries.

The Campaign for Real Ale [CAMRA] website has a ‘What Pub?’ search facility allowing you to search by town or postcode. If you know the place of birth for a relative or a later presence in the records such as place of marriage, the CAMRA website might be the best place to start. Most pubs have their own websites including local history and the date they started trading. My own local dates from the 15thcentury, it became a public house in the 18thcentury when it was bought from its private owner.

The George

The George, Southwark, London

The GenGuide has records of publicans and brewers, and a long list of useful websites and archives related to pubs and inns. The George Inn [above], in Southwark, London, was established in medieval times and is the only surviving example of a galleried coaching inn.

Read this useful article by the Pub History Society about tracing people who worked in pubs.

Once the name of your relative’s pub is confirmed, you can then search local records, either in the Country Records Office or The National Archives. Landlords with a ‘full’ license had to renew annually. Court reports and local newspapers can also yield information about public houses, particularly breaches of licensing regulations [drinking after hours] and people misbehaving after too much alcohol. Advertisements in local newspapers may also yield information and images. Many of the JD Wetherspoon pubs are located in restored historic pubs, many featured at the company’s website.

This post is inspired by an article in the July 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
20 top tips to find your missing family
Finding your nonconformist relative
How History Pin puts your #familytree research on a map 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Did your relative work in a pub? #familyhistory #searching https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5X via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

How History Pin puts your #adoptionreunion research on a map

HistoryPin is a great idea. A global project which enables you to attach photographs and memories to a global map. A fantastic resource for family researchers or novelists, like me. Like Pinterest, but specifically for places.

History Pin

There are some fascinating subjects which I will re-visit for research; I particularly liked ‘Remember How We Used To…’ Photographs of how we kept warm, played, worked, cooked and cleaned, celebrated and worked. Another useful function is searching by location. Ignoring Gravity is set around Wimbledon, Richmond [below], London Docklands and Battersea. Searching Wimbledon brings up a photo of the Blitz in 1941, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 1962, a street party in Putney in 1989, and carriage cleaners at Wimbledon Traincare Depot in 1916. A search for Battersea is less populated, though there is a great black and white photograph of a boy and girl – siblings perhaps – standing outside a house on Winstanley Road in 1951-3.

In conclusion, this is a work in progress and geographical coverage is not consistent. But it is worth consulting if you are researching a specific location. All uploaded photographs are pinned to a specific place, and are shown on a street map so it is easy to find other entries. Photographs are uploaded by individuals and organizations so there is a wonderful mixture of family snaps and professional.

This post was inspired by the article ’50 family history websites to watch in 2015’ in the January 2015 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
The paternity question
Films bring history to life
Did your relative train as an apprentice? 

Identity Detective seriesI have used History Pin while researching Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, the first two books in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption mysteries, and I’m using it again while writing the third book, Sweet Joy. This time I’m plotting London during the Blitz and how a baby was abandoned in a bombed house.
BUY THE BOOK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How History Pin puts your #adoptionreunion research on a map https://wp.me/paZ3MX-56 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Finding your nonconformist relative #familytree #research

If your ancestor was a nonconformist and belonged to a church, there are numerous records for you to search. Nonconformity is the term for all non-Anglican protestant denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Quakers and Presbyterians.

Nonconformists

Farewell Sermons preached by nonconformist ministers ejected from their parishes in 1662

In English church history, a nonconformist was a protestant Christian who did not conform to the governance and usages of the Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. This term specifically came to include the Reformed Christians such as the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Calvinists, plus the Baptists, Methodists and Puritans. The Methodist Revival began as a movement within the Church of England in the 18thcentury, led by John Wesley [below]. It originated as a weekly club at the University of Oxford where the club’s members lived a ‘holy life’. Ridiculed as ‘Methodist’ by fellow students because of the way they used ‘rule’ and ‘method’ to go about their religious affairs, Wesley adopted the name.

John Wesley

John Wesley

By law and social custom, nonconformists were restricted from many parts of public life including access to public office, civil service careers and degrees at university. A good place to start is an online reader’s guide at the National Archives [TNA].

