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Tuesday, 7 April 2015


A-Z of Family History Sources & Stories 
Join me on this A-Z journey to explore the fascinating records 
that can  enhance your family history research and writing.

The big three C's are at the core of all family history activity.  Although many readers will be familiar with them, I could not write this challenge without giving them at least a  mention.

Compulsory registration of births, marriages and deaths became law in England in 1837- much later in Scotland (1855), where the records are more informative, giving on marriage and death certificates, the names of both parents.    
Whereas you can only access indexes online for English records, the website ScotlandsPeople shows digitized versions of the actual records and this is the definitive source for anyone tracing Scottish ancestors - more information  throughout this challenge.  

The ten yearly CENSUS RETURNS are some of the most informative records in family history research, listing everyone (including lodgers & servants) at a particular address and giving age, marital status, occupation and parish of birth.  This means you can estimate a year of birth, and year of marriage  (generally in the year before the birth of the eldest child).  The records can often bring to light details of unknown family members - I discovered that my great grandfather was one of nine children, although family recollections only knew of  one brother.  Censuses can be the prompt to further research in so many different records. as explored  later in my A-Z journey.   

CHURCH RECORDS/OLD PARISH RECORDS - the main source of genealogical information on baptisms, marriages and burials prior to compulsory registration and the earliest census returns of 1841.

Here is the 1758 marriage record for my husband's  4 times great grandfather Samuel Donaldson, merchant in South Leith parish, near Edinburgh. 

Less familiar C's  

CHURCH MAGAZINES - Archive Centres may well hold copies relevant to their region and these can provide an insight  into your ancestors church-going activities - was he/her a choir member, Sunday school teacher, organist, sideman, elder (Church of Scotland), or   might he/her been present at key events, such as the unveiling of the War Memorial in the church.  
St. Chad's, Poulton-le-Fylde Lancashire where my Danson family, back to 1736
 sang in the choir and were baptised, confirmed, married, and buried. 

Today, CONFIRMATION is  less a milestone than it was. but your family may well have  photographs and mementos from this event. 
Prayer book presented to my grandmother on her confirmation in 1904.

My husband's mother Ivy White on her confirmation at South Shields,  c.1922

Not forgetting COPYRIGHT - protecting our own work and that of others. A complex subject that an Archivist can advise on. 


Onto D for Deaths, Dictionaries, Directories & Diaries

Copyright © 2015 Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. It's interesting to see what different sources are available in other countries. I also like seeing how census records differ. Church magazines -- now that's one I wouldn't have thought of. I have a few church bulletins from just regular Sunday services, and now I'm thinking with all those people's names mentioned, that would be a good thing for a church member to collect, archive, and index for the future.

  2. Thank you for your response, Wendy., and I do like your idea of someone volunteering to collect and index names that feature in church magazines. My parents kept the magazines with announcements of the burial of my grandparents, their own wedding and the baptism of my brother and myself. In the church is also a First World War memorial plaque with the name of my great uncle, and a large board inscribed with names of sidemen, back to the 18th century, including to my great great great grandfather.

  3. A couple of my husband's relatives have created family trees. It is pretty cool (and HUGE). We even found out that one of his relatives came to the US on the Mayflower! It is amazing what you can all find out from a family tree and all the cool stuff they have collected from his ancestors!


  4. A terrific theme Sue. I like the way you mention the benefits of each resource as to what sort of things you have discovered. FindMyPast here in Australia has digitised some Church newspapers as have the National Library (Trove). They are a great resource. Regards Anne ayfamilyhistory.blogspot.com


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