Just names

I was looking at the name cloud above and got a bit fed up with the big missing surname entry. This looks like sloppy work on my part.

I checked in Gramps and 4% of my database was missing surnames, this is not good. There will always be a few names that are unknown and I could cheat by adding the married name to British women, most names that are missing are from married women whose birth name is unknown and that is a peculiarity of Britain and the colonies, the rest of the world value women higher and they use their birth name all their life. Using a married name though does introduce a chance for errors, there are some cases where cousins with the same name married and they may get overlooked with using married names as birth names.

Some of these missing names will be for ever clouded in mystery, like Agnes, the wife of John Grist. She is only mentioned on her burial record and the baptism of her children. She may have married before the reformation or before the new church of England started keeping records, or they may have been a record that has got lost in the last 500 years. I doubt I will ever find her name or the parents of either of them, common peasants were not worth recording.

With a lot of new parish records coming online over the last few months and the GRO search site now having mothers maiden names back to 1837 there were lots of places where I could fill in names, and in many cases get research back one or two generations. It took some time but missing names are now less than 1% of the total 8000 people in the tree.

It is always useful to go back over old research, new facts pop up all the time and allow a better picture of our ancestors lives.

Not working harder, working smarter

With the end of December and beginning of January being the most depressing time of the year I decided to cheer myself up by updating most of my 1881 census people. This is a lot of work, checking everyone has sources and the family details are correct, this is where working smarter comes in. It is a case of adding any that I missed to the Lost Cousins website which gives me a chance to find more cousins who have researched the direct lines of theirs which are only cousin lines of mine.

To start with I used Gramps, the only software that I use daily, to filter my database to only show people born before 1881 and people who died after 1881, this then only shows me people alive in 1881, who will be in the UK 1881 census if they were in Britain. I still had about 1400 people listed, a lot more than the 100 or so I had already added to Lost Cousins, but at least half were from Germany, Nederland and even South Africa or Italy.

The first thing I noticed was half a dozen women with no family name, these were women who married into my tree but I have not found their definitive marriage yet. The new GRO birth search form helps here, as it now lists the maiden name of mothers back to 1837, checking all the children born will confirm the birth records of each child and the mothers name so I could add the birth reference’s that were missing for any children, check I had all the census data added and add them to Lost Cousins if they were not already there and update her maiden name. Knowing the mothers birth name gave a chance to find the marriage record and perhaps census records for her before marriage and so add her parents and siblings.

If I find her or her family in 1841 I can add them to Lost Cousins as well, more chance of finding cousins, it is also possible to find her siblings in 1881 and add them, men of course are easier to find, but that is life.

What made it even better to do this was that Lost Cousins have a contest running the rest of this month, adding people enter you in a draw with things like DNA tests and year subscriptions as prizes, check their newsletter for details. If you are not already a member, why not? It is free and informative.

Congratulations to the UK goverment

Specifically to the General Register Office (GRO) who have finally dragged themselves into the late 20th century. Not the 21st century yet but still better than the archaic system they have had for 150 years.

There are two important changes, first they have reindexed the registers, using digital images from the abandoned digitisation project and from the original documents, this means less transcription errors, or at least different errors. The GRO site has a new search engine that includes things not seen before, like mothers maiden names going back to 1837 instead of not being available before 1912, also age at death is given for deaths before 1860.

You now have more chance of breaking brickwalls or finding infants that were missing on census entries. I moved several lines back to the 1700’s after decades of being stuck.

The search process is a bit clunky, you need a family name, a gender and a year as minimum requirements, it also helps to have an intimate knowledge of registration districts. I was reinvestigating Edward Davies┬áthe family lived in two counties in England and two in Wales in 5 towns at least. Liverpool has more than one registration district, Chester is a registration district but not at that time, it was the Great Boughton and Birkenhead as in Wirral. But I found his wife’s name and confirmed most children, the first two were not born in Liverpool as every census shows, one was baptised there but born in Holywell, the first child is still proving to be a problem.

The second improvement the GRO have introduced is pdf copies of registration details by email. The first bonus is they are cheaper, though they still cost more than paper certificates did a couple of years ago. The second advantage should be speed, instead of the usual three or four weeks they expect to send an email within five days. I got my first pdf on Sunday afternoon 3 days after ordering, there were two people with the same name on the index page and I got two pdf’s, the first was the wrong one so I assumed they had sent two different pdf’s but no they were both the wrong one, so that means another email with 5 day turn around to sort it out.

The pdf by email is only a trial at the moment so it is important to fill in the feedback forms to get the service extended, improved and cheaper. I certainly will not be ordering the 300+ certificates I need at the price they have set now.