The Top Five for English Family History Research

These are my top five lists of books, blogs and websites that can assist you with your family history research in England. Do you have any that you feel should be added? If so please leave a comment.


Ancestral Trails” by Mark D. Herber; published by Genealogical Publishing Co.

Tracing your Ancestors in the National Archives: The website and beyond” by Amanda Bevan; published by The National Archives of England

Parish & Registration Districts in England & Wales” by Dr. Penelope Christensen; published by Heritage Productions

A Genealogical Gazetteer of England” Compiled by Frank Smith; published by Genealogical Publishing Co.

Army Records for Family Historians” by Simon Fowler and William Spencer; published by The National Archives of England


The Family Recorder

British and Irish Genealogy

Great War Heroes

Anglo Celtic Connections

London Roots Research



A2A Access to Archives

National Archives Documents Online

England Jurisdictions 1851 Map


©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

Twelve Months of Genealogy – August

This month we are going to research the lives of our female ancestors.

In the first week we are going to look at the different occupations that our female ancestors may have done. I had a 3X Great Grandmother who was a midwife in the mid 1800s in Scotland. The University of Manchester has a website entitled “UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery.” Here you can find information and recommended reading on the subject.

If your ancestor was a governess you can find a bibliography at The Victorian Web. Did you know that women worked in the mines? You can find out more information on women’s involvement in the Industrial Revolution here.

You could find women working on the farm, the fisheries, textile mills and many other places outside the home.

In week two we will examine how women took care of their families without the basic services we take for granted today. Many women lived out in the middle of nowhere and had no neighbours to run to for assistance. Doctors were few and far between and money was scarce. So what did they do to take care of their family?

Home doctoring was a common practice. Today we might call it homeopathy. Women knew the basic herbs and other natural substances that would help heal their family of minor ailments. If things were more serious all they could do was try to make their patient more comfortable. If a doctor was available sometimes they would take items from the farm as payment, a few chickens, eggs or vegetables.

Home teaching was prevalent during this time as schools were either too far away or non-existent. Women may also be the preacher on Sunday instilling the values and teachings of the Bible to their family.

Women would do the family chores and then help their husbands on the farm if no farm labour was available or they could not afford it. You can find out about life on a Victorian farm in England here.

Let’s look at how single women coped during week three. The only occupations opened to single women of the middle or upper classes were nurse, teacher, nun and governess. These were considered respectable jobs for middle and upper class women. Single women from the lower classes were found working in the field, in domestic service, in the mines, in the factory and anywhere else they could find work to support themselves and their families.

Middle and upper class women were not encouraged to go out and find work. If they were single it was felt they were needed at home to care for aging parents and any siblings that may still be at home. You sometimes find single women moving in with siblings to help when a spouse has died.

Lower class women went out and earned money. It was not their own to do with as they pleased because it was expected that the money would be put into the family coffers. The money these women brought in for their family meant the difference of having a roof over their head or a meal or not being able to provide those simple necessities. Domestic service was preferred for single women of the lower class as they could get board and meals and then send the money home to their family. It meant one less mouth to be fed in the family home.

In the fourth week of August we will examine the roll of women in the First World War. This was a time when women experienced a new freedom that had not been felt before. The men were at war and the women had to make sure the industries kept running and supplies kept going to the front to support the men.

The class system seemed to blur for a while and women were working in all kinds of occupations. There were organized groups such as the Women’s Legion that taught women to drive, be mechanics, cooks and many other things. These women worked on the home front but some of them found themselves at the front driving ambulances and working in field hospitals. You can find our more about women taking the place of men at work here and more about the role of women from 1900-1945 here.

If you are finding it too hot to go outside or you are having a staycation this year why not spend some time finding out more about your female ancestors and how they lived their lives.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

Have You Checked Out The Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1791-1845) Yet?

This is a great resource to find out more about the places in Scotland where your ancestors lived. Chris Paton referred to this database a lot during his Scottish workshop in Toronto in June. When you first go into the website it asks you to sign in but further down non subscribers can browse the scanned pages. Subscribers get some extra features but this way you can check out the website for yourself and decide if you want to subscribe to get those additional features.

