1921 Census of England and Wales to be released January 6, 2022

1921 Census of England and Wales to be released January 6, 2022, at 00:01 GMT

The 1921 Census of England and Wales is recorded in 28,000 bound volumes stored at The National Archives. FindMyPast was given exclusive access to digitize these records. There are 18,235,242 color images provided that have been indexed, for over 38 million men, women and children.

You will be able to search and access these records exclusively online at FindMyPast beginning on January 6, 2022, at 00:001GMT. They will appear nowhere else online for at least three years. A copy of the record transcript can be accessed for US$3.50, and the original image for US$4.90. If you are not a current subscriber, you will need to register to access the records. You can do that now ahead of the release. If you are a subscriber, you will receive a 10% reduction in the fees. My suggestion is to go directly to the original image, as that is the important way to document your ancestors, and only pay for the transcript if you are having trouble reading the original and you need a second opinion.

You can view the records for free only at The National Archives at Kew, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, and at Manchester Central Library.

Why is this census so important?

This census is important because the 1931 census was destroyed by fire during WWII. The 1941 census was cancelled because of the war. The 1951 census will be released in 2052. I would like to think I might be still alive then, but at 98 I will certainly be in my dotage. Plus of course it provides information not available in earlier censuses.

Details in the 1921 Census

A full entry on a standard household schedule will include:

  • Full address of the property
  • Names of person in each household
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Age in years and completed months
  • Sex
  • Marriage or orphanhood
    • For those over 15, single, married, widowed, and for first time divorced
    • For those under 15, identify in both parents alive, father dead, mother dead or both dead
    • Important due to impact of WWI and flu epidemic: 730,000 children recorded as ‘father dead’ versus 260,000 with ‘mother dead’
  • Place of birth, nationality for those born outside the UK
  • Occupation and employment
    • If in full or part time education
    • Name and type of employer
    • If out of work, give last employer
    • Place of work, employers address (except those in private employment such as domestic service)
  • Number of children or stepchildren under the age of 16

How to Prepare

Ideally you want to be prepared for the census release. Here is a suggestion and an indication of what I am doing to prepare.

I am going through my genealogy software and identifying the couples that I expect to find in the census. This hopefully will pick up many of the children. I can go back later and identify single men, women, or children whom I have not caught in the initial search.

For each couple, I am writing down their full names, months and years of birth, and place and county of birth – all of which are searchable fields.

My next step is then to search for the couples in the FindMyPast dataset for “England and Wales, Electoral Registers 1910-1932”, limiting my search to 1921 only. For most places there will be a result for Spring 1921 of a specific street address. I am then recording this. You may have alternative places in your database for dates close by from birth, marriage, or death certificates. Please note this electoral registers dataset does not appear to be complete, as I can’t locate any of the Crowhurst or Milner families in the River Medway towns in Kent. You can try one of the alternative sets of electoral registers.

In a perfect index, finding an address would not be required, though it might help to distinguish between individuals of the same name. However, no index is perfect. Let me give one example. In the 1939 Register, on FindMyPast, my maternal grandparents are indexed under the surname ‘~???’ which is not a surname that you can search on. My grandfather had also supplied an incorrect year of birth, and his date of birth was also incorrectly indexed. My grandmother used a variation of her Christian name but did have her correct birthdate and year. The only way I found my grandparents was through the street search.

Without a doubt, the more information you have written down on the people you are looking for, the more flexible you can be in your search technique.

Accessing the 1921 Census

As mentioned above the 1921 Census of England and Wales is to be released exclusively on FindMyPast on January 6 at 00.01 GMT. Access to you will depend on your local time zone. For those like me in the central time zone in the USA that means access to the records begins on January 5 at 6:01 pm.

There will be three landing pages within FindMyPast.

