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Monday, 27 October 2008

Irish Roots of Barack Obama

Documents unearthed by an Irish vicar show ancestors of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama may have arrived in the United States from a tiny village in central Ireland as early as the 1790s.

"They're old parish records going back to 1799," said Canon Stephen Neill, rector for the parish of Moneygall, Co.Offaly.

"They're in remarkably good condition and we have constant applications from Americans chasing their ancestors."

Genealogy Web site asked Neill, whose father is Anglican archbishop of Dublin, to check parish records after discovering documents indicating Obama's great-great-great grandfather on his Mother's side, arrived in New York in 1850 before settling in Ohio.

"Like most of us he has an interesting mix of ancestry, including some impressively early all-American roots," said Megan Smolenyak, a spokeswoman for the Web site.

Records uncovered in 2007 found the President-elect’s fourth great grandfather Joseph Kearney was a shoemaker whose son, Fulmuth Kearney left for the US in 1850. Between 1845 and 1851 over a million people left Ireland on 'famine ships' to escape mass-starvation caused by potato blight and says passenger lists show Obama's great-great-great grandfather was among them.

Subsequent research into the parish records provided by Neill revealed not only that the Kearneys hailed from Moneygall in County Offaly but also that other family members may have crossed the Atlantic before him in the 1790s, the Web site said.

Nothing remains of the Kearney homestead and surrounding land in Moneygall, which ironically once belonged to the family of Obama’s distant cousin, Henry Healy. They were forced to give it up 30 years ago after the local authority compulsorily purchased it for new housing, but just four properties were built on the field and plans are afoot to turn it into a museum or heritage centre.

Born in Hawaii to a white American mother and Kenyan father, Obama's European connection means he can also join more than 30 million of his countrymen in claiming Irish descent.

You can view the Irish line of Obama's family tree HERE.

The Irish band the Corrigan Brothers have released their song 'There's No One As Irish As Barack O'Bama'.

The song features the chorus: "O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara...there's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama."

The band will perform the song, which is already an internet phenomenon, at the day parade on the Irish American float, and also at Mr Obama's official inauguration party on becoming President.

You can view the video below and find the words to the song at

Emigration: Australia & New Zealand 1

Settlement in Australia didn't begin until the late eighteenth century. The British government decided to use Australia as the new penal colony (after losing America) and the first fleet arrived on 26 January 1788 (the date now celebrated as Australia Day). The fleet contained 1,500 new settlers, half being convicts. They landed in Sydney Cove and on 7 February 1788 the British colony of New South Wales was formally declared. Large scale migration to Australia began at this time and the numbers arriving increased rapidly after 1815, when government policy actively encouraged settlement by ensuring free settlers could arrive and purchase land at minimal costs.

The discovery of gold in the 1850's was another important factor behind the decision to move to Australia. Convicts continued to be sent to Australia until the system was abolished in 1868, by which time over 150,000 had been sent to Australia and Tasmania (around 30 percent of whom were Irish). The numbers of free settlers leaving Britain and Ireland were much larger, however, and continued into the 20th century.

British emigration to New Zealand also began in the nineteenth century, after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Initially, emigration to New Zealand was less popular than to other parts of the world and the New Zealand Company had to actively encourage migrants to the Islands in rural England and Scotland by promoting New Zealand and offering free passage to some skilled workers. Economic assistance to encourage mibration was also provided by the teritorial governments of New Zealnd from the 1850's onwards, resulting in a large increase in settlers arriving from this period onwards, although the numbers arriving were in the tens of thousnands not hundreds of thousands. The numbers dropped dramatically towards the end of the nineteenth century due to an economic depression in New Zealand, but they recovered at the beginning of the twentieth century when further groups of British and Irish immigrants arrived with the assistance of the British government.

It may be possible to trace a migrant, depending on where they left and where they chose to go, through many British archives and the archives of the destination countries and this is something I will be covering in the next few posts of this series on emigration.


Emigration: An Introduction

When researching your family tree you may come across an ancestor who migrated from Britain or Ireland to settle in another country. People elected to migrate abroad for a variety of reasons. Many went in search of a better life to escape poverty, others to flee religious persecution, such as the Puritans who fled to the New World. Some went unwillingly, convicted of a crime and transported to one of Britains colonies. Although the Industrial Revolution increased employment in urban areas throughout the nineteenth century, many people in rural areas found their livelihood threatened as the mass production of textiles replaced many rural cottage industries. One way to escape was to emigrate. Indeed many poor emigrants may have beeen given state assistance when seeking a new life abroad.

The most popular locations where Britons chose to start a new life were North America,Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa. After the end of the First World War, the British Government began officially to support migration. In 1919 a scheme was introduced to aid the the migration of ex-servicemen and in 1922 the Empire Settlement Act was introduced, providing support for families to migrate to the dominions. Another less well known policy of migration adopted by the British government was the child migration scheme to Australia, South Africa and Canada, popular from the late nineteenth century onwards. This will be covered in a later post in this series and I will link to it from here when completed.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Now you can track your name online!

It is a question that not even Google can answer: where in the world are all the other people with my name? It sounds impossible, but it can now be answered thanks to a remarkable new website launched yesterday, which enables the names of most people in the English-speaking world, and a sizeable chunk of the rest of it, to be tracked to the places they live.

Set up by geographers at University College London (UCL), the site,, will provide a remarkable tool for tracing family history and also a powerful aid for governments to keep track of intra-national and international migrations.

The database behind the site holds 300 million names of people in 26 countries, representing a population of about a billion, or nearly a sixth of the world.

It contains 10.8 million individual surnames and 6.5 million forenames, and can pick out which of the latter are most closely associated with the former.

It covers most of Europe and the Anglophone countries, as well as Japan, India and Argentina, although much of the rest of the globe, including Africa, is so far untouched.

The site, launched at the annual conference in London of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers, shows in particular how Anglo-Saxon and Celtic names have spread over the globe with the English-speaking diaspora, with the result that they are sometimes more frequent in the former colonies than they are in the country of origin.

For example, the British Prime Minister might be interested to know the commonest country for Brown is Australia, by a slight margin over Britain, although the commonest region (as the site defines it) is Scotland, where it belongs to nearly one in a hundred people.

