NEWS: New GRO Birth and Death Indexes and Digitized Certificates for reduced price – short time only

GRO-General Register Office Home page showing how to search indexes and order certificates
GRO-General Register Office Home page showing how to search indexes and order certificates

 News – New Indexes for civil registration birth and deaths in England and Wales that are a game changer. Plus for a short time period there is the option to order cheaper digital versions of the certificates. Read on for more details.

On November 3rd the General Register Office put online at www.gro.gov.uk completely new indexes for births (1837-1915 – 100 year closure) and deaths (1837-1957 – 50 year closure). These are completely new indexes created from the original registers made during the now abandoned DoVE project (Digitization of Vital Events). For these time periods these new indexes will certainly replace the other indexes that are readily available on free and commercial websites. All other national indexes have been created by transcribing the existing national indexes, which are at least two generations away from the original certificates, and thus transcription errors do exist.

It is the additions to the indexes that make for exciting news here. In the birth indexes the mother’s maiden name has been added to all records, originally this information was not added until 1911. In the birth indexes the age of death is now included in all records, something not added until December 1865. Also in both indexes all forenames have been extracted. There are no initials used here as in the published national indexes.

Urgency – What is time sensitive here is that on November 9th the General Register Office started offering digital copies of the birth and death certificates, in these periods only, for a reduced price of 6 Pounds (US$7.45), as opposed to the regular price of 9 Pounds 25 Pence (US$11.49) for the paper copies. This a trial offer and is only available for 3 weeks or 45,000 pdfs, whichever comes first. It will probably be the number of certificates as this is a bargain. So do your searches now. What the government will choose to do after this is a complete unknown. I personally ordered 4 certificates yesterday on the first day and have ordered another 10 this morning. I will be ordering more.

GRO - General Register Office search entry screen before login
GRO – General Register Office search entry screen before login

How to Access the new GRO Indexes and Order Certificates

Go to the website – www.gro.gov.uk. Click on the link for Order Certificates Online – this will take you to a certificate ordering service notice. Click on the link for Order Certificates Online and search the GRO historic birth and death indexes.

At this point you will first need to register. If you have done this in the past you will need to sign in and then you will be sent a validation key to your registered email address. If they are going to send you digital pdfs they want to guarantee that they have a valid email address. My validation key came quickly, but online discussion groups suggest that it might take an hour. If it still has not come check your spam folder, or check old email addresses you may have used in the past.

Once in you will be asked if you want to search the birth or death indexes. Making the choice opens up the appropriate search template.

Birth Indexes

GRO - General Register Office birth search Screen for Callaghan - Hagan children
GRO – General Register Office birth search Screen for Callaghan – Hagan children

There are three fields that are required – surname, gender and year. With surnames you can search for: exact matches only; phonetically similar variations; or similar sounding variations. Personally I have had good luck with the similar sounding variations especially when dealing with my easily corrupted names like Finnigan and Callaghan. With gender you have to select male or female which means you will probably be repeating all searches twice if you are looking for the children of a particular couple rather than an individual. Then you choose a year of registration – remember this may not be the year of birth if the even occurred towards the end of the year. You can choose to select +/- 0, 1 or 2 years. So when searching for the children of a couple open the range to 2 years, and repeat the searches at 5 year intervals to pick up all the intervening years, repeating again to pick up both sexes.

Your most likely search will be the addition of the mother’s maiden name, and again you have the three same variations as you had on the surname field.

Let’s do a search for the female children of a Callaghan and Hagan couple. For Callaghan I am choosing similar sounding names, and in this example I am choosing exact name for Hagan. I am searching in 1882 +/- 2 years. I get to two results. Mary Callaghan – mother’s maiden surname Hagan – GRO Reference: 1884 S Quarter in Gateshead Volume 10A Page 887. I also get Bridget Callighan – mother’s maiden surname Hagan – GRO Reference: 1881 J Quarter Volume 10A Page 932. Note the difference in surname Callaghan and Callighan. I knew of Mary’s existence as she lived long enough to be in next census, but not Bridget. I thus checked the death indexes for Bridget and have ordered those certificates. Currently on the same line as the relevant search result you can choose to order a certificate or pdf.

GRO - Genearal Register Office Search Results showing spelling variations on Callaghan surname for sisters
GRO – Genearal Register Office Search Results showing spelling variations on Callaghan surname for sisters

Selecting either one prefills the order template. Scroll down the screen and ensure that you are ordering the less expensive pdf by email and not the standard certificate (unless you want to). Further down the screen you can also select the number of copies and you can add a personal reference number.

