Soundex and Miracode are important tools for locating elusive ancestors in census reports. They originated in the late nineteenth century, and both versions were used to index census schedules between 1880 and 1930. They are similar coding systems which use the first letter of a person’s surname along with three following numbers which represent the next three consonants in the name. Sounds simple doesn’t it? They really are quite easy to use and are a valuable genealogical tool once mastered, but many people are intimidated by the technical sounding names. Hopefully after reading this post, you will not have that same fear, and will recognize the value of these straightforward systems and be able to use them to make your research more proficient, and less time consuming.
Archive for November, 2011
It is important to understand the historical background of any era when conducting research, but even more so in Britain. It is even more so when seeking military records, as understanding how the British forces were organized at certain times can help you to know what records are available and where to find them expediently. A prime example would be the period of the British Civil War, which took place between 1642 and1649. This period serves as an important genealogical landmark, as before this time there were no regular armies in Wales and England. Prior to this period armed forces had previously only been raised as they were needed, and it wasn’t until 1645 that Parliament drafted legislation which would lead to the formation of the New Model Army.
In our eagerness to find our ancestors, we can sometimes spend too much time and energy looking in the wrong places, or even the right place but in the wrong sequence. We might also, because of our lack of understanding of the research process; overlook records that we were unaware might have revealed our ancestor. I for example, as a novice, began researching my immigrant ancestors using passenger lists. This I guess was a natural instinct for me. Coming from a sea-faring family, where many of my male relatives were, merchant seamen, sailors, and in a few instance privateers, I was keen to know about the ship on which my ancestors immigrated to America.
Tracing your ancestor to a specific location only to discover that there are many individuals of the same name in that area can prove to be quite the genealogical challenge. Then you discover that they are all members of the same church during the same time frame. How can you find out which, if any of them are your relative? This is quite a common occurrence in genealogical research, especially before the twentieth century, yet there are certain steps you can take to eliminate those who aren’t your relative, and confirm who is. These are tried and tested methods used by many experienced researchers, and are based on actual experiences. The first is based on my own personal experience, and I found my ancestor not by my superior research skills, but by having a bit of an insight as to his personality.
Everybody has someone in the family who has a stash of old pictures somewhere; many are even labelled and identified. Most however have no information attached to them, and so a bit of detective work is necessary to reveal their subjects or locations. In spite of a lack of immediate information, old photographs can be of immense value in identifying people, and placing them in specific locations at particular times. The secret to using photographs in family research is to understand how they evolved over time. Beginning in 1826, the printing and mounting of photographs developed over the years, but each time period had its particular style and methods – information of vital importance to genealogists. Clothing styles, and the surroundings and backgrounds can also reveal clues as to where and when a picture was taken, and with surprising accuracy. Let’s take a look at the different periods during which photography evolved, and the characteristics of those eras which we can use to identify them.
In the eighteenth century, compared to the horrible conditions of the Workhouses and Poorhouses, Victorian Lunatic Asylums were models of social responsibility. One such asylum was the Bethlehem Hospital, a purpose built institution constructed for mentally ill and insane patients in 1776. Located at Moorfields in the nation’s capitol of London, it was locally known as Bedlam Hospital. The artist William Hogarth created a series of eight paintings known as “The Rakes Progress”, which provided a visual image of the conditions that many people believed existed in such asylums during the 18th and 19th centuries, though these images may not necessarily be accurate.
Attitudes towards the mentally ill and their care began to change towards the end of the 1700’s, and physicians began to recommend greater personal freedom for their patients, as well as to implement therapeutic exercises and advocate employment for them. The Lunatic Act of 1808 instigated further improvements to mental health patients, as magistrates were permitted to allocate funds to asylums from the tax coffers. At least twenty new asylums were thus funded by public monies between 1808 and 1845, the few that existed beforehand being funded by private charities.
I was recently alerted to the publication of the Manchester Collection – an array of records offered by the Manchester City Council’s Libraries Information and Archives. The records are an awesome genealogical resource for those whose ancestors may have Manchester connections, especially during the Victorian era. Even if you have no ancestors from Manchester, the collection provides a glimpse into Victorian life, so lovers and students of history will benefit as much as genealogists. The collection includes;
There are very few of us in the western world whose family did not originally come from somewhere else. Unless you’re a Native North or South American Indian, you will have an ancestor who was an immigrant. That makes a whole lot of us, and so learning how to identify and trace our immigrant ancestors is an important aspect of genealogy. If we don’t find them, our trail runs cold, and we are left with a family tree barren of leaves and branches that could otherwise have grown to be complete and full of rich heritage. There i9s no one source for finding your family member ho immigrated, there are many different records that may be used. There are however some major principles that can be applied in your search for an immigrant ancestor. They are: