In all the packages I offer I’m always saying you get certificates but what does this mean and what information do they contain?
First a little history. The certificate system for births marriages and deaths began in July 1837. These certificates gave much more information including the newly developed registration districts. These districts were formed by splitting up the country into areas so that when events were recorded they could be registered at a central location rather than just at the church. These districts are still used today as is the format of the certificates, although they have added more information over the years. Prior to this the only records of a person’s life would have been found in the parish register in the form of baptisms, marriages and burials. These, in the case of baptisms and burials may not have included the date the person was born or died. Also in the case of a marriage record very little information was included.
So let’s look at each one in turn starting with a birth certificate.
As you can see it shows the date and place of birth, the child’s name and sex, the father’s name and mother’s name including maiden name, the father’s occupation and the person who registered the birth and the date of registering. Now this gives loads more information. On a baptism record, if you are lucky, you get the date of baptism, the name of the child, the forenames of the parents, the father’s occupation and the abode which was usually just the village or area of a town. Now you get an address, date of birth and the mother’s maiden surname. How does this help? Well now you have an exact date of birth which can be used to tie in with other records. So for example if you find a military record you can use the date of birth to confirm it is the correct person. It’s also great if searching the 1939 register as a person’s date of birth is given so it can help prove it is the correct individual. You also have the mother’s maiden surname. Now this opens up some doors. If you’ve got this you can use the name to help find the marriage of the child’s parents. Also after September 1911 on the BMD (birth, marriage and death) list you can search for children also using the mother’s maiden surname so it can help find more children for a couple.
Now on to marriage certificates. On the church marriage records at most you got the date of the event and location, the couples name and residence (usually the parish they lived in), the witness name and a signature (or not if they signed with an X), and occasionally an age and father’s name . On the new certificate you also got the occupations of the couple, the father’s names and occupations.
In reality, if you can find the marriage record in the parish record you may get lucky and not need to get a marriage certificate as you will have enough information, but alas this is not always the case.
Finally the death certificate. In the burial records you usually get the person’s name, age, residence (the parish, village or area of a town) and the burial date. In some cases you may also get the burial plot number as well.
Now on the death certificate you get the date of death, the person’s occupation, the cause of death and the name of the person who registered the death. This is not vital information in tracing a person’s genealogy but it is helpful in some ways. The occupation can be cross referenced with the known information of the person and the name of the informant of the death can be used to tie in to known family members. This is especially helpful when tracing a child’s death as it is usually one of their parents who register the death. Also the cause of death can be very informative it trying to trace a hereditary condition.
So overall the old system was good but the new system is so much better, but then in the pre 1837 era did they ever think we’d be tracing our ancestors?
We’ve all though of the question which famous person from history would you like to have met. Well I have. In fact I’ve given it much thought. My first answer is always King Henry VIII. I want to know what he was really like. Was he the man history makes him out to be or was he actually a man in a situation he didn’t want to be in (Henry was destined for a life in the church until his brother Arthur died and he suddenly became his father’s heir) and did he became the person he was as a result? The other person I would like to have known was John of Gaunt the third son of King Edward III. This was a man who had at least 14 children by many women, 3 of whom he was married to. I’ve love to know what kind of man he was and whether he realised how much his descendants went to populate Europe. Our present Queen Elizabeth II is descended from John of Gaunt. One of his grandsons was the explorer Henry the Navigator (a prince of Portugal being the son of King John I of Portugal of Phillipa of Lancaster (John’s daughter)).
This led me to think about which of my ancestors I would like to have met. The answer I always come up with is my Grandma. She died 2 years before I was born suddenly in her 60’s from a brain haemorrhage. All my life I’ve seen photos of her and heard stories about her, but I would have loved to have seen her. What did her voice sound like, what did a Grandma hug feel like, am I really as like her as everyone says? All questions I’ll never find the answers to.
So which other ancestors would I have liked to have known? Well my Grandma’s mum. She died when my Grandma was 6 so she really missed out on her mum and could possibly have had the same questions of her mother as I have of her. Family story always had that she died in the flu epidemic in 1918. We got a bit of a shock when I purchased her death certificate and found out she had died of an appendicitis. She was 39 years old.
