Now you should be at the stage where you have run out of the official records as in the UK vital records began 1st July 1837. It differs in other countries like the US where most states were recording BMD’S by the early 1900, but it was state by state, and some started as early as 1600’s. In Australia births and marriages began in 1788, and deaths in 1787, but Maori BMD’s weren’t included. Maori births and deaths started in 1913 and marriages began in 1911, but many did not register. Canada began in the late 1800’s, and early 1900’s depending on where you are checking. So where do you go from here?
Calculate approximate birth and marriage date
By working through the census returns and marriage and death certificates, you should be able to calculate approximate birth dates. Enter these dates in your family tree programs with ‘approx’ or ‘circa’ in front of the year, and most programs will recognise it as a guess. Remember people, married younger and women especially would not stay single past 30 as they were considered old maids by then. Children were baptised as soon as possible as unbaptised children could not be buried on consecrated ground if anything happened to them. They were often baptised within a month, and poorly babies could be baptised within a week. Do not expect children to have been conceived within the marriage as many were not. I did not realise how many ‘shotgun’ marriages there were until I did my family tree and many first births followed six or seven months after the marriage! Sometimes the marriage was years after, in another parish, or never as the woman just changed her name. Deaths were earlier too due to medical knowledge at the time and many couples lost at least one child, and continued with the same name until one survived. Don’t be surprised to find several John’s and Ann’s born to the same parents and don’t forget and the parents lucky to reach their 60’s. Many men worked all their lives and only stopped when they died. Women carried on having children until they were killed in childbirth, or managed to make it to the menopause with small children still wearing her out. They didn’t get a pension, so could only retire if they had saved enough, which many working-class people could not.
The next step
Now you are onto church records. If you have not got a subscription to one of the record websites I have mentioned you might find it easier here one to have one, but you can do it without one. One I haven’t talked about until now is The Genealogist. The Genealogist has a lot of unique records, and if you are interested in family history, where you are looking into the lives of your ancestors, rather than just trying to find out names and dates, this might be the right place for you. It is easy to search and has some excellent unique search tools that can be very useful. Their new master search makes records accessible with one click. You can use one form to search millions of records in one go, including wills, parish records, census, newspapers and non-conformist records. Not only can you search for a person, but also a family forename or a house and street. It is a beautiful site, and you can get a free trial here as well.
If you don’t want one of the sites you can try finding the records you require in your country, there are too many to name on here, but it is quite easy to find them by the searching for ‘free parish records the country you are searching.You can also use www.familysearch.org which is a free site run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who use genealogy to trace their ancestors to baptise them by proxy into the Mormon Church, of which the Latter Days Saints are one, and save their souls. They believe this will strengthen their eternal family. There are lots of church records on there which are transcribed, but I would suggest double checking them by looking for the original copy.
In the UK you can also use freereg.org.uk which is a sister site to freebmd.org.uk and freecen.org.uk and are putting many parish registers online free to search. It is easy to use and lets you know what they have placed online.
Another way is to go to a local LSD centre, and you can see their many microfiches of records and look through them. You need to make an appointment at the centre, but it is worth it to find so much information out for free.
Also if you are in the UK and your family or the ones you are checking are from one county, you can also check the county archives, which have many of the church registers there. Again you need to make an appointment.
The church records can be challenging to find but can be marvellous to see. The vicars and priests put many notes in their copies, such as baseborn or bastard for an illegitimate child. Sometimes the date of birth is on the baptism record, and if your family came from Yorkshire, you might be lucky enough to find a Dade parish record. Dade parish records are a mine of genealogical information. The format for these records was devised by William Dade, a clergyman. William Markham, the Archbishop of York who began trying to reform parish records in 1777 like these so much he recommended their use and many churches within his diocese started using them. On a Dade baptism, the information included the child’s parents and grandparents’ names of occupations and residence, as well as dates of birth and baptism and area. It also numbered the children so you could find if you have missed one and if you have them in the wrong order. Burial records in the Dade format include parents name, address, occupation and age and cause of death. There are quite a few in Yorkshire and similar in other parts of the country.
There are lots of information if you look at the record and not just a transcript as not everything is transcribed, so always look for the original document. There is such a wealth of information it is definitely worth the effort.
If you need any help finding church records, or with anything else, please drop me a line giving information about what you need and I will get back to you.