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This month's newsletter has a special focus on researching Irish family history, which has traditionally presented a challenge! A fire destroyed relevant records such as census returns and wills in Dublin in 1922, some census returns were pulped in WW1, plus Irish civil registration in Ireland started relatively late (in 1864). Don't despair though, if you have Irish ancestry, it is a good time to take another look. Recent initiatives have seen many records digitised and they can often be accessed for free - including civil registration events and parish registers. In this issue read what is available to researchers.

STOP PRESS! Don't miss our important update on birth, marriage and death certificates. They have just become much easier to find thanks to changes in the information the General Register Office is releasing in a new online index. There is also news on how to buy a pdf of a civil registration event for £6.

It doesn't stop there: there is all the usual news, ideas and inspiration included below, and you'll see we're also looking for an Administrator at FFHS. Would you be interested in joining our team? If you're organised, happy to use your own initiative and love family history, we'd love to hear from you.

In this issue:

FFHS Seeks an Administrator
Focus on Irish Family History
Book Giveaways!
BMD Certificates go Digital
Welcome, Tollesbury Ancestry Group!
RAF Hendon Archive
Tips for Finding a Pre-1858 PCC Will
Herefordshire MI Project Completed
Dear Reader...
Guide for Australasians
Cynefin Project
LMA Disruption
WW1 Conscription Conference
Over on Facebook


FFHS Seeks an Administrator

We are sorry to announce that after 10 years in the role, our Administrator, Philippa McCray is standing down. Consequently we are looking for an energetic and enthusiastic individual to step into her shoes.

We are seeking a contractor to provide administrative and secretarial support to help us fulfil our aims and objectives. Are you interested? To fit the bill, you will be self-employed, working from your own premises, with your own office equipment and broadband connection. Access to a car and a full driving licence would be advantageous.

The workload will vary over the course of the year but is likely to average around 20 hours per week. You will be expected to attend about eight meetings per year. These are mainly held in London or Birmingham, with most taking place on Saturdays. In addition you will be expected to attend other events such as Who Do You Think You Are? Live. Interested?
Please visit this page to find out more.

Applications to be submitted as soon as possible. Interviews will be held in early December. Please send a CV and covering email to The Administrator, Philippa McCray at

Focus on: Irish Family History

So, you'd like to find out more about that elusive Irish family in your tree. Where do you begin. Well, as always, start with you and your family. What do you already know? Does anyone know where the family lived in Ireland? If your ancestor was an emigrant this information may have been forgotten, but it will really help you along if you can find out. If no one knows, you can look for clues in the records made since emigration, for example in passenger lists, civil registration documents, military records, wills etc. You could also try John Grenham's online surname map which is based on the Griffith's valuation and might give you some clues, especially if you have a relatively unusual surname.

If the ancestor of interest was living in the UK in 1901 or 1911, check the census to see what that says about their birth place. The Irish censuses for 1901 and 1911 are freely available online, through the National Archives of Ireland website. Unfortunately, the previous censuses were destroyed in Ireland so very few fragments remain.

If you establish where they came from, take a look at Genuki to find out about resources that can help you learn more about the place. It also includes a useful timeline of Irish events. Ordnance survey maps were published in the 1830s for Ireland and are a great resource for family historians.

Townlands are the most basic unit of land division in Ireland and there are over 64,000. Identifying which townland your family lived in is key to successful research. For more about Townlands, including an index, see the Irish Ancestors website.

Civil Registration

The civil registration index for Ireland is searchable on FamilySearch. It includes births, and deaths from 1864, Protestant marriages from 1845 and Catholic marriages from 1864. After 1922 the index only covers the Republic of Ireland.

In a very welcome development, in September the Irish Government made many civil registration records available to freely view on the Irish Genealogy website. At the time of writing, these included births from 1864-1915, marriages from 1882-1940 and deaths from 1891-1965. The General Register Office is working on further marriage updates dating back to 1845 and deaths back to 1864. They will be included on the website in the future.