Another ancestor I’d loved to have met was my 5 times great uncle Hugh Wardle. He was born in 1802 near Leek in Staffordshire. He had an interesting life. He was a Druggist (the fore runner of a pharmacist although he probably just sold drug rather than made them). He was married twice to women called Elizabeth and the couples had 5 children between them. In 1855 he emigrated to America where along with his 2 sons from his first marriage and they opened a drug store on Warren Street, Hudson, New York State. I would love to know what prompted this move especially since it meant leaving his other children behind. Was it just the adventure, or were times so bad he left for a new life and to give his sons a better change in life? Did he miss his daughter Lady Elizabeth Wardle and his son George Young Wardle? both of whom were friends and colleges of the designer William Morris. Lady Elizabeth’s husband Sir Thomas Wardle was influential in the silk dying industry and George ran the Morris Works in London. Did he ever wish he’d stayed in Staffordshire? Again all questions I will never have answers to.
One of the main reasons I would love to be able to meet all of my ancestors is to see what they look like and see if I can see any of myself in any of them. I’ve seen picture of some ancestors and I think I now know where my silly hair comes from, but does any of my other traits come from them.
But alas this is all pipe dreams as it will never happen, and even if a time machine was invented I’d be too chicken to go in it, so I’ll just have to continue imagining answers to my questions.
One of the things that really frustrates me in genealogy is when ancestors disappear. It happens more often than you’d think. You’re happily searching away, finding ancestors right, left and centre and then ….. They just vanish and leave a dead end in your family tree.
I’ve come across this many times and it does frustrate some people as they think you can find anyone, but in reality you can’t. You search every set of records you can think of. You try different spelling to their names and you check they didn’t travel abroad, but still you can’t find them.
The one person in my tree that frustrates me the most is my Great grandfather’s sister Edith Staton. She was born in Worksop and went to school in Somerset. She then joined her eldest brother in Peterborough. In 1901 she was on the census living with her mother, step father and sister in Dunstable. The last time I found her was in 1904 in Dunstable. I found a newspaper article from the Luton Times on the 1 April describing the marriage of her sister in which Edith was mentioned as a bridesmaid. After that nothing! Where did she go? I’ve checked the 1911 census for her. Since her parents were dead I checked her siblings and she wasn’t with them. I’ve check the marriage and death records, emigration records, the newspaper archive and even military records. Nothing!
Over the years I’ve come up with many theories. Some are logical some are just weird.
Theory 1. Was Edith a suffragette? This could indicate why Edith wasn’t on the 1911 census. I wasn’t uncommon for suffragettes to not be on this census. They used it as a form of protest again them not being allowed to vote. This could solve one problem but not all. I’ve found no evidence she was a suffragette and certainly no evidence she was ever arrested. But even if she was she would surely have been found in other records such as marriage or death records.
Theory 2: Did Edith leave the country. Again I’ve found no evidence that she did. No application for a passport and no documents showing she left the country.
Theory 3: Did she actually get married but the marriage is not in the records or her name was misspelled. I’ve checked many times but to no avail.
Theory 4: Edith was abducted by aliens. Might happen!
Theory 5. Something bad befell Edith. Again this could have happened but surely if it had someone would have reported her disappearance to the police and it would have turned up in the newspaper?
Theory 6. Did she for some reason start living under an assumed name. I can’t think of a reason why she would, but it may explain why she vanished. It’s perfectly legal to begin living under an assumed name as long as it wasn’t for illegal reasons. If this is the case I have no hope of ever finding out what happened to her.
Now I know in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world that I can’t find out what happened to Edith, but it is mildly annoying. It also shows that genealogy is not an exact science. Some people think you can just type in a few things and find a person. Sometimes you can be lucky and this can the case, but mostly it’s not, especially for those searching for a common surname. You’ve got to take so many factors into consideration and if you’re unsure how to do it, it could be impossible. Even after all these years I’m still finding new methods and ideas on how to find people. This gives me hope that one day I will find Edith, but in reality I’ve resigned myself to accepting that Edith is probably lost to history.
