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Information that may be useful

Census, Birth, Marriage and Death Records


The information in this web site is mainly taken from the census records and birth, marriage and death indexes. Therefore, a lot of people born, after the 1911 census, are not included unless I was given or found their information i.e., date and place of birth etc.


Censuses, apart from The Domesday Book, started in 1801 and are taken every 10 years, but it wasn’t until 1841 that personal details, such as names, were included. Therefore, censuses accessed for this research are from 1841 to 1911. I have also included the 1939 Register.


For your information, the enumerators for the 1841 census were told to round down the ages of anyone over 15 to the nearest 5 years. Some entered the ages rounded down some rounded them up and some didn’t bother at all. Therefore, all ages on that census are a bit dubious, to say the least, and of course on all censuses the information’s accuracy is dependent on what the enumerator was told! Also, the 1841 census did not show the relationships between residents of a dwelling so although they may all have had the same surname that does not mean they were all members of the same family. The 1911 census was the first one to be completed by the residents of the dwelling and it included how long couples had been married (useful if you hadn’t found the marriage before and so did not know the wife’s maiden name) and how many children had been born and died.

Civil Registration of Births, Marriages & Deaths started in England and Wales on 1st July 1837, Scotland and Ireland started later during the 19th century.


To find any births, deaths or marriages that happened before Civil Registration started you have to look at the parish records, which means going to either the relevant county records office or The National Archive at Kew, although more and more of these records are now on-line.


Parish Registers


Parish registers were formally introduced in England on 5 September 1538 following the split with Rome, when Thomas Cromwell, minister to Henry VIII, issued an injunction requiring the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials to be kept. Before this, a few Roman Catholic religious’ houses and parish priests had kept informal notes on the baptisms, marriages and burials of the prominent local families. This injunction was addressed to the rector or vicar of every parish in England. However, this order had nothing to do with religious doctrine or the papacy and rather indicated the desire of the central government to have full knowledge of the population of the country. The book was to be kept in a "sure coffer" with two locks and keys. A fine of 3 shillings, 4 pence was to be levied for failure to comply. Many parishes ignored this order as it was commonly thought that it presaged a further tax.


Finally, in 1597, both Queen and Convocation reaffirmed the injunction, adding that the registers were of ‘permagnus usus’ and must be kept in books of parchment leaves. Previous records (most found in a less durable form) had to be copied into the new books and copies of each year’s entries had to be sent to the bishop’s registrar. The parish clerk was paid to copy the old records into a new parchment book in order to keep the records up to date.


During the English Civil War (1643–1647) and in the following Commonwealth period, records were poorly kept and many are now missing after being destroyed (bored by beetles, chewed by rats or rendered illegible by damp) or hidden by the clergy. This parsimony and neglect were remedied by depositing the registers in county record offices where they were safeguarded and made accessible.


On the other hand, the accurate parish registers of New France were rarely damaged by external events such as war, revolution, and fire. Thus, 30,000 entries were available for the time period 1621 to 1760.


In 1812 in England, an "Act for the better regulating and preserving Parish and other Registers of Birth, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, in England" was passed. It stated that "amending the Manner and Form of keeping and of preserving Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials of His Majesty's Subjects in the several Parishes and Places in England, will greatly facilitate the Proof of Pedigrees of Persons claiming to be entitled to Real or Personal Estates, and otherwise of great public Benefit and Advantage". Separate, printed registers were to be supplied by the King's Printer, and used for baptisms, marriages and burials. These are more or less unchanged to this day.


International Genealogical Index (IGI) and Ancestry’s Web Site


The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is a database of genealogical records, compiled from several sources, and maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). Originally created in 1969, the index was intended to help track the performance of temple ordinances for the deceased.


The IGI contains free genealogical information, submitted from various sources including names and data for vicarious ordinances by Latter-day Saints (LDS) researchers, records obtained from contributors who are not members of the church, and data extracted from microfilmed birth or marriage records. The index contains millions of records of individuals who lived between 1500 and 1900, primarily in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe. Ongoing efforts are made to compile genealogical data from other regions and peoples.


The IGI contains many duplicate names, accumulated over time from many sources, and no real effort is made to validate the information. Many IGI records contain information on the submitter and date of submission (with the submitter's consent). The IGI is available at FamilySearch (, the LDS genealogy website.


In 1995, after a major controversy, a deal was struck between the Jewish and LDS communities to "Remove from the International Genealogical Index in the future the names of all deceased Jews who are so identified if they are known to be improperly included counter to Church policy."


In 2008 The Vatican issued a statement directing its dioceses to block access to parish records from Mormons performing genealogical research.


There may be other relevant records as these sites, and others are constantly being updated, therefore, they should be checked regularly.


