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A Beginner's Guide to Genealogy

Steps: 8 to end

Tony Robinson and Ancestry.co.uk

Step 8 If the certificate(s) that you need are from the Birmingham area then you can visit the Birmingham Register Office at 300 Broad Street (opposite Centenary Square) and order copies of them direct. You will usually be able to get a copy of the certificate while you wait (providing you are not too late in the day). If the certificates you need are for an area outside Birmingham then the Librarian will be able to give you the contact details from their records. Send the appropriate Register Office a letter giving the above details (Full Name of the individual, Year, Quarter, Volume and Page) plus a cheque for the correct amount (?7.00 at the time of writing) and they will send you a copy of the certificate by return.


Step 9 The birth certificate will give you details of the parent's names, the address where the birth took place and the informant's address (the informant is usually one of the parents). Knowing the date of birth it is possible to guess the date of baptism and search the records for appropriate details and then order a certificate in the same way.

Step 10 Knowing their date of birth, it is also possible to calculate their age at the time of each census. These took place every 10 years from 1801 onwards and the details are currently available on microfiche for the period 1801 to 1901. If the person or persons you are researching were alive during this period then it is not difficult to locate their details in the appropriate census returns in Birmingham Central Library. This will also give you more information about other relatives living at the same house at that time.

Step 11 If you have details about an individual's spouse then it is also possible to find details of their marriage in the St Catherine's Index. Unfortunately, this may take a little more patience unless you have a good idea of the wedding date or alternatively, their ages at marriage (from which you can hopefully calculate the approximate wedding date). Their marriage license will then provide details of their parents and their parent's occupations.

Step 12 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) have compiled a world-wide computerised database of births  baptisms and marriages prior to 1837 called the International Genealogical Index (IGI). They have done this by taking copies of the various parish records. This database can be accessed as part of the computer compilation at: www.familysearch.com from where it is possible to search the databases for your named relatives. The search will confirm if your ancestor's details are included on the 'official' databases and also if they appear on any family trees ('pedigrees') that have been compiled and downloaded by other ancestral researchers (in which case it often gives their email address). You can then contact those researchers direct to compare notes. Some tips on using the IGI. Use the search 'options' to limit your search to the specific countries and counties that you need. Also, try and limit the date range of searches to sensible tolerances. Also, if you find that you are not getting suitable results try using alternative spellings of names.

www.Ancestry.co.uk has the largest collection of UK family records with on the web including the 1901 UK census. Over 300 million names dating back to 1500s and Ancestry experts ready to help. Ancestry.co.uk also provides you access to information that isn't available anywhere else on the web. Information like the England and Wales Census Records dating back to 1861, UK and Ireland Parish and Probate Records, Pallot Marriage Index, and more! This service requires subscription but you can Find your ancestors today with a FREE 14 day trial to Ancestry.co.uk - Click here

A new site has been launched for the Warwickshire Ancestors Project This project aims to provide a "free-to-view" online searchable database of all the 19th century Warwickshire census returns. It is part of an initiative to make high quality primary (or near-primary) records of relevance to UK genealogy conveniently and freely available online. 

Step 13 The Public Records Office in London have a tremendous range of information that they are slowly cataloguing and making available to researchers. The Index of this information called PROCAT (but unfortunately not the information itself) is available online at the PRO's web site: www.pro.gov.uk Suffice it to say that the range of information available at the PRO is enormous - ranging from wills and probate, to military records, criminal records, orphans, civil servant's records, land deeds etc. etc. As you research your family history and want to delve into more detail about individuals it is possible to start to research the appropriate information and databases.

Step 14 If you are still having trouble, enlist the assistance of an experienced researcher!

Tips: Remember:

That people's memories often play tricks on them - especially as they get older, so only use the information obtained through interviews as a guide and always check it with the official sources.
To try and capture every piece of information you can about each individual - even if the information may seem trivial. It can often be very beneficial later on when you are trying to distinguish between the records of people with the same name.
That people often drop their first name as they get older especially if they do not like it or find it cumbersome. So the "Uncle Bob" that Aunt Emily spoke about may really have been baptised "Horatio Robert" and have dropped the first forename and shortened the second when he reached his teens. Similarly, abbreviated names may be misleading so always try and check the correct full name. For example, someone called Ed could actually have been baptised either Edward or Edgar.
That spellings of names and locations in official records are often incorrect. This is because they were often transcribed by clerks or enumerators who mis-read the original hand-written script. Similarly, even as late as the mid 1900s, many people could not write and often had difficulty writing or spelling their own names. For example, in the research of my own family tree I have found four different spellings of my Grandmother's maiden name in official records!
That people often gave an incorrect age and/or address at their marriage license. Up until fairly recently, dates of birth were often 'adjusted' to disguise a big age difference between the spouses or to disguise the fact that the wife-to-be was under age! Addresses were often 'falsified' by pretending to live with friends or relatives in order to qualify to get married in a favoured church or parish.





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