Griffith's Valuation

The Griffith's Valuation is a key source for Irish researchers. It was a comprehensive land survey which recorded the name of householders across the country for the purpose of tax collection. The survey began in the 1840s and was updated as occupancies changed. It's a great substitute for the lost pre-1901 censuses, although it isn't a census. Only the head of the household and the landlord are named, so women, children and those too poor to afford permanent accommodation were not included. Most researchers of Irish family history will however find it useful. To search Griffith's Valuation, go to Ask About Ireland which is free to access. You can also find it on Ancestry and FindMyPast, for a fee.

Church Registers

Civil registration started relatively late in Ireland so to reach back to the first half of the 1800s you will need to turn to parish registers. The majority of the population were Catholic: 78% in 1861. Nearly 400,000 digital images of Catholic parish registers are freely available to view at the National Library of Ireland website, The records are also freely available and indexed on FindMyPast and Ancestry. Unfortunately not all Catholic registers have survived, though many did. Turning to Protestant registers, a large number were destroyed in the 1922 fire. Irish Genealogy has free online images and a search facility available for counties Carlow, Kerry and Dublin City. RootsIreland has a pay-to-view database. Whether your family were Catholic, Protestant or Non-conformist, it is a good idea to investigate which registers still exist for your parish of interest, so you can make a judgment as to how likely it is that you will find your ancestor.

Next Steps

You now have a general insight into how you can progress with your 19th and 20th century research. Sadly, with Irish research you are are unlikely to be able to go back much further. Church records don't usually reach beyond this era and as most Irish were poor, mentions of them are rarely found in other documents.

The good news is that there are many other records in archives and online that can help you find out more about your ancestors in the 19th century. An example are newspapers. Additionally, in September, the National Archives of Ireland added many digitised records to its website and they are free to access. These are also available for free on FindMyPast. They include w
ill indexes and registers; marriage licence bonds indexes; Griffith's Valuation background books, and shipping and crew records.

Do get in touch with an Irish family history society too, such as North of Ireland Family History Society, the Genealogical Society of Ireland, the Irish Family History Society and the Irish Genealogical Research Society, as they will be happy to help you with your family tree. These people are experts in researching Irish roots and they will point you in the direction of the resources you need, as well as giving advice to help you break through a brick wall. Societies often publish transcriptions of local records, which you won't find elsewhere.

Other recommended links:

Book Giveaways!

We have two books to give away this month from publisher Pen & Sword, both of which are great titles to help you grow your Irish family tree. Tracing Your Northern Irish Ancestors by Ian Maxwell guides the reader through the records available online and across the province. Maxwell shows how family historians can make good use of church records, school registers and land and valuation records to trace their roots to the beginning of the nineteenth century and beyond. To enter the draw, please email with the subject line: ‘Northern Irish’ by 5 December 2016.
Our second giveaway is a new release, Tracing Your British & Irish Ancestors by Jonathan Scott. This is a useful book for newcomers to British or Irish research, guiding the reader through the first steps, then focusing on the national, regional and local archives and other sources in Britain and Ireland. Parish records and the records left by Non-conformists, Jews and Catholics are covered as well as wills and probate, migration, working lives, poverty, crime, debt, divorce and adoption. To enter this draw, email with the subject line: ‘British and Irish’ by 5 December 2016.
Also in this issue:

BMD Certificates go Digital

Searching for birth, marriage and death certificates has now become much easier, following a new index launched by the General Register Office (GRO). In the deep, dark past, if you wanted to search the national BMD index you had to go to St. Catherine's House and later the Family Records Centre in London and manhandle large leather-bound books. When online indexes appeared, such as FreeBMD and Local BMD, eventually the Centre closed, as people instead increasingly searched at home.

In a new and exciting development, the General Register Office has just launched its own online index. While it is cumbersome to search - you have to choose one year (plus or minus two years), and a gender, it has two key advantages. The mother's maiden name is available going back to 1837 up until 1915, whereas previously it was only published from 1911. The age at death is also given from 1837 to 1957. This will make it much easier for researchers to find the correct certificate. You can order a certificate directly on the site, after finding your person of interest in the index. Just one note of caution: users have noticed that the age of death of children under the age of 1 can be given incorrectly in the index. If a child was recorded as, for example, being 2 months' or two days' old at the time of death, this can be indexed as age 2 rather than 0.

