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Proformat News
No: 85
March 2013
March seminars
3: North Adelaide heritage walk, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm
8: Dating 19th century photographs, WEA Centre Adelaide 7:00 to 10:00pm
17: Family history on the web, WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00 to 1:00pm

April seminars
9: Researching your English ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30 to 9:30pm
13: Glenelg heritage walk, WEA Centre Adelaide 1:00 to 3:00pm
20: Port Adelaide heritage walk, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

Electoral Registers
For those with UK ancestors the release of the British Library collection of Electoral Registers by FindMyPast is expected shortly.

ENG GRO indexes after 2005
Q: Why do online GRO indexes only go up to 2005 (or 2006 in the case of the births and deaths at findmypast).
A: The GRO, after many years of making these indexes available online, have now discovered that the relevant Acts do not say anything about online indexes—of course this is not surprising because the current Act controlling the activities of the GRO predates the Internet!

IRL GRO records
The GRO recently doubled the fee for a birth, marriage or death certificate to €20 plus postage. On a happier note it is now possible to search the indexes up to 1958 at (or at if you have a World subscription). These indexes have been available free at FamilySearch for some time. Something you cannot easily do at FamilySearch is find a marriage by specifying the names of both parties.

DNA and family history
If you are interested in this aspect of genealogy you might like to check out the ISOGG Wiki site.

In this issue:
March seminars
April seminars
Electoral Registers
ENG GRO indexes after 2005
IRL GRO records
DNA and family history

Feature article
Pre-1837 English research


Graham Jaunay

Glandore SA 5037

Breaking news: fb

Drafting charts
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Graham Jaunay uses
The Genealogist - for UK census, BMD indexes and more online simply because it contains quality data checked by experts.

Proformat News acknowledges the support by awe AWE

Pre-1837 English research

Researching ancestors who lived in England and Wales is relatively straightforward using civil registration and census material until we get back to 1837. It is even easier today than it was in the past with civil registration indexes and censuses online.

When we need to delve in the era before 1837 the primary records available to researchers are the parish registers of the Established Church—the Church of England or Anglican Church. The majority of people were baptised, likewise those who have descendants alive today must have ancestors that married and died. When it comes to marriage, the Lord Hardwicke Act ensured that the bulk of marriages occurred in Anglican Churches. Do not forget that Banns Registers may also be available. These are very significant as they may be the only record indicating the bride’s surname! Unfortunately few Banns Registers are available online.

Remember that there should be two sets of parish records—the primary set (and therefore the most important) in the parish registers, and the Bishop’s Transcripts—a copy made annually by the incumbent for his ecclesiastical superior.

The problem is that the parish registers are held all over the country usually in the local County Record Office. Technically they are located in the Diocesan Record Office but for most, but not all, that is the same place.

Some registers have been transcribed and a few of these are online. Again, not all can be viewed at the one site but on a range of sites including some pay-to-use sites. The vast majority of transcriptions are held by family history societies across the country. Remember that a digital version is more appropriate than a transcription.

Due to the fact the records are scattered across the country in a range of media, it is paramount that a searcher undertake a methodical and logical approach to the process. This means following the seven steps as outlined in Newsletter 73. Numerous researchers seeking assistance often report to me that they cannot find a record and yet when the following questions are posed, more often than not they cannot supply the answers:
   • name the parishes you have searched?
   • what were the periods covered by the records you searched in the parish?
   • tell me all the name variants you used in your search?

Using the steps outlined in Newsletter 73 and discussed in the previous newsletter (Standard of Proof) we can pursue the records as follows:

Step 1
Identify what you know about your family and record the data on Pedigree and Family Charts—this is the evidence we will need to make appropriate researching decisions down the track.

Step 2
Decide what you want to find out by addressing the blank spaces in the Pedigree and Family Charts—this is how you start an organised and systematic research program with appropriate goals.

Step 3
Select records to search (in this example they are already determined in that we are discussing parish registers but their location is far from determined)—this means collecting up all the evidence that may suggest where the event, baptism, marriage or burial may have taken place.

There are likely to be clues in the material you have already collected. It may require a reference to the census returns if the subject lived beyond April 1851 but be aware that many recorded places were at best just guesses on the part of your ancestors! Obtain and search the record—the very best place to start determining how you can access the material is to check whether the record has been scanned or transcribed.

Start with FamilySearch but be aware there are three distinct areas on this web site to search—the catalog, records (IGI), genealogies (Ancestral and Pedigree Resource Files). It is important to determine the coverage of the records for the IGI and this is best done at the Hugh Wallis site and the Archer Software site. Note that there are only a few death/burials recorded by FamilySearch.

