A big difference between England and Wales is the naming system.
Most families in England adopted fixed surnames by 1400.
In Wales, the patronymic system prevailed into the 19th century.
- The child was given the father’s given name as a last name.
- The word ap or ab (“son of”) might be inserted between the son’s name and the father’s name.
- i.e. David ab Owen meant David, son of Owen.
Closely analyze historical records to distinguish your ancestors from those with the same name.
UK has taken a census every 10 years since 1801, with the exception of 1941
The 1801 – 1831 were taken at the county level, with the Overseers of the Poor, clergy, and local officials serving as enumerators.
- These census only recorded the name of the head of household, number of families in a dwelling, and the number of males and females.
- Most of these records were never microfilmed and have been lost or destroyed
Beginning in 1841, the census was organized and collected centally under the office of the Registrar General
- They also began to list the names of every individual in the household
- Information requested included name, age, gender, occupation
Compulsory civil registration requirements for birth, marriage and death records began around 1874.
Researching in civil registrations is a two-step process:
- Look for an ancestor’s event in the quarterly indexes produced by the UK Office for National Statistics. You can order a copy of the record here.
2. Parish Records:
- In 1537, a law required the Church of England to record all baptisms, marriages and burials in their parishes.
- Parish registers contain gaps between 1553-1558 (when Mary I ruled) and 1642-1660 (during the English Civil War and its aftermath).
- Most records continue until 1874, when civil registration began.
- Records can be found here however, coverage varies by county.
Probate Records post 1857:
- Ancestry has a catalog for “England & Wales National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966”
- For people who died between 1967 and 1995 you must search by mail, for more information click here
Welsh records often refer to people by the farm name where they lived.
- Association of Family History Societies of Wales
- BBC contains historical information about British history.
- Vist Commonwealth Graves Commission for military deaths.
- $ Deceased Online is a central database for UK burials and cremations.
- $ Family Relatives Contains both English and Welsh documents.
- $ Find My Past
- Free UK Genealogy, Previously known as Free BMD, is a project to digitized UK Civil Registration documents.
- The Gazette – newspaper database
- The Genealogist
- The General Register Office maintains vital records for England and Wales beginning in 1837.
- Genes Reunited
- Genuki contains UK and Irish genelaogical records.
- The National Archives
- Old Bailey Online – contains records of trials held at London’s central criminal court from 1674-1913.
- Vision of Britain is an online version of Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer for England and Wales.
- Welsh Newspapers Online
- The Workhouse is a great website to learn about poor laws, work houses and poor law records for UK and Ireland.
- $ World Vital Records
Empire Emigrants are British Citizens who migrated to British Outposts.
Documents are well preserved and accessible.
Documents were kept locally and generally organized by presidencies (provinces)
- The Imperial Gazetteer of India can help you discover which province your ancestor’s town was in.
- India Office Family History Search from the British Library
- Church Register Returns served as civil registers of vital events.
- Families in British India Society contains registrar marriages from 1852-1911.
- If your ancestor was a civil servant visit here for their “writer’s petitions” (job applications).
Australia wa established as a British penal colony in 1788
- First Fleet Fellowship is a lineage society for those on the first convict fleet to Australia
- Convict Records include information on:
- Shipping registers,
- Court records,
- Jail and penal colony records,
- Tickets of leave,
- Certificates of freedom, and
- Australiasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents
- CoraWeb contains useful information on Australian genealogical research.
- National Archives of Australia
- Unlock the Past
Church records are the go-to source for British colonial vital statistics before 1870. Original records are scattered. Check the local parish office or local archives.
The Department of Home Affairs houses birth, marriage and death records.
Records are accessible by request through South African Consulates (Note: It isn’t expensive to order records, but it takes forever to receive a response.
Genealogical Society of South Africa holds cemetery records.