In addition to the index launch, following consultation with key groups such as the FFHS, GRO is also piloting supplying pdf copies of civil registration entries. The first pilot started on 9 November offering copies of entries that are already digitised for £6. At the time of writing, the pilot was scheduled to close after 3 weeks or when 45,000 pdfs had been ordered, whichever came first. Other pilot phases are planned - for more details keep an eye on the GRO website.

Welcome, Tollesbury Ancestry Group!

The Federation of Family History Societies is delighted to welcome a new ordinary member, the Tollesbury Ancestry Group, which is based in Essex. If you live in the Tollesbury area or have roots there, then contact Joan Birchley to find out more about the group, their meetings and membership options. The group also has a Facebook page.

If you run a family history group and are interested in becoming a member of the FFHS or would like to find out more about the different categories of membership and the criteria for joining, please visit the Join us page on our website.

RAF Hendon Archive

A Lancaster Bomber at RAF Hendon. Photograph copyright Michael Reeve.
The FFHS held its September General Meeting at RAF Hendon, the Royal Air Force Museum in London. Our meeting included a very informative talk by Nina Hadaway, Archive, Library and Research Manager, on researching family history at the museum, which has an archive and reading room.

The sources available include personal and official records, as well as RAF station site plans from around the country. The museum has a collection of photos of service personnel, though unfortunately they are not all labelled and so it can be a challenge to find a relative!

Nina explained that the RAF formed in 1918 when the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Services merged. There was an aerodrome in Hendon from 1918 and so the museum will be celebrating its centenary in 2018. 

Air Services information can be a useful springboard for family history research and it is archived in a variety of places, Nina went on to say, for example: The National Archives, the RAF, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Imperial War Museum. For people killed or discharged prior to the formation of the RAF, relevant records tend to be at TNA. Records from between 1918 and 1923 also are usually archived at TNA. After that they can be found in the RAF archive. The RAF Museum can help you locate records in the archive and offers a limited research service:

If you would like a copy of a service record dating after 1923 then you will need to contact the RAF Disclosures Section, Room 221b, Trenchard Hall, RAF Cranwell, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 8HB. 

Nina also mentioned other records that can be useful for family historians, including Prisoner of War sources and casualty records (searchable online from 1914-1925).

Second World War Effects Records are archived at RAF Hendon. The Museum itself is free to visit. The Reading Room (at the time of writing) was open on Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm, at RAF Hendon Museum, Grahame Park Way, London NW9 5LL. It is necessary to book to use the Reading Room as it opens by appointment only.

Tips for Finding a Pre-1858 PCC Will

Prior to 1858, wills had to be proved in an ecclesiastical court. Which court was chosen depended on several factors, which can make finding a will a slow process. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the largest and most influential court. The records for this court are held at The National Archives in series PROB 11. To find one of the wills from the PCC you can search Discovery, The National Archives catalogue and then pay a fee to get a scan of the will. Indexes are also available on Ancestry and The Genealogist, where you can also download scans (fee payable).

FFHS on Tour

The FFHS team is  at The Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycraft Show, ExCeL, London from 17-19 November. Our team of volunteers will be on hand to help you with your questions.

We'll also be at next year's Who Do You Think You Are? Live! Many of our member societies will be attending too. It's the biggest family history event of 2017, so don't miss it. Tickets on sale now.

Herefordshire MI Project Completed

Clifford Church, Herefordshire, copyright Jeremy Bolwell
Congratulations to Herefordshire Family History Society, which has completed a monumental task! In October, the Society reached the end of a project to record monumental inscriptions in all the burial sites for the county, plus Church of England and Non-conformist cemeteries. The society has included all burials up to the end of 1949, although there are some from a later date.

This is a phenomenal achievement which has taken thirty years of work by a group of volunteers led by Mrs Angela Golding, Projects Co-ordinator (Monumental Inscriptions) at Herefordshire Family History Society.

Mrs Golding wrote to FFHS to say, 'I believe this project was mooted in the late 1970s or early 1980s and feel relieved it's over but also priviledged to have worked with so many interesting, lovely people over the years, and give thanks for the wonderful places we have visited.'

