In the June issue of the Journal, I suggested that this would be a bumper year for family historians who use the Internet. Some recent developments have proved this to be the case.
Origins.net had already published the 1841 census for Gloucestershire and Bristol earlier this year, but several more counties have now been added. These include Somerset, so that the whole of our area is now covered. One local hero you can find is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who is listed aged 35 residing in the High Street in Bath. Other counties available at the time of writing are Dorset, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Essex & Suffolk. Origins.net is a subscription site, with various subscription options. Access is also given to certain 1871 census indexes and a range of databases from the Society of Genealogists, including Boyd’s Marriage Index. Origins.net can be found at http://www.originsnetwork.com/.
As more material becomes available online, so we are now being offered choices in the databases and systems that we use. Ancestry have added the 1861 census to their previous offering of the 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses, using much the same format but with some variation on what you can view without subscription. Subscription options are unlimited annual or quarterly, or pay-per-view of £6.99 for 20 images over seven days. Ancestry is at http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ The alternative source for the 1861 census can be found at 1837online (http://www.1837online.com/) where the range of counties transcribed has been expanded recently to 39, including London, Somerset, Gloucestershire Wiltshire and Monmouthshire. Having two indexes to search means you have a better chance of finding those entries which are poorly written. I was looking for a Reuben Hilder, and found him correctly listed on the Ancestry index, but with the last letter of his surname as “n” in the 1837online index.
If you have ancestors in the Thornbury, Berkeley and Oldbury on Severn area, then you will find the Scribe’s Alcove website very useful. The site contains transcriptions of the parish registers from 1700-1900 (with some gaps) for the parishes of Berkeley, Hill, Oldbury on Severn, Rockhampton, Stone and Thornbury, together with a short description of each parish. Scribes Alcove can be found at http://www.scribes-alcove.co.uk/.
A new website to help you contact people with the same ancestors as yourself is Lost Cousins (http://www.lostcousins.com/). This makes use of the 1881 census, which was transcribed by the LDS church and is available from a variety of sources. Basically, you enter details of those of your ancestors who are listed on the 1881 census, including the full reference details of piece number, folio number and page number. These unique references are then compared with the submissions from other people, and common entries reveal those missing cousins. The website is free to use at present, but it is necessary to register. It is hoped to introduce links on other census records in due course.
If you have family in Canada, you will want to know that the 1911 census is now available online at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/archivianet/1911/. It is only searchable by place at present, although there are plans by various organisations to provide a name index.
Keeping up with developments in family history can be time consuming, but there are two American websites which you may find useful. The first is Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter at http://www.eogn.com/, which is maintained by Dick Eastman and is available in both a free and an enhanced subscription version. Although Dick Eastman is based in the U.S., he is an anglophile and has attended (and written enthusiastically about) the Society of Genealogists fair. The other site is “Genealogy and How” at http://www.genealogyandhow.com/. This also contains a useful list of other blogs and news websites on family history.
Were any of your family involved in trials at the Old Bailey? If so, the website at http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/ provides a fully searchable online site containing accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court from 1674 to 1834. The trials are recorded verbatim, and many of them have a local connection, which can be discovered by doing a keyword search on the place name.
Finally, the General Register Office has begun the process of digitising the 260 million records of Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1837 onwards. This task is not expected to be completed for about three years, but all the records sent in by local register offices are being scanned and then reindexed, so that they are more easily accessible. As is so often the case these days, this reindexing is being done in India, where are costs are substantially lower. The original certificates are not being sent to India, only the scanned images, and there are safeguards to prevent the unauthorised release of personal information. I understand that the new indexes, which will be held electronically, will be both more accurate and more detailed than the existing ones, so that, for example, all death indexes will have the age at death, and all marriage indexes will have the surname of the spouse. This should make research much easier, and further increase the demand for certificates, now running at over one million a year.