Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Finding Your Ancestor's Home in England" with Beth McCarty

The second hour at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting today was Beth McCarty's talk on "Finding Your Ancestor's Home in England." Beth's curriculum vitae and talk summary was posted here.

Being the naive sort of genealogist I am, I thought that this talk would be about finding the actual "home" of my ancestors, rather than a great review of all of the records that can be used to find the place they lived, the church they attended, and who their family members were. There was no mention of actual houses or domiciles.

Beth's review of the available British genealogy resources included --

* Nationwide Civil Registration Indexes for 1837 to the present. She highlighted the web site which has the birth, marriage and death indexes from 1837 to 1980, but are incomplete. These indexes are complete on microfilm at many regional FHCs, including San Diego. In her handout, she also listed as a subscription site with the same records (of course, the site is now She offered the web site as a place to obtain the actual registration forms using a credit card (rather than sending a check in pounds sterling) with 5 day service and the lowest cost around.

* The LDS International Genealogical Index (IGI) has many pre-1837 church records in their database. You can check the LDS Parish and Vital Records Index and the Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers for the records available for each parish and if they are on the IGI or on FHL microfilm. She mentioned non-cornformist church records, which are listed in the Parish and vital Records Index.

* British and Irish biographies of prominent persons (doctors, judges, lawyers, gentlemen, members of Parliament, etc.) or those who worked for the foreign service, are available in a set of 101 sets of microfiche, all under FHL Microfiche number 6,342,001. There are 255 sources in this collection.

* Probate indexes and wills are in two sets - pre-1858 and post-1858. The British govenrnment controls the post-1858 records, and there is a Calendar of Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Principal Probate Registry, which is available on FHL microfilm under ENGLAND-PROBATE RECORDS-INDEX. Before 1858, the probate records were controlled by the Anglican Church Prerogative Courts of Canterbury (PCC) or York. The jurisdictions are very complex, to say the least! There are separate indexes for up to 1700, 1701-1749, 1750-1800, which are on microfiche but not at the FHL. The FHL does hold microfiche of the 1801-1836 manuscript indexes. There are many books that summarize or index English estates of American colonists.

* Beth mentioned English Court Records, Emigration and Origins, Occupational Records and Military Records in passing because she ran out of time.

Beth is a recognized expert in researching British records and it surely was evident when she discussed the intricacies of parish records, Civil Registration and probate records. She provided a four page handout with all of the reference books and web sites mentioned in the talk, plus more bibliography. She mentioned at the end of her talk the book Ancestral Trails. The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber as a veritable Bible of how to do research in Britain.

Frankly, I wish that Beth had been able to do two full hours of the British genealogy talk so that she could have provided more detail in the subjects she had to skim over, plus the chance to hear some questions and answers. She is very knowledgeable and an excellent speaker and obviously loves this subject!

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