Main 1921 Census landing page – www.findmypast.com/1921-census

Address Search landing page – www.findmypast.com/1921-census/address

Employer Search landing page – www.findmypast.com/1921-census/employer

Prior to the release of the 1921 Census on January 6, selecting any of the above links gets you the countdown clock as a holding page. The main landing page provides additional background information.

Now is the time to prepare for your searches. You should also keep track of who you have searched for, who you have found, who is still to be found, and who is missing from the household in which you were expecting to find them.

Happy Hunting.

Book Review: Tracing Your Female Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians by Edele Emm

Tracing Your Female Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Edèle Emm.  Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishers 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2019. 220 pp. Illustrations, Index Softcover.

This book primarily focuses on the period from 1815, when Britain was plunged into economic crisis following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, to 1914, the start of the First World War, an event which irrevocably changed everyone’s lives, especially for women. It succeeds in enhancing our understanding of the daily life and the battles fought by our female ancestors and recommends the genealogical sources for more information that more deeply inform women’s lives and lifestyles. 

The book examines different aspects of a woman’s life in detail, explaining the limitations placed on her by the men around her, or by society in general. The reader can hardly fail to see also how much things changed for women during this tumultuous century. Examining the sections in chapter one on birth, marriage and death, for example, show how broadly the author treats the subject. It covers not only the  birth of children but also illegitimacy, bastardy books, magistrate court records and bastardy trials, unmarried mothers’ hostels, vaccination certificates, abortion, and adoption. For marriage, it covers newspaper collections, photographs, morganatic marriages, breach of promise, dowries and prenuptial agreements, Married Women’s Property Acts 1870 and 1882, divorce, and bigamy. For death it also includes coroner’s bills, wills and probate. Overall, these are not the commonly searched records when looking for birth, marriage or death information. Yet for women they can be vitally important.

The remaining chapters address the following topics equally thoroughly: education, crime and punishment, daily life, a hard day’s work and emancipation. Suggestions provided by the author  will teach the reader to  look at the usual record groups a little differently, and at the same time make suggestions about where to look to find out more about the lives of women in this time period. Many of the sections within chapters contain bibliographies for that topic. (Note that the published references given within the text may or may not be included in the concluding bibliography.)

The book concludes with a valuable timeline, going from 1753 Marriage Act up through the 1970 Equal Pay Act. Researchers will find this timeline especially useful for determining when rules may have changed, and why. There is also a good comprehensive index.  Your reviewer marked many items in this book for later follow up and research. For those struggling to track the women on their family trees, or wanting to flush out their lives more, especially in the 1815-1914 time period when so much was changing for women, it is an invaluable resource.

