Back in time

How did your ancestors live?

What did they do?

Times of war or peace?


Where did your ancestors live?

Where did your ancestors live?

Where did they live?

It is impossible to understand the lives of our ancestors without knowing where they lived. Not just where they lived geographically but under what conditions. Did they live in a rural location or in tightly packed tenements. How difficult was it to move around?

For many of us, living in a modern wealthy industrialised society, it is difficult to imagine how difficult it was to travel from one place to another.

No cars, buses or trains, not even  bicycles. For most walking was the only means of getting to the next town or village.

That is still the case today for much of the worlds population but if you are reading this it is unlikely to be you.

One of the reasons why it is so important to genealogists is to answer the question. Could they have met? Could Harry have met Sally? With the common reuse of first names during the 18th and 19th centuries it is often difficult to decide which Harrys or which Sallys could qualify as your ancestors.

What was the distance between them?  Was there a common market town near enough for them to have met?

In future posts I will discuss the types of resources we use to answer these questions.







Choosing a professional genealogist and family historian

Choosing a professional genealogist and family historian

Finding and choosing a professional genealogist.

There are a number of reasons why people turn to a professional genealogist to research their family history. It might be following the death in a family and a need to know; for probate and inheritance; you tried research yourself but not enough time or something stopped you from going further.

An internet search will reveal many options. Which one do you choose? Whichever option you choose they all have one thing in common – you will need to define in advance the scope of the research before your can establish how much it is going to cost.

The traditional

The traditional method is to pay a professional researcher to produce a client report.

For this, you could approach one of the professional bodies. If you are in the United Kingdom you could use the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) or the Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG). Probably the largest is the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) an international organisation strongly connected to the United States.

These are all respected organisations and the hourly rates charged by many professional researchers is very reasonable. In fact in contrast with other professions and trades, very cheap. The Society of Genealogists mentions rates of between £20 and £50 an hour. Remember these are charge-out rates not earnings.

In contrast there are a couple of bigger players – Ancestry and Legacy Tree Genealogists

The minimum charge by Ancestry is $2500* dollars and I am told their hourly rate is $125  – more in keeping with charges made by other professions. Legacy Tree Genealogists charge between $87.50* and $94 an hour  and there can be extras depending on the service you choose.

The disadvantage is that, by its nature, genealogical research is unpredictable – it is impossible to say in advance how long it will take.  Researchers also tend to have waiting lists, tend to be very busy and it could be months before research begins and still more time before you see any results.

The modern alternative

Try another way – affordable, rapid and remarkably flexible. You will begin to see results in weeks or even days rather than months. You can choose the direction the research takes – surname by surname, from your family – one name at a time. It involves making an affordable monthly payment and this gives you access to a professional researcher.

*Rates obtained from company websites 6 October 2018

(By the way it is genealogist and not geneologist although it is often pronounced that way.)



Charles Booth

Charles Booth

For genealogists, the Charles Booth poverty maps provide a significant resource when researching 19th century London. 

However, that underestimates the contribution he made during his lifetime in his quest to understand the social conditions in London at that time.

Charles Booth was born in Liverpool in 1840 to a wealthy merchant from whom he subsequently inherited a substantial business.  Along with his brother Alfred he subsequently formed a shipping company.

Then, during the period from 1887 to 1902 he produced a multi-volume study of the social conditions in London, entitled Life and Labour of the People in London. This was a scientific study with volumes of statistics and included maps where colour and letter coding (A-H) identified the social standing of the occupants of housing. The researchers who aided Charles Booth in this endeavour accompanied policemen on their rounds of the area and recorded the living conditions of the occupants.

For London ancestors, and especially those who were raised during the reign of Queen Victoria, it provides context to their lives. In conjunction with vital and census records it is possible to get an idea of what their lives might have been like.

His work is credited with influencing the Liberal Government to introduce the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908 although as a means tested scheme not as the universal pension he had proposed.

His services to public life were recognised. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society and awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of Cambridge, Liverpool and Oxford.

He died at Gracedieu Manor, his family home in Leicestershire, in November 1916.

The London School of Economics are guardians of the records including the maps and police notebooks

The following is an extract from one of the maps.