The commonest forenames associated with Brown are Robert, James, David, John and William.

His predecessor might like to learn that the country where the surname Blair is commonest is New Zealand - well ahead of Australia, then the US, then Canada before Britain - with New Zealand's Gisborne region being the locality where the name is most frequently found.

John, Kevin, Robert, David and William are commonest forenames that go with it.

Typing in my own name, I found that Coghlan is most commonly found in Ireland, and within Ireland, in the south-west. Nothing new there.

Professor Paul Longley of UCL's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, which has developed the website and the concept behind it, explained that this was one of the glitches still to be ironed out - the Irish dataset is so far only done by counties, rather than cities, so Cork City is not picked up.

But he still made high claims for the power of the system.

One of the things the website could do, he said, was "disaggregation" - that is, to separate out ethnic mixes by name, geographically, in a given area.

Thus you can pinpoint London's many ethnicities - not just white, Afro-Caribbean or Asian, as has been done in the past - you can also locate London's Greeks or its Poles.

This is already being done on an associated website,, which will show you for example, where most of London's Poles are currently living n mainly in a curving sweep to the west of the capital, centred on Ealing and Acton.

Furthermore, said Professor Longley, the data based on electoral rolls, phone directories and mailshot listings, was much more up to date than census data (the last British census was in 2001).

"The system enables us to create very detailed maps of ethnicity, at scales from the neighbourhood to the global," he said.

"It offers us a fresh and vivid picture of the scattering of individual families across the globe. Users can find the countries, regions and settlements in which their names were originally coined, and the parts of North America and Australasia in which they are now concentrated."

This article first appeared in the Independent.

Monday, 18 August 2008

North American & Canadian Sources

A very good place to start your American or Canadian research is to visit the Genweb Projects for these two countries. The USGenWeb Project is a group of volunteers working together to provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. This Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free genealogy access for everyone.

Organization is by county and state, and the website provides you with links to all the state genealogy websites which, in turn, provide gateways to the counties. The USGenWeb Project also sponsors important Special Projects at the national level and the website provides an entry point to all of those pages, as well.

Clicking on a State Link (which you'll find on the left of the page) will take you to the State's website where you will find a vast amount of information for each state. Clicking on the tabs on the header will take you to additional information and links.

The same holds true for theCanada GenWeb Project.

What Passenger Lists are Online? is a terrific list of links to transcribed Passenger Lists and records, not just for the USA & Canada but many other countries as well.

Genealogy Links have a large collection of links for American & Canadian genealogy websites.

CYNDI'S LIST is also an excellent source and has a huge page of links to genealogical information and websites specific to the USA as well as one with a list of individual States.

There is also a comprehensive CANADIAN list

Just by visiting these few sources you will have more than enough information to get your researches off the ground and sustain them for some time to come!

Relevant Post:
American Immigration
US Census: What's it all about?

Monday, 11 August 2008

American Immigration

If your ancestors emigrated from Europe to America and you would like to trace them on passenger lists there are a couple of good sources worth trying.

Between 1892 and 1924, over 22 million people passed through Ellis Island and the port of New York. They included, immigrants, passengers and ships crews. The ships companies that transported these people kept detailed passenger lists. These lists are now available on line in a gigantic searchable archive at the Ellis Island website. Sadly a catastrophic fire in 1897 burnt the original wooden immigration buildings to the ground, destroying years of valuable immigration records dating back to 1855.
Tips for searching Ellis Island Passenger Search
Ellis Island Passenger Search

The ISTG (Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild) have over 9000 passenger manifests which have been transcribed by volunteers. You can search easily by surname, captain's name, port of arrival/departure or name of the ship. HERE is an example of a transcribed ships manifest for 1851, the Favorite out of Cork, Ireland. And HERE is an example of the results of a search for the surname COGHLAN.

Learn more about the ISTG and do your own search HERE (scroll up to see information). In addition to its own records the 'Compass' area of the site has a large collection of links to other passenger lists sites.

If your ancestors were Irish they may have emigrated during the Great Famine. You can search the Famine Ship Records Index for free, but will have to pay to view the actual records if you find any relevant ones. The Famine Ship Records currently hold approximately 1.5 million records on individuals who emigrated from Ireland or via Great Britain to the United States during, immediately prior to or after the Great Famine (1845-50).

Cyndi's List has a Ships and Passenger Lists page which among other things has links to many more lists and ships arrivals.

Another site with lists of transcribed Passenger Lists is What Passenger Lists are Online?


Related Posts:
North American Sources
US Census: What's it all about?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

SEARCHME: A great new search engine

Searchme is a new search engine that shows you the search results as a stack of pages you can flip through, (rather like iTunes album covers display). Searchme's engine delivers results as a browsable stack of "pages" -- pictures of actual web pages that users can check out before visiting them. Searchme also suggests categories to users as they type in search terms, providing shortcuts to the best results. I love this, great for browsers as well.

Try putting your surname in and a little green tree appears with the word “genealogy” written over the top. This gives you the option of searching for only genealogy sites or everything.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Ancestors on Board is the great website where you can search for details of passengers who sailed from Great Britain to ports around the world from 1890 onwards. The good news is that this site has recently been completed and now has all passengers’ names indexed up until 1960.

The website is a collaborative project between the National Archives in the UK and the commercial subscription website,, and features the records from BT27 Outward Passenger Lists held at the National Archives at Kew. It records the details of passengers bound for destinations such as New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and Canada as well as Australia.

Searching and viewing the results list is free and you can view images of the original passenger lists on a pay-per-view basis. To start searching for your ancestors who may have left Britain during this period go to the website at

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

An Essential Book for Internet Genealogists

If there is one book I would recommend it is 'The Genealogist's Internet' by Peter Christian and published by the National Archives in Kew.

This is a comprehensive introduction and guide to researching British family history on the Internet.

