Burntwood Family History Group
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Burntwood Family History Group
Getting Started
"Go back far enough and all humankind are cousins" Naomi MITCHISON (1897 - 1999)
Researching your family history is one of the most popular hobbies in this country, with many thousands of new converts enjoying the challenge of tracing their family roots. You are never too young or too old to start and now is the time! And remember, enjoy yourself.
The first thing to do is to draw a family tree of yourself and your immediate family. Then you can see how you are all related. Write down as much as information you can about each person in your family tree, starting with your siblings, parents and grandparents. Then talk to your parents and grandparents. They will have knowledge of the generation before them. All families have stories and myths that may sound far-fetched. Do not discount them totally, but do not accept them at face value. As they give you information about other family members, your family tree will grow.
How much detail you wish to include is up to you and how much time you are prepared to spend on your hobby. You can just include, dates of births, marriages and deaths, or you can find out about where they lived, their education, what schools they went to, their jobs or careers, and how they fitted in with society. You will be able to see how your family has changed course throughout the years, your ancestors could have been very rich, but equally could have been very poor. They may have served in the armed forces and fought in wars.
Gather together or take copies of family documents such as the family bible, mementos, photographs, letters, certificates and newspaper cuttings. Make a note of which item came from whom. As you progress, you will build up a large amount of information and documents. Whichever way you record your family histories, on paper or on computer, create a system that is accurate and that you can access easily. Always record unsuccessful searches too, as this will save you time in the future.
You can join a family history society like ours to help you in your research. Our Members Library available to members is full of information in books, booklets and pamphlets, video cassettes, CD’s and microfiche.
It is far easier to work backwards than forwards. Start with the information on yourself from your own birth certificate and work backwards from your parents details. Look at your parent’s marriage certificate and then their birth certificates. Birth, marriage and death certificates will give you the dates and location of births, marriages and deaths and they will include other information, such as addresses, ages, and occupations. From 1st July 1837 in England and Wales and on 1st January 1855 in Scotland all births, marriages and deaths had to be registered and a certificate issued.
So what information will you find on the certificates?
On a birth certificate you will find that the entries are in columns. Firstly you will find when and where that person was born. When the time of birth is included it usually means a multiple birth, but in some register offices it was added as a matter of course in the early days of the civil register. Progressing across the columns, is the persons given name(s), its sex, the fathers full name and occupation (quite often this was left empty if the child was illegitimate ), the mothers full name and her maiden surname, this is usually prefixed by 'formerly'. (The Surname from a previous marriage would be prefixed by 'late'.) Also on the certificate is the, name, address and signature of the person laying the information of the birth, the date of registration and the signature of the Registrar.
If the person laying the information gave the correct details, you should now know the name of the father and the name of the mother, including her maiden name. This information should enable you to search for the marriage certificate of the parents and progress further back.
On a marriage certificate, again you will find that the entries are in columns. Firstly the date and place the marriage took place and whether it took place by banns, licence or certificate. The full names of the bride and groom together with their ages, although the ages were sometimes replaced with 'Full Age’, which meant the person was 21 or over (18 or over after 1969). Details include the pre-marriage status of bride and groom, bachelor, spinster, widow, widower, etc, and the occupation of both bride and groom and their place of residences. They may have both given the same address. The names of the fathers of the bride and groom and their occupations are also listed, and they may possibly be recorded as deceased. The certificate will also have the signature of all parties involved, the clergyman or registrar, the bride and groom, and the witnesses. If the bride, groom or witnesses could not read or write, they made their mark, usually an X.
As with birth certificates, truthful information was not always given. Ages given by the bride and groom may be incorrect, due to lies, exaggeration or mistakes. Prior to it being raised in 1929, the legal age for marriage for boys was 14 and girls 12. Parental consent was needed if the parties were less than 21 years of age, therefore the certificate may show the ages of the bride and groom as either, 'Full Age' or a 'Minor'. The age of parental consent was lowered to 18 years of age in 1969. An under aged bride or groom marrying without parental consent, may have added a few years to their ages. Also if there was a large difference between the bride and groom’s ages, they may have added or taken off few years to make the age difference closer.
Death Certificates do not provide quite as much information as birth and marriage certificates, but the information provided will probably be more accurate. The details include the date of the registration, who the person was that died, when and where the person died, sex, occupation, cause of death, and the name and address of the person laying the information. This is usually a relative and occasionally it can be a close friend. Death certificates of children should also include the father’s name, and sometimes the registered death of a married woman will include her husband’s name. It will also give details of whom the certificate was issued to. The certificate will also give the persons age, if not their date of birth and this will aid you in finding the persons birth certificate.
