Genes Reunited began as a contact site, similar to its sister site Friends Reunited which connects people who went to the same school. For family historians, the connection is one’s ancestors and you list the people in your family tree and look for others who share those names.
The site has expanded recently, so it now also has indexes to the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1891, and 1901 censuses for England and Wales, and images of the GRO indexes. Note that the 1881 census is missing from this list. Payment is by credit card, and £5 buys 50 credits. However, the price of 5 credits (50p) to view a census transcription, plus a further 5 credits to see an image of the original page make this an expensive option. Viewing a page of the GRO indexes costs 10p. Searching the census is not as flexible as the method used by Ancestry, but this site may give a result when other census sources fail. It appears to use a new transcription and index, rather than one already available from another supplier. There is no way of checking how complete the index is in terms of counties covered. Genes Reunited is at www.genesreunited.co.uk.
Despite the plethora of online census websites, and our own index on CD to the 1891 census, FreeCEN have begun to prepare free online indexes to the census, and some of the local Somerset villages are now covered for 1891. You can read all about it at
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~somtcen, and the site for carrying out searches of the database is at http://freecen.rootsweb.com. Note that this website has only a transcription of the entry, and there is no access to an image of the census page.
A revised section of The National Archives website now gives access to interviews and reports for over 3000 named prisoners of war from the First World War. These can be downloaded for the usual fee of £3.50. Further details can be found at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/pow.asp. The range of documents available through this very useful service continues to increase, and now includes members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during the First World War, World War Two Seamen’s Medals and Photographs of Victorian Prisoners from the 1870s.
In the March 2007 article, I mentioned the passenger lists of embarking passengers now available on www.findmypast.com. This site has recently introduced various subscription packages, designed to make it more economical for the intensive user. The pay-per-view option is still available, however, and there are frequently special offers available if you register with the site and receive their newsletters. I was very pleased recently to find my great-uncle Daniel Kemp on the passenger lists on this site. He sailed to Canada in 1906, and the embarkation details matched the record of his arrival at Quebec. It was interesting to see that he was recorded as a farm hand on the embarkation list, a sign that his eventual occupation had been decided before he left. An alternative web address for the same information from the same provider is www.ancestorsonboard.com.
The Findmypast website also has in its migration records various databases from the India Office and the East India Company. They will be useful if your family served the British Empire in some way. The site also has passport applications for the period 1851 to 1903, although only a minority of international travellers actually required a passport at this time.
A wider range of material for India is available on the impressive website of FIBIS, the Families In Bristish India Society. A new database is being launched at the Whodoyouthinkyouarelive! Family history show, and a whole range of new material is being added. There is no charge to use this website, and the data available includes baptisms, marriages and burials, wills, military records, and embarkations. There are useful sections for beginners, and the Society even organises trips to India for family historians. The FIBIS website can be found at www.fibis.org/ .
The National Archives has recently announced its plans for the 1911 census of England and Wales. On this occasion, it is the original household schedules that have been kept, not the enumerators’ summaries, and the number of images is fourteen times that of the 1901 census. Following the recent successful case under the Freedom of Information Act, we will not have to wait until 2012 for the census to become available, but it will not all be released at the same time. The plan is to make information available from 2009, beginning with the large conurbations. Let’s hope that Bristol is included. The company chosen to partner The National Archives in this project is Scotland’s People, established in 1995 and well-known for its partnership with the General Register Office for Scotland.
The 1911 census for Scotland will not be available until Spring 2011, but there are plans to digitise the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Ireland, and they will begin to become available online during 2007. Information on these plans can be found at www.gro-scotland.gov.uk for the Scottish census and www.nationalarchives.ie for the Irish census.
The Government was recently petitioned to reduce the classified period for census data from 100 years to 70 years. This petition was rejected, and the reasons can be found at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/CensusInfoFreed/. Incidentally, it was confirmed in the rejection that the 1931 census was destroyed by fire during the Second World War. No census was taken in 1941.
Finally, here is a website of local interest. The Thornbury Roots website, at www.thornburyroots.co.uk/index.htm is maintained by Chris and Sandra Doig and includes information from Trade Directories, and the histories of various streets. Of most interest to family historians will be the transcriptions, with photos in many cases, of the memorial inscriptions at Thornbury Cemetery and St Mary’s Church. It includes the following: Behold the tomb where SARA PURNELL lyes , a Spotless Corpes Voide of Infamie, Bewaile her not, With more than Bleased Eyes, A Saint in Heaven, free from Misserie, Beloved Alive, and Died, A Maiden Pure, A Shame to Death, Her Praise shall still Indure. Died A.D. 1632 aetatis suae 18.