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Miscellaneous Hints

GEDCOM file format stands for genealogical data communication.

Various historic milestones for record keeping: 1538 / 1650 / 1750 / 1837.

Concept of 'step children' didn't exist in Victorian times.

Tithe records show land ownership, tax payments and occupations. Genealogist website has tithes.

Genealogical Proof Standard:

  • Have you searched hard enough
  • Is it repeatable
  • Does the theory hold up to scrutiny
  • Does it all make sense
  • Resolve contradictory evidence so you don't delude yourself

Follow the paper trail:

  • B M D
  • Divorce & cohabitation
  • Census & registers
  • 20th century conflicts
  • Directories, wills, newspapers, education, electoral roll, social media

F.R. Youngs 'Administrative units of England' published by the Royal Historical Society. See the Vision of Britain website for this. It explains diocese, archdeaconry, parish, wards, hundreds, boroughs and metropolitan boroughs, administrative county, Poor Law Union, Metropolitan Board of Work, sanitary districts. Eg: what parishes were in the modern Tower Hamlets?

Mental Health Institutions

Follow the Wellcome Library’s mental healthcare project at https://wellcomelibrary.org/collections/digital-collections/mentalhealthcare/. The Wellcome Library is contributing archives from its own collections to a joint project to digitise over 800,000 pages of material relating to psychiatric institutions, mental health organisations and individuals in the UK. Material dates from the 18th to the 20th centuries and includes patient records such as registers and case notes, photographs, administrative documents, hospital staff data, artwork and publications produced by patients and staff.

Ancestry to search for individual names in Patients’ admission registers (1846-1912; TNA ref. mh 94/1-47); Criminal lunacy warrant and entry books (1882-1898).

The Genealogist to search Quarterly returns of Prisoners in Criminal Lunatic Asylums (TNA ref. mh 8).

FMP collections of Scotland, mental health institutions registers & Admissions; British Armed Forces, First World War Disability & retirement Payments For officers & Nurses; Prestwich Asylum Admissions 1851-1901; South Yorkshire Asylum, Admission records; and Kent, Bexley Asylum minute books, 1901-1939.

Correspondence with Poor Law unions and other local authorities (1834-1900) including some of the returns of insane inmates in workhouses and asylums from 1834 to 1909 (from TNA ref. mh 12) can be searched by name on Ancestry.

Irish ancestors

After making lists of known information on your Irish ancestors and constructing timelines, head to the Irish Genealogy website at www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/. This is the Irish government’s official genealogy website and contains useful data (e.g. the historic records of Births, marriages and Deaths of the General register office and the Indexes to the historic records of Births, marriages and Deaths), as well as research tips and links.

For wills see ‘Ireland probate records’ on the Family Search Wiki at https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Ireland_probate_records.

Census of Ireland 1901/1911 and Census fragments and substitutes, 1821-51, head to the National Archives’ census website at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie.

For surnames, see John Grenham’s website at https://www.johngrenham.com.

Land records are essential in Irish family research. Find out about what is available at the website of the national library of Ireland: https://www.nli.ie/en/griffiths-valuation.aspx/

Gentlemen through title deeds

Deeds are legal documents related to ownership or tenure of a property. The owners or holders have ‘title’ of the relevant property. Deeds prove the title.

There is no central archive for title deeds. Voluntary land registration began in 1863, but compulsory registration was only introduced in 1990.

Researching methods of transferring land may require some knowledge of Latin. See this guide from The national archives: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latin/.

From a family history perspective, title deeds can provide insight into family, social and financial relationships. The deeds include names of the main parties, and can mention previous owners or tenants.

Most deeds are laid out in a specific way. Whether in English or Latin, look for the following sections on the deed: date of execution; names of parties; recitals; testatum; parcels; habendum; covenants, conditions and provisos; witnesses; endorsements.

Search Strategy

Work backwards in time.

Interview relatives - who / what / where / when / why.

Get documentary evidence, follow the papers.

Who - is the name correct? check spelling variations using nicknames or AKAs.

Record what you've done and any failures:

  • Cite your sources
  • Who authorised it
  • Any reference numbers
  • When was it written, at time of event or later?
  • Where is the original held, when seen, repository name and location, cemetery location
  • URL, book or article


Why might you be stuck - change of name or wrong name / false premise / migration / mis-transcription / not registered / too many or too few possibilities / gaps in records - where is the missing information and how can you access it?

Think about who you are looking for / what kind of record / where (parish, county etc) / when (what is available for then) / type of person, their job.