At BMD Registers the TNA also has birth, marriage and death records, for the nonconformist registers, available online.

Here are some other links to get you started:-
Baptists
Baptist Historical Society

Methodists
Methodist Heritage
My Methodist History
My Primitive Methodist Ancestors
My Wesleyan Methodist Ancestors

Quakers
The Society of Friends
Quaker collection at the Leeds University Library

Welsh Nonconformists
Welsh Chapels

Each of these websites is rich in information with further links to other archives.

This post is inspired by an article by Jonathan Scott in the April 2017 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Researching European records
Did your relative train as an apprentice?
Commonwealth War #Graves Commission

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Finding your nonconformist relative #familytree #research https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4V via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Find Missing Births #familyhistory #adoptionreunion

Anyone researching their family history has to start with the two main life events: birth and death. Birth seems the obvious place to start, but finding certificates is not always straightforward. Adoption may be one reason, as Rose Haldane discovers in Ignoring Gravity,

Family tree

[illustration: @SandraDanby]

If you have hit a brick wall searching for UK records, try these tips by genealogist Laura Berry:-

Informal change of name: it is perfectly legal for a person to change name without officially informing the authorities. Add to that the confusion caused by people by interchanging their first and middle names, perhaps because they dislike it. Some names were simply mis-spelled, either by the record-taker or the person reporting the birth. If in doubt, search for the mother’s maiden surname.

A different quarter: until 1984, the GRO birth indexes for England and Wales were organised quarterly [after this it switched to annual]. Perhaps the birth you are looking for has been recorded in the next quarter. Parents at this time had 42 days in which to record a birth.

Common names: if you are searching for a common surname and common first name, try looking for siblings with more unusual first names. Search in the registration district covering the area of birth, around the birth date.

Illegitimacy: an area of much potential confusion, accidental and purposeful.The birth of a child born out of wedlock was usually registered under the mother’s maiden surname. The child may have acquired a stepfather’s surname at a later date, and that stepfather may have been recorded on further documents.  But the chance of finding the name of the birth father is slim.

Age confusion: the usual route to finding a birth comes from the person’s age stated on another document. But, people do not always record their age truthfully for a variety of reasons: for vanity, to enlist in the army, for employment reasons etc. Expand your search of birth records by 10 years, plus and minus.

Birth overseas: if you suspect your relative was born abroad, there are numerous overseas birth records are available at Find My Past and The Genealogist. Available are the India Office birth and baptism records, children born at armed forces bases, births of British nationals born overseas which were registered with the British Consul or High Commission in that country, and births aboard British registered vessels and aircraft.

Father confusion: perhaps the child in question was born legitimately but the father subsequently disappeared or died. The child may consider the man who raised it as its father, but was actually their stepfather. If this is the case, check for a re-marriage by the mother.

No baptism: not everyone was baptised at the local parish church but in one of the UK nonconformist congregations. Try instead the national collections of nonconformist baptism registers at The GenealogistFind My Past or Ancestry.

They are not in the GRO index: From 1837, Superintendent Registrars were responsible for registering all births. But this proved difficult in practice. In 1875, parents became responsible for registering their child’s birth, with a fine for non-completion, so after this date the registers become more reliable. Consider that your relative’s surname may have been spelt wrongly or missed out completely. You can apply to the local registration office where you think your relative was born, this is where the original local index are kept. Some regional indexes are going online at UKBMD.

Not born in England: perhaps your relative was born in Scotland or Ireland. Check the Scottish records at Scotland’s People. For Ireland, check Family Search or Find My Past Ireland.

This post was inspired by Laura Berry’s article ‘Search like a pro and Find Missing Births’ in the March 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. 

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Did your relative train as an apprentice?
The paternity question
Further information #Adoption #AdoptionReunion #HelpfulLinks 

I used these tips when plotting the birth mystery of Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. For more about the ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption reunion mysteries, watch the book trailer.
BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Find Missing Births #familyhistory #adoptionreunion https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4J via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Did your relative train as an apprentice? #familyhistory

If you know your ancestor’s trade, there is a good chance he or she may have trained through an apprenticeship scheme. In 1563, the Statute of Artificers and Apprentices forbade anyone from practising a craft without first serving as an apprentice. And from 1710, a duty was levied. These records form a central register of apprentices by the Inland Revenue and held at The National Archives.