Illegitimate Births – To find an illegitimate birth, father unknown, you put the child’s surname which will be the mother’s surname in the surname at birth field (a required field) and leave the mother’s maiden name blank. I tested this with a couple of certificates I already had in my files and it found them.

Death Indexes

Here the age of death is a real bonus but you still might have to get creative with your searches and watch for some errors. Again you have to provide a surname, gender and a year to search. In this example I was searching for a Mary Ann Callaghan born in the June Quarter of 1879 in Gateshead district but was not found in the household in the 1881 census. So I searched on Callaghan – similar sounding variations, first forename Mary, female 1880 +/- 1 year to catch all between 1879 and 1881. There were 111 Mary Callaghan’s. Since Mary was born in Gateshead district I assumed she might have died there, so I limited the search district to Gateshead. There was only one result for a Mary Ann Callaghan in the March Quarter of 1880 aged 11 years. I still think this is mine and I have ordered the certificate but it highlights another potential problem. Evidence is appearing online that in some case if a child dies at age 11 hours or 11 days or 11 weeks or 11 months they may get indexed as 11 years rather than a 0. Obviously this can happen for any infant so be careful and you may have to order additional records to confirm.

District Geography Issues – On the search screen there is a good listing of all registration districts by name and when they were used by time period. For many people outside of England or Wales you may not be familiar enough with local district names to know if a name is close or far from where you expect to find an event. If you are not familiar with the district names and the places within the districts look to the Registration Districts in England and Wales page on Genuki created by Brett Langston. You can see here the names of the districts within each pre and post 1974 county. You can also download a pdf Place Name Index from the same page.

On the GRO website you are limited to searching in one district. You cannot select multiple districts or counties as you can with FreeBMD so sometimes it may be better to search on other sites first. There is a workaround for this limitation to pick up a wider geographic area. For any given time period the registration districts are combined into volumes. So for example in my 1880 death search Gateshead is in Volume 10A. I can omit anything in the district field but put 10A in the Volume field and it will pick up, in this case, all entries from County Durham, giving me 4 options. District 10B would be for Northumberland. The volume numbers vary by time period so you can use the List of Registration Districts provided on this site to find the relevant numbers for the time period of interest. Note that for numbers less than 10 add a 0. So Kent which is district 2A, on this site you search on 02A

Marriages – Nothing has changed here. Marriages were not indexed or digitized as part of the DoVE project before they ran out of money. You therefore have to use the existing images and order full paper certificates.

The Future – Unfortunately we don’t know what will happen at the end of this 3 week trial period. The results will be evaluated, but that does not mean the government will act on it.

The Opportunity right now is to have access to great indexes (likely to stay) but also to be able to get lower priced digital certificates. This is a golden opportunity to find those missing children and dead ancestors that you have not been able to locate yet. Take advantage of it.

GB1900 – Online Project – Great for Genealogists

GB1900.org Opening Screen - Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900
GB1900.org Opening Screen – Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900

Online Project to Save Great Britain’s Place Names – Great for Genealogists

Come join the project to identify all the place names in Great Britain. First I will explain what the project is, how it works and then why it is a great way for you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestor lived.

The new online project – GB1900 – is calling for volunteers to help make sure local place names can live on and not be lost forever. GB1900 aims to create a complete list of the estimated three million place-names on early Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). It will be a free, public resource, of great value to local historians and genealogists. I will come back to this later.

The project partners include the University of Portsmouth (Great Britain Historical GIS Project: A Vision of Britain through Time); National Library of Scotland; National Library of Wales; University of Wales; The People’s Collection of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

On their new GB1900 web site, http://www.gb1900.org, volunteers work on digital images of all the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey County Series maps of the whole of Great Britain, at six inch to one mile scale. These maps show not just every town and village but every farm, hill and wood – and include names for most of them. The site’s software enables contributors to mark each name by clicking next to it, and then to type in the name itself. To ensure correctness each name needs to be identically transcribed by two different volunteers.

The final list of place names will be not just the most detailed gazetteer ever created for Britain, it will be the world’s largest ever historical gazetteer. It will be released under a Creative Commons license, making it usable by everyone without charge.