Paul Milner receives David S. Vogels Jr. Award from FGS

Federation of Genealogical Societies Logo

Federation of Genealogical Societies Announces 2020 Awards
9/2/2020 – Austin, TX.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies announced the recipients of its 2020 Awards at its Virtual Family History Conference on September 2, 2020. These award recipients have exhibited outstanding service, excellence, and achievement in genealogical pursuits.
Repository of the Year Award: Mid-Continent Public Library and Midwest Genealogy Center
This award recognizes a library, archive, historical society, museum, academic institution, or other repository for its exceptional impact and contribution to the genealogy community, preservation of records, access to records, technology advances, or other services to family history. The Mid-Continent Public Library and the Midwest Genealogy Center were recognized for their exceptional impact and contributions to the genealogy community. Cheryl Lang, Manager of the Midwest Genealogy Center, and Steve Potter, Director of the Mid-Continent Public Library, provided significant support to prepare for the 2020 FGS Conference originally planned for in Kansas City on September 2. Although the conference transitioned to virtual, MCPL continued to support librarians and genealogists by providing a learning experience entitled “Why Genealogy Matters to Public Libraries,” by Steve Potter, which is available for free with a registration to the 2020 Family History Conference.
George E. Williams Award: Rick and JoAnn Shields
This award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions within a single year to either FGS, a member organization, or both. Rick and JoAnn Shields were recognized for their above and beyond efforts to organize and implement the FGS 2020 Conference and transition it to a virtual event. Without their efforts, the last FGS conference would not have been possible.
Rabbi Malcom H. Stern Humanitarian Award: Miriam Weiner
The Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern Humanitarian Award recognizes the lifetime contributions of a rare individual whose positive personal influence and example have fostered unity in the genealogical community, provided leadership to its individual members, and helped make family history a vital force in the community at large. This year we honor Miriam Weiner for her leadership and contributions to the genealogical community. Miriam has been described as the genealogist who lifted the “Archival Iron Curtain.” For years, she has actively worked to make previously unaccessible records available to those interested in researching the history of their ancestors. Her career represents the highest standard that embodies both the purpose and spirit of this award.
Loretto Dennis Szucs Award: Gary Mokotoff
This award recognizes the contributions of an individual whose positive personal influence and extraordinary service to FGS and the genealogy industry have gone above and beyond the norm, impacting the overall benefit to the genealogical community at large and spreading the awareness of family history to the general public. This year Gary Mokotoff is recognized for his many years of dedicated service and for helping to revolutionize the way we do research. Gary became involved in genealogy in 1979 and has spent many years serving the genealogical community in many leadership positions. He used his computer background to develop some of the earliest databases for Jewish genealogy including the Jewish Genealogical Family Finder (now called JewishGen Family Finder), a database used by more than 100,000 Jewish genealogists. Gary was also instrumental in founding the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.
David S. Vogels Jr. Award: Paul Milner and Frederick E. Moss
This award is given to two individual this year in recognition of outstanding career contributions to FGS. FGS recognizes Paul Milner for his years of service to FGS and his contributions to the FORUM magazine with over 1,000 book reviews contributed during the last 25 years.
FGS also recognizes Frederick E. Moss for his years of guidance and tireless service to FGS and the Records Preservation and Access Committee. Fred has worked tirelessly to help the organization and to protect access to documents of importance to family historians.
Director’s Award: FamilySearch and Pat Rand
The Director’s Award is presented in recognition of both exceptional contributions to the field of genealogy and family history, and extra-mile efforts to promote good will and improve services. This year, FGS recognizes both an organization and individual for their exceptional contributions. FGS first recognizes FamilySearch for the efforts of its volunteers who contributed to the US- Mexican War Soldiers and Sailors database project.
FGS also recognizes Pat Rand for her extraordinary efforts and contribution to the US- Mexican War Soldiers and Sailors database project to preserve the history and commemorate the veterans who sacrificed in this war. Pat endured for years to make sure that this project was accomplished and it is now available on the Palo Alto Battlefield National Park Service website. Pat was also recognized by the National Park Service with the Regional Hartzog Enduring Service Award. The Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was created by former NPS director George Hartzog, Jr. and his wife Helen to honor the efforts of volunteers who go beyond the normal call of duty. The Hartzog Enduring Service Award recognizes an individual who made a
significant difference through specific volunteer work that has a sustained, positive impact and advances the NPS mission
Genealogical Tourism Award: Jacqueline Bidanec, HPN Global Meeting Services
This award recognizes and encourages a phenomenon garnering greater public attention: tourism and travel related to family history. This year FGS recognizes Jacqueline Bidanec and HPN Global Meeting Services for proving superb event planning and management support, including during the difficult times resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
FORUM Writer’s Award: Jane Neff Rollins
The FORUM Writer’s Award recognizes an outstanding contribution to the FGS magazine, FORUM. This year’s recipient is Jane Neff Rollins, for her article “Labor Union Documents: Genealogically Relevant Sources,” which appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of FORUM. Rollins’s contribution provided a wealth of information on the types of records available, how to find them, and how they can be used for genealogy.
Award of Merit
For contributions to the US-Mexican War database project, the following individuals are recognized with the Award of Merit:
• Karen Weaver, NPS
• Barbara Brown, Texas
• David Davenport, California
• David A. Lambert, Massachusetts
• Linda Sparks, Arizona
• Curt Witcher, Indiana
• Craig Scott, North Carolina
• John Peterson, NPS (retired)
• Patricia Adams, Florida
• Joshua Taylor, New York
The Federation of Genealogical Societies congratulates all of the 2020 award recipients A special thank you also goes out to Awards Chair, Juliana Szucs, for her efforts in this endeavor.
About the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)
The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) was founded in 1976 and empowers the genealogical and family history community, especially its societies and organizations, by advocating for the preservation and access of records and providing resources that enable genealogical organizations to succeed in pursuing their missions. FGS helps genealogical societies and family history enthusiasts alike to strengthen and grow through online resources, FGS FORUM magazine, and through its annual national conference. FGS launched the Preserve the Pensions project in 2010 to raise more than $3 million to digitize and make freely available the pension files from the War of 1812. Fundraising was completed for that project in 2016 and the digitization continues. FGS was also the driving force behind the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors project alongside the National Parks Service. To learn more visit fgs.org.

