Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Free Online Genealogy Tools: 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealaogy

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy
Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/  in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has begun a new series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of  52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy. Week 3  Free Online Genealogy Tools:  Which one are you most thankful for? How has it helped your family history experience?

www.familysearch.org has to be the main free online genealogy tool that first comes to mind.  The research into my Rawcliffe ancestors had led me to assume that,  like all my mother's family, they were very firmly based in the Fylde area of  Lancashire, England.  So it was a huge surprise to find,  in a very casual browsing for Rawcliffes,  an entry for Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe (my great grandmother's sister),  born Hambleton 1853 and that she had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey on 24th February 1930 - the first time I was aware of any American connection.   I discovered that Alice, after 6 children born in England, went onto have five more children in Brooklyn New York - the eldest Arthur Valentine, born appropriately on February 14th.  See A Lancashire Lass in New York.

When much of the information is contributed, I would have reservations on relying on Family Search, as I have come across conflicting information.     But it is an obvious place to make a start, particularly where you do not have  easy access to original source material.

Again at an early stage of my family history research,  I found www.genuki.co.uk very useful.  It is a virtual reference library of genealogical sources for the UK and Ireland,
 and covers every county in the UK with information on parishes, churches, libraries, family history societies, registrars, etc. Well worth exploring. 

I  have also made use of the free sites www.freecen.rootsweb.com and www.freebmd.rootsweb.com, as an alternative to the subscription sites. 

If searching for British & Commonwealth wartime casualties, the starting point has to be  the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site - www.cwgc.org. The Debt of Honour Register offers a free search facility, with details and images on the scene of war, place of burial and often notes next of kin.  An invaluable source that provided a moving account of my great uncle George's death and burial in 1916, aged only 22.

The website indexes  of the National Archives in London (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) enabled me to trace  death duty records for my great, great, great great grandfather John Danson, with the mariners' register also listing my  husband's seafaring ancestor Robert Donaldson.  The index search was free, but the only down side was that I had to get someone in London to  obtain the actually copies of the records for me.  


Family history is so much more than names and dates, and the availability of online information endless - here is a brief list of sites that I have found very useful in helping to tell the stories of my ancestors' lives.

  • Looking for original archive material? Go online to http://www.nas.gov.uk/ (National Archives of Sctoland) and http://www.scan.org.uk/ (Scotish Archive Network).  They  both provide gateways to collections of original archive material, searchable by name and place,  with much more besides such as source guides, glossaries, old handwriting, etc.  I traced 18th property records relating to my husband's ancestor, merchant Samuel Donaldson.  I don't find the site and the online catalogues the most user-friendly, but these are essential sites for researching Scottish local and family history.  
  • Where and how did your Scottish Ancestors live?  Browse through www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk for Information about Scottish places past and present.  The site  also features Farm Horse Tax Roll 1797-98, and the Clock & Watch Tax Roll, 1797-98, Land Ownership Commission Report 1874, listing owners of land, and Medical Officer of Health reports from 1890. A quirky collection which might produce some fascinating results.
  • Have you found a British ancestor described in a census return as a "pauper"?   If so, click onto www.workshouses.org.uk  It offers a comprehensiveive look  at the operation of the poor law, buildings, inmates, staff and administrators and Includes pages with 1881 census return.  A very good portrayal of workhouse life.
  • Was your ancestor a Scottish architect?  Then take a look at  www.codexgeo.co.uk/dsa, a database providing biographical information and job lsits for all architects (principals, assistants and apprentices) known to have worked in Scotland 1840-1940.
  • Looking to calculate British relative money values across the centurie?  Try www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/
  • What was life like in Victorian Britain?  www.bbc.co.uk/history/British/Victorians provides very useful background  to the 1841-1901 census records.  
Not forgetting  the websites of local archive centres, local family history societies, local history societies etc. etc.   - and of course Google!   

1 comment:

  1. The sites on your list are among my favourites too. I particularly like FreeBMD, and I have been contacted by two 'new relatives' as a result of using Postems on FreeBMD. If more people used the feature to best advantage, I'm sure many more useful contacts would be made.

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