General Sources

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Ancestry. Indexes complete to 2005 / increasing collection of parish records.

Family Search When you log in you can access Books and Catalog under the Search tag.

Family Search Wiki.

Find My Past. Will include parish records from other family history societies not available elsewhere / only one wtih all 'OS' entries / GRO indexes to 2006 (marr. to 2005).

Society of Genealogists Have published bibliographies, parish registers, MIs, pedigrees, topographical collections, various family papers.

The Genealogist.

British Newspapers Archive.


Family History Federation.

Lost Cousins. Peter Calver.

Family Tree mag.

Wiki Tree.

Oral History Society.

The Genetic Genealogist blog.

Chris Paton's current blog.

Chris Paton's old blog.

BYU for English Ancestors.

Bishopsgate Family History in London.

Cyndi's List.

The Workhouse.

Hospital Records.

Manorial Documents Register.

The Wilson Collection for NZ ancestry.

Families in British India Society.

The Original Record - Surname-indexed ancestry and genealogy historical records, books and documents containing 10 million entries.

The National Archives

At the National Archives you find records of government departments, courts, finance, some will (bef. 1858) and maps but not Parliament records. You won't find births, marriages, deaths, parish registers, wills after 1858, military ecords after 1923.

Department codes tell you the department that created the records:

  • MEOP = Metro. police
  • RG = Registrar General
  • ASSI = Assize courts
  • ADM = Admiralty Office
  • HO = Home Office
  • C = Chancery courts
  • WO = War Office
  • AIR = RAF

After the Department code you get the Series number, then Piece number, then Item number - WO95 (WWI war diaries) WO95/114 (diary of 8thBattalion Tank Corp), WO95/114/3 (a particular item within that).

Useful for family reserach are:

  • Chancery documents - courts covering family disputes eg: wills
  • Divorce case papers 1858-1937 - code J77. Are on Ancestry to 1918/9
  • Tithe maps - code IR29, are also on microfilm. Include names and amounts
  • Officer WWI records
  • Naturalisation papers - some on Ancestry
  • Regimental muster rolls c.1750- late 1800s
  • Police records, normally served for 30 years

To visit:

  • Plan
  • Get a reader's card
  • Order some in advance
  • Camera, notebook, pencils
  • Take your time


Find a TNA Archive. Use this to find local resources.

Documents at TNA

Catholic wills were enrolled in Close Rolls series C54.

Manor wills dealt with at peculiar courts.

Inland Revenue or Estate Duty tax/accounts 1796-1903, Indexes IR26.

TNA have research guides to county court death duty registers.

To find pre 1858 wills, search all courts, start at top of chain of courts and work down. Can be at TNA (PROB11 registered wills, use the guide on the website rather than the Discovery db) or Borthwick Institute in York. TNA has others inc. 1388-1858 will in probate Act books, grants of Adminstrators, inventories & more.

Parish Chest records

Any recorded business other than the christenings, marriages and burials of the parishioners was kept in a chest. Some still exist from the 16th century, but most from the late 19th or early 19th century. Many parish chest records are available at county record offices.

These records include:

  • Vestry minutes which can mention appointments of parish officers, parish newcomers, etc.
  • Poor records containing information regarding the care of the poor including payments made to the poor, bastardy bonds, taxes assessed to meet welfare needs, and possibly names of the "Overseers of the Poor" along with minutes, accounts, rates, and workhouse accounts.
  • Churchwardens responsible to the bishop or magistrate to present any wrongdoings at quarter sessions, including failure to provide for the poor, failure to attend church, drunkenness, or other undesirable behaviour.
  • Settlement and removal records which relate to a person's legal place of settlement as determined by a set of rules. These records include responsibility for the care of old-age family members; as well as, the orders directing the constable to transport the family back to the parish where their petition for welfare settlement originated.
  • Apprenticeship records often list the apprentice’s father, his master, the length of the apprenticeship, and the occupation. A child’s father often arranged the apprenticeship, but the parish "put out" many pauper children, since it was cheaper to pay for an apprenticeship than to raise a child. The child’s name may also be in vestry minutes when the vestry decided to put the child out as an apprentice.
  • Militia certificates and other information on individuals and families


Problems with names include handwriting / L and S mixed up / T and F mixed up / missing letters / phonetic spellings (eg: dropped h), people swapped names or used pet names / missing entries.