How the GB1900 Project Works

Go to www.gb1900.org. The first time you will need to register – name, email address and password. In the future when you return to login you will provide your email address and password. As of this morning there are 590 volunteers who have transcribed 440,789 places, and confirmed 42,766 places. What this means is that many more individual places have been tagged by individuals that have been confirmed by a second transcriber. Every place is being identified by two transcribers.

The first time into the system read the brief tutorial. It is easy to understand, but read it carefully. The mistake I made by not reading the tutorial carefully enough is that I was placing the marker on the map at the location of the feature, e.g. farm, mill, etc. This was wrong. The marker needs to go under the first letter of the text for that feature. Having tagged enough places now on the maps I can see the validity of this, especially in the crowded urban areas. Unfortunately, if you put a marker in the wrong place you can’t undo it.

You will see three types of markers. Brown – these are the places you have tagged; Green – these are places someone else has tagged; Purple – these are places tagged by someone and tagged again correctly by a second transcriber. When registered, you place the cursor under the first letter of a place name and hit enter. An entry box appears. Type in the name of the feature and confirm. The marker appears on screen, but you can’t see how it is labelled. If you are confirming a green marker and type in what the other person typed it changes to a purple marker, if you type in something different you get a brown marker. As you do more data entry menus will start to appear on your data entry box as you start typing. This is especially useful if you have common features in your area of interest, e.g. quarries, old mine shafts, foot paths, foot bridges, etc.

Common mistakes that I have made include – apostrophes in the wrong place, or missed; expanding an abbreviation, e.g. street when its only st on the map, which is easy to do especially when the entry box covers up the information on the map; or being too quick and ending up with a marker being placed where there is no feature. Unfortunately, if you make a typing error and immediately spot it, or put a marker in the wrong place there is no way to correct it.

Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)
Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)

If you log out and then come back into the system, then click on your name you will be told how many entries you have transcribed and how many entries you have confirmed. There is a ranking table for transcribers, and the number selected is the lower of your two numbers. So as of this morning I am number 10 on the top ten user list with 2,021, having transcribed 2,021 names, while I have confirmed 2113 places first marked by others.

As a Genealogist you should get involved.

You should get involved because looking at these detailed 6 inch to the mile maps helps you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestors lived. Doing the transcription reinforces in your mind the places names – streets, farms, mills, rivers, woods, all of which are named. But also you will learn about the: wells, parish boundary markers; public houses, foot paths and foot bridges.

The gazetteer on the opening pages seems to use the underlying modern Open Street Map index, so it will not find all locations on the map. It can be used to find a village or town that you want to explore. A slider in the upper right corner of the map can show you how the area has changed between the old 1900 maps and present. For my readers outside Great Britain the find my location button will not work.

For those with Welsh ancestors this project grew out of the Cymru1900wales.org project, so there are more place names already identified in Wales than other places in Great Britain.

For those with Irish connections, the old maps are not part of this project (yet?). However, the modern interactive map of Ireland is available on the opening screen, move the slider in the upper right to the left to see the modern underlying map.

This is a fun way to get to know the area in which your ancestor lived, be involved in a worthwhile project, and most importantly you don’t have to worry about old handwriting issues that you may have with other transcription projects. Come join this fun project, help yourself and your fellow researchers. Learn your ancestral neighborhood.

Book Review: The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Websites You Can’t Do Without by Jonathan Scott

The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Sites You Can't Do Without by Jonathan Scott
The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Sites You Can’t Do Without by Jonathan Scott

The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Websites You Can’t Do Without.  By Jonathan Scott. 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 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. 2015. viii, 245 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover $24.95

Mr. Scott comes to the task as a freelance writer, former deputy editor of Family History Monthly, and writer, since 2007 of the ‘Best websites’ column for the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. He is therefore used to finding and evaluating genealogy websites with the depth and breadth of experience clearly showing.

The introduction to the book explains the filing system at work in the book. “Each chapter lists websites broadly in order of importance, interest and usefulness. The idea being that for those just starting their research into a particular branch or topic, this will lead them quickly to the best of most interesting resources. Then in the index at the back all the websites appear again, often more than once, but listed this time alphabetically by title, content or subject.” (p.vii)

The book is divided into five sections. The first section identifies websites for getting started in genealogy addressing the fundamentals such as civil registration, census and parish registers. The second and longest section, entitled digging deeper, takes you into all sorts of record groups: burial records and monumental inscriptions; probate and wills; taxation; election records; crime and punishment; court records; coroner’s inquest; poor law and workhouses; schools; directories; newspapers; migration; overseas research; Wales; Ireland; Scotland; hospitals and medicine; catholic records; Jewish records; nonconformist records; photographs and films; Londoners; maps; estate records; seventeenth and eighteenth century sources; slavery; sports and pastimes. The third section examines websites for military and conflict, addressing each of the services, as well as examining specific conflicts and time periods. The fourth section addresses occupations with nineteen different categories with the last being a catch all for other occupations and apprentices. You will likely find multiple sites here for your occupation of interest. The final section covers miscellaneous sites identifying: resources by region; blogs and forums; house history; medieval ancestors; heraldry; nobility and gentry; sharing research; social networking; plus software and apps.