The internet is proving an invaluable resource for anyone researching a family tree, but the sheer volume of information can make starting your search confusing and time-consuming. This much-expanded third edition contains everything you need to know about family history on the Web. It describes:

On-line records and web sites of national and local archives in the UK
On-line historical and geographical resources of interest to family historians
Services provided by genealogical organisations via the internet
How to use mailing lists and newsgroups to find advice and others who share your interests
How to locate genealogical information on-line
How to publish your own family history on the Web

This third edition contains a wealth of new material, including recent developments in on-line services in key areas such as censuses, wills, births, marriages and deaths records; historical maps; immigrant communities; and standards for on-line purchasing. It is the essential comprehensive guide to the internet’s resources for all family historians with roots in the UK.

On the books website you will find a list of its Contents, as well as a handy list of all the links contained within the book, as well as a bio of the author, Peter Christian, a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists.

I can guarantee you will find it an invaluable source of information for your researches. have it for £8.44 (normally £12.99) & have it for $18.96

What is a GEDCOM File?

If you use a computer for family history, you need to know about GEDCOM. It provides a way of moving family history information between different computer systems, and between different genealogy packages. GEDCOM is built in to most genealogy packages, and is also used for transferring information from databases.

GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communication. Think of it as a universal file format for sharing genealogy files between genealogy software programs. Recognize a GEDCOM file by its extension .ged. Even PC users may share their GEDCOM files with Mac users—it’s the common language for computerized genealogy around the world.

GEDCOM files are text only files. They will not preserve graphics or photographs of any kind. Your family tree is encoded in the GEDCOM language, which is actually fairly easy to decipher once you are familiar with the structure. For example, John Wesley McCorkle was born 01 April 1852 in Pocatello, Idaho becomes:

0 INDI 003
1 NAME John Wesley/McCorkle/
2 GIVN John Wesley
2 SURN McCorkle
2 DATE 01 Apr 1852
2 PLAC Pocatello, Idaho

INDI refers to an individual and the other abbreviations are intuitive. Notice the numbers refer to the levels and are progressive. The first pair of twos (GIVN and SURN) relates to the level one (NAME) above them; the second pair of twos (DATE and PLAC) gives more information on the level one (BIRT) directly above them. That’s the language of GEDCOM.

You may save your entire family tree in a GEDCOM file in most any genealogy software program you use. Once saved, you may send the file as an attachment in an email to a relative where it can be imported and added to their family tree. You may upload your family tree in the GEDCOM file format to a website where it can be accessed by anyone who views the site. For privacy reasons, professional genealogists recommend you remove information on all living persons before you upload to a public site like the Ancestry World Tree. Many genealogy software programs have a feature to do this for you, and there are add-on utilities available if your program does not remove these names. Your GEDCOM files can also be sent to services to create heirloom quality books and wall charts to display your family history work.

GEDCOM files have eliminated the need for copying genealogy data by hand. Not only are GEDCOM files a valuable time saver, but this standardized file format increases the accuracy of information as it is transferred from one source to another, preserving precious genealogy records for years to come.

If you would like even more information on GEDCOM then WIKIPEDIA is a good place to start and ANCESTRY has a very good page on it as well or for comprehensive coverage try CYNDI'S LIST.

Tips for Census Search Success

Sometimes it is difficult for beginners, and even the more experienced family historian, to appreciate just how much their ancestors names can have changed over time. The spelling in the 1841 Census can be quite different from that in the 1901 depending on how a surname evolved or was transcribed, and when one goes even further back in time to the 16th & 17th centuries the difference is even more marked ( try doing a search in FamilySearch for your surname and compare all the various ways of spelling it to see what I mean). So don't be precious about how names are spelled and think outside the box. Below are the top tips for searching for your families names in Census's and other records.

Don't count solely on Soundex. While the Soundex search option, when available, is a great way to pick up alternate spellings, it may not get them all. OWENS and OWEN, for example, are commonly seen variations of the same name - yet they have different Soundex codes. Therefore, a search for OWENS will not pick up OWEN, and vice-versa.

Try a wildcard search. If you aren't sure how to spell a name, some census search engines allow you to use special symbols called wildcards to represent some unknown letter or letters in a word.

Check with the specific census index for specific wildcard rules and symbols, but most (including allow you to use an * to represent an unknown number of characters at the end of a word (a search for john* might return john, johns, johnson, johnsen, johnathon, etc.) Usually you need to have at least three characters preceding the *. Another commonly used wildcard character is the ? which is often used to represent a single character within a word (a search for sm?th would match both smith and smyth). A search for "Harriet Sto*" in the 1860 U.S. census, for example, helps find Harriet Beecher Stowe living in Andover, MA, even though her last name was actually indexed as "Stone."

Familiarize yourself with nicknames. It's not uncommon to find families providing census takers with their formal birth names in one census, and then using the names their friends and family called them by in another. Mary might be listed as Polly, Alexander as Alex or Al, and Elizabeth as Betsy, Bessie, Beth or Eliza. Familiarize yourself with the names your families commonly used, as well as common nicknames for popular first names.

Check the middle names too. You probably wouldn't believe how many parents listed all of their children by first name in the 1870 census and then by middle name in the 1880 census. Most people wouldn't even recognize them as the same family! As with nicknames, in many areas of the world it is common for an individual to be known to families and friends by his middle name. Be sure to search for middle names, baptismal names, and other alternate names.

Search by surname and location. When you're pretty sure you know where an ancestor was living but traditional searches just aren't turning him up, try searching by surname only - restricting by state, county, district, or town as necessary to bring the number of results down to a reasonable number for browsing. You may even discover previously unknown relatives!

Search for initials. When you can't narrow down the location enough to use surname only search, and you can't find them listed under their first name, check for initials. Sometimes those census enumerators were lazy! Initials may have been used for first name, middle name or both. M C Owens would come up under a search for either 'M Owens' or 'C Owens,' for example.

Search for siblings, children or other family members. When an every name index is available, don't forget about the rest of the family! Your ancestor's first name may have been hard to read, but her brother's may have been a bit easier.

Search for neighbours. If your ancestors have been living in the same place for a while, search for people who were listed nearby in neighbouring census years. If you find a neighbour in the index, then head to his page and check a few pages on either side for your ancestor.

Leave out the name entirely. When all else fails, and the search engine offers enough other options, forego the name and search by other known facts. Searching for someone living in Wilson County, NC, in 1850 who was born in Virginia in 1789 will narrow down the field considerably. Sometimes this is the only way you'll find those people whose names were seriously mangled during the indexing process. Searching by first name only, along with other identifying information such as date and place of birth, can also turn up possible matches for women who have married.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Understanding the GRO (General Registrar's Office - UK)

Each Registry Office creates certificates and once a quarter these are sent to the Registrar General's Office where they are indexed by type and name. Indexes exist for each quarter of a year for each type of event - for example: Marriages, quarter ending March, 1880. To ask someone to look for an event over a two year period requires them to consult eight separate index volumes.

A local Registrar's Office (RO) holds their marriage records indexed by church, not surname, unless it was a civil ceremony, and those are recorded by date. If you don't know the church name, the parish name should suffice. Normally, births and deaths are recorded in approximate date order at the Registry Office. It isn't until the records are sent to the General Registrar's Office (GRO) once each quarter, that an index by surnames is created. It is these quarterly indexes mentioned above that are available at various libraries and archives. The GRO Index number is a volume and page number, and is not unique for each event. For example, for marriages there may be three marriages recorded per page. Until the early 1850s up to eight people (four couples) can share the same page number in each quarter. After that up to four people share the same number. For the first few years of indexing, the volume number was a Roman numeral.

Unfortunately, the volume and page number provided in the national GRO index means nothing to the local RO. But having it proves that the entry exists in a certain time frame. Fees for certificates ordered from the GRO are more expensive than the RO fees, but if you are uncertain about the details, the GRO may be a better place to search. If you know the date, church, etc., then the local RO is often faster and less expensive. Only the marriage certificates are ordered by church.

One reason why there are missing BMD's in the GRO is because they got lost in transit between the local Registrar's Office and the GRO. It is best to check the local office for any BMD's.

There is no way to view the birth or marriages certificates themselves online (over the Internet). However the indexes are now available online at Ancestry and from March 2008 full microfiche indexes of registration records dating back as far as 1837 will be available at libraries in Birmingham, Bridgend, and Plymouth, as well as Manchester Record Office from April.

Once you know the index reference number you can order certificates from the GRO online.

Events recorded since the start of Civil Registration are unlikely to appear in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) or British Vital Records Index (VRI) since most of those entries are from parish registers or transcripts thereof.

Understanding Death Certificates (UK)

In 1837 a death had to be registered within 8 days, this was reduced to 5 days in 1875. At the start of 1866, the indexes to deaths give the age of the deceased at death. Again, the information on the certificate is only as good as the informant's knowledge of the deceased. Women often shaved a few years off their age and this "revised" age might be the one recorded. If there was no body a death cannot be registered. In 1875, to get a death certificate, you needed a certificate from the Doctor with the cause of death. This allowed you to get the Civil Registration Death Certificate and a Certificate of Disposal to take to the undertaker.

A death certificate will contain the following information:

Place and date of death
Name and Surname of the deceased
Age at death
Occupation of the deceased
Cause of death
Signature, name and address of informant (and sometimes relationship to the deceased)
Date of registration
Signature of registrar

On 1st July 1927, registration of the death of stillborn commenced. After 1 April 1969, the date and place of birth of the deceased and the maiden name (in the case of a married woman) are also given.

Understanding Marriage Certificates (UK)

These can be frustrating, in that they may show "of full age" instead of the actual age for anyone over 21 (but this occasionally signified "over the age permissible": 12 for girls and 14 for boys until the Marriage Act of 1929, then set at 16 for both until 1969, now 18 for both - "minority" was still considered under age 21). If the age is given, it is simply what the couple reported, and their veracity may be influenced by their desire or by her condition. The fathers of the bride and groom are listed, but if one did not want father contacted... If the father was deceased, this may be noted, but lack of such an entry does not mean the father was alive. It is also safe to say that a high percentage of the brides were pregnant, so the first child might arrive only a few months after the wedding, if not already in a pram in the back room. Marriages that took place in non-conformist churches before 1898 had to be carried out in the presence of a civil registrar.

Starting in the last quarter of 1911, the GRO Indexes began to include both surnames.

A Marriage Certificate will contain the following information:

Date and place of the event
Names of the bride and groom
Ages of the bride and groom (see above)
Each spouse's "condition" (bachelor, spinster, widow, etc.)
Each person's rank or profession
The bride and groom's respective residences
The bride and groom's respective fathers' names
The fathers' ranks or professions
An indication of the form of the ceremony "after banns", etc.
The signatures (or marks) of the couple
the signatures (or marks) of two witnesses
Signature of officiating minister or registrar
If one of the fathers were deceased or retired, the registrar was supposed to note that, but it was a practice not uniformly followed.

Illegitimate Births in the U.K.

Prior to 1834 a woman would be "examined" to determine who the father of her child was in order to alleviate the parish of its responsibilities to care for the child. During this examination the woman would be expected to name the father of the child. After 1834 the mother was expected to provide for her child until he/she was 16.

There was no shame in illegitimacy (as long as the child was not a drain on the parish). Until the end of the 17th century, illegitimacy was simply viewed as part of life.

From 1837 to circa 1850 there was some confusion as to whether an unmarried father could register the birth of his child, some registrars allowed it, others would not. This situation was clarified by 1850 by which time no unmarried father could register the birth of his child. The 1875 Registration Act changed the situation again by allowing the unmarried father's name to be added to the registration if both were present and signed as informants.

Understanding Birth Certificates (UK)

The information entered on a certificate was supplied by those applying for it. No data was verified, no ages checked for marriages, etc.

Birth Certificates: During the early years of registration many births were not registered because it was not compulsory and there was no penalty for failure to comply. This was especially true for children of illegitimate birth. In 1875, it became compulsory. There was a six week (42 days) time limit in which to register a birth. After six weeks and up to six months the birth could be registered on payment of a fine. After that time, with very few exceptions, a birth could not be registered. It was fairly common for parents to adjust the birth date to within 42 days. Also, as part of the 1875 changes, a mother, when reporting an illegitimate birth, could not name the father; he had to be present and consent to his name being entered.

Starting in the third quarter of 1911, the GRO (General Registry Office) Indexes began to include the mother's maiden surname. On 1st July 1927, stillbirth registration commenced.