Mrs Golding hopes that all the information will be ready for publication by the New Year. The society's publications already include the inscriptions of the burial sites which were completed previously, along with descriptions of the memorials, which are available at a cost of £6 per burial site, including P&P. There are plans to release a Master A-Z index, which includes surname, forename, year and age for £10 a copy in the New Year, once the remaining sites are ready for public release.

Memorial inscriptions are fragile and many are lost every year. This project has safeguarded the information that otherwise would be lost to future generations: a remarkable legacy. 

Dear Reader...

Last time, our poll asked, 'How far back have you traced your family tree?' You are clearly a group of very keen family historians! You answered:
  • I'm just getting started = 3.4%
  • Back to the 1800s = 8.3%
  • Back to the 1700s = 31.1%
  • Back to the 1600s = 37.9%
  • Pre-1600s = 19.4%

Guide for Australasians

Do you live in Australasia and have ancestors from the British Isles? If so, Our Australasian Really Useful Information Leaflet is one for you. It is free and published in association with the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations and the Society of Australian Genealogists. We've recently revised it and it covers everything you need to know to be able to explore your family tree in the British Isles, including many websites and contact details for relevant family history societies.
Download it or view it on our website.

Cynefin Project Needs Volunteers

The Cynefin Project is an initiative that is aiming to repair and digitise around 1200 tithe maps and transcribe over 30,000 index pages by next Spring. It will produce an online, free, resource for researchers to use. Tithes were payments charged on landowners and the maps were produced in 1838-1850 when payments changed from produce to money. The Cynefin Project is focusing on the maps which relate to Wales. Over 1000 volunteers have already managed to work their way through 67% of the documents, but they need help to finish the project by March 2017 as planned. If you could find time to participate they would love to hear from you. You can read more about the project and how to volunteer on their website.

Disruption at London Archive

From mid-December 2016 to mid-January 2017, the City of London will be undertaking essential major work on one of the lifts at the London Metropolitan Archive (LMA); they anticipate that about 40% of their archival holdings will be unavailable to researchers during this period. If you are planning a research project using original archival materials mid-December to mid-January they ask you to please email or consider bringing forward or postponing your research. LMA will be closed as usual over Christmas and New Year. See the website for details and future updates.

WW1 Conscription Conference

On 5 December, Clements Hall Local History Group, York, is hosting a training workshop featuring the Military Tribunal Appeals Papers being catalogued currently at the North Yorkshire County Record Office. Introduction of conscription in Britain 100 years ago during the First World War affected many men and their families. However, men were allowed to appeal for a temporary exemption or, in special circumstances, for permanent exemption, on grounds of fitness or special family circumstances. Some were more valuable in jobs in Britain. The Act also allowed an appeal based on conscientious objection to fighting.

This new resource will reveal stories of local men:
  • How were personal decisions shaped by religious, political and voluntary organisations, and by the local press?
  • What do applications for exemption from conscription tell us about local employment, business and trade at the time?
  • How can we explain different views towards conscription within families?
  • How does the Yorkshire experience compare with other counties?
The workshop is relevant to local and family history groups, voluntary organisations and individuals with an interest in this topic, and Yorkshire First World War projects. Although it features North Yorkshire records, the theme has a more general relevance too. There will be speakers from North Yorkshire County Record Office; Everyday Lives at War, University of Hertfordshire; York Quakers; Clements Hall Local History Group; and Explore York Libraries and Archives. Please see the website for details of how to book.

Earlier this year, in partnership with The National Archives, the FFHS developed an online finding aid to help locate applications made by people seeking an exemption from conscription into the Army during WW1. More details are on our website.
We'd love to hear what you think of our Newsletter. Did you enjoy our special issue on researching Irish ancestry? What would you like to see a focus on in future Newsletters? Email us at

Over on FFHS Facebook

Ryerson Index

Volunteers have completed an index which includes every available death notice from the Sydney Morning Herald

More Scottish Records Online

FindMyPast has added thousands more records, such as monumental inscriptions, deed transcripts and early census fragments

Guild of One-Name Studies Partners with FamilySearch

Following a collaboration between GOONS and FamilySearch, lineages included in the Guild's collections can now be searched in the FamilySearch Genealogies database.

Lincolnshire Records Indexed

The images of Lincolnshire parish registers on FindMyPast are now indexed
Find a Winter Family History Event
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