RESEARCHING YOUR ANCESTORS
Joan P Smith 2014
There are two forms of Ancestral Research : GENEALOGY and FAMILY HISTORY.
GENEALOGY is the study of blood lines of descent from a particular ancestor or ancestors, with no particular interest in the lives of these ancestors – the foundations, so to speak. From this you can build a ‘skeleton’ tree, which can look quite impressive on the wall if you can include a distinguished name on it (even if it is a bit suspect!)
FAMILY HISTORY is not just genealogical descent but researching the lives and the social and economic history of the times in which these ancestors lived. From this you can build up a realistic picture of your ancestors’ lives.
It is essential to learn the fundamental basics of research, in order not to waste a great deal of time stumbling down (or up) blind alleys. There are many good books on tracing your family tree, which can usually be found in local libraries.
DO NOT make the mistake of thinking you can find all your family tree on the internet back to William the Conqueror, You CAN’T! Most experienced family historians have been unable to get back much beyond 1600. Researching your family history – and, being confident that it is correct, involves a great many hours (some of extreme frustration) tracking down original records.
DO NOT think you can just build a family tree from the IGI (International Genealogical Index compiled by the Mormons, or Church of the Latter Day Saints). This is a wonderful ‘finding aid’ which for most people is extremely useful. (*SEE BELOW) Until the advent of the Internet this was the most useful tool in Family History Research. I would imagine that it is rarely used now but following is an explanation of how it worked. It was available on Microfiche at all Record Offices and most Libraries. (I still use it occasionally to find out a person’s birth or marriage and then use those details on the Internet to get more information. I am fortunate in having my own copy of the IGI for Yorkshire and a Microfiche Reader!)
*UNDERSTANDING THE IGI This is perhaps the one thing that confuses newcomers to genealogy more than anything else. To understand the IGI and how it works, you must first understand what it is and what it is not. The IGI did not start out as an index for genealogists; it has become one by the goodwill of the LDS Church in making it available to all, whether church members or not. Its principal purpose is to act as a record of certain ceremonies which have taken place within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (otherwise known as the LDS or the Mormons). These are to do with the LDS beliefs of baptising their ancestors by proxy into the Mormon Church. To this end they have collected millions of entries from parish registers and Bishops’ Transcripts and also from their own members. So the IGI falls into two very distinct parts …
- What is called the “controlled extraction” program from parish registers and BTs.
- Private, or patron, submissions from church members.
The vital thing to remember when using the IGI is that entries which are from the controlled extraction program can generally be regarded as accurate, whilst private patron submissions are to be treated with extreme caution! There seems to be a belief among some newcomers that the IGI is the be-all and end-all of ancestry research. IT ISN’T! It is precisely what it says – an index only and must only ever be used in conjunction with other research.
The vital column to look at is that headed “BATCH”. If you know how to read the batch codes, you can tell whether the entries are from the controlled extraction program or from private submissions. Those codes beginning with C, K or J are taken from a christening (baptismal) register; those headed M or E are from a marriage register; and those headed P are from a printed copy or typed manuscript of a register. Note that P does not mean “private” as many people seem to think. All-numerical codes and those beginning with A or F are church member submissions and should, therefore, be treated with some caution.
When reading the IGI on the FamilySearch website, you should always go to the “Source Call” link, click on it and you will be taken to another screen inside the Family History Library Catalogue. This will tell you the precise source of the entry, i.e. whether from a parish register or a “patron submission“. I have noted when going to the “Source Call” that many entries seem to have been filmed from the Bishop’s Transcripts rather than the registers (BTs were copies of the registers sent annually by the incumbent to the Bishop). This is because in the early days of the IGI when many parish registers were still in the hands of the incumbents, many clerics would not allow the Mormons to film their registers, so they had to go to the BTs which were usually in the County Record Office or Diocesan Record Office (which are often the same thing).
The batch numbers are very important in two respects :
- In helping you to trace ancestors
- Establishing the original source of the records.