Apprentices

‘The fellow ‘prentices at their looms’ by William Hogarth, 1747

As well as trade apprenticeships, there were also apprenticeships which were arranged specifically by parish overseers of the poor and were intended to prevent the child being a burden on the parish. As pauper apprenticeships were liable for duty the records are kept separately, often found in local record offices and parish chests.

Chimney Sweeps

Chimney Sweep’ by Marcellus Laroon, 1679 [photo: Londonlives.org]

If your research is based on London, start with London Lives where pauper apprenticeship records range from 1690-1800. It has a useful guide ‘Researching Apprenticeships’.

Some of the apprentice records held at The National Archives have been digitised and are now available at Find My Past, including the London Apprenticeship Abstracts [1440-1850] which list all those apprenticed to livery companies in London. It also includes regional records from Manchester and Lincolnshire.

The Board of Stamps apprenticeship books record payments on the duty of indentures, as mentioned above. These records are available at The National Archives. If searching by name, remember that often that until 1752 the child’s parents’ names may also be given.

A useful description of the different types of apprenticeships and the associated records, can be found at GenGuide. There is also a summary of the major places where apprenticeship records are held with user-friendly links.

Child coal workers

‘Child dragging coal in a Halifax mine’ by Peter Higginbotham, 1842 [photo: workhouses.org.uk]

For an overview of the pauper apprenticeship scheme, read this article at the Workhouses website. Boys originally started an apprenticeship at the age of 10, until the age was dropped to seven in 1698. This website is a good source of information if one of your relatives spent time in a workhouse.

Always check with your local archive and try Google, there are many smaller websites specialising in particular occupations.

This post is inspired by an article by Jonathan Scott in the April 2017 issue of Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Check your local records
Films bring history to life
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion 

Ignoring Gravity

Rose Haldane, in Ignoring Gravity, is a journalist. To find out about journalism training schemes, check out the National Council for Training of Journalists.

5* A reader at Amazon said, “‘Ignoring Gravity’ is a very enjoyable read from beginning to end. The warm story will tear at your heart strings one moment, and make you smile the next”

Start reading the ‘Identity Detective’ series with Ignoring Gravity… Two pairs of sisters, separated by a generation of secrets: Rose is confident about her identity. She knows her DNA is the same as her grandmother’s. Except it isn’t because Rose is adopted & doesn’t know it. BUY

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Did your relative train as an apprentice? #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4w via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Commonwealth War #Graves Commission #familyhistory

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was set up under Royal Charter in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission. It commemorates 1.7 million people who died in two world wars, administers cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries. Anyone searching for their extended birth family may find themselves visiting this impressive database.

War cemetery

War cemetery [photo: cwgc.org]

If you are tracing a relative who died in the First or Second World War, or seeking further information about medals, awards or casualty details, this is an excellent website to explore.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Driver Thomas Dawson [photo: cwgc.org]

It is never too late to change the records, if your family history research reveals an error or omission. In once case, a serviceman who died 99 years ago recently received a CWGC headstone at a churchyard in Hampshire. Driver Thomas Dawson [above] died on September 10, 1918 but because the CWGC was never informed of his death, Thomas never received a Commission headstone. His case was brought to the attention of the CWGC by his family and Thomas’s grand-daughter Kay Davidge was present at the installation of the headstone.

The CWCG’s Instagram page is a useful source of wartime photographs which may add background detail to your research.

This post is inspired by an article in the January 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
Check your local records 
Films bring history to life 
Did your relative belong to a #tradeunion 

Identity Detective series
World War Two is the research focus for my next novel, Sweet Joy. Third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, which starts with Ignoring Gravity, Sweet Joy tells the story of a wartime love affair.
BUY
Watch the book trailer for the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
War graves: where to look #WW1 #WW2 #familyhistory https://wp.me/paZ3MX-4k via #AdoptionStoriesBlog