Contact: Federation of Genealogical Societies PO Box 200940 Austin, TX 78720-0940 phone: +1 (888) 347-1500 fax: +1 (866) 347-1350 office@fgs.org

Book Review: Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, Second Edition by Chris Paton

Irish Family History Internet
Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, Second Edition by Chris Paton

Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians. Second Edition. By Chris Paton.  Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishers 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. 2019. 179 pp. Illustrations, Index Softcover.

For readers outside of Ireland, who primarily do their Irish research online, this book is a must. It is not a listing of websites to use, but rather an excellent annotated guide to doing Irish research. While other books address the records, this one tells the researcher where it is best to access the records and why. Plus, it gives lots of practical tips on using the sites, and why one site may be better than another – clearer images, better search options, fewer indexing errors or omissions, and the like.

The book opens with a chapter on the genealogical landscape, addressing where to find the records, both in person, and also, more importantly, online. Sources include libraries, heritage centers, societies, archives, commercial services, online gateway sites, and more. The following three chapters address the vital records, where subjects lived, and their occupations. These are simple enough chapter titles, but they cover more than might be expected. For example, the chapter on vital records covers: civil registration; other civil sources; adoption and children; records in Britain; overseas British records; surname distributions; parish registers; burials; wills and probate; newspapers; books and periodicals; and DNA testing.

The following chapter is aimed at those who left more recently, or those seeking family who remained in Ireland, examining in detail the rapidly growing collection of online material addressing the Decade of Centenaries. This covers the events of 1912 to 1923, a period of enormous societal and constitutional change in Ireland. There are records covering the: home rule crisis; women’s suffrage; Dublin lockout; First World War; Easter Rising; Independence; treaty and civil war; and the legacy of these events.

The following four chapters examine each of the four provinces, arranged by county, highlighting the major online historical and genealogical sites for each area. The author acknowledges that the listings are woefully incomplete, but they provide a good online starting point for any county of interest.

The closing chapter looks at Ireland’s diaspora, addressing emigration in general and then highlighting sources specific to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. It concludes by pointing to resources for those seeking Irish citizenship and obtaining an Irish passport.

As might be expected there is a lot of material on all these subjects on the big commercial sites – FindMyPast, Ancestry, and The Genealogist. For each, Mr. Paton indicates what the data collections are called, thus making them easier to locate in their catalogs. He also rates the sites based on their usefulness to the researcher.

A lot has changed for the better in Irish research since the first edition appeared in 2013. This book could easily become the first go to book for any researcher seeking anything to do with Irish research. The records available are put in historical context with Mr. Paton pointing the reader to sources of background information and the ever-desired names of ancestors. The writing style is clear, practical and easy to understand. It is highly recommended.

Book Review: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry through Church & State Records: A Guide for Family Historians by Chris Paton

Scottish Research Church and State Records
Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors through Church & State Records: A Guide for Family Historians by Chris Paton

Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry through Church & State Records: A Guide for Family Historians. By Chris Paton.  Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishers 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $26.95. 2019. 162 pp. Illustrations, Index Softcover.