Always remember that the IGI is a very valuable tool as an index, but it is exactly that and NOT a primary source. You must always check anything you find on the IGI with the original records. When reading the IGI on fiche you can ignore the three columns headed B, S and E (baptism, sealing and endowment), since these are references to the private events within the Mormon Church that I have referred to. But remember not to confuse the LDS baptismal date with the actual date of baptism. The only relevance of those columns to us as genealogists is where you see an entry headed “Infant” or “Child” which normally means the named child died under the age of 8 and church ordinances were not performed.
In FamilySearch online, once you have obtained a batch number which relates to film of a particular parish register – let’s say a christening register – what you do is this :- go to CUSTOM SEARCH and select the IGI. Then by entering in the appropriate search boxes the batch number, a region, country and county ( you can dispense with the country and county as long as you enter the region and batch number), you can enter in the name boxes merely a surname and it should give you all the references to that surname within that particular parish. Further, by entering a father’s name – and sometimes a mother’s name, but not always, since the name of the mother often wasn’t given – it should give you all the children born to a particular couple in that parish. But do beware, of course, that if it is a fairly common surname there may well be more than one man, or one couple, of the same name in a parish.
Often if you get a batch code beginning with, say, C, by simply changing the letter to an M or an E you may well get the marriage register for that parish, likewise you may get a printed register by changing the initial letter to a P. Treat with care any entries with the word “relative” alongside them!!! These are mostly very old entries on the IGI and are the most unreliable of all. In the early days, Mormons were encouraged to submit as many entries as they could for ordinances. They collected references from far and wide and submitted everyone of the same surname, describing themselves as a “relative” whether there was any blood relationship or not. This often leads the unwary to try and build family trees from the IGI – something you should never do. Some unwary newcomers see an entry for, say, a James Brown married in a particular parish, with the appendage “Relative Edward Brown” alongside it, then find other entries for the children of a James Brown in another parish 20 miles away, with the same “Relative Edward Brown” alongside, and assume that the entries are for the same man. It may well be two entirely different James Browns, but Edward Brown in his enthusiasm to submit as many ancestors as possible for sealing and endowment has simply assumed they are the same person because they have the same name.
It was also a curious belief of LDS in the early days that everyone of the same surname must be members of the same family – which is of course not true. But to be fair to the LDS, they have now tightened up their procedures considerably. Also ignore those entries which use the word “about”, since these are extremely misleading. They are very unreliable, being no more than guesses arrived at by subtracting 25 years in the case of a man and 21 years for a woman from a marriage date to arrive at a supposed birth date.
Nor can you just ‘download’ a readymade family tree from Ancestral File or any of the other Websites – that is the way to end up with the wrong family tree altogether. The rule is: ‘if you cannot prove it yourself, or trust its source implicitly, then don’t incorporate it’!
Now you are ready to begin – you have decided on which type of researcher you are.
The most important step is the first one.
Consult all your living relatives, beg & plead with them to let you browse through the old boxes that they have shoved up in the attic. Get them to talk about ‘old times,’ (BUT don’t always take what they tell you as the truth!). Sometimes, older people are ashamed of something in the past and will ‘embroider it’ a bit. Nowadays illegitimacy seems to be the ‘norm’ but it wasn’t always.
Write everything down in an orderly fashion, not on scraps of paper in a carrier bag! Nowadays you can video relatives and record their information.
Mark all photographs on the back using a marker that doesn’t damage the photo. Please store them in a special album, or box, made of suitable material.
Find out as much as you can about the area you intend to research. Maps and gazetteers can be bought by mail order or online. Do think about joining a family history society covering the area your ancestors came from. You will receive a regular journal and be able to buy publications from the society also you will have access to a list of Members’ Interests
CIVIL REGISTRATION of Births, Marriages & Deaths began in England and Wales on July 1 1837. In Scotland it began on January 1 1855 and in Ireland on January 1 1864. Before those dates the only records of these events were religious ones in parish registers. There were no birth certificates before these dates. Churches did not issue birth certificates, the only record was an entry of baptism in the parish register – if you are lucky the date of birth may have been given also!