Ancestry’s web site ( is where you will find that many people have uploaded their Family trees so that others can see them. These on-line trees are a good source of information, although all facts should be checked for accuracy, and this is also a place where I get lots of photos.




In England alone there are around 45,000 different surnames - each with a history behind it. The sources from which names are derived are almost endless: nicknames, physical attributes, counties, trades, heraldic charges, and almost every object known to mankind.


Before the Norman Conquest, people did not have hereditary surnames: they were known just by a personal name or nickname. When communities were small each person was identifiable by a single name, but as the population increased, it gradually became necessary to identify people further - leading to names such as John the Butcher, William the Short, Henry from Sutton, Mary of the Wood, Roger son of Richard. Over time many names became corrupted and their original meaning is now not easily seen.


After 1066, the Norman barons introduced surnames into England, and the practice gradually spread. Initially, the identifying names were changed or dropped at will, but eventually they began to stick and to get passed on. So, trades, nicknames, places of origin and fathers' names became fixed surnames - names such as Fletcher and Smith, Redhead and Swift, Green and Pickering, Wilkins and Johnson. By 1400 most English families, and those from Lowland Scotland, had adopted the use of hereditary surnames.


Most Saxon and early Celtic personal names - names such Oslaf, Oslac, Oswald, Oswin and Osway ('Os' meaning God) - disappeared quite quickly after the Norman invasion. It was not fashionable and possibly not sensible either, to bear them during those times, so they fell out of use and were not often passed on as surnames. However, some names from before the Norman Conquest survived long enough to be inherited directly as surnames, including the Anglo-Saxon Cobbald (famous-bold).

New surnames continued to be formed long after 1400, and immigrants brought in new ones. Many Irish and Highland Scottish names derive from Gaelic personal names, as do those of the Welsh, who only began to adopt the English system of surnames following the union of the two countries in 1536.


This is all too far back to be helpful in researching family origins, although the study of a particular surname may be useful when the investigation points to an area where it appears often. Many individuals and families have changed their names or adopted an alias at some time in the past.


Thus, you can see that only by tracing a particular family line, possibly back to the 14th century or beyond, will you discover which version of a surname is yours. It is more important to be aware that both surnames and forenames are subject to variations in spelling, and not only in the distant past. Standardised spelling did not really arrive until the 19th century and even in the present-day variations occur, often by accident - how much post have you received where your name has been spelt incorrectly?


Surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames.


There is an old story, whether true or not is immaterial, but it illustrates the problem:


A German immigrant, when asked what his name was replied ‘Ich vergessen’ meaning he couldn’t remember what was meant by the question being asked of him and the clerk thought he was saying his name which he then recorded as Ferguson.


Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between different people, for example, the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era.


Almost every city, town or village existing in the Middle Ages has served to name one or more families. Where a man lived was his means of identification. When a man left his birthplace or village where he had been known, and went elsewhere, people would likely refer to him by the name of his former residence or birthplace, or by the name of the land which he owned.

Place names as family names come from many different centuries and many different countries. They come from places where the original holder of the name lived or had once lived. They indicate the precise locality in whatever way made most sense to other people at the time. In fact, very often this kind of name was given to people by their contemporaries, sometimes as nicknames which just stuck.


For example, if people were living in a foreign country other people often called them by the name of their country of origin. Or if they were living in an area of their own country populated by others of a different ethnic origin, they may have been called a name which indicated that. If people - whether in their own country or not - were living in a different county, city town or village than the one from which they came (or were thought to have come!) they have often been called by a name to indicate their real or supposed place of origin. And even within a small village or country parish the name of a farm where they lived or of a hill or river or other landmark near their home has often been used to distinguish one person from another especially when personal names (such as Saints names) were very common and weren't enough to clearly identify one individual. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.


Coats of Arms


I have included a Coat of Arms for each surname I’ve researched, although some names have several associated Coat of Arms. However, just because a name has an associated Coat of Arms this does not mean that you can use it as you need to officially have the authority to use it.




The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus, the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.


Research for you to do and interesting facts


Firstly, you could try to fill-in all the gaps e.g., any boxes on the checklist that are blank or have ??? in them as this means I haven’t found this information.


Secondly, there are some people that I couldn’t find because I couldn’t confirm their parents. In order to confirm their parentage, you would need to get their birth certificates.


Obviously, you could research any or all of the other names of your ancestors i.e., great grandmothers’ maiden names and others further back. Or you could try to find the people that have blanks or question marks on the check lists either for when/where born, married or died or for census entries. Also, you can add the people born, married or died after 1911 that I have not included.


N.B. Just because I haven’t found someone in a census does not mean they are not on it. They may have been incorrectly entered by the enumerator or the information may have been transcribed incorrectly when it was entered into the on-line index. They may have been in the armed forces or they may have not told the enumerator the whole truth!

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