A Birth Certificate will contain the following information:

Date of birth (and time for twins)
Birthplace (street address, farm, village)
Name of child
Gender of child
Forename and surname of the father (blank for illegitimate)
Forename, surname, and maiden name of the mother
Occupation of the father
Signature; a description (mother) and address of the informant
Date of registration
Signature of registrar

You will note that the "time of birth" was rare, often used only for multiple births.

It is still true in the UK that the proud father goes off to the Register Office, records the birth, and gets a short birth certificate. One should note: The hospitals and midwives pass on their records to the register office, who cross you off the list when you turn up to register. You have 6 weeks to do it (strictly 42 days). Also, the hospital records may differ from the final cert - all babies born are listed under their mother's name, which is not necessarily their father's. So the hospital records may have a different surname.

The U.S. Census: Whats it all about?

Censuses had been taken prior to the Constitution's ratification; in the early 1600s, a census was taken in Virginia, and people were counted in nearly all of the British colonies that became the United States.

Down through the years, the country's needs and interests became more complex. This meant that there had to be statistics to help people understand what was happening and have a basis for planning. The content of the 10 yearly census changed accordingly. In 1810 the first inquiry on manufactures, quantity and value of products; in 1840 on fisheries were added, and in 1850, the census included inquiries on social issues, such as taxation, churches, pauperism and crime. The censuses also spread geographically, to new States and Territories added to the Union, as well as to other areas under U.S. sovereignty or jurisdiction. There were so many more inquiries of all kinds in the censuses of 1880 and 1890 that almost a full decade was needed to publish all the results.

For the first six censuses (1790-1840) enumerators recorded only the names of the heads of household and did a general demographic accounting of the remaining members of the household. Beginning in 1850, all members of the household were named by the enumerator. The first slave schedules were also done in 1850, with the second (and last) in 1860. Censuses of the late 19th century also included agricultural and industrial schedules to gauge the productivity of the nation's economy. Mortality schedules (taken between 1850 and 1880) captured a snapshot of life-spans and causes of death throughout the country.

The first nine censuses (1790-1870) were not managed by the Executive Branch, but by the Judicial Branch. The United States Federal Court districts assigned U.S. marshals, who hired assistant marshals to do the actual census-taking.

The census records and data specific to individual respondents is not available to the public until 72 years after they were taken . Every census up to 1930 is currently available to the public and can be viewed on microfilm released by the National Archives and Records Administration, the official keeper of old federal census records. These census records are also available online from various sources such as Ancestry.comwhich charges a subscription or, which is available for free. Check out the sidebar for more links for the U.S. Census.

The 1940 census will be available for public review in 2012.

The Census in the U.K.

There has been a census every ten years since 1801, excluding 1941. However, only those that date from 1841 are of real value to the family historian. The administration of the early census returns 1801-1831 was the responsibility of the Overseers of the Poor and the Clergy.

Most of these early returns were unfortunately destroyed, although in some isolated instances they have been preserved. The census returns for 1841 were the first to be kept and, as far as the general public is concerned, the information is released after a hundred years. For example, the public were given access to the 1891 census returns in January 1992. The latest Census avilable to the Public is the 1901.

The 1841 census was different from the previous censuses in two important respects. Firstly, the administration passed into the hands of the Registrar General and the Superintendant Registrars, who were responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. Many recent reforms, including the 1836 General Registration Act, which had culminated in the introduction of civil registration had resulted in a new layer of central and local government.

When the 1841 census was being prepared, it was seen as a logical step that it should also supervise the census. Consequently, civil registration and census taking became inter-related; any change in local boundaries or districts affected them both.

Secondly, the emphasis changed from questions concerned with population size, and the numbers engaged in certain occupations and the condition of the housing stock, to a much more detailed analysis of individuals and families, and the communities in which they lived. The information recorded on individuals has tended to increase with each census.

Visit the GENUKI Census Webpage for complete information concerning the U.K. Census.

The IGI: The greatest free resource available online

The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is an index created by the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). The index is available for viewing at all LDS Family History Centres, on microfiche or CD ROM, and also available for searching on the Internet on the LDS FamilySearch web pages. It is possible to purchase the IGI on microfiche (in whole county sets only) from the LDS at a very nominal cost. The IGI is certainly the most comprehensive available index of English parish baptisms and marriages available. (Burials are not in the index, except for a few isolated examples). Many other countries such as the U.S.A, Canada, France etc are also covered. Search online here.

The IGI does not cover every parish in England. A great number are not included.
For those parishes which it does cover, there may be whole periods missing and for those which it does cover, there may be omissions of individual records even in the covered periods.

Some entries in the IGI are from the Bishop's Transcripts and not the original registers, and the BTs themselves are prone to errors and omissions. (Having said that, even the original registers may have entries missing which are in the BTs and vice versa).

You may find more than one entry in the index for the same event with conflicting information.

Some entries in the IGI are from submissions by individual LDS members rather than from parish registers, and many of these are very prone to errors. Be very wary of entries which have an "@" symbol beside them or which state a birth date (rather than a baptism date), or which state a date as being "about".

The best ones are those that say in the messages line 'Extracted birth or christening record for the locality listed in the record', which are those extracted from Old Parish Register (OPR's).

The golden rule with the IGI is to treat it for what it is. It is an index. If you find an entry in the IGI, always look at the films/microfiche of the original parish registers.

Used in this way, it is a great tool to help you with your family history research.

For a more comprehensive introduction to the IGI and advice on how to get the most from it visit What is the IGI?

There is also a website that has sorted and indexed all the IGI Batches, enabling you to search by County/Parish in England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland and States/Counties in the USA & Canada.