The browse scanned pages search page gives you several options. You can search by the place name in the parish or county reports, choose from the county lists, or choose from an A-Z list. Remember when reading these documents that sometimes the letter s may look like the letter f and a double s might look like ff.

My Rankin’s were bakers in Largs so I searched by that town name under parish reports. I get two choices from the Account of 1791-99 and one from 1834-45. All the options were descriptions of the parish of Largs. In the Account of 1791-99 the first entry is by Rev. Mr. Gilbert Lang and the second “By a Friend to Statistical Inquiries.” In the Account from 1834-45 the entry is by The Rev. John Down, Minister. Each description carries slightly different topics. The descriptions of the land and community are really interesting.

In Rev. Down’s entry is a heading entitled “Climate and Diseases” which a notation says “This department has been furnished by Dr. John Campbell, Largs.” Here I learn that in 1828 there was an epidemic of dysentery and in 1836 and 1837 an epidemic of erysipelas. Cholera showed up in 1832 and it is said that in two of the houses it was brought from Glasgow. They also say that they have typhus fever occasionally but it is mostly “confined to the poorer and worst lodged part of our population.” The parish says that “wonderful longevity exists at present” because there are a large number of people between the ages of 70 and 93.

If your family member died in Largs in 1828, 1836 or 1837 you might try and find out if it was because of the epidemics. Erysipelas is a skin infection that is caused by hemolytic Streptococcus. You might get a fever and large, raised red patches on the skin and other symptoms.

On the county lists I chose Wigton [Wigtown] home of my Grey and McCubbin families. You can choose a report from a pull down list; show reports in this county and find a report. I chose show reports in this county. This provided a similar listing as found in the pull down menu. I chose the parish of Leswalt as that is where my family was from.

Interestingly the section was written by The Rev. Andrew McCubbin, Minister. Now I will have to find out if he is connected to my McCubbin family. He tells me that Leswalt means “the meadow along the burn.” I learn that the parish is very hilly and has large sections of moss. There used to be an animal called “goat-whey” but you do not see them much anymore. You can find salmon and oysters in the waters of the parish. Leswalt “belonged to the monks of Tongland in the reign of James V.”

There is a listing of principle land owners and a population count starting in 1801 and every ten years to 1831. Under “Character of the People” Rev. McCubbin states that they “of late have improved much both in language and manners.”

Live stock found in the area is Galloway cattle and Cheviot sheep. The produce of the parish is oats and potatoes. They have just started to farm wheat. The market town and post office are in Stranraer. This would suggest to me that if I do not find them in the parish records in Leswalt I should try Stranraer. There is a parochial library “which contains nearly 400 volumes, and the people have a taste for reading.” He says that about “200 children attend the Sabbath schools.”

There is a section entitled “Poor and Parochial Funds” and here they say that the church takes care of the poor. Some money comes from a legacy left by the Earl of Stair. The interesting part is the statement that “the greater part of the poor, being Irish, are very frequent and importunate in their demands.” Stranraer is approximately 50 km from Ireland. This account is dated February 1838.

You can see how these Statistical Accounts can be a very useful part of your family history research.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

Bagpipe Appreciation Day

Wednesday July 27th is Bagpipe Appreciation Day. It is a day to celebrate the instrument and tunes that lead many a Scot into battle and home again. Bagpipes are used to celebrate a wedding and to bid farewell at a funeral. The Piper’s to the Queen Mother played three mornings a week in the garden of Clarence House under her window.

Here is a video of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards performing the tune “Scotland the Brave” at Edinburgh Castle.

The lyrics of “Scotland the Brave” can be found here sung by John McDermott but unfortunately there are no pipes in his rendition.

The pipes loomed large in my childhood memories. My father learned to play them as a child. When I was born he was at pipe and drum practice. Father’s were not present at their child’s birth in those days.

