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Most family historians know how useful wills can be, as they often detail relationships and confirm useful facts like the surnames of married daughters. A secondary source of probate information are the Death Duty Registers, which were compiled when death duty was payable on an estate.

These registers are now being made available on Documents Online, The National Archives website, and the first batch covers the years 1796-1811 and estates dealt with by local courts, not the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The PCC wills for this period are already available on Documents Online.

One advantage of using the Death Duty Registers is that they are a single source for all the various and peculiar probate courts that existed in England and Wales. The online index is also very easy and flexible to use, as you can search by name, county or place. It is all much easier than using the printed indexes and microfilm at the Family Record Centre, and my only reservation is that the handwriting in the registers is often not very clear. Records cost £3.50 to download, and you can save the image as a pdf file. Further information, and a lot of background help, can be found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/death-duty.asp .

 NAOMI (the National Archive of Memorial Inscriptions) is based at De Montford University in Bedford and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It exists to make memorial inscriptions available over the internet, and the first batch of 70,000 inscriptions from 173 parishes in Norfolk is now available. This is a pay-per-view site, and the amount you pay depends on the amount of information you download, so that you pay more, for example, if you want a photograph of the memorial. NAOMI can be found at http://www.memorialinscriptions.org.uk/  

Many people have connections with Canada, and two new websites may help with identifying how and when your relatives emigrated, and where they lived. Some of my own family settled on Vancouver Island, and the Nanaimo Family History Society have a project to index all passenger lists for Canadian ports 1900-1924. They are currently working on Quebec 1908-1910, and their transcription can be found at http://members.shaw.ca/nanaimo.fhs/.  Automated Genealogy is a volunteer project that is currently working on the 1911 Canadian census, but has various other projects in process including an interesting one to link records of child immigrants to the 1901 census. The 1911 index is not yet finished, but I was pleased to find a great-uncle working on a farm in Alberta and note that he was recorded as a Methodist. The site can be found at http://automatedgenealogy.com/census11/Test4.jsp

Where did your family come from? A recent research project based at University College London (UCL) has investigated the distribution of surnames in Great Britain, both current and historic, in order to understand patterns of regional economic development, population movement and cultural identity. The Surname Profiler website at http://www.spatial-literacy.org/UCLnames/ allows users to search the databases that they have created, and to trace the geography and history of their family names. One of the databases used is the 1881 census, while another is from 1998, so you can see changes over a hundred years or so. I was interested to see how the Lawrence surname is concentrated in southern England, but with another cluster around Aberdeen.

 Now for some sites of more local interest.  The Royal Forest of Kingswood website contains some old but mostly modern photographs of the Kingswood area, including Fishponds, and some of Bristol City Centre. Some of the photographs are panoramic, as the camera sweeps through 360 degrees, and the subjects range from public houses to the 1920s Made for Ever Wesleyan Sunday School parade. The site can be found at http://www.royalforestkingswood.fsnet.co.uk/index.htm

Pottery and glass were major industries in the Bristol area, and Rod Dowling’s website at http://www.kalendar.demon.co.uk/ contains lots of information about the processes used, and some of the people who were involved. There is an extensive list of references and sources, and if you have information about people who were potters, then contributions are invited.

If your First World War interest is in the Gloucestershire Volunteer Artillery, then the site at http://www.bristolgunners.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/index.htm will be of interest to you. It contains obituaries, press cuttings and photographs, and other information about individuals.

For those just starting out in this area, the Long Long Trail is a website concerned with the British Army in the First World War. It has a very useful section for genealogists on researching a soldier of this period, which contains a good list of do’s and don’ts. The site is at http://www.1914-1918.net/index.htm .

Although Ancestry.co.uk seems to be sweeping the board with the English and Welsh censuses, and we now have a subscription at the Research Room, there are alternatives available and they may succeed where Ancestry fails. Stepping Stones, probably better known for its census CDs for the period 1841 to 1871, is now making images available online at http://www.stepping-stones.co.uk/ . It is mainly the 1841 census that is available, and there is no name index, but access is by pay per view at a cost of 50p per page. You should also look at The Genealogist website at http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/ , where there are various indexes and transcriptions available on a subscription or pay per view basis. I have to say, however, that I have found this site very confusing and am never sure what you pay and what you get.

If any of your ancestors came from the Durham area, you may be interested in Durham Records Online at http://www.durhamrecordsonline.com/ . This is a pay-per-view site covering census and parish records, and a search of the index is free. The cost of viewing credits seems high, but it must be cheaper than a trip to Durham.

Finally, you may have thought about writing articles yourself about family history, but are concerned about getting them published. A new site enabling you to publish family history on the web can be found at http://www.familyhistoryarticles.com/.

Bob Lawrence