The master indexes of all births, marriages and deaths since July 1837 are kept at the NATIONAL ARCHIVES. They are in large bound volumes, arranged yearly by quarters. You look up the event you require in the indexes, then fill in a form and apply for the certificate.
Registration was not actually made compulsory until 1875 (people could be fined after that date for not registering a birth) and in the early years it has been estimated that in some areas as many as 20% of births were not registered.
You can obtain certificates by writing to the appropriate Register Office if you know the registration district in which an event took place, or order them from the General Register Office at Southport, which handles postal enquiries. (You can now also apply online). There’s more information here: General Register Office – AMF 2022
Unfortunately even original birth, marriage and death certificates are not always accurate as, our ancestors often lied to the Registrar. Usually, this was to conceal the fact that a marriage was bigamous or that one party was a lot older than the other and had lied to their partner about his/her age.
Be very careful of the ages on death certificates where the person concerned was born before 1837, since often people (and their relatives) in those days had only a rough idea of when they were born and, how old they actually were.
CENSUS RETURNS have taken place every 10 years since 1801. However, from 1801 to 1831 they were for statistical reasons only and in most cases no names were recorded. However, in a very few places the you may be lucky and find that enumerator had recorded names as well (usually only heads of households but very occasionally all members of the household) and some of these rare returns of 1801-1831 have survived in Record Offices. Here in the Wakefield District we are fortunate that Sandal 1801 and 1821 census (available from Wakefield & District Family History Society ) and Ossett 1821 (available at Ossett Library) show the names.
The earliest census to give names (apart from the rare exceptions such as the ones listed above) was that of 1841. Unfortunately the relationship of each member to the head of the household is not listed and, in most areas, the ages of adults over 15 was supposed to have been rounded down, to the nearest lower multiple of 5 (eg someone aged 34 was listed as 30). However not all enumerators complied or understood this regulation and sometimes gave the correct age or even rounded it up to the nearest higher multiple of 5. This can be very confusing to a new family historian, since the age may not tie up to given ages on birth/marriage certificates or in subsequent censuses. Also in 1841, the place of birth is not given, only a reference to whether they were born in the county of the present residence or not – yes or no!
From 1851 onwards more detailed information is given, relationships, ages and actual birth places. However, again, please be warned that this information was often inaccurate. People lied about their ages for many reasons and sometimes genuinely didn’t know how old they were, or where they were born. Often they gave as their birthplace the first place they could remember living in. They may state a village as a birthplace in one census and the nearest town in another.
All census returns from 1841 to 1911 are searchable on films, widely held in Record Offices/Libraries.
It is now possible to buy complete census sets on CD and research them online using one of the Family History websites.
PARISH REGISTERS & BISHOP’S TRANSCRIPTS
PARISH REGISTERS were introduced into England and Wales in 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII, ordered every parish to keep records of baptisms, marriages and burials. Until 1597 these were simply entered onto loose sheets, and unfortunately many sheets did not survive
In 1597 it was ordered that registers should be bound into volumes and also that copies should be sent to the Bishop’s office, these becoming known as the BISHOP’S TRANSCRIPTS. Sometimes you will find when researching that the original registers have disappeared but the BTs exist, They are now held almost entirely in record offices. The BTs quite often fill in gaps in the original registers – and sometimes the details given in the BTs vary from the registers, so, again, be careful!
A great many parish registers have been published in book form, usually by a county parish register society (as in the case of the Yorkshire Parish Register Society which has published a large number) or local FHS. Copies of these can be found in genealogical and local libraries, record offices, Mormon Family History Centres, etc. The Society of Genealogists library in London has probably the largest collection of printed Yorkshire parish registers outside Yorkshire. As always, it is always best to try and check the primary source – i.e. the original handwritten registers – but it is often difficult to see them these days, since many record offices now have a policy of not producing them for fear of deterioration. Normally, you have to make do with the film, but if you find a page you cannot read the archivist may sometimes let you see the original! I think this varies from office to office.
Many early registers are in Latin, so you may need to learn a little expertise in translating them.
