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Notes I made to remind myself what to do!

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


ChrisRayment Report 30 Mar 2012 10:45

Always start from a known point (for example, person whose name, place and date of birth are known) and work backwards - this enables cross-referencing

If you are absolutely certain of a fact - believe yourself rather than ‘official’ records - they are sometimes erroneous

Some sources are more reliable than others - cross-reference everything possible

Many sources are free of charge - check these out before paying - it can save you a LOT of money, but accept that these can only help up to a point - proper research will always cost!

Accept any information given from whatever source, however unlikely it seems, but do not feel obliged to use it and acknowledge it if you do

Do not be afraid to be wrong - it is easy to become seduced by an interesting line of enquiry and weave it into your own research but it may prove to be a distraction which has led you astray - go back to where you first became lost and start again

Male lines are easier to trace because of continuity of surname

Watch for patterns in naming - the same names are often reused in the next generation - but beware, cousins often have the same names and similar ages. If a child dies young, their name may be reused with a subsequent child, for instance, Richard Corney, b. 1709, brother of Richard Corney, b. 1703, d. 1703

Cursive handwriting can cause confusion such as Weller read as Miller

Names change (i) - for instance, Jack as a child and John as an adult
Names change (ii) - because of inheritance or to prevent a particular surname dying out
Names change (iii) - someone prefers a middle rather than a first name, for example, on birth or military records someone is listed as Herbert Vitruvious Cyril, but on Census records is listed simply as Vitruvious
Names change (iv) - they are known within the family by a particular name which differs from their official name, for example, Nana Forster became Edith Scarfe in death records due to her second marriage
Names change (v) - in official birth records where the surname of the child is the same as the maiden name of the mother this may be as a result of cousins marrying (quite common) but it is usually because of illegitimacy, however the father’s name is often adopted (without official paperwork) at a later date, for example when the child marries, so there may seem to be no official birth record for the child - check records using the mother’s maiden name

Middle names can provide clues to a mother or grandmother’s maiden name for example in my tree - Winlo, Webster, Harrold and Briton

People alter names for religious or political reasons, so people ‘disappear’ between Censuses without any record of death

Census records and transcripts are not complete; many have been lost through fire, water or bomb damage

Births, marriages and deaths (BMD) were not formally recorded until 1837; information prior to this is derived from parish records, headstones, memorials or family archives that may be difficult to read

Date of death is a useful piece of information since most BMD records give age at date of death, and (for more recent deaths) actual date of birth

Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 when it was necessary to correct by 11 days to come into line with the rest of Europe, so Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14 September 1752. Prior to this the first day of the year was 1 March, so September, October, November and December were, as their names suggest, the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months of the year, so events in January, February and March prior to 1752 are sometimes referred to as, for example, 1717/1718

In the 1841 Census a policy of rounding down ages was in place.
As such people aged:
• 15-19 were recorded as 15
• 20-24 were recorded as 20
• 25-29 were recorded as 25
• 30-34 were recorded as 30
• 35-39 were recorded as 35

Censuses are generally taken in early April and age at last birthday is deducted from year of Census, so, in 1891 Census if age is given as 50 then year of birth is recorded as 1841, however, if birth occurred from mid-April to December, year of birth would actually be 1840

Children who are born and die between Censuses may not be recorded at all

Place names change, for example, many cities have expanded to encompass smaller towns and villages, so what would now be recorded as ‘Birmingham, West Midlands’ was recorded as ‘Aston, Warwickshire’ in 1901 Census

County boundaries and names change, for example, parts of what were once Northamptonshire are now in Cambridge, Rutland disappeared completely for some years and cities are now part of wider unitary authorities such as Greater Manchester, Greater London etc.

Work out the ‘story’ if people have changed occupation or location - a good general knowledge of British social and economic history will prove invaluable with this aspect - most stories are possible, but the compiler needs to decide whether or not it is probable that this story explains what really happened

Inaccuracies are often caused by
(i) misunderstanding caused by accent at original enumeration
(ii) misreading of spelling
(iii) misunderstanding of questions asked
(iv) variant spelling of names, for instance, Olliver and Oliver; sometimes branches of the same family spell their surname differently and -
(v) illiteracy - many people could not spell their names, so enumerators entered the most common spelling and hence possibly altered the family name permanently
(vi) itinerant populations - large families do not necessarily remember where each child was born, thus the child is unsure of their place of birth when they reach adulthood
(vii) local place names which may be given rather than official place names
many people did not know their actual age and so guessed - see note about 1841 Census
(viii) transcribing from hand-written documents to computer records - data is sometimes inaccurately recorded (spell checkers are no use when transcribing names)

Inaccuracies are also caused by

lying (i) - for instance when entering the forces, merchant navy or other employment where there is a minimum age requirement, when marrying underage, or when a child is born illegitimately
lying (ii) - in the 19th century children were often listed as ‘scholar’ when they were almost certainly at work - various Education Acts were in force to ensure a minimum level of schooling and so their age may be given as older to account for them being a worker rather than scholar and many women worked as prostitutes which is most unlikely to have been given as their occupation!

Americans - much of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) has been compiled and transcribed by Americans who may not have a comprehensive knowledge of British geography or naming conventions and may confuse Hamstead (Birmingham) and Hampstead (London) or not know that Tamworth and Tanworth are different places altogether