Another free site with a large collection is FreeREG [] with many millions of baptisms, marriages and burials. In the series some counties are very well represented such as Norfolk, but others less so.

The Online Parish Clerk sites may also assist although not every county is represented.

A number of parish registers have been published and you can locate them though book reseller sites such as Internet Archive, Google Books and UKBookWorld simply by searching the term parish registers plus county name.

A simple Google search is always worth trying too, as this may locate individuals who have transcribed parish registers and posted the results on their own websites.

If the above fail to produce results then look at the commercial pay-to-use sites to see if one of them has the particular set of records in their collection—Ancestry, FindMyPast, and The Genealogist are the leading sites with parish records. Sadly there is a lack of consistency as each company struggles to dominate the market resulting in the need to search all three sites. For example, the Lancashire Record Office has given its records to Ancestry apart from Oldham and Rochdale while the Manchester Records Office in the same county has placed its records with FindMyPast! Many libraries offer free access to Ancestry and it may be more appropriate to take advantage of this rather than purchase the material from this site.

The Society of Genealogists in London holds an extensive collection of parish registers and transcriptions. These are available online to members and include Boyd's Marriage Index, which has particularly good coverage in some of the counties. For non-members much of this material can be found at FindMyPast.

Lastly when all else fails you will need to access the record at the appropriate County Record Office. Some of these like Essex offer research services. To find out the services offered by County Record Offices go to Mark Howell’s informative site. (since closed use

Step 4
If the search of the selected parish fails then you need to repeat the search in the surrounding parishes. There are a number of ways to do this.

You can download a program called PacLoc that will do the task for you although it only lists about 14,000 parishes. An online version called Parish Finder will also do the same task.

A parish finder for England has a more complete listing of parishes but it is only available from Gould Genealogy. While it names the parishes and gives far more information on each one, it does not directly list surrounding parishes.

A vision of Britain though time has facilities to locate parishes and then look at maps that name adjacent parishes. Using maps can prove useful and noting roads, streams and ranges may suggest more likely adjacent parishes! The site also lists related websites that may prove useful.

Step 5
Record the source details—you should record enough detail so that anyone else can locate and verify the record. By citing sources you enable users to verify that the information given is supported by reliable sources, thus improving the credibility of your work. This means the citation needs to contain some basic elements. For the scholarly, there are a number of recognised formats available. Basically you should observe the following:
   • Book: author(s), book title, publisher, date of publication, and page number(s) if appropriate.
   • Journal: author(s), article title, journal title, date of publication, and page number(s).
   • Newspaper: author(s), article title, name of newspaper, section title and page number(s) if appropriate, and date of publication.
   • Web site: author(s), article and publication title where appropriate, as well as a URL, and a date when the site was accessed.
   • Interview: name of interviewee, interview title and date of interview.

Step 6
Use the information—evaluate what you have found. Did you find the information that you were looking for? Is that information complete? Does it conflict with other information you already have?

Consider this scenario: All of William JONES’ sons are likely to name one of their sons for their father, producing several William JONES all about the same age! Working from the present into the past could easily see you working up the wrong line! In this case the error will only persist for one generation of the paternal line but the maternal line will be totally incorrect.

Simple 21st century logic should not be your guide. Use logic appropriate to the period and place. For example, today it would extremely unlikely that there would be two surviving children with the same name in the same family—not so in past times in some regions.

Unfortunately when we find the record that we've been searching for we may drop our guard, and forget to assess the information critically. There is nothing worse than identifying a wrong ancestor because every step you take from then on is likely to be wrong too! This becomes even more critical with common names. Remember, seemingly uncommon names can be quite common in specific places! This becomes even more crucial when using online records simply because you may not be accessing the full range of records. Just because you've only found one baptism or one marriage that fits doesn't mean that you've found the only one that fits. Again understanding coverage of records is vital.

Proving material located to be wrong is just as important as proving it to be correct!

Querying the record is the most important step in research and the most neglected!

Step 7
Record the new information—only now can you confidently add the record to your collection. Even at this late stage you need to be aware that some information may crop up later that requires you to rethink this whole process!

While parish records of the Church of England have been the subject of this newsletter, they are not the only Anglican parish records that may feature your ancestor. Moreover they are not the only denomination that kept records, albeit they are the most widespread. There were also other agencies maintaining records that may be found in county record offices or The National Archives.

This article has been about just one aspect of the paper chase and that is just one half of a successful research program. The other is linking up with other researchers who share the same ancestors and working as a cooperative team.


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