Sunday dinner would include the record player providing a musical accompaniment with a mixture of Irish and Scottish records being played. I learned to enjoy the sound of the pipes.

My father would pipe in the New Year with Auld Lang Syne. He would practice in the afternoon and was always accompanied by the vocalizations of our dog Rusty.

A piper playing the tune “Amazing Grace” can still bring a tear to my eye.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

Ruth’s Recommendations

Here are my favourite blog posts from this past week.

Kerry Scott of the Clue Wagon blog had a post called “The Old Dogs of Genealogy.” I loved the picture she had attached to this posting. Kerry examines how genealogists have embraced Google+ and other new technology.

Sharon Lippincott of The Heart and Craft of Life Writing had a post called “How Will They Ever Know?” It discusses how to describe and write about activities that were common in your day but that your children or grandchildren have never experienced.

The Ancestry Insider blog had a post called “ Allows Image Citations” which describes the process he went through to attach a citation to an image he had uploaded to his family tree on

Are there any postings in the last week that you think need to be on this list? Let me know in the comments below.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

Online Resources for Churches in Ireland

Recently I came across a Flickr group for Churches of Ireland. People have taken photographs of all sorts of churches in Ireland. You can search by county and some place names. You never know what you might find so go in and have a look.

Similarly another website is Stain Glass in the Church of Ireland. These are photographs of stain glass windows found in some Church of Ireland churches. They provide the date of the window, who designed the window and the studio that made it, who commissioned it and other information.

The search can be done by building or window. You can even search by the subject type of the window. Buildings are broken down into the choices of buildings, location, diocese, county, architect, country and parish group. Country is either Northern Ireland or the Republic.

The window search is broken down into building, iconography, artist, studio, date, location, diocese, county, architect, country and parish group.

You can leave the search criteria broad and have a large number of windows to look through or you can narrow the search. When the search is complete you have the option to display the windows or remove the criteria and start again. If you chose display you get a list at the bottom of the screen. If you click on the highlighted numbers under the window section you will see the display of the windows. If you click on the highlighted Principle Name you will get a picture of the church and the windows. You can click on the smaller images to make them bigger.

If you click on Diocese you will get a long list of the churches in the diocese. There will be pictures of the church along the bottom of the screen and if you click on the image you will get more detailed information and pictures of the windows for that church.

When people think of churches in Ireland the first thing that comes to mind is Catholic and Church of Ireland. Then you might think about Quakers, Presbyterian and Methodist. There are other religious denominations represented in Ireland. You can find Jewish, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, The Salvation Army and Moravian just to name a few.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

The Top Five for Canadian Family History Research

These are my top five lists of books, blogs and websites that can assist you with your family history research in Canada. Do you have any that you feel should be added? If so please leave a comment.


Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America 1873” published by Global Heritage Press

Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records” by Brenda Dougall Merriman; published by The Ontario Genealogical Society

United Empire Loyalists, a Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada” by Brenda Dougall Merriman; published by Global Heritage Press

The Canadian Genealogical Sourcebook” by Ryan Taylor; published by the Canadian Library Association

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A beginner’s guide” by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee; published by Ancestry Publishing


Librarians Helping Canadian Genealogists Climb Family Trees

Fur trade Family History

Ottawa Branch Ontario Genealogical Society

Prairie History Blog

Veterans of Southwestern Ontario


Canadian Genealogy Centre

Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid

Automated Genealogy

Hudson’s Bay Company Archives

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:

Thank you Gregor Mendel

Today is the 189th birthday of Gregor Mendel and Google has paid homage to him by creating their logo in a pea theme.

Gregor Mendel was the father of the science of genetics. He studied the inheritance of certain traits that were found in peas. He was an Augustinian Friar living in Austria when he started his study of the humble pea.

As with many great thinkers his research was not recognized until after his death. At the turn of the 20th century his research was rediscovered and this was the beginning of modern science of genetics.

The knowledge of genetics has helped many around the world including those interested in genealogy.