Since 1707 Scotland has been united with the rest of Britain, leading to a more homogeneous approach to worldwide affairs as the British Empire flourished. However, in three important ways Scotland remained independent, first with its own legal system, heavily influenced by Roman Law and the feudal form of land tenure, long abandoned by the rest of Britain. Second, Scotland kept its own state church, which differed markedly from its Anglican equivalent and fought within itself frequently over the issue of control between patrons and members. Third, Scotland kept its own education system, with its own challenges created by rapidly changing demographics during the Industrial Revolutions and the aftermath of the Irish Famine in the mid-nineteenth Century.

All of these issues, and their effect on the records, are addressed in this excellent guide. The material is presented in nine chapters. The first examines the research resources, i.e. where the records are kept and issues researchers will run into, like handwriting and language. The next three chapters focus on birth, marriage and death, examining civil registration, Church of Scotland records, and then other churches. Chapter five, titled “Where Were They?” examines records showing where people lived, covering topics such as census, electoral registers, valuation rolls, burgh assessment rolls, tax records, forfeited estates, maps and more. Chapter six addresses land tenure, where Scots Law is based upon a system established from Celtic, Norse, Roman and Norman practices in place long before the union with the rest of Britain, yet is paradoxically continually evolving to meet current needs. Land tenure is closely connected with the following chapter on inheritance, which clearly addresses the different procedures and records associated with ‘moveable estate’ and ‘heritable estate’ until 1868. The final chapter examines law and order, explaining the various court systems in place and how different crimes were handled.

Mr. Paton writes clearly, based on experience with the records, providing lots of practical guidelines on how to find what is needed in them. He also provides the political or legal background to make the records and their contents understandable. The book itself is laid out for the ease of researchers. The table of contents provides the chapter titles and all the sub-headings, making finding a topic easy. The index itself is more extensive and thorough than most indexes to books in this series, adding value to its usefulness. The book also highlights what can be found online and what researchers will need to research in Scotland.

The scope of the book includes records of the Church and the State, the primary producers of records in Scotland. Researchers at all levels of experience with Scottish ancestors will find easy to follow suggestions and guidance in this book. It is thus highly recommended for anyone doing Scottish research.

Book Review: Tracing Your Georgian Ancestors 1714-1837: A Guide for Family Historians by John Wintrip

Tracing Your Georgian Ancestors 1714-1837: A Guide for Family Historians

Tracing Your Georgian Ancestors 1714-1837: A Guide for Family Historians. By John Wintrip. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $26.95. 2018. 212 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Many British researchers run into brick walls when they cross into the pre-1837 period, with the quick easy nationwide indexes and resources having gotten them this far. This book is a companion volume to the authors Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians, reviewed here, which focused on the methodology for researching in this period. Readers are encouraged to read and use both books.

This book aims to describe the sources available to researchers in Georgian England, which as here, often includes the short reign of William IV, who died a few days before civil registration was introduced in 1837. The genealogical sources surviving from the Georgian era are essentially the same as they were decades ago but what has changed and has been increasing rapidly is the availability of online search tools and digital images of sources. This can speed up the research process, but this material is only the tip of the iceberg. The amount of material readily available will depend upon the part of the country and the societal and occupational characteristics of the families being sought. Overcoming brick wall before 1837 often requires using resources only available in archives. Mr. Wintrip reminds us that researchers are more likely to be able to find information about their ancestors by first identifying appropriate sources and then establishing how they can access them, rather than the other way around. Focusing ones research only on that which is readily available can result in significant information not being found.