Some clerics were sometimes forgetful, lazy or incompetent and either got entries wrong or forgot to enter events altogether! The detail given in register entries varies considerably also from parish to parish, depending on how conscientious or otherwise the incumbent was. Mostly, it is fairly sparse, giving only the date and nature of the event. In many baptismal entries only the father’s name is given and not the mother’s.
The form of entries in parish registers changed little between 1597 and 1754, when Hardwicke’s Marriage Act came into effect. This imposed a standard form of entry for marriage in an attempt to prevent clandestine marriages, of which there were many. It was possible to be married without the calling of banns or the obtaining of a licence, and there were certain clergymen willing to perform illicit marriages. The most notorious of these was in London’s Fleet Prison, where there were 217 marriages performed on the day before Hardwicke’s Marriage Act came into effect. After this date the record of marriage had to be signed by both parties and witnesses in a bound volume of printed forms.
During the Commonwealth period (after the Civil War and until the Restoration of Charles II) marriages were often conducted in places other than churches and the banns were often called in the nearest market place.
Do be extremely careful when recording in your family records any events from parish registers before 1752. Until that year, the New Year began not on January 1st but on Lady Day, March 25th (the Julian Calendar was changed to the Gregorian Calendar). Therefore, the entries continue beyond December 31 into the next year (in modern terms) as being the same year. The best way to write any date before 1752 between January 1 and March 25 is to follow this example: – February 17th 1677/8. However, if you are working from a printed register or transcription, do check that the date has not already been modernised. It should say so clearly somewhere at the front of the volume.
Remember that baptisms did not always take place immediately after birth. Sometimes the two events could be several years apart. You often come across cases of parents having several children baptised together, so a christening date is not necessarily a reliable guide to age.
In Yorkshire some parishes were extremely lucky in having what were called DADE REGISTERS, named after the Rev William Dade, vicar of several Yorkshire parishes, who instituted a system of giving substantially more information than normal. If you come across these they are a goldmine, since they usually give in a baptismal entry not only the name of the father but the mother’s name, father’s occupation, and the names of both grandfathers and parishes of residence, thus taking you back another generation and to other places. In 1812 a further new system was introduced extending the amount of information given but, ironically, giving less information than had previously occurred under Dade Registers. There is no overall guide to which parishes had Dade Registers but you will certainly know them when you see them.
The most important thing of all is “enjoy your hobby” – you will most likely find that it becomes very addictive.
© JOAN P SMITH 2014
(Please click on images for a better picture)
JOAN P SMITH – RESEARCH PROBLEM
JONAS EASTWOOD son of Thomas, Bapt. 30/3/1754 in Kirkburton, married
- BETTY MOREHOUSE on 23/11/1778 at Kirkburton.
Their son THOMAS was bapt 17/11/1781 in Skelmanthorpe.
BETTY EASTWOOD died pre 1797 and JONAS next married
- ANN SYKES on 14/2/1797.
JONAS & ANN had 9 children: William 1797; John 1799 (died 1801) John 1801; Joseph 1803; Jonas 1804; SARAH 1806 ; Ann 1808; George 1810 & Mary 1812. Bapt at Horbury
Therefore THOMAS & SARAH were half brother & sister.
THOMAS (aged 35) married SARAH (Sally) LISTER, aged 22 (Bapt 9/11/1794 daughter of JOSEPH LISTER of Horbury) on 26/8/1816 at St. John’s Wakefield. WDP 45/1/1 PG 129
Their children were: William 30/11/1817, Jonas 5/8/1821 and Elizabeth 20/8/1823
(William married Ann Balmforth and they had a daughter Caroline Bapt 18/5/1842). William was buried 24/6/1845 aged 27 (WDP 135/1/4/1 PG 206)
THOMAS EASTWOOD Died 9/8/1825 aged 44 leaving Sarah a widow with 3 children
MY BRICK WALL
In the HORBURY BAPTISMS REGISTER I found:
WILLIAM EASTWOOD Bapt 26/3/1826 and NEHEMIAH EASTWOOD (my Gt Gt Grandfather) Bapt 30/3/1828. Both sons of Sarah EASTWOOD Spinster
HORBURY CHURCHWARDEN’S BOOK 1830 – 1831 states that:
Widow EASTWOOD (late Thomas) and SARAH EASTWOOD are BOTH listed receiving money.