For each entry it provides a title; address and a brief description if warranted, and often one is needed, which just adds to the value of the listing.

While I was reading this book I found myself marking those sites that I had never heard of and wanted to go and check out, or ones that I had not visited in a while and I wanted to remind myself to have a fresh look. All the time I was thinking will this provide something new for my own research? The result was a book with a surprisingly large number of marks of sites I need to check out. I am working through the marks as time allows and finding all sorts of additional information.

Most people are unlikely to read this book from cover to cover. Rather it is a tool to aid you in your research. It is one to be dipped into to solve a problem or to specifically look for new websites. In that sense it is a goldmine of leads for British research. I can highly recommend it. Yes, some of the websites will become obsolete, so you can use the wayback machine at archive.org. You will also still need your favorite search engine as new websites will be created. In the meantime, get this book.

Searching “Soldiers Died in the Great War”

Search results from FindMyPast for John Crondace, who is really John Croudace private in Northumberland Fusiliers
Search results from FindMyPast for John Crondace, who is really John Croudace

Soldiers Died in the Great War and Officers Died in the Great War are two sources to use for those who died during the war, after one has done a search of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site, explained in three earlier posts (part one for John Croudace – this same soldier, part two and part three).

Soldiers Died in the Great War consists of 80 parts, published in October 1921 by the War Office and printed by His Majesty’s Stationary Office. They have been reprinted by J.B. Hayward. They have been transcribed and issued on CD-Rom and are also available online, and I will return to this later. The original 80 parts cover all British Regiments, Artillery, Engineers, Machine Gun Corps, Service Corps, Labour Corps and miscellaneous units. The people not included in these volumes are the sea soldiers (Royal Marines, Royal Marine Light Infantry or the Royal Naval Division) or the airmen other than the officers of the Royal Flying Corp and those attached to the Royal Air Force.

Search results from Ancestry for John Crondace, actually John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers
Search results from Ancestry for John Crondace, actually John Croudace

The part for each regiment is divided up into battalions with the casualties listed alphabetically by battalion, with the exception of the Worcester Regiment which arranges its section with all the A’s by battalion, followed by all the B’s by battalion.

The information listed includes: surname; first name(s); place of birth; place of enlistment; place of residence (in brackets); regimental number; rank; how died (d.=died; d. of w.=died of wounds; killed= accidentally killed; k. in a.=killed in action; d. at sea=died at sea).

Officers Killed in the Great War is the companion volume to Soldiers Died in the Great War and may give more details on how they died (e.g. as prisoner in German hands, killed by his bearer, murdered by tribesman, etc).

How to get results for John Croudace when there is a typo resulting in John Crondace
Search Screen on FindMyPast for John Crondace / Croudace using * to replace letters in search

Searching Online – can be carried out on both FindMyPast and Ancestry. The database on both sites is the Soldiers Died in the Great War, but it actually includes Officer Killed in the Great War. Both online indexes use the same dataset provided by Naval & Military Press Ltd, thus you are not likely to get any difference in results when searching on one site verses another.

Research Points
– Spelling errors – any printing errors in the original publications, such as in the example Crondace instead of Croudace, will be picked up in the online indexes.
– Casualties in Italy may be labelled as Italy or more likely to be labelled F&F (France & Flanders) so compare with burial site on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website.
– The lists commonly show France & Flanders but you need to check the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website to see if the soldier died in France or Flanders (Belgium).
– Most regiments only record death up to Armistice Day (11 November 1918) thus do not pick up soldiers who were dying of wounds received or who were still fighting in the later campaigns.
– Usually for soldiers only one regiment is identified and this is most likely the one in which he enlisted – which may be different from the one he was attached to when he died. With officers multiple regiments may be identified.
– The rank identified is the highest achieved overseas while on active service and may be a temporary rank.

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.