Finding genealogical information requires not only knowing what sources might be relevant, but also knowing how they can be accessed. Many books describe the sources in detail, but only superficially do they discuss how to access them. The book points out that researchers may fail to locate records they know about because they are not where they are expected to be. The custodial and contextual history of records needs to be understood to find elusive information. For example, related sources such as parish registers, bishops’ transcripts, marriage registers and marriage licence documents are discussed in different chapters because of their different custodial history and the effect on where the records are likely to be now located.

The researcher also needs to understand relevant historical themes, because of their impact on research, such as urbanization, population growth, the Industrial Revolution, enclosure of land and long periods of war. The book thus provides a core base of knowledge for understanding administration of the Poor Law, the role of the Church of England in matters relating to probate, and the restrictions imposed on Protestant Nonconformists and Roman Catholics but acknowledges that more in-depth knowledge may be required depending upon the ancestor being researched.

The book, after an introduction on general aspects of research in the period, explores in detail: government; parishes, higher ecclesiastical jurisdictions; religious dissent; education and employment; war and peace; social status and prosperity; poverty; land and property; law and order; migration; and concludes with research methods. No documents are illustrated as examples are usually readily available online or in other publications, but this is not a distraction for the book. The book concludes with a good timeline of the period, a glossary and an excellent bibliography of many how-to books for specific more advanced aspects of research in the period.

This book, along with its companion volume, will make a nice practical addition to any English researcher’s reference collection. You will find yourself returning to this book time and again because of its different approach to the records.

Book Review: Scotland Defending the Nation – Mapping the Military Landscape


Scotland Defending the Nation: Mapping the Military Landscape - Scotland Mapping - Maps of Scotland
Scotland Defending the Nation: Mapping the Military Landscape by Carolyn Anderson and Christopher Fleet

Scotland Defending the Nation: Mapping the Military Landscape. By Carolyn Anderson and Christopher Fleet. Published in association with the National Library of Scotland by Birlinn Ltd. West Newington House, 10 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QS. www.birlinn.co.uk. £30.00. US Distributor: Casemate Publishers 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casematepublishers.com. $44.95. 2018. 244 pp. Color Illustrations, index. Hardcover.

Warfare, attack and defense, has shaped Scotland’s history over the last six centuries. From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, a prevailing ideology of English overlordship of Scotland created: real threats and invasions through the Wars of the Rough Wooing in the 1540s; persistent violence on the debatable Scottish borderlands; and the Jacobite uprisings, which in 1745 came close to toppling the British throne. These events led to a huge militarization of Scotland with new defenses, forts and roads, and armies clashing in battle. Some of these defenses were put to new uses by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to counter the very real worries over French invasion, especially on the east coast. By the twentieth century, defenses and enemy threats had shifted focus again, with German seaborne and airborne attacks, particularly during the Second World War. This was followed by new fears over Russian military predominance.

The book uses six centuries of Scottish military mapping to tell this story.  It explains military maps produced for different purposes: fortification plans, reconnaissance mapping, battle plans, military roads and route ways, tactical maps, enemy maps showing targets, as well as plans showing the construction of defenses. Many of the military engineers were from overseas, especially the early ones who drafted maps, and the author makes comparisons with early European maps and structures. The book does address, with individual chapters, the big names in Scottish military mapping and their impact – George Wade and William Roy. All these engineers and map makers, European and Scotsmen alike, left a legacy in maps and fortifications. Sometimes the paper military landscape is different from reality, showing what was proposed rather than implemented. The maps themselves, all in color, are striking and attractive, selected for the stories they tell.  

The main text tells the story of the history of military mapping in Scotland. However, the maps that appear on almost every page have extensive detailed captions which often tell their own story. Thus, researchers will not only get the big picture by reading the full text, but also through specific information about a period or event from a particular map

For those who want to learn more, the book includes an extensive annotated guide to sources and further reading, arranged by the seven chapters in the book. It is an excellent addition, with very limited overlap, to the other two books in the series – Scotland: Mapping the Nation and Scotland: Mapping the Islands – reviewed here.