Functionality added to General Register Office website

Functionality added to General Register Office website

The website to use when ordering certificates – English and Welsh birth, marriage and death certs is the website of the General Register Office.

The significant changes are

  • For births the mother’s maiden name will be shown. Previously this was only for births after 1911.
  • For deaths age at death is included.
  • These are new indexes so may reveal those events missing from other databases because of transcription errors.
  • Searching is free
  • Once you find a record you will be able to order a certificate with the information that has been found.

This is the link to the site

The first thing to do if you have not already used the site is to register. It is free.

Follow the link to the page above and this is what you will see

Follow the register link on the right hand side, Complete the registration process which will be activated once you confirm your email address by acknowledging the mail you will get from the GRO.

Once your account is activated you will be able to search the GRO database for births and deaths.

Click on the link on the GRO page “Order Certificates Online…..inexes” or click the link here to take you directly to the search page GRO Search.

This will take you to the login page. Once you have identified yourself (don’t forget you password) you will be taken to this page.

Follow the first link “Search the GRO Indexes”.

Clicking either “birth” or “death” will take you here. This page is for births – or you will see a similar page for deaths

Complete the form with the information that you have. Resist entering too much. Only the starred items are essential for a search. Experiment with different choices if you don’t initially find what your are seeking.

Irish records

Irish records

The following was gleaned from a lecture at Who Do You Think You Are? at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on 6 April 2017.

I have reinforced the notes with the location of the records – ie I have added the appropriate links.

Ireland City and Regional Directories 1847 – 1946

About Ireland, City and Regional Directories, 1847-1946

Alexander Thom published the first Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory in 1844. Over the next one hundred years, it grew to include a Dublin street directory, volumes listing the names, addresses, and occupations for residents of other towns and districts in the country, and a wide variety of happenings, institutions, businesses, and departments for Ireland and the UK, including the following:

  • County fairs and markets in Ireland
  • Parliamentarian directories
  • Civil service and law directories for Great Britain
  • Navy, army, and militia directories
  • Colonial directories
  • Universities, colleges, schools
  • Churches and ecclesiastical directories
  • County and borough directories
  • Postal directory
  • Peerages

Within the collection, you will be able to find names, places and dates of residence and often an occupation is given as well.

Source Ireland, City and Regional Directories, 1847-1946 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2017.

I made a note about Rogerson’s quay. I know not why – I have researched Sir John Rogerson’s Quay 1756 ( but I know not what relevance this has to useful Irish records.)

Ireland, The Royal Irish Constabulary 1816-1921

The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was created in 1816, and initially staffed mainly by Irish-born men. However, toward the 1900s, and especially afterwards, the RIC recruited men from countries such as England, Scotland, Wales, and the United States. The records of the RIC were only indexed annually by the date of enlistment. Until this database was created, the only way to identify whether an ancestor joined the forces was an extremely time-consuming search. Some people joined for a few days or weeks, others stayed for years, and quite a few migrated. There are mentions in the index on whether a person emigrated, died, or married.

The original records go into greater details, showing where each man was stationed, where he had relatives, whether he got married, and if so the date, illnesses, conduct, promotions, cause of death if died in the force; pensioned or retired; as well as a physical description. The index shows the name of each man, a year or birth or an age on enlistment; a county of birth or a country; whether single or married, comments such as died, emigrated, etc., and the reference film number and page for fuller details. This index is an important source for Irish research, even if your ancestor didn’t appear to have been in the RIC. He may have enlisted for a few days or weeks and signed out. His details are still on record. This index is a work in progress. This latest update adds another 11,074 records to the previous 58,433 records.

Source Information

Reakes, J., comp.. Ireland, The Royal Irish Constabulary 1816-1921 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

Original data: An Index To The Royal Irish Constabulary, 1816-1921. 1816-1921. Microfilm LDS Family History Centre, 0852088-97-0856057-2069.

Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, 1873-1925

Historical Context

The Royal Irish Constabulary was an eighty-percent Irish Catholic police force which, between 1814 and 1922, employed some eighty-five thousand men. This collection comprises the records of pension payments to retired officers, their widows and children.