To go straight to the relevant page for each country click on the link below:-




Genealogical Terms Explained

ABSTRACT - Summary of important points of a given text, especially deeds and wills.
ACRE - See measurements.
ADMINISTRATION (of estate) - The collection, management and distribution of an estate by proper legal process.
ADMINISTRATOR (of estate) - Person appointed to manage or divide the estate of a deceased person.
ADMINISTRATRIX - A female administrator.
AFFIDAVIT - A statement in writing, sworn to before proper authority.
ALIEN - Foreigner.
AMERICAN REVOLUTION - U.S. war for independence from Great Britain 1775 -1783.
ANCESTOR - A person from whom you are descended; a forefather.
ANTE - Latin prefix meaning before, such as in ante-bellum South, “The South before the war”
APPRENTICE - One who is bound by indentures or by legal agreement or by any means to serve another person for a certain time, with a view of learning an art or trade.
APPURTENANCE - That which belongs to something else such as a building, orchard, right of way, etc.
ARCHIVES - Records of a government, organization, institution; the place where records are stored.
ATTEST - To affirm; to certify by signature or oath.
BANNS - Public announcement of intended marriage.
BENEFICIARY - One who receives benefit of trust or property.
BEQUEATH - To give personal property to a person in a will. Noun: bequest.
BOND - Written, signed, witnessed agreement requiring payment of a specified amount of money on or before a given date.
BOUNTY LAND WARRANT - A right to obtain land, specific number of acres of an allocated public land, granted for military service.
CENSUS - Official enumeration, listing or counting of citizens.
CERTIFIED COPY - A copy made and attested to by officers having charge of the original and authorized to give copies.
CHATTEL - Personal property which can include animate as well as inanimate properties.
CHRISTEN - To receive or initiate into the visible church by baptism; to name at baptism; to give a name to.
CIRCA - About, near, or approximate — usually referring to a date.
CIVIL WAR - War between the States; war between North and South, 1861-1865.
CODICIL - Addition to a will.
COLLATERAL ANCESTOR - Belong to the same ancestral stock but not in direct line of descent; opposed to lineal such as aunts, uncles & cousins.
COMMON ANCESTOR - Ancestor shared by any two people.
CONFEDERATE - Pertaining to the Southern states which seceded from the U.S. in 1860 - 1, government and citizens.
CONSANGUINITY - Blood relationship.
CONSORT - Usually, a wife whose husband is living
COUSIN - Relative descended from a common ancestor, but not a brother or sister.
DAUGHTER-IN-LAW - Wife of one’s son.
DECEDENT - A deceased person.
DECLARATION OF INTENTION - First paper, sworn to and filed in court, by an alien stating that he wants to be come a citizen.
DEED - A document by which title in real property is transferred from one party to another.
DEPOSITION - A testifying or testimony taken down in writing under oath of affirmation in reply to interrogatories, before a competent officer to replace to oral testimony of a witness.
DEVISE - Gift of real property by will.
DEVISEE - One to whom real property (land) is given in a will.
DEVISOR - One who gives real property in a will.
DISSENTER - One who did not belong to the established church, especially the Church of England in the American colonies.
DISTRICT LAND OFFICE PLAT BOOK - Books or rather maps which show the location of the land patentee.
DISTRICT LAND OFFICE TRACT BOOK - Books which list individual entries by range and township.
DOUBLE DATING - A system of double dating used in England and America from 1582-1752 because it was not clear as to whether the year commenced January 1 or March 25
DOWER - Legal right or share which a wife acquired by marriage in the real estate of her husband, allotted to her after his death for her lifetime.
EMIGRANT - One leaving a country and moving to another.
ENUMERATION - Listing or counting , such as a census.
EPITAPH - An inscription on or at a tomb or grave in memory of the one buried there.
ESCHEAT - The reversion of property to the state when there are no qualified heirs.
ESTATE - All property and debts belonging to a person.
ET AL - Latin for “and others”.
ET UX - Latin for “and wife”.
ET UXOR - And his wife. Sometimes written simply Et Ux.
EXECUTOR - One appointed in a will to carry out its provisions. Female=Executrix
FATHER-IN-LAW - Father of one’s spouse.
FEE - An estate of inheritance in land, being either fee simple or fee tail. An estate in land held of a feudal lord on condition of the performing of certain services.
FEE SIMPLE - An absolute ownership without restriction.
FEE TAIL - An estate of inheritance limited to lineal descendant heirs of a person to whom it was granted.
FRANKLIN, STATE OF - An area once known but never officially recognized and was under consideration from 1784 - 1788 from the western part of North Carolina.
FRATERNITY - Group of men (or women) sharing a common purpose or interest.
FREE HOLD - An estate in fee simple, in fee tail, or for life.
FRIEND - Member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.
FURLONG - See measurements.
GAZETTEER - A geographical dictionary; a book giving names and descriptions of places usually in alphabetical order.
GENEALOGY - Study of family history and descent.
GENTLEMAN - A man well born.
GIVEN NAME - Name given to a person at birth or baptism, one’s first and middle names.
GLEBE - Land belonging to a parish church.
GRANTEE - One who buys property or receives a grant.
GRANTOR - One who sells property or makes a grant.
GREAT-AUNT - Sister of one’s grandparent
GREAT-UNCLE - Brother of one’s grandparent.
GUARDIAN - Person appointed to care for and manage property of a minor orphan or an adult incompetent of managing his own affairs.
HALF BROTHER/HALF SISTER - Child by another marriage of one’s mother or father; the relationship of two people who have only one parent in common.
HEIRS - Those entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit property from another.
HOLOGRAPHIC WILL - One written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting.
HOMESTEAD ACT - Law passed by Congress in 1862 allowing a head of a family to obtain title to 160 acres of public land after clearing and improving it for 5 years.
HUGUENOT - A French Protestant in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the reformed or calvinistic communion who were driven by the thousands into exile in England, Holland, Germany and America.
ILLEGITIMATE - Born to a mother who was not married to the child’s father.
IMMIGRANT - One moving into a country from another.
INDENTURE - Today it means a contract in 2 or more copies. Originally made in 2 parts by cutting or tearing a single sheet across the middle in a jagged line so the two parts may later be matched.
INDENTURED SERVANT - One who bound himself into service of another person for a specified number of years, often in return for transportation to this country.
INFANT - Any person not of full age; a minor.
INSTANT - Of or pertaining to the current month. (Abbreviated inst.)
INTESTATE - One who dies without a will or dying without a will.
INVENTORY - An account, catalog or schedule, made by an executor or administrator of all the goods and chattels and sometimes of the real estate of a deceased person.
ISSUE - Offspring; children; lineal descendants of a common ancestor.
LATE - Recently deceased.
LEASE - An agreement which creates a landlord - tenant situation.
