Research in Large English CitiesEdit This Page

From FamilySearch Wiki

Revision as of 16:39, 23 April 2008 by Dunnpb (Talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

To conduct genealogical research in large cities of England first requires a specific place name or a locality in which to begin. To know that your ancestor was “born in Manchester” or that he was “of London“, is not sufficient.

Large city research tends to place fact-finding into slow-motion. If, for example, you’re looking for a “ John Smith“, but you do not know the specific locale in a large city in which your “ John" lives or resided, it will be impossible for you to determine which “John Smith” is yours out of the many “John Smith’s” in London as a whole.

It is possible through a knowledge of certain’ finding sources’—to locate a specific town, borough, registration district, or even the street address your ancestor resided in so that you will know in what specific primary or record sources in the record repositories for his or her locale, to begin your research. Once you obtain this knowledge of these finding sources, applying this knowledge as you begin your research will help you unlock the door to more quickly achieve success in helping you build your family’s pedigree. It may make a difference in finding your next generation ancestor this week rather than in one year from now! How?

Home Records First, a quick-list of home record sources is in order--any one of which may contain the specific place name and/or locality where your Londoner or other big city dweller ancestor resided or lived in before coming to settle into the country of immigration:

 Old letters: old addresses are easily identified on these  Family Bibles: sometimes contain specific localities during vital events  Obituaries: often contain locality specific data on residence or place of birth  Certificates of marriage, death & births: often give parents names and specific place names of residence and/or of birth  Transcriptions of tombstones: may provide clarifying information on specific place of birth  Copies of Military papers: usually provide a place of birth and sometimes parentage  Copy of Funeral home records  Copy of Naturalization records: from four to five different kinds, may indicate specific locale in England

Compiled Records - Archives & Libraries Like a research scientist who seeks for and studies the research compilations of other scientists in his field, before commencing their own research campaign, you must do likewise. You do not want to reinvent the wheel! If you haven’t done so already, you should first consult compiled sources which help you determine exactly where you are on the ‘research map’ so that you'll know where you want to go. Search compiled sources whenever they are available, first. Compiled sources often are indexes. And indexes are considered compiled sources. Here’s a list of compiled sources that can help you determine birth information or specific information on former places of residence or the specific town, city or parish of nativity:

 Online catalogs or inventories to city, county, and state archives  Catalogs [including online] to public, academic and family history research libraries, i.e. the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) online; The National Archives (UK) catalog  Published and manuscript family histories in local and state and Federal archives  Library of Congress and the British library in London have vast acquisitions of compiled family histories in their respective collections  Local histories in the United States in local archives public and academic libraries, or in private possession  Websites containing major database (especially indexes to) vital data: - FamilySearch (i.e. IGI approx. 300 million entries for pre-1890 England) - - - - - - FreeBMD - - Social Security Death Index

Compiled Sources - Indexes: Key to Successful Big City Research Accompanying the challenge of researching in large cities, researchers must deal with the large task of searching its vast population. Along with a large population comes the daunting task of searching through bloated records and registers of the various genealogical record types. This places fact-finding into slow-motion and it becomes the biggest source of frustration and it challenges even the best of researchers. In the absence of indexes to key primary sources such as vital or civil registration records, church registers of baptisms marriages and/or burials, or indexes to wills, land ownership, military or militia lists and etc., it becomes much more difficult to extend one’s pedigree further back in time.

Therefore those who pursue genealogical research in England’s large population centers must always take meticulous care to ensure a thorough and comprehensive search for a key index[es] in a large city or town. Here’s a list of the most likely places to help locate surname indexes of large cities:

• world wide web (Internet): Google 2-5 search terms at a time to help you find avaiI lable indexes for the large city or town • record office collections • research libraries • major public libraries ( • academic archives and libraries • private collections • The Family History Library ( • ’look up’ exchanges (see

All of these should be searched in order to locate and search indexes available in a large city. Indexes may be available to any genealogically salient record type, published or online, including indexes to wills, land ownership, military or militia lists etc.

