British Parish Records: How to Access, Use, and Interpret Them

My reading this week included an short but interesting article on English parish registers which led me to a useful resource on British records.

I started in the FamilySearch blog with an article by Diane Sagers  English Parish Records: How to Access, Use, and Interpret Them” who was reporting on a presentation by Paul Milner at the BYU FH Conference last summer.

This is a good summary and worth reading.

Two items jumped out of the page at me.

  1. The quote from Paul Milner “Always go to the original records when possible; don’t stop with indexes.”  Very true – if you want amazing findings – usually well worth the effort.
  2. The paragraph “Many of these records can now be accessed online. “When searching records online, if a result says ‘no image’—it means no image is attached—not that no image is online. Check other sources, and you may find the image. For example, if a parish register image is not online, check by location in the bishop’s transcripts,” Milner said.

This starting me thinking about where online you can find parish registers.  The big 4 came to mind:  FamilySearch, FindMyPast, Ancestry and Scotlandspeople.  Then I remembered the increasing number of Irish sites becoming available too (see recent articles in this blog).

Fortunately the article included a valuable suggestion that I was  forgetting:  DustyDocs “Links to Free websites in the British Isles containing Parish Records.”  And yes this does mean the site includes resources for Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  It also includes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and Australia and New Zealand!

After you select your country you are given a lot of interesting links to Searches by Surname and Guides.  At first I tried to Search for a Town or Parish and put in some of my favourite parishes.  This worked well.

My favourite way to use the site is to Select a County first – then I got some links at the county level before selecting a parish.  I certainly found many things I didn’t know existed online.

Either way the site is full of interesting links and I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I did!

Posted in, Blog, England,, FindMyPast, Ireland, Research, Scotland, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Helps from Google – and not just for Searching!

Say “Google” to a Family Historian and they immediately think of doing a Google Search – and it is a great search engine.

But Google offers much more help for Family History!  Recently they introduced a new product and made a major update to one that has been around for a while.

  1. Photoscan – this free app has just been introduced by Google – and works on Phones and Tablets – Apple and Android – (although when you download the app you need to look for a phone app – which works fine on your iPad or tablet).  As the title suggests this is a scanner for old photos – and a very handy one too!  But how good is the quality? If you don’t have a scanner or don’t know how to use one it is great! I’ve done several pictures – and had some very very good results and some just OK – probably the operator?   Quality is OK with Photoscan but my flatbed scanner at 300 dpi is better – remember that this is only the first version of the app and it will get better – there was an update in the first week with new tools added — the app takes 4 images of one picture and splices them together.  Quick and easy to use.  Go to and scroll down  for short video demo.   Preserve your old photos – get them digitized.  No excuse now.  On a side note I was just noticing that the Adobe Acrobat Reader app has been updated to include a scanner – haven’t tried it yet – but imagine it could be very useful for documents.
  2. Google Translate – has had a very significant update – very helpful for Family History
    1.   “This landmark update is our biggest single leap in 10 years.”  “The latest update to Google Translate utilizes Google’s Neural Machine Translation (NMT) system for translating phrases, which is rolling out to eight language pairs.” “The system still makes some mistakes, such as dropping words or failing to understand a person’s name, but it has cut errors by 55 to 85 percent in several languages.  Analyzing a phrase or paragraph rather than a single word to reconstruct a more grammatically correct and natural translation.  to and from English and French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Turkish.”
    2.   Go to  or available in Google searches or in Google Chrome or as an app on your mobile device.
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Were all the Irish records lost in the 1922 fire?

Darby?  You must be Irish!  Wish I was – but I’ve not found a connection yet!  My Darbys seem to be long time inhabitants of the Black Country of England.

I do however like to help my friends with their Irish Research.

Have you heard the story of how all the Irish records were lost in a fire in June 1922 during the Irish Civil War? All of them?  Is this true?

I just found this short but very interesting article on the Irish GenealogyToolkit website that clarifies this question and gives some research help.  I hope you like reading it as much as I did.