Paul Milner Announced as one of First Two Keynote Speakers for Family History Down Under (FHDU) Conference – March 2021

Adelaide, South Australia, 3 December 2019

Unlock the Past is delighted to announce Family History Down Under (FHDU) to be held 22-26 March 2021 in one of Australia’s most exciting holiday destinations. This follows on from the highly successful DNA Down Under (August 2019), which attracted 1400 people in six cities across Australia, including 400 at the final three-day conference in Sydney.
The main conference will be over four days – Tuesday – Friday 23-26 March 2021. There will be three main tracks – DNA, British Isles and General/Methodology, plus a fourth track for sponsors and others. Other optional sessions will be offered, including workshops. There will also be a supporting exhibition. A pre-conference day on Monday 22 March 2021 is planned, including, amongst other things, tours to places of interest in the region.



The Sunshine CoastConvention Centre and Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel, Twin Waters, Queensland, is our conference venue. This is a superb facility at one of Australia’s premier holiday destinations.

  • A large state-of-the art conference centre (opened May 2019)
  • https://www.novoteltwinwatersresort.com.au/   at the 361 room, 4 star, Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel — or other nearby hotels
  • 7 minutes from the Sunshine Coast airport and 75 minutes from Brisbane Airport
  • Close to numerous tourist attractions, including the world famous Australia Zoo and much more.
    Plenty to do before/after or, for your non-genie spouse/partner, during the conference.

We are delighted to announce two of seven FHDU headline speakers. The other five will be announced soon!

Bettinger 2.jpg

Blaine Bettinger — professional genealogist specialising in DNA evidence Blaine, the best known and most sought after genetic genealogy speaker will be a prominent contributor to the DNA track. He is the author of “The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy” and a number of other books. He launched DNA Central in 2018, a major membership resource site helping genealogy DNA test takers understand their DNA test results.


Paul Milner — British Isles expert
Paul is an internationally recognised speaker and author on British Isles research. He is the author of a number of books on English and Scottish genealogy with Unlock the Past and other publishers. Paul has often spoken at events in Australia and on Unlock the Past genealogy cruises. He will be a key contributor to the British Isles track.

Mark the Date    |    22-26 March 2021
Visit www.familyhistorydownunder.com and join the mailing list to be first to learn of key developments. 
We invite expressions of interest in speakingexhibiting and sponsoring the event.

Unlock the Past
Unlock the Past is the event and publishing division of Gould Genealogy & History (established 1976). It is a collaborative venture involving an international team of expert speakers, writers, organisations and commercial partners to promote history and genealogy through innovative major events, genealogy cruises and publications.

Further information  
Alan Phillips (Unlock the Past) P: (08) 8263 2055.  . . . . .  .  international+61 8 8263 2055E: event@familyhistorydownunder.com W: www.familyhistorydownunder.com

Book Review: Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Paul Blake

Bankrupt Ancestors, Bankruptcy
Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Paul Blake

Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians. By Paul Blake. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishers 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2019. 223 pp. Illustrations. Softcover.

This is not a book for the new researcher or beginner. This is an excellent, very detailed deep dive into a voluminous set of records about which little has been written. Debtors’ prisons are infamous – Charles Dickens father was in one, and many of his characters spent time there. Many people were often incarcerated following misfortune or mismanagement rather than criminal intent. The time spent there varied from a few days to years and stories this far back may not have survived within the family.

In reading this detailed book I wondered how one would even know the ancestor was a debtor. The clue came on page 193 where Mr. Blake suggests that “Reports in local or national newspapers can often be the first indication of a debtor or bankrupt ancestor, which can lead to surviving official records” 

Mr. Blake introduces his subject by highlighting the difference between insolvent debt and bankruptcy, the latter prior to 1842 being limited to traders owing more than £100, with the emphasis on traders. This distinction eliminated most skilled craftsmen and farmers.  The Stature of Merchants in 1283 made it possible for creditors to register major debts and use imprisonment to enforce them. In 1351 the use of immediate imprisonment was extended to civil debt in general. The ability to imprison someone for debt did not end until 1869. Thus, there are over 500 years of records for debtors.