And the in BASTARDY BOOK in WY Archives:
SARAH EASTWOOD is receiving money between 1833 – 1834 from JOHN HARTLEY and JOS. SISWICK. (I think we can safely assume it is for two different children?)
NO TRACE OF SARAH EASTWOOD AFTER THIS DATE!
Sarah EASTWOOD (widow of Thomas) married Benjamin Goldthorpe 24/12/1832 at Wkfd All Sts WDP 3/3/9 No 302.
1841 CENSUS HO 107/1271/6 fol 10 pg 35
Scholefields Row, Horbury
Joseph LISTER 73; Robert BREWERTON 72; Ben GOLDTHORPE 29; Sarah GOLDTHORPE (formerly Eastwood, nee Lister) aged 47; Hannah GOLDTHORPE 7; Joseph GOLDTHORPE 5: Elizabeth EASTWOOD 17; NEHEMIAH EASTWOOD 11
When I first found this Census I had assumed that Sarah Goldthorpe was Nehemiah’s mother, but later found out that Sarah already had a son named William from her marriage to Thomas Eastwood, (see earlier) who was still alive in 1841!
Therefore Nehemiah must have been the son of Spinster SARAH EASTWOOD, daughter of JONAS! As she was the half sister of Thomas, possibly Nehemiah was living with Thomas’ widow Sarah, now Sarah Goldthorpe?
Also on the 1841 CENSUS for Horbury
John EASTWOOD 35 (Son of Jonas & Ann & older brother of Sarah); Fanny (Frances, wife) 40; with children Sarah 15; WILLIAM 15; Jonas 9; Ann 7; Joseph 5; Ellen 3; /Ann READY 18 Factory Girl
THERE ARE NO RECORDS OF A WILLIAM BEING BORN TO JOHN & FRANCES
Did Sarah [(widow of Thomas), take in Nehemiah, but, because she already had a son named William, did John Eastwood (brother of Nehemiah & William’s mother Sarah)] take in William???
NEHEMIAH EASTWOOD married SARAH GRACE MARSDEN on 18/2/1849 at Sandal, Wakefield.
On the marriage certificate he gave his father’s name as THOMAS EASTWOOD!! Did he genuinely think this was correct or did he not want to admit that he was illegitimate?? (NB when his half- brother William married the father’s name was left blank)
Healey, Ossett RG9/3414 fol 62 pg 30
William EASTWOOD 35, Mary 31 & family and Sarah PEACE (Mother in law)
ARE LIVING NEXT DOOR TO:
John SISWICK (aged 27), son of Joseph & family,
Is this a clue that they are half brothers????
Can I safely assume then that JOHN HARTLEY was Nehemiah’s father?
In the Bastardy Book John Hartley was also paying money to Sarah Charlesworth!! He must have been a right bastard!!!
When searching the Prison Registers I found an entry for a John Hartley for bastardy around the right date. He was shown as being committed at Bradford. As Quarter Sessions were held at different venues this could have been him. However, I could not get the records of this as they were missing!!!
I have checked every source that I am aware of and not found her – not on any census; deaths, burials; marriages, deportation lists; M.I’s (even checked if she was buried in Nehemiah’s grave and her name not on the head stone). I found a Sarah Eastwood, unmarried with a daughter Amy in Huddersfield in 1861 and thought I had solved the puzzle but then traced Sarah’s birth in Huddersfield.
WHAT HAPPENED TO SARAH EASTWOOD??
AM I A ‘HARTLEY’ OR A ‘SISWICK’?
Joan P Smith 2014
Whilst the Owner always uses her best endeavours to ensure the information on this website is accurate and complete, errors may from time to time occur. The Owner will not be held responsible for the consequence of such errors but will make efforts, where possible, to make corrections. Wherever possible it is advisable to consult the source