Share This:

Toronto Public Library Virtual Exhibits

On a recent visit to the Toronto Reference Library to do some research I came across a small bookmark that advertised a virtual exhibit on the library website called “Local Flavour: Eating in Toronto, 1830-1955

It is a wonderful look at the history of eating in Toronto. The menu consists of an introduction, Cookbooks of the 19th Century, Cookbooks of the 20th Century, Kitchen Appliances, 20th Century Lifestyle, Dining out, Gardening, Toronto in Wartime, Manufacturing/Food Industry, Shopping in Toronto and How to Eat Like a Child in Toronto.

Each section contains digital images and some recipes so you can recreate some of the recipes your ancestors may have cooked. The recipe for Ham Toast includes the reference “a lump of butter the size of half an egg.”

Shopping in Toronto includes photographs and pages from city directories to do with purveyors of fine food within the city. Toronto in Wartime has a ration book among its images. The images of labour saving devices found in the section on Kitchen Appliances is fun to look at. I can not imagine cooking on those appliances today.

The main theme for the advertisement for Shredded Wheat cereal was that it is ready to eat and the children can get their own breakfast. The date of the advertising is 1926.

The Toronto Public Library has many other virtual exhibits. Some that might be of interest to genealogists include:

Canadians on the Guard: The Home Front, 1939-1945

Toronto Sanctuaries Church Designs by Henry Langley

The First Black Doctor in Canada: Anderson Ruffin Abbott

Panorama of the City of Toronto, 1857

Fraternal Societies in Canada

Toronto Orphanages and Day Nurseries

Toronto like many cities these days are struggling to balance their budget. The Toronto Public Library is in danger of having branches closed and services restricted. If you live in Toronto please take a minute to sign the petition to save the public library system in Toronto.

Share This:

Ruth’s Recommendations

Here are my favourite blog posts from this past week.

Carole Riley of the Social Media and Genealogy blog had a post called “Can Google+ replace Facebook and Twitter?” It was a very good comparison of the social media giants.

Paul Stuart-Warren’s blog Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica had a very good post called “Vacation on a budget” where she provides a different view point on a family history vacation.

Deborah Large Fox writes “Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestor’s” her post called “Genealogical Soil” was a heartfelt memory of visiting her family’s farm in Ireland.

Geniaus aka Jill Ball had a humourous post called “Dear Santa” which was a Christmas list of what she would like to see in the new Google+

The NLI (National Library of Ireland) Blog had a post called “A lesson on the limits of the internet” which was a great reminder that you will not find it all on the internet.

Kerry Farmer of the Family History Research blog posted “Check multiple names and also multiple indexes” which shows us the differences found in the indexes of subscription websites and the importance of searching for variant spellings of names.

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter had a good post called “ Portable Windows Software on a USB Flash Drive” You can travel with the contents of your computer on a portable device and use it on any Windows computer. He also cautions people about the possibility of loosing the tiny flash drives.

Chris Paton of Scottish GENES (GEnealogy News and EventS) told us about the “The Family History Show on YouTube.” This is put together by the editorial team of “Your Family History” magazine in England. The first installment is an interview with Titanic survivor Millvina Dean.

Brenda Dougall Merriman’s blog post “(Almost) Silent Sunday” tells us of the joys and some pitfalls of the genealogy road trip.

The Enniskerry Local History blog has a post called “Summer Reading/Viewing” which provides many different suggestions for reading, surfing the net and visiting. Unfortunately you have to be in Ireland to visit the places he suggests. Enniskerry is a town in County Wicklow. My cousins were married in the local church just down the road from the Powerscourt Estate. I will have to keep an eye out for the book “The Irish Country House: It’s Past, Present and Future.”

Pue’s Occurrences the Irish History Blog had a post called “Irish history and historians on Wikipedia” where Juliana Adelman talks about the inaccuracies that can be found in Wikipedia. She has set a challenge to everyone to try and make the pages on Irish history more accurate. Links are provided to pages that relate to Irish history. Remember to back up your information with sources and to research several sources to make sure it is accurate before you put it online.

Happy Reading!

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Share This:
1 2