A large proportion on my maternal family came from the historic county of Lancashire. Over the years of research I’ve found many online resources that have been very useful.
When researching a family member, we rely on primary and secondary sources of information. Primary sources, such as marriage certificates, are usually the most reliable – but not always. When looking at my parents’ marriage certificate, I discovered that sometimes personal knowledge can be the most reliable source of all.
My father’s name was listed on his marriage certificate as the name he was known by, which wasn’t his birth name (he didn’t legally change his name until 13 years later when a new job required it). Additionally, his step-father was listed as his father on the certificate. Taken at face value, this could have complicated and slowed down any search for his birth (especially as mother’s aren’t listed on marriage certificates) and may have led to his step-father’s family being incorrectly added to the family tree.
Finding these errors on my parents’ marriage certificate has made me reassess one of my brick walls (although I think in that case it may be more of a hindrance than a help, time will tell).
The National Archives site at Kew is currently closed because of the Covid-19 restrictions in the UK. In response to this, to help of all us genealogists stuck at home, the Archive is giving free access to all its digital records for as long as the site remains closed.
The only restrictions are that you must register (which is free), you can only download 10 items at a time and no more than 50 items in 30 days.
The 1939 Register recently became available on Ancestry. Whilst this is great news for subscribers who don’t have a Find My Past subscription, I’ve found that it’s not as easy to use as it is on Find My Past.
Many of the Register’s entries only list a surname for the first person in each household. Ancestry have taken this literally in their transcriptions, resulting in a lot of people who are on the Register not appearing in the search results.
Great Uncle John
For example here is the Register entry for my great grandmother’s brother, John W Higginson, and his wife and children.
As you can see John W.’s surname is listed, but his wife and children’s surnames aren’t – this is the same for all the entries on their street and for many other entries in Bolton (and possibly other places). Find My Past have assumed that all the entries share the surname, Higginson, but Ancestry have left the surname blank in their transcripts.
I understand that Ancestry’s transcripts are completely accurate – no surname is listed so no surname should be entered. However, this means that if I search for another family member, say John W.’s son, also called John, the search returns no results. The only way to locate him is to either search for his father or search with no surname – neither of which are ideal.
Is There A Way Round This?
If you’re struggling to find someone on the 1939 Register using Ancestry, try searching for any family members you know of, you should eventually find them. If that doesn’t work, try using just their first name, date of birth and location. Although this will take a lot of checking of entries, Ancestry does have the useful feature of showing a brief summary of each result when you hover on it, which should speed things up.
I have submitted corrections on the entries I’ve come across, but whether Ancestry will accept them is yet to be seen. As I say, I do appreciate that strictly speaking Ancestry’s transcripts are correct.
We all make mistakes, transcribers and the original form writers (whether they be parish clerks or census enumerators) included. As we know, it’s important to check original documents whenever possible and not trust in just the transcription, but sometimes the details on original documents should be taken with a pinch of salt.
I would imagine that most people researching their family history have come across a few transcription errors – usually names that have been mis-transcribed from difficult to read old handwriting. On the 1911 census, my great grandmother Kate is listed as Rate, her brother Uriah is Vira and her sister Eunice is Marck.
The 1939 Register is a snapshot of live in England and Wales at the beginning of World War II. It was taken on Friday, 29th September, under the National Registration Act of 1939, an Act of Parliament introduced as an emergency measure at the beginning of World War II. The Act also brought in identity cards which had to be carried at all times. It was repealed in 1952 after which it was no longer a requirement to carry identity cards in the UK.
In the United Kingdom, a census of the population has been taken every 10 years since 1801, with the exception of 1941 (although a similar register was taken on 29 September 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war).
In Ireland, the census was taken along with the UK census until 1911. No census was taken in Ireland in 1921 because of the Civil War. The first census taken by the Irish government was in 1926.
Census records are released to the public a hundred years after they were taken, meaning the latest census we can view is 1911 (although the 1939 Register is also available for England and Wales). The next full UK census released will be the 1921 census, which is due to be published on 1 January 2022 (though there is growing pressure for it to be released earlier). The next Irish census released will be in January 2027.
There are a great number of genealogy websites out there. Some offer worldwide coverage, from birth marriage and deaths through census data to passenger lists and newspaper archives. Others focus on one subject or one region, with some focusing on a single town. Many are free and some are either subscription or pay as you go.
Most of these sites are free to search and to view the transcripts of the information. Some require a subscription (or link to a subscription site) to view the original record.