Census - if you can't find their name can you find where they lived (in a directory) and look for the address instead? Be flexible about ages in census - rounded down in 1841 to nearest 5 years / institutions are listed at the back of enumeration books / look for group of people without the surname as they may have changed name if moved / industry - people may move to other towns in the same industry eg: fishing / look at neighbours

Become an expert of the places your ancestors lived. What records survive? Look at local history for employment or non-conformity. Try https://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/.


Tips - first letters often misread / abbreviated may come up / search with forename+age+birth place rather than surname / search all indexes as results can differ / review your findings regularly / go sideways to go backwards - research around the people you're stuck on / wills of unmarried female relatives / try phonetic spellings / turn the pages on digital records / witnesses on marriage certs / use local family history societies / look for wills in an area, not just by name / women may go back to their birth town to give birth


Means 'the crane's foot' in French.

Use '=' for marriage / Put children in row, left to right, in birth order / Use squiggly line to show an illegitimate child (born out of wedlock, even if couple married later) / Use dotted lines for speculation

Relationship calculator.

Relationship calculator.

SOG Collections

SoG have:

  • pedigrees in the collection - try 'hints & tips - surname searching' on the website
  • maps and gazetteers
  • microfilm for much of FamS records
  • free online access to various genealogical databases. Eg: FamS access inc Reg of Apprentices 1803-1842. London registers formerly at LMA & Guildhall that have been indexed on Ancestry DB / Westm. records that have been indexed on FMP with images on Anc, are available free.

Have LCC list of streets & places within Administrative County of London (+ City of London). Eg: names of blocks, parks, postal districts, ordnance and map references, alterations in street nomenclature since 1856. 1901 (LL) / 1912 (ML) / 1929 (MX/G125)

London to the SoG = parishes in the City of London and City of Westminster and parishes in the county of Middlesex. All books are shelved in the London?Midd shelves MX/_ _ _. Pre LCC (1889) parishes in other modern counties included Southwark, Lambeth & Croydon in Surrey / Deptford, Bromley & Lewisham in Kent / West Ham, Barking & Dagenham in Essex.

Dockland Ancestors project (with SoG) looked at post 1837 parishes, records are on parishregister.com and also on FMP & fiche and CD at SOG.

Search SoG catalogue by place name for City of London parish names. The names was often the same as the Saint to which the parish church is dedicated. London (St Alphage or St James Dukes Place or St Andrew by the Wardrobe). But also have St Katherine by the Tower (Middle.) and St Annes (Limehouse, Midd.).

Shelf marks at SoG:

  • MX/G general
  • L local
  • CC city companies
  • R registers
  • M MIs
  • C censuses
  • D directories
  • P poll books
  • PER periodicals

Education - use the guides in the SoG to see what schools were where and then go to Ancestry DB for the registers.

Huguenot collection - Wagner Collection is a microfilm of notes on the printed pedigrees of Lart's Hug. pedigrees; published proceedings and Quarto series publications of the Hug. Society include registers/returns of aliens in the City and suburbs of London (parts 1-4 1523-1625); Denisations(?) and naturalisations 1509-1800; Relief of Protestant Refugees; Returns of Strangers in the Metropolis 1593, 1627, 1635, 1639.

Jewish collection - various transactions from London Jewish associations; MS collection re pedigrees and notes relate more to the earlier communities.

Other topics:

  • Occupations and apprenticeships - printed volumes; Crisp & Clench collection of original indentures; SoG data online has 1710-1811 App. of Great Britain; local parish and poor law apprentices
  • Wills - inc Bank of England records
  • Poll books - huge collection with many on Data Online. These may give a clue to which livery/guild your ancestor was a member of and may see where they lived, if outside London.
  • Session records - have guides
  • Poor Law records - transcribed a few from LMA and Westmin. Archives. (Tower Hamlets Poor Law records are on Ancestry).

London as a marriage centre

Focus pre 1754 for irregular and non-conf marriages. During 1680s half of London weddings took place in Minories or Duke's Place (eg: 'brides from Stepney', claimed to e from Stepney, c.140 yr in Minories and c.280/yr at Dukes).

Clandestine marriage centres were free of the Bishop of London and inc. St James, Dukes Place / Holy Trinity, Minories / St Botolph, Aldgate / Tower of London / St Pauls Wharf (?) / St Katherine by the Tower / The Mint / St Pancras / Bromley by Bow / Stratford le Bow / St Dunstan's, Stepney / St Gregory by St Paul / Southwark / Liberties of Fleet St Prison (taverns, alehouses, brandy shops).

SoG has transcriptions and indexes for marriage licences. Check 'Gibson guide'.

For Quaker marriages see Quaker Digests films at SoG - BMD Reg has indexed these records. Anc. has them too and has indexed other non-conf material not on BMD.