Hits: 2006

In the last issue, I looked at some websites and CDs which contain the basic national information for family historians – records of births, marriages and deaths, and the census. This time, the details are of websites with a more local focus, and some which will help you expand and put in context what you already know.


It is well known that the national registers of births, marriages and deaths are not 100% accurate. Some information was never sent in from the local Register Office, and on other occasions names have been wrongly indexed. Some local Register Offices are now providing their own on-line indexes, and these together with other useful sources of information are listed on UKBMD. It is not always easy to keep up to date with this sort of information, so UKBMD is a useful first step in finding out what is available. It can be found at http://www.ukbmd.org.uk/index.php.

National Archivist website may sound like something official, but it is not.  It is a pay-per-view site and describes itself as  “part of Trusted Third Party Limited, an independent UK registered company (No. 3745789.) The company is registered under the Data Protection Act and provides digitised images of original records from The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), London, England and other organisations under license.” It has information from such sources as death duty registers, divorces, passports, births marriages and deaths at sea, and migration. Searching the indexes is free, and viewing a document costs about 20p. You purchase credits in advance, and use them within a stated time. The website is at http://www.nationalarchivist.com/

Researchers who have an interest in Bristol as a port should look at Port Cities. This describes itself as “a partnership of websites supported by the New Opportunities Fund.  It gives access to the collections contributed by heritage organisation in five key maritime cities around the UK – Bristol, Hartlepool, Liverpool, London and Southampton. The PortCities collection will grow as other museums, libraries and archives add their own port histories, giving a truly national picture of the UK's colourful maritime past”. The different sections have been contributed by organisations located in the respective cities, and seem to concentrate on particular issues relating to the city. The Bristol site is therefore largely about the Slave Trade, which means it gives an incomplete picture of the activities of Bristol as a trading port, and the links it had with other cities and countries around the world, and the products that were traded. It is still a good source of information, however. The Port Cities site can be found at http://www.portcities.org.uk/.

Now for two personal sites which will be of value to readers with interests in particular localities. The first is called Portbury Hundred and includes transcriptions of parish registers and other documents relating to Long Ashton, Nailsea, Pill, Portishead and the Gordano Valley. It has been compiled by Mary Mason and can be found at http://www.mary.mason.btinternet.co.uk/index.html. The second site belongs to Robert Millard and is centred on Hawkesbury in the north-east of our area. It contains census records, parish register transcripts, details of wills and poor law records and can be found at http://www.btinternet.com/~ra.millard/index.htm. My only local ancestors came from Hawkesbury and this site, and the people who have contributed to it, have been a great source of help.

If you have ancestors who went to Australia, then you should look at New South Wales State Records. This includes immigration, naturalisation, and convicts. It is an index, rather than online records, but it will give you a good indication of what is available. It can be found at http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/.

Two questions that family historians are always asking is the how much a particular amount is worth in today’s money, and how to calculate a birth date from an age at death. The first question can be resolved at a website provided by Economic History Services at http://www.eh.net/ehresources/howmuch/poundq.php. When using the site, you need to remember that there are different rates of inflation for different items, and both wages and property values are difficult to calculate over time. When my grandmother died in a terrace house in Portsmouth in 1919, she left £448. Leaving aside the interesting questions of where she got that money, and what happened to it afterwards, I reckon that was about the value of the family home. The website calculates that as being £12322 in today’s money, but I would expect the house to be sold for nearer £100,000 today.

American records in particular often show an age at death in terms of years, months and days. You can use Formula 8870 to calculate a birth date from a death date, and the formula can be found at http://www.hackerscreek.com/formula.htm.

I like to end with something different, and the website of the Land Registry enables you to download details of current ownership of registered property in England and Wales. Land Registry Online can be found at http://www.landregisteronline.gov.uk/ . You type in the address and postcode and then download a file in PDF format to print off. The cost is £2 per document. In some cases, the price paid is also shown. If the deeds to your home are with the building society, and you want to check your obligations to a neighbour concerning a fence or joint right of way, this can be an easy way of finding them out. Of course, you can also find out what your neighbour’s obligations are to you. It is what the tabloid press would call a snooper’s charter.