I was sad to hear of the death of the actor Peter Sallis. He was an actor who bought much pleasure to many either through Last of the Summer Wine or Wallis and Gromit among others. As I was reading his obituary it also brought up answers to some questions I had regarding my own family history.
The article stated that Peter Sallis was a radio instructor at RAF Cranwell during WW2. This was where my Grandpa was for part of the war. He two was a radio instructor. I knew he was a RAF Yatesbury but I knew he served at the same base as Peter Sallis. So I now know he was at RAF Cranwell as well. My Grandpa ran the lab next door to the one Mr Sallis worked in. Grandpa always used to say what a nice man Mr Sallis was and he used to enjoy watching him in Last of the Summer Wine.
From this remembrance I got thinking about what I really knew about my Grandfather’s war. I knew Grandpa joined the RAF, even though he was a reserved occupation being an Officer of His Majesty’s Customs and Excise, and I know my Grandad was in the army and served in India after the war and guarded York race course with a broom handle at one point, but what else did I know?
Neither of my grandfather’s used to talk about the war. Grandpa would if you asked and he did try to teach me Morse code a few times (and failed as I was a bad student). Grandad never spoke about it. The only time I heard him mention anything was when he was watching It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and said how it reminded him of his time in India. I have got my Grandad’s military records which I purchased so I do know more now.
I suppose the feeling all this thinking brought about was that if we don’t ask questions we lose out on so much of our ancestry. How many of us have a box full of photographs and we have now idea who’s in the photos. Even only back to my Grandparents I have a photo of their wedding day and I have no idea who half the people are! If I don’t know, what do I tell the next generation? This is a photo of your great grandparents wedding day, no idea who most of the people are! Even my parents don’t know who they are and they were people important enough to be at their parents wedding.
So the moral of the blog is ask questions and ask them before it’s too late. My Grandma died in her early 60’s before the questions were asked and now we’ll never know some things even though genealogy has given me answers to some things it can’t answer the undocumented stuff can it.
I was listening to the ICC Champions Trophy Cricket today and it struck me the wide ranging surnames amongst the cricketers and commentators. There was Tufnell, Agnew, Plunkett, Morgan and Root.
We all have a surname but how many of us actually know what our surname means. Some are obvious such as Smith, Baker, Turner, Taylor and Miller, but what about the rest.
Let’s take my surname Dobby as an example.
Many may recognise the name thanks to Harry Potter, and no I don’t look like a house elf! But where did the name come from?
I always believed it came from a Yorkshire name for a little elf or goblin. This would certainly link in with how J K Rowling saw Dobby. In weaving a Dobby is the shuttle which sews the warp thread and is also a floor standing loom. You can still buy Dobby Spot fabric today (it’s usually white with raised bumps on it). Well to add another theory, Dobby may also be derived from Robert. So which is true? In all honesty who knows? It’s probably a combination off all off them. Being a Yorkshire lass I tend to go with the elf theory or form of Robert.
You can also use the time frame for when the surname was first used. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the word Dobby was first used in 1878. Well that’s fine but the Dobby loom was developed in the 1840’s and my 4 times great grandfather was born in 1784 so the name was around before that. So in reality it must be the elf or Robert connection.
All surnames have to have their origins somewhere. They can be nature such as Bird, Hill and Tree. Work based such as Smith, Baker and Taylor or even derived from first names such as Robson, Robertson and Johnson.
Until the middle ages most people didn’t have surnames but were just known by their first name and possibly used their home village for a kind of surname, for example Robin of Loxley, as son of their father or their occupation. This was originally called a byname and it eventually became what we know as a surname. A surname can also evolve from a nick name. For example the surname Plantagenet came from the broom plant (planta genista) which was the family’s emblem. So for example a name such as Thick could have related to how intelligent someone was. A person may have been known as, for example John Thick as they were called John and were a less intelligent than others.
All surnames have to have an origin somewhere no matter what form they take. They give us our identity but should be no reflection on who we are. I’m a Dobby, but I’m not a loom, called Robert and definitely not a house elf. I’m just me and it’s my surname.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!