  • Letters such as p, f and q normally have straight descenders going below the line.
  • Letters such as y, g, j are likely to have loops to the left where as letters that swing to the right could be f or q.
  • Look for the crosses on t and the dots on j and i.
  • Look for straight strokes of l.
  • The letter e is often written backwards

One Name Studies: "A One-Name Study is a project researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree or descendancy."

Surname Atlas But you have to pay for this.

Place Names

Curious Fox This is a forum based on place names: "the village by village contact site for anyone researching family history, genealogy and local history in the UK and Ireland."

Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland.

Essex Records Office.

The National Archives of Scotland have all the O.S. maps available online - Click here.

An index to the OS manuscript surveyors’ drawings of the late 18th century - Click here.

Tithe apportionments for Kent - Click here.

The Poor

Full employment was rare until the 20th century. There was little support for those unable to look after themselves.

Look for the deatils of help that was provided inc. out-relief (eg: monetary help or help in kind), in-relief (eg: workhouse), details of workhouse staff. Many records are missing or incomplete. They are held locally so will need to know where the individuals lived/their parish. Not much online and no national index.

Other records include the census, BMD and newspapers. TNA has poor law correspondence (MH12) and workhouse staff reg. (MH9). Records held by specific charities and some may have annual reports.

Old Poor Law

  • 1598/1601 - 1834, England only, public assistance to the poor and ill.
  • Communities were very rural at this time.
  • Organised by parish for the sick and elderly.
  • Workhouses began 1680s eg: Gressenhall.
  • Records can be found in the Parish Chest and inc. out-relief and in-relief, settlement certificates, settlement examinations, bastardy orders and overseers reports.
  • Settlement - you had the right of support from a parish under specific circumstances: having been born there, having paid rates there, haing worked for a year and a day there. If paupers didn't have settlement they could be returned to their parish of birth. Certificates were issued by a parish and have details on the individual's life.
  • Children could be put to an apprenticeship until they were 21 - slave labour.

New Poor Law

  • 1834 - 1929 (also to 1940s), England only, public assistance to the poor and ill.
  • Communities becoming more industiralised.
  • Organised by Poor Law Unions - not single parishes but towns or cities or groups of rural parishes - government run. Run by Guardians who were elected.
  • Workhouses were the focus.
  • Out-relief was formally abolished but continued as more humane and cheaper to run eg: small pensions.


  • The Test - conditions were to be worse inside than out in order to decrease pauperism - inhumane.
  • For the very poorest in society. Children were apprecnticed but by 1880s starting to foster them instead. Round 1880s occupational therapy for the elderly began and by 1900s were getting better.
  • Records are at local offices, many gaps, inc. addmission and discharge registers, creed registers, out-relief and minute books.
  • Alternatives to Workhouses included charities, orphanages (most towns had one), relief funds for specific causes, hospitals (for the poor as the middle class paid a private doctor and nurse), almshouses, Goodfellow Lodges and Friendly Societies
  • Home children - sent to the colonies and there should be passenger lists


At the Library there are:

  • Telephone directories - name, address, local organisations (dark green binding)
  • Borough of Gravesham year books (small and black)
  • Register of Electors
  • Maps
  • Illustrations - eg: Marshall who was a local photographer
  • Ephemera collection
  • Index of publications eg: E.R. Green, historian
  • Sale particulars covering properties (ask at desk)
  • Thames collection
  • Parish magazines


Pen and Sword publications.

'Ancestral Trails' 2nd ed. by Mark Herber.

'Genealogy essential reserach methods' by Helen Osborn, 2012.

'Tracing your ancestors in the National Archive' by Amanda Bevan, 7th ed. (a must have)

'The Genealogist's Guide' 1903 by G.W. Marshall. This index is available at SoG website.

'A Genealogical Guide' 1953 by J.B. Whitmore.

'The Genealogist's Guide' 1977 by G.B. Barrow.

'Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees'.

'Making sense of the cesus' revised 2nd ed. by Edward Higgs.

'Census: the expert guide" by Peter Christian and David Annal.

'The parish chest: a study of the records of parochial administration in England' by W.E. Tate.

'The Workhouse' by Simon Fowler.