After providing some background on insolvent debtors, the book addresses the machinery of justice and the many courts in which debtors can be found, followed by a chapter on charities and the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors. The next five chapters examine different aspects for insolvent debtors: courts and court records; imprisonment; common law, central prisons and their records; London courts and their records; London prisons and their records. The final three chapters examine: county debtors, i.e. those outside London; bankruptcy; and newspapers. Throughout there are mini case studies, with examples of what the records look like, and how to use the finding aids.

The book concludes with a surprising long list of Acts of Parliament in chronological order concerning debtors, imprisonment, sanctuary and bankruptcy in England from 1275 to 1901, plus a list of Regnal years.

If you have found an ancestor, probably in a newspaper, who is identified as an insolvent debtor or bankrupt then this is the book to which you must turn. This is the only book available that guides the reader step-by-step through these voluminous sets of records to find the details of misfortune that family historians so love to find. This book is highly recommended.

Book Review: Scotland – Mapping the Islands

Scotland – Mapping the Islands

Scotland Mapping the Islands. By Christopher Fleet, Margaret Wilkes and Charles W.J. Withers. Published in association with the National Library of Scotland by Birlinn Ltd. West Newington House, 10 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QS. www.birlinn.co.uk. £30.00. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $42.99. 2016. 244 pp. Illustrations, index. Hardcover.

Islands fascinate us. This book looks at the history and geography behind the many maps of Scotland’s islands. The focus is on understanding the history and geography of the islands but also in showing how that history and geography has been realized in and produced through art, the artifice, and the authority of maps. This is the first book to take the maps of Scotland’s islands as its central focus.

A modern expectation is that maps accurately depict size, shape and relationships. Especially with the case of islands surrounded by water, researchers need to know where the islands are in relationship to one another, how big they are, and what their coasts look like.  That information has not always been available on the maps of islands of Scotland. Some islands are even transient, appearing twice a day depending upon the tide. For the map makers and their users distinguishing sea from land, one island from another, what is an island and what is not is vital.

This book is not an A-Z gazetteer of islands and island maps, from Arran and Barra to Zetland, showing maps of each. Rather the book has a narrative focus that is thematic, following a broadly chronological order. Each chapter addresses the ways in which an island’s history and geography have been captured in maps over time. The chapters reflect the sequence in which islands have not only appeared but also have come to exert their force and ‘pull.’ The sequencing of chapters reflects the processes by which the islands were peopled, then named, then navigated to and from (or avoided as hazards), defended, improved, exploited, pictured and escaped from or to.

The book has lavish color illustrations of numerous maps, from all time periods, many as two-page spreads. All supplement the detailed text of the chapter. At a minimum the detailed captions provide the source of the maps. More often the caption draws reader attention to features on the map – e.g. the island being in the wrong location, the wrong shape, the wrong size, the fact it is missing, who copied the map from whom, and how the map is different from its predecessors.  These captions thus extend the story of the main text and embellish the history ‘behind’ the maps in question.

The book can be read in the conventional fashion, from front to back, like I did, with each chapter building upon its predecessors. Alternatively, using the index, one can look at a particular island, or group, and see how the narrative of that place changed across time, and how it evolved through the different types of maps over time.   

The Highlands and islands are the center of the use of Gaelic in Scotland and its use is supported by governmental acts and policies. In this book many of the place names are written in both English and Gaelic, so readers will see examples within the text like: Western Isles / Na h-Eileanan an Iar; Lewis / Leòdhas. This is appropriate but makes the text in places harder to read.

The knowledgeable authors present the rich and diverse story of Scottish islands from the earliest maps to the most up-to-date digital mapping in engaging and imaginative ways. This book is an informative delight to read and view. It makes a great companion volume to Scotland: Mapping the Nation from the same publisher.