FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt. 3 – Search By Record Set

FindMyPast search for any record set for the Boer War - result Anglo-Boer War
FindMyPast search for any record set for the Boer War – result Anglo-Boer War

FindMyPast Search by Record Set

This is the third post in a series about how to search on FindMyPast.

One of the major reasons for the change in search design was the ability to add databases and images to the collection and to have a standardized way of searching everything at once. Selecting the A-Z of Record Sets brings up a complete current listing of datasets. This is certainly growing as FindMyPast is in the midst of adding 100 datasets in 100 days campaign. These vary in size greatly but can still be added quickly and efficiently.

The first task is narrow down the options. The first way is to define your region – World; United States; United Kingdom; Australia & New Zealand; and Ireland. Even after this search there still likely to be multiple pages to read through. You can read through the list, you can search on a type of record or you can type in a locality (such as the name of a county).

FindMyPast search results for Mosley in Anglo-Boer War Dataset.
FindMyPast search results for Mosley in Anglo-Boer War Dataset.

In this case study I want to highlight what you can learn about the records. Here I am going to select the Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902. Selecting the database brings up a search screen, showing the fields on which you can search. This time I am going to search of the surname Mosley. I am looking for Henry Samuel Mosley who served in the Veterinary Corps and was awarded medals during the war.

There are 19 Mosley’s, but no Henry or Samuel and of note no one from the Veterinary Corps. Interestingly, doing what I suggested in the last post, selecting surname variants produces 126 hits. One of those hits is a H.G. Moseley of the Army Veterinary Department who is on Roll 230. This record is a transcript so the original would need to be sought and checked to see if this is a transcription error or not. There is no image of the originals for this collection.

Let’s return to the search screen where when we scroll down the page we find important information about this record set.

FindMyPast - look for the contents and explanation of the contents of the dataset below the search screen
FindMyPast – look for the contents and explanation of the contents of the dataset below the search screen

What can these records tell me? Certainly the first time into any new set of records you should read this. You may also find it useful to read again after you have worked with and become more familiar the record content as you are more likely to appreciate the subtleties of what the information provided is telling you.

In this case study we have drop down menus for: Learn more about these records; Sources used to compile the register; and Details about the Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902. The specifics will vary depending upon the record set. For this case study let’s examine the details a little closer.

Learn more about these records: Tells us that the dataset contains 271,771 names, with a completely revised casualty list of 59,000 records. The transcripts may provide: first name; last name; service number; unit(s); rank; regiment; memorials; medals (roll reference and possibly clasp entitlement) honours and awards; literary references; casualties.

Sources used to compile the register: Here is a list of the various sources used to create this compiled dataset. Only with more research will you become familiar with the different sources and what they do or do not provide, which is especially important if you do or do not find the person you are seeking in this dataset. As with any research the probability is high that there are additional sources to be found.

Details about the Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902: Here is explanatory information on the sources used to create the database and why it was compiled in the first place; why different and duplicate information can be found on the same soldier; why there are problems with place names and how they have been solved; why the database may change.

Useful Links and Resources: These links are to the upper right of the screen. In this case study it highlights the 1891 and 1901 census returns for England, obviously because many of the men included in the data set will be children or teenagers in the 1891 census, and may be absent, ready to leave, or have returned in time for the 1901 census.

Conclusion – Experiment with and practice with the different search options to find your ancestors. How you search should depend upon what information you are looking for. Importantly when you do find an ancestor, and probably more so when you don’t find an individual you are expecting to find in a given dataset, read the supporting descriptive material as it will explain what you have searched.

Good luck with your searching.

FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt.2 – Search within a Record Category

FindMyPast Search Screen for Census, Land & Substitutes
FindMyPast Search Screen for Census, Land & Substitutes

FindMyPast Search within a Record Category.

In the last post I highlighted how to Search All Records and saw some of the benefits.

In this blog post lets search within a specific Record Category. In this case study I am going to search the Census, Land & Substitutes category. So from the pull down menu on the search bar select – Census, Land and Substitutes. You will see a different search screen appear, different from the one used in the last blog post for search all records.

FindMyPast - Search Results for Surname Milner - 75,551 hits too many to examine
FindMyPast – Search Results for Surname Milner – 75,551 hits too many to examine

Often when you start new research you want to get a sense of how common a name is. So let’s search on Milner and in the Where box I am going to select the United Kingdom. That comes out with 75,551 hits which is too many for even me to search through. The first page of results suggests some early records are coming up from the early 1700’s from the Westminster Rate Books and Cheshire Land Tax Assessments.

I need to edit my search using the big blue edit button on the left of the screen in the box. This time I will limit my search to the county of Kent, where my Milner’s come from. Now I am down to 1,547 with results from various census returns and UK Electoral rolls.

Editing my search to 1851 inserted in the first When box – the other date boxes are for year of birth or year of death (not a good choice for finding a person in the census). Now I am down to 63 results arranged alphabetically by first name.

FindMyPast search results for surname Milner in Leeds Kent England
FindMyPast search results for surname Milner in Leeds Kent England

At this point you could scroll through the list to see who you might be looking for – search for a first name – search for someone else in the house – search for an address. In my case I am going to search on the village of interest – Leeds. I add the name Leeds to the where box. Now I am down to 16 individuals residing in Leeds, Kent in the 1851 census. The year born is provided, though obviously calculated from the age in the census return, so the information is only as accurate as the person giving the age chooses to make it. However, based on those ages you can see that there are multiple Milner families living in Leeds, all of whom are related.