LEGACY - Property or money left to someone in a will
LEGISLATURE - Lawmaking branch of state or national government; elected group of lawmakers.
LIEN - A claim against property as security for payment of a debt.
LINEAGE - Ancestry; direct descent from a specific ancestor.
LINEAL - Consisting of or being in as direct line of ancestry or descendants; descended in a direct line.
LIS PENDENS - Pending court action; usually applies to land title claims.
LODGE - A chapter or meeting hall of a fraternal organization.
LOYALIST - Tory, an American colonist who supported the British side during the American Revolution.
MAIDEN NAME - A girl’s last name or surname before she marries.
MANUSCRIPT - A composition written with the hand as an ancient book or an un-printed modern book or music.
MARRIAGE BOND - A financial guarantee that no impediment to the marriage existed, furnished by the intended bridegroom or by his friends.
MATERNAL - Related through one’s mother, such as a Maternal grandmother being the mother’s mother.
MEASUREMENTS - Link - 7.92 inches; Chain - 100 Links or 66 feet; Furlong - 1000 Links or 660 feet; Rod - 5 1/2 yds or 16 1/2 ft (also called a perch or pole); Rood - From 5 1/2 yards to 8 yards, depending on locality; Acre - 43,560 square ft or 160 square rods.
MESSUAGE - A dwelling house.
METES & BOUNDS - Property described by natural boundaries, such as 3 notches in a white oak tree, etc.
MICROFICHE - Sheet of microfilm with greatly reduced images of pages of documents.
MICROFILM - Reproduction of documents on film at reduced size.
MIGRANT - Person who moves from place to place, usually in search of work
MIGRATE - To move from one country or state or region to another. (Noun: migration)
MILITIA - Citizens of a state who are not part of the national military forces but who can be called into military service in an emergency; a citizen army, apart from the regular military forces.
MINOR - One who is under legal age; not yet a legal adult.
MISTER - In early times, a title of respect given only to those who held important civil officer or who were of gentle blood.
MOIETY - A half; an indefinite portion
MORTALITY - Death; death rate.
MORTALITY SCHEDULES - Enumeration of persons who died during the year prior to June 1 of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 in each state of the United States, conducted by the bureau of census.
MORTGAGE - A conditional transfer of title to real property as security for payment of a debt.
MOTHER-IN-LAW - Mother of one’s spouse.
NAMESAKE - Person named after another person.
NECROLOGY - Listing or record of persons who have died recently
NEE - Used to identify a woman’s maiden name; born with the surname of.
NEPHEW - Son of one’s brother or sister.
NIECE - Daughter of one’s brother or sister.
NONCUPATIVE WILL - One declared or dictated by the testator, usually for persons in last sickness, sudden illness, or military.
ORPHAN - Child whose parents are dead; sometimes, a child who has lost one parent by death.
ORPHAN’S COURT - Orphans being recognized as wards of the states provisions were made for them in special courts.
PASSENGER LIST - A ships list of passengers, usually referring to those ships arriving in the from Europe.
PATENT - Grant of land from a government to an individual.
PATERNAL - Related to one’s father. Paternal grandmother is the father’s mother.
PATRIOT - One who loves his country and supports its interests.
PEDIGREE - Family tree; ancestry.
PENSION - Money paid regularly to an individual, especially by a government as reward for military service during wartime or upon retirement from government service.
PENSIONER - One who receives a pension.
PERCH - See measurements.
POLE - See measurements.
POLL - List or record of persons, especially for taxing or voting.
POST - Latin prefix meaning after, as in post-war economy.
POSTERITY - Descendants; those who come after.
POWER OF ATTORNEY - When a person in unable to act for himself, he appoints another to act in his behalf.
PRE - Latin prefix meaning before, as in pre-war military build-up.
PRE-EMOTION RIGHTS - Right given by the federal government to citizens to buy a quarter section of land or less.
PROBATE - Having to do with wills and the administration of estates.
PROGENITOR - A direct ancestor.
PROGENY - Descendants of a common ancestor; issue.
PROVED WILL - A will established as genuine by probate court.
PROVOST - A person appointed to superintend, or preside over something.
PROXIMO - In the following month, in the month after the present one.
PUBLIC DOMAIN - Land owned by the government.
QUAKER - Member of the Religious Society of Friends.
QUITCLAIM - A deed conveying the interest of the party at that time.
RECTOR - A clergyman; the ruler or governor of a country.
RELICT - Widow; surviving spouse when one has died, husband or wife.
REPUBLIC - Government in which supreme authority lies with the people or their elected representatives.
REVOLUTIONARY WAR - U.S. war for independence from Great Britain 1775-1783.
ROD - See measurements.
ROOD - See measurements.
SHAKER - Member of a religious group formed in 1747 which practiced communal living and celibacy.
SIBLING - Person having one or both parents in common with another; a brother or sister.
SIC - Latin meaning thus; copied exactly as the original reads. Often suggests a mistake or surprise in the original.
SON-IN-LAW - Husband of one’s daughter.
SPINSTER - A woman still unmarried; or one who spins.
SPONSOR - A bondsman; surety.
SPOUSE - Husband or wife.
STEP-BROTHER / STEP-SISTER - Child of one’s step-father or step-mother.
STEP-CHILD - Child of one’s husband or wife from a previous marriage.
STEP-FATHER - Husband of one’s mother by a later marriage.
STEP-MOTHER - Wife of one’s father by a later marriage.
SURNAME - Family name or last name.
TERRITORY - Area of land owned by the united States, not a state, but having its own legislature.
TESTAMENTARY - Pertaining to a will.
TESTATE - A person who dies leaving a valid will.
TESTATOR - A person who makes a valid will before his death.
TITHABLE - Taxable.
TITHE - Formerly, money due as a tax for support of the clergy or church.
TORY - Loyalist; one who supported the British side in the American Revolution.
TOWNSHIP - A division of U.S. public land that contained 36 sections, or 36 square miles. Also a subdivision of the county in many Northeastern and Midwestern states of the U.S.
TRADITION - The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, genealogies, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth.
TRANSCRIBE - To make a copy in writing.
ULTIMO - In the month before this one.
UNION - The United States; also the North during the Civil War, the states which did not secede.
VERBATIM - Word for word; in the same words, verbally.
VITAL RECORDS - Records of birth, death, marriage or divorce.
VITAL STATISTICS - Data dealing with birth, death, marriage or divorce.
WAR BETWEEN THE STATES - U.S. Civil War, 1861 - 1865.
WARD - Chiefly the division of a city for election purposes.
WILL - Document declaring how a person wants his property divided after his death.
WITNESS - One who is present at a transaction, such as a sale of land or signing of a will, who can testify or affirm that it actually took place.
WPA HISTORICAL RECORDS SURVEY - A program undertaken by the US Government 1935 - 1936 in which inventories were compiled of historical material.
YEOMAN - A servant, an attendant or subordinate official in a royal household; a subordinate of a sheriff; an independent farmer.