Remember, that just because birth, marriage and death certificates are official documents, they don’t always tell the whole truth. Always corroborate your findings by using certificates in conjunction with other documents. Copies of certificates can be obtained from the register office in which the birth, marriage or death was registered or the General Register Office.
Some record offices, libraries or family history groups may have copies. You can search for certificate registration details nationally at FreeBMD or locally such as StaffordshireBMD. A search of Scottish records can be made at the National Archives of Scotland. Once you have the certificate reference number, the certificate can be ordered on line or by post.
Since the commencement of civil registration in England and Wales, there have been numerous laws and changes to the information gathered and recorded. Here you will find the important dates in civil registration.
Once you have a death certificate, or to help you find more details to obtain a death certificate, you can consult other documents such as diaries, family bibles, wills and newspaper obituaries.
Parish registers are the registers completed by parish churches, recording the dates of baptisms, marriages and burials. They will include other information, such as addresses, ages, and parent’s surnames. Events have been recorded in parish registers since 1538 when it became law for each church to record each baptism, marriage and death in its parish. In 1598 the Incumbent was obliged to submit each year a full copy of all the previous 12 months entries. These copies are known as Bishops Transcripts or more commonly BT's. Some registers are incomplete or have gaps and some have not survived the early years. Parish Registers and Bishops Transcripts are normally found at the county records office in the area which the church fell. These registers are important to tracing your ancestry back before the introduction of birth, marriage and death certificates. If your Ancestors lived in the same place for centuries you will be able to find many generations of your family.
So what information will you find in Parish Registers?
Baptism registers should show the date of baptism, the child’s Christian name, parents Christian and surnames, abode, trade or profession of the parents and by whom the ceremony was conducted. Marriage registers should show name and parish of residence of bride and groom, when and where the couple were married, whether the marriage was by banns or licence, whether the marriage was by consent of parents or guardians, by whom they were married and the signatures of clergy, bride and groom and at least two witnesses. Burial registers should show name of deceased, abode when buried, age and who performed the burial ceremony.
The older parish registers are usually held at county or city record offices, though some are still in the possession at the church were the registrations took place. Searches for information leading you to a parish register entry may be found on line at websites such as the International Genealogical Index (IGI)the records of the Mormon Church, the National Burial Indexthe Federation of Family History Societiesor at many pay to view or subscription websites. Where ever you get your information from, you must always check the information against the original entry in parish register itself.
If you find an ancestors name on one of these, they can offer you additional information to what you would find in certificates or parish registers. Burntwood Family History Group has photographed and transcribed many War Memorials in our Area.
Every 10 years from 1801, (except 1941 during the Second World War and the 1931 census returns were destroyed) a census was taken, recording almost everybody in the country on a particular night. They record individual homes and the details of the people in the homes the night the census was taken. The first year from which the majority of returns survive is 1841. Copies of entries can be obtained from those censuses available and currently up to 1911.
In 1801 when the first census taken, the head count of the population, was found to be 10.8 Million. The following three censuses in 1811, 1821 and 1831 were in the basic same format as the first one.
In 1841 that the Government realised that the Census could be a useful tool for assessing the Country’s future needs. This year the census was to include, names, addresses, ages and occupations. In 1851 more questions were asked including the relationship of a person to the head of the household and birth place. So on a single entry for a property, for a particular night, families can be found together with their ages, places of birth and siblings.
The census contains a lot of information which is personnel, such as if a child was born illegitimate, the persons age and possibly the person being somewhere on that night they shouldn't have been. The person may not have wanted made public where he / she was that night. So each census remains closed for viewing by the public for 100 years. Census's were taken on:-
1841 7th June - 1851 30th March - 1861 7th April - 1871 2nd April - 1881 3rd April - 1891 5th April - 1901 31st March - 1911 2nd April -  1921 19th June - 1931 26th April - 1941 No census taken - 1951 8th April - 1961 23rd April - 1971 25th April - 1981 6th April - 1991 21st April - 2001 29th April and 2011 27th March.
In the years following 2011, the census may be replaced with an Integrated Population Statistics System with information gathered from multiple sources (Could 2011 see the last-ever census?)
A complete set of the censuses can be found at The National Archives and most local record offices, major reference libraries and family history centres  have a copy for their area. Details of available censuses can be found on pay to view or subscription websites and the entries on the 1881 census can be found free at the International Genealogical Index (IGI)and the (IGI) has also produced a CD ROM of the 1881 census.
'Give us back our eleven days!' was the cry that could be heard ringing out on the morning of Thursday 14th September 1752, when millions of British subjects both here and throughout the colonies, innocently believed that overnight their lives had been cut short by eleven days. Find out why was no British Subject born between the 3rd and 13th of September 1752.
There are thousands of websites that provide a host of information for genealogists and family historians to help you in your research and some of these are listed on our Staffordshire Research and Links page
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