Researching Records of Country of Settlement To help you to more fully determine the precise place of former residence or place of birth in the mother country, research in the records of the country of settlement is absolutely essential. The following records are critical to search for and obtain in order to find a more specific or precise place of birth, or of parentage, or at least to learn the last place of residence in the mother country:

 Certificates of marriage, death & births: standard format of statutory certificates often request for and often give parents’ names and specific place-names of that residence and/or of birth  Obituaries: may provide helpful and clarifying place name information  Newspaper articles: may give information on business, accounts of tragedy, and stories of interest on your immigrant ancestor  Tombstones: may provide clarifying information on specific place of birth  Military records: usually provide a place of birth and sometimes parentage  Funeral home records, where available, may be helpful  Ship passenger lists: seldom provide specific locale or nativity or place of residence in the mother country  Naturalization records: from four to five different kinds, may indicate specific locale in England

Let’s say that Florence Beatrice Bradsell Dunn, came to the United States in the year 1947 but you do not know where in “ London" that she was born. You search through family records, including extended family members and their respective family records but nothing reveals the precise place of birth. You next commence searches in compiled sources and you discover in the website an entry from Ancestral File, suggesting that her birth occurred at Hampstead in the year 1883. A subsequent request for the full copy of her birth certificate reveals and confirms that place of birth as fact.

Now, let’s say your search in compiled sources reveals nothing in terms of her birthplace. So you continue your search in the records of the country and state of settlement of her current residence. After searching for tombstone and her newspaper obituary to no avail, you finally decide to request a copy of her death certificate from the state department of health statistics.

You find and obtain her certificate of death for the year 1950, and discover she was born

at “Hampstead”, Middlesex, England in the year 1884, with the added bonus of it revealing both her parents names as— “Thomas Bradsell” and Catherine Harriet—including her maiden surname of “Brock”! You’re ready now to search other important records of England for that era in order to confirm this data. The data on her death certificate that suggests her parents’ names should be considered as secondary source information only. The next step of the task is to now obtain a copy of Florence’s birth certificate for the year 1884. On obtaining her certificate of birth, it provides and confirms in fact her birth date, birthplace, and parents’ names.

Using Records of England to Determine Place of Birth Knowing where to start researching in England requires prior knowledge as to a specific place or town or parish name. An exception may be when the surname sought is not a common one. In such cases it may be quite possible to start your research immediately in the record sources of England. However when the surname being researched is a common one such as Evans or Smith, it is essential you identify a more specific place of birth or marriage or place of residence. If you do not, then your research results will produce far too many “John Smith’s” for you to realistically deal with in order to prove your pedigree at any given generation point.

Below you’ll find a valuable list of data rich resources (compiled sources) of which you can search to help you to more quickly find a possible ancestor; then always check against the original primary sources in order to validate what you find in the index. Recourse must always be taken by looking at original record source[s] when an entry from an index or compiled database appears to likely be that of your ancestor.

Listed below are the primary record sources to be used in researching from the present on back to early times; these are arranged accordingly. These primary record sources include the following ones along with its corresponding, and available indexes:

 Civil registration of births marriages and deaths July, 1837-present. At GRO; search  Civil registration of births marriages and deaths July, 1837-present. At local superintendent registrar indexes: at  Census records 1841-1901: county record offices,,,,, and by Googling on “placename” and census “year” and the word “index”; visitors to The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah may access the plethora of free census website links on the Patron Desktop “Favorites” listed under the county folders, then listed under the folders with the “Census” subject heading. Census records—when no other records can help you to narrow down—quite often provide you with a critical family’ hand print’. Let’s say you have that “John Smith” and do not know his specific place of birth, but you do know the name of his wife and names of two or three of his children or more. Searching patiently in an index to census records of a large city or region or township will likely produce a successful outcome.  Church registers 1538-1837: registers of the Church of England and nonconformist Church registers provide critical data for vital information and must be used to compile family pedigrees during this period; are at county record offices, sometimes at the local parish church, or many online indexes and transcribed records for 25% or more of the ancient parishes of England also. The following web sites contain rich data for parish and Church registers:,,; you can also Google the following three (or more) terms in order to find names of ancestors in church registers:

1. city or borough or regional place-names 2. name of record type, i.e. baptisms or census or marriages or burials 3. “index” or, in quotation marks, type—“surname index“

Approaches to Large City Research in England After you have determined the specific place of birth or of residence of your immigrant ancestor you’re now ready to begin a search in the large city or parish for your ancestor’s birth or baptism in England. For example, let’s say that you learned that your ancestor, Edward Hawkins was born in the year 1838 in Shoreditch, County Middlesex.



Need wiki, indexing, or website help? Contact our product teams.

Did you find this article helpful?

You're invited to explain your rating on the discussion page (you must be signed in).