This Collection

For each record, details given include, where available:

  • Full names of officers
  • Rank
  • County
  • Date of authority
  • Date of commencement
  • Pension per annum
  • Where paid

For deceased officers it provides the names of their widows and children, and how much they each received in allowances each month or a quarter. Some volumes contain records of five offices’ payment details for three consecutive years on a single page. Other volumes record widows’ and children’s payment details for a year, with three families on each page. It also records the officer’s date of death in his/her yearly payment details section.

Ireland, Royal Hospital Kilmainham Pensioner Discharge Documents, 1724-1924

Historical Context

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, located near Dublin, Ireland, dates back to 1680 and provided a home for retired soldiers for the around 250 years. While some pensioners surrendered their pension to the hospital and lived there (“in-pensioners”), many more lived outside the confines and received their pensions elsewhere (“out-pensioners”). Pensions from the Royal Hospital Kilmainham were administered to soldiers who had served for at least 12 years in the British Army and were discharged from Irish regiments, as well as from some English, Scottish and Welsh units. Most pensions for non-Irish regiments were administered by the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.

This Collection

This collection is made up of discharge documents for pensioners who served between 1724 and 1924. For each record, details may include a brief description of the pensioner together with age, place of birth, particulars of service and the reason for discharge.

Note: This collection contains an index to records transcribed from the discharge documents. To view images of the documents on, you will need an Ancestry All Access subscription.

Source Information Ireland, Royal Hospital Kilmainham Pensioner Discharge Documents, 1724-1924 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.

Original data: Royal Hospital, Kilmainham: Pensioners’ Discharge Documents WO 119. The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey, England.

Ireland, Police Gazettes, 1861-1893

This collection contains printed publications used for communication among members of the police force in Ireland between 1861 and 1893. It contains information on wanted criminals, crimes committed, criminals who had been apprehended, and missing persons.

The collection can be searched by:

  • Name
  • Birth year
  • Publication year
  • Event year
  • Event location
  • Event Type
  • Role in Crime
  • Conviction Place

Source Information Ireland, Police Gazettes, 1861-1893 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.

Original data: Luminary Trading Ltd.

Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915

The Ireland Catholic Parish Registers is the single most important collection needed to trace your Roman Catholic ancestors in Ireland in the 1800’s. According to the 1861 census, almost 78 percent of the population was Catholic; by 1891, this had risen to 89 percent. This collection is made up of baptism, marriage and death records from over 1,000 Catholic parishes across the whole of the island of Ireland – both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as it is known as today. While baptism and marriage records make up the majority of the collection, death records can be found primarily for parishes in the northern regions.Approximately 94 percent of Catholic parishes are included in this collection, though not all registers from these parishes are available. For more information, visit the National Library of Ireland website at

It is worth noting that, while the Church of Ireland was the established state church from 1536 to 1870, an overwhelming amount of the Irish population remained Roman Catholic throughout this period. Irish Catholic Emancipation was secured under the Roman Catholic Relief Act in 1829, lifting legal restrictions that were previously in place against all Catholics. By this time, Penal Laws were also lifted, which had forbidden the Catholic Church to maintain parish registers.

Catholic Emancipation brought more freedom to record vital events within the Catholic Church. As such, the bulk of the records in this collection date from the late 1820’s onwards. Where some earlier registers exist back to the 1650’s, they are known to cover the more prosperous and anglicised eastern counties of Ireland.

The records are written in either English or Latin. For help understanding the Latin entries please see our helpful glossary of common terms.

The indexes to this collection have been created from approximately 367,000 digital images made available for free by The National Library of Ireland. In keeping with the ethos of The National Library of Ireland efforts, the images in this collection are also available for free on this website. The index has been created and the images published by Ancestry under the National Library of Ireland’s Terms of Use of Material.

Tips for Using Irish Parish Records

It’s helpful to know family structure and important to know at least a county of origin in Ireland to correctly identify your ancestors in this collection. See our guide on finding ethnic origins here.

Try searching for just a last name and parents’ names to see all of the children born to a couple.

Source Information Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.

Original data: Catholic Parish Registers, National Library of Ireland, Ireland. Published under the National Library of Ireland’s Terms of Use of Material made available on