Forms and Charts

The most commonly used types of forms & charts for recording information for your family history are the:-

Family Group Sheet Form
Family Pedigree or Ancestral Chart (usually 5 generations)
Census Forms
Source Forms

You will find all the Free Forms and Charts you will ever need at these websites. Have a look round each site first at their selection of charts, download a selection for yourself and then choose the ones you feel most comfortable with using.

Family Tree Magazine forms - lots of forms which can be downloaded in pdf or text

Genealogy Search: Free Genealogy Forms and Charts

1-Stop Free Shop: check out their Genealogy Resources page as well

Mary & Duane Baileys Website: lots of free genealogy charts to download

Your Family Tree: More great Free Genealogy Forms and Charts

Easy Genealogy Forms: includes Macintosh

also a site called Free Genealogy Forms has been recommended in a comment - looks very good and definitely worth visiting.

And of course the mummy & daddy of them all - Cyndi's List

PLEASE NOTE: You MUST have Adobe Acrobat Reader Plugin installed to print the documents from the sites listed below:-

Vertical Family Group Sheet
Vertical Pedigree Chart
5 Generation Ancestor Chart
Cemetery Log Sheet
Census Records
Illustrated Family Tree Charts
Marriage Log

Below are some examples of the two most important forms & charts you will need to begin your Family History.

Family Group Sheet

Pedigree/Ancestral Chart

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Beginning Your Family Tree: A Video Tutorial

To enlarge to full screen click on button at bottom, 2nd from right

Monday, 10 March 2008

How to collect your Family Information

1. Interview as many of your living relatives as possible e.g. parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Also find out about who the person married as well as death dates and places and occupations. Always begin with current dates and work backwards. If you get stuck, don't worry, just move to the next line or investigate the brothers or sisters of your ancestors. Sometimes they can reveal some of the best information for your research and break down a 'brick wall'.

2. Birth certificates of individuals almost always show the parents names and often other information, such as the mothers maiden name (her surname before marriage), the fathers occupation and their residence at the time of the birth.

3. Marriage certificates show each of the couples ages, occupations, residences and parents (usually just the fathers)names.

4. Death certificates show death dates, birth dates (or age at birth), parents and much more information including cause of death, residence, and who registered the death (usually a relative). Birth, marriage & death records are known as Vital Records or BMD's for short.

5. Your local newspaper office archive or library are good places to look up obituary notices which can provide a wealth of knowledge.

6. Sometimes Church Records (also known as OPR's or Old Parish Records)such as Baptismal, Marriage or Membership etc can reveal as much as vital records.

7. Cemeteries that you know your ancestors are buried in can provide useful information, with tombstones often listing other members of the family and relationships. Always write down as much as you can from a tombstone and try and take a photo and record its position for future reference if you can.

8. Family Photo Albums often provide a lot of information, as well as a visual record of relatives. See if you can get copies or scans made of any photos in your relatives possession.

9. Although Census records have been taken since 1790, it is only since 1841 they have been of any use to family historians. They are taken every 10 years and the last available is the 1901 in the UK and 1920 in the U.S. Begin with these and work backwards. These will help fill in missing pieces and find family members. Libraries and historical societies usually have copies on microfiche, but now there are many sources available on the internet.

10. Use the search engines on the internet, such as Google or Yahoo!. Enter the surname alone for a general search or the full name of an individual. Many connections can be made using this method. There are some good videos on YouTube available on how to search Google in depth for which I have links on the sidebar.

11. Make a sheet called a Family Group Sheet (or download from the internet) for each person in your family. Take the info you get on each ancestor and enter it on a seperate sheet.

12. Check Court House or Register Office records for your ancestors Deeds, Probate, (Wills, estate, intestate, inventories etc) Voters records etc.

13. Old Directories, such as Trade or Telephone can be a source of information and are now often available on websites such as Ancestry and other sites, as well as libraries.

Sunday, 9 March 2008


Genealogy, (which is the proper name for researching your ancestors, but we will be just be calling it 'family history' for most of the time)can be summed up in 3 steps:

1) Record what you know
2) Research what you want to know
3) Publish what you know

The most important thing to do when you begin to research your family history is to find out as much as you can from your existing relatives, particularly grandparents. Make copies of as many birth, marriage and death certificates as you can. There are forms available on the web that you can print off to make records of all the information you can find this way. It is better to start with a paper system as you can distribute copies around the family for them to fill in for you. Later you can download free family history programs to enable you to record your research on your PC.

Friday, 7 March 2008

The Troups of Scotland Records 1550 - 1955

Troup Births and Christenings 1553 to 1855 (Sorted by Name)

Troup Birth and Christenings 1553 to 1855 (Sorted by Place)

Male Troup Births 1855 to 1905

Female Troup Births 1855 to 1905

Troup Marriages 1553 to 1800

Troup Marriages 1800 to 1853

Male Troup Marriages 1854 to 1930

Female Troup Marriages 1854 to 1930

Troup Deaths 1855 to 1955

Troup Wills & Testaments

Troups in the 1841 Census

Troups in the 1851 Census

Troups in the 1861 Census

Troups in the 1871 Census

Troups in the 1881 Census (Sorted by Name - Includes Dwellings)

Troups in the 1881 Census (Sorted by Place - Includes Dwellings)

Troups in the 1891 Census

Troups in the 1901 Census