Note in the illustration that the search criteria are in the box to the left of the results. On the right of the line for each individual there are two blue boxes – a camera for an image – a page for a transcript. For the census records you will usually find both. Some searches will only provide a transcript.

Now as a safety precaution I returned to my search results leaving my search parameters the same but selecting the box for surname variants. This time instead of 16 individuals I now have 27 individuals. I have picked up variations with Millner and Milliner, both commonly found in this area. Yes, the individuals are still all related to one another.

You can re-order the results. The results by default will be presented by relevance. There is a pull down menu to the top right of the results box that allows re-ordering by: last name; first name; born; died; event; and record set. Obviously some of these will not do anything depending upon how you have already filtered the results, but in this case it might be helpful to reorder by first name (to make surname variations irrelevant) or by birth year to put them in age order and to find the family patriarchs.

FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt.1 – Search All Records

Opening Screen from FindMyPast at www.findmypast.org when a user is not logged in.
Opening Screen from FindMyPast at http://www.findmypast.org when a user is not logged in.

FindMyPast has been changing rapidly as it updates its offerings and search mechanisms. This has not been so noticeable for the Americans and Australians, but for the British readers it has been a major change.

The British version of FindMyPast was the original website. It had great content, search tools, and supporting information. However, its design and structure which made it so easy to navigate also made it inflexible when it came to adding additional databases quickly for subscribers to access.

The new design and search mechanisms are the only ones the Americans and Australians have known, but the change to one platform has created turmoil for the British Users who liked the old structure which had not changed for years.

For those who are not yet subscribers to FindMyPast you can do any of the searches without being a subscriber, but you cannot see the transcription details or images without being a subscriber. I think you will find it worth your while to join and explore.

So let’s examine the three ways to search on FindMyPast
1. Search all records
2. Search within a record category
3. Choose a specific set of records

We will explore – Search all records in this post and focus on the other two mechanisms in the subsequent two blog posts.

1. Search All Records

Search Results Screen on FindMyPast for Richard Milner
Search Results Screen on FindMyPast for Richard Milner

From the opening page at www.findmypast.com go to the pull down menu under Search records and select the first option – Search all records

Yes, you may want to start filling in the boxes. First though take notice of the advice on how to get started. The first item is the most important – Start broad, and then filter – this is actually very important and encourages you to do things in the order that the search engine likes.

Start with the boxes across the top first. – Who, When and Where

Who – this is the person or family you are looking for. You can search on exact names or name variants and the first time through the search I go for variants on first name – so I pick up Richard, Rich, Dick or any other appropriate variation, but usually exact on the surname – though I know many of the surnames are commonly found in various forms – Milner, Millner, Milliner, etc.

When – here you have the option of choosing a date for born, died, or a date of a specific event, e.g. specific census. Then with a drop down menu you can choose +/- 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 or40 years.

Where – this provide a drop down box with World, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, and United States and Canada. This obviously gives you an idea of where the primary datasets are from. In the box beside the Where you can also narrow the place down geographically

In this case study I am going to search for Richard Milner, born in 1790 +/- 10 years in the United Kingdom. I get 329 results presented in tabular format. In this case we are presented with 10 results and then there is an advertisement for how many times the name Milner was found in British newspapers (1,029 hits). The important point is that the results table continues below this advertisement and you may not catch that depending how it appears on your screen.

FindMyPast search all records for Richard Milner in Kent
FindMyPast search all records for Richard Milner in Kent

If at this stage I narrow my geographic location to Kent, a county in England, my options are reduced to 13, of which only 7 have the name Richard connected with the Milner. Even this simple option narrowed my options.

In the column on the left side of your screen you will see how to narrow down your results. It is best to move down the column in order, unless you know specifically where you are going.

FindMyPast closeup on Narrow Your Search option showing bold and greyed out options
FindMyPast closeup on Narrow Your Search option showing bold and greyed out options

First you will notice that some of the records categories are greyed out meaning there were no hits for the given search parameters in those collections. So for these search parameters I have hits in: Birth, Marriage and Death (Parish Registers); Census, Land & Substitutes; Military Service and Conflict.

If we take a close look at the results page we actually get a good number of records for our man. The first record is his attestation record into the 36th Regiment of Foot in April 1815, just a couple of months before the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This record tells us, among other things that he was age seventeen and born in the village of Leeds in Kent. The fourth result down is the 1851 census where we find the 56 year old laborer and Royal Marine Pensioner from Leeds, Kent living with his 47 year old wife Maria.

Richard Milner, from Leeds, Kent, a 56 labourer and Royal Marine Pensioner with his wife Maria Milner (nee Burress), age 47, in the 1851 Census
Richard Milner, from Leeds, Kent, a 56 labourer and Royal Marine Pensioner with his wife Maria Milner (nee Burress), age 47, in the 1851 Census

The fifth result down is a transcript from the Thames & Medway Marriages database showing that Richard Milner married Maria Burress on 31 May 1833 in St. Margaret’s Rochester, extracted from the parish register. The sixth entry down is an 1862 entry from the September quarter of England’s civil registration for deaths in the Medway District where Richard is residing and would be a possible death record – from this one entry you cannot be certain but it is a possibility.

Thus the benefit of searching everything is the possibility of finding multiple records for one individual. Care needs to be taken to ensure you have the correct person. The only way I know which results are for my Richard Milner is the fact that I have already done the corroborating research on this man.