Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday- UK & Ireland Civil Registration

Civil Registration Began*
Records Access
The Indexes:
The National Archives
Kew, Richmond, Surrey

Order Certificates:
General Register Office
PO Box 2, Southport
Merseyside  PR8 2JD (by mail)

Same as above, but also district
Registries in Wales. See the Index in person at:
National Library of Wales
Penglais, Aberystwyth
Dyfed 2Y23 3BU


General  Register Office for Scotland
New Register House
Edinburgh EH1 3YT
www.gro-scotland.gov.uk will direct you to:


From 1845-Present - Protestant Marriage Records
General Register Office of Ireland
Irish Life Centre
Lower Abbey Street
Dublin 1

Northern Ireland
From 1845-Present - Protestant Marriage Records
General Register Office of Northern Ireland
Oxford House
49/55 Chichester Street
Belfast, BT1 4HL

©2012, Susan Lewis Well
*Civil registration is the government recording of vital records, a U.S. term. In the UK, they are known as BMD certificates.  Civil Registration Indexes list alphabetically all the births, all the marriages and all the deaths in a three month period and the book and page where the certificate can be found.  Before ordering a certificate from the GROs, you need the book and page found in the Index.
Records before the beginning of civil registration were kept by churches and included christenings, marriages and burials.                                                                                                                                                                                                

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Britain’s National Archives is an amazing resource for genealogists. Using the URL above, go to the site.  You know you are there if you see a red capital “A” logo. Let’s take a tour of the homepage and also note that the Arcives do not hold the BMD records, but you can click to the appropriate sites to order then from this page.

Three large colored squares dominate the homepage; from left to right: ‘education’, ‘records’, ‘information management’.  Below them are two lists named ‘Latest News’ and ‘Quick Links’.  The second choice under Quick Links is ‘Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates.’ Clicking it will get you to the sites where you can order BMDs from England/Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The next row contains three choices; Pod Casts, Sign-up for the enewsletter, and Bookshop. I’d recommend signing up for the newsletter. It comes once a month and brings good articles about their collection.

Nearer the bottom of the page you will find a list of links in the categories of Getting in Touch, Site Help, About Us and Websites. The last link under Websites is another way to find out how to order BMD certificates; directgov.  Click here to go to www.direct.gov.uk, then click ‘Government, Citizens and Rights’; then ‘Registering Life Events.’
Note that the last line gives the Archives famous address in Kew, a London suburb, and its phone number: The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, phone +44 (0) 20 8876 3444 (Not modified for use from the United States)

Of the three main options at the top of the page, choose ‘Records.’  To the right side, there is a list with the choice, “Discovery – our new catalogue. “ I typed in “Norfolk Brett” for a county and an ancestor’s name and got long lists of court cases, probate cases and World War I medal winners. The second choice on this list is “The Catalogue” which seems to give more guidance on how to search and should either be consulted  first or if the initial search in “Discovery” doesn’t pan out. 
In the “Records” section you can get help understanding the archives – reading old handwriting, learning some Latin, converting currency and citing National Archives documents. When all else fails, there is a list of professional researchers for hire.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – Land Records’ Offices (Part 2)

Three weeks ago, I wrote a well-received article about the rhythms and seasons of a Records Office. Since then, I have wondered whether I have other words of wisdom on the topic. Some ideas have come to mind. For example, I have heard stories about genealogy researchers getting very different receptions in various offices, usually one reaction in one office and another the very next day in the county next door.

I suggested in my earlier post that time of day, day of week and month of year are important considerations in making requests for assistance in a records office. Also consider that staff takes vacations during the summer. We often do our genealogy field trips then so don’t forget that the office may be short a person or two the week you visit.
What is the office’s staffing level compared to two years ago or ten years ago? Even without the economic turndown, county commissioners tend to think that less staff is needed because there are computers to do the work. The surveyors, lawyers, title examiners, Realtors® and appraisers who use the land records daily want to be able to access the deeds from their office desks. They don’t think that is an unreasonable request. After all, there are computers. However, someone has to scan the documents into the system. Having less staff creates real, identifiable problems. You don’t have to be a regular user to experience the consequences.

The internal dynamics of offices differ. To be honest, I think the office takes on the personality of the head clerk. We should be able to understand the people have good days and bad. The work performed is very exacting. Papers cannot be lost, misplaced or misfiled. For the most part, the work is done extremely well. That is the good news.

History detectives are not the typical Land Office users. The staff is used to answering questions about the most recent deeds and deeds going back 50-60 years to satisfy the requirements to obtain title insurance. Few people do what you and I do - look for records more than 60 years old.

Let me give you some practical tips for successfully finding your ancestors deeds and related records in busy, understaffed offices. Prepare before you contact the office. “Google” the county name. Almost every county in the U.S. has a website where you can click on the most appropriate sounding office; Registry of Deeds, County Records Office or Land Records Office. This link should be fairly easy to find because the legal/banking/real estate community uses it regularly and carries some clout.
The website should provide some or all of the following information: date of the earliest document held, the date of the earliest deed online, how the online deeds are indexed, how to print a document, and how to pay, if there is a charge.  When you have thoroughly studied the site and still have questions, it’s time to contact the office. Be ready to tell them the name of your ancestor and the years he could have owned property in the county. A birth year is a useless number because land owners must be the age of majority (usually 18 or 21) to be granted land without a guardian.  

However you contact an office; in person, on the phone or by email, ask your first question. If the response is less than satisfactory, ask a second question. Still not getting anywhere? Ask a third question. By this point, the clerk you are communicating with will find, transfer your call or forward your email to the person in the office who likes helping people like us. There is usually at least one.

Do not assume that the economic turndown has affected each county in the same way or to the same degree.  Even in the worst hit places, the registry workers are busy filing municipal lien certificates for unpaid taxes and foreclosure paperwork. In some places, market values have not plummeted and business continues as usual plus some folks refinancing for a lower, extremely attractive rate. The staff in most places is not less busy and therefore ready to spend time with history detectives. That is the bad news.

©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – Great Britain v. England (Same or Different)

What is Great Britain? What are the British Isles? Is it the British Census or the English Census?

The British Isles are the islands of Ireland and Great Britain plus the smaller coastal islands like the Isle of Man, the Shetlands and Anglesey. Great Britain is the large Island with three co-equal and sovereign nations: England, Wales and Scotland. Along with Northern Ireland, the three countries form the United Kingdom whose formal name reflects this union perfectly, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK is a ‘country of countries.’
Like Great Britain, Ireland is a geographic, not a political, term. The island of Ireland incudes Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland. Citizens of the Republic are the only ones who refer to themselves as Irish.

Few people in the UK refer to themselves as British but rather as English, Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish. Remember scotch is an alcoholic drink, not the name of the people of Scotland.
England and Wales were united as one kingdom by Henry VIII in 1536 so genealogy records are similar, if not the same, from then until now. Find them at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk or www.gro.gov.uk.

In 1707, parliaments in Scotland and in England and Wales passed the Act  Union. Genealogists should note that Scotland has its own General Register Office in Edinburgh. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.
Ireland was added in 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. That lasted until 1921, when the present name and configuration came into being. Some records from this 120 year period are in Dublin, even if your ancestor is Northern Irish. Sort out where specific record types are kept using the resources of the Ulster Historical Foundation. www.ancestryireland.com

A helpful video was created by C.G.P.Grey and called “The Difference Between the UK, Great Britain and England.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNu8XDBSn10&feature=relmfu With over 2 million views, it is fast paced and gives the most helpful info to sort out the terms in the first two and half minutes of its five minute playtime. Have fun.