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Online Irish BMD records – and update on the British online records

Are you interested in Irish research?  Have you tried this website recently?   Note: The en at the end of address indicates you are using the English rather than the Gaelige version of the website!

News on the website is that “Historic Civil Records are now available to view.”  What years are covered by the historic records of Births, Marriages and Deaths?

“The years covered by the release of the historic records of Births, Marriages and Deaths are:

Births: 1864 to 1915

Marriages: 1882* to 1940

Deaths: 1891* to 1965

The General Register Office are currently working on updating further records of Marriages dating back to 1845 and Deaths dating back to 1864.These will be included in future updates to the records available on the website.”

This is in addition to the Indexes that were already on the site.  When did this happen?  The announcement is dated 8 Sept 2016.

If you have Irish ancestors then please give it a try.

Update on British Online Records – the trial is underway.  Yes you get pdf versions of documents for 6 pounds instead of 9.25 – but you don’t get them immediately.  Lost Cousins reports that it takes up to 5 working days – thank you Lost Cousins for the update.

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Certificates for British Civil Registration Available Online

I wish the title of this article were really true!  It’s nearly true – does that count?  If you’re really fast on your keyboards it will be true for a brief time starting 7 November! 

What are you talking about?  If you want a birth, marriage or death certificate for England and Wales you can order online at  and receive a paper copy – eventually  through the mail – for 9.25 UK pounds.  Imagine how excited I was to read the latest edition of the Lost Cousin Newsletter  and discover that the General Register Office – they are the ones you order certificates from – is about to launch a trial for digital certificates for 6 pounds each.  This is great news.  Trial starts 7 Nov and only continues until 45,000 pdf certificates have been ordered – that may happen quickly – or 3 weeks, whichever comes first.  Read the article at  This is a great newsletter and associated website.

In addition there are new and improved indexes on the website!  Wow – Christmas in November!  And – can you stand more? – improvements in information like maiden name of the mother and age at death.  Thank you Lost Cousins

Let’s hope the trial is successful and that online digital copies become the norm.

If this happens then you won’t have to watch Peter walking around saying I wish I was Scottish, because of all the great resources including certificates available on Scotlands People .

There is good news for those of you with Scottish ancestry as well – well I hope it’s good news?  There is a new updated version of the ScotlandsPeople web site.   Hopefully this will help you find your Scottish ancestors easier.  Be aware that the first time you use the new site you will be asked to change your password.  I haven’t used the new site very much yet – anyone got any Scottish research problems for me to work on?  If you want to try the new website without cost  . . .   maybe I am a frugal Scot?  . .. .  then remember that creating an account at ScotlandsPeople is free, its the seeing of results that costs money.  I always buy a few credits and then use them as I help people.  But if you search the 1881 Census on ScotlandsPeople there is not charge for the search as FamilySearch provided the index.

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Canadian Online World War One Records

Assuming that finding an ancestor at the Battle of Agincourt 1415 was a bit of a long shot – is that an archery joke?   Let’s look for some closer records.  Remembrance Day is coming.  Do you have Canadian ancestors who fought in World War One?

Library and Archives Canada  hosts a very fine online database of approximately 620.000 attestation papers from World War One.  “Volunteers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force were questioned at the place of enlistment to complete the two-sided Attestation papers which included the recruit’s name and address, next-of-kin, date and place of birth, occupation, previous military service, and distinguishing physical characteristics. Recruits were asked to sign their Attestation papers, indicating their willingness to serve overseas. By contrast, men who were drafted into the CEF under the provisions of the Military Service Act (1917) completed a far simpler one-sided form which included their name, date of recruitment, and compliance with requirements for registration. Officers completed a one-sided form called the Officers’ Declaration Paper.” (Source: ).  Work is underway to digitize all the service records.

I find it interesting to see the physical descriptions – height, eye colour, hair colour.  Try searching for your ancestors who may have served.  My wife found her grandmother’s brother in this database – Peter Malm.  I found his papers just by searching for his surname and first name without knowing his regimental number. Click Here to get started and then Click on the link Search Database.  We hope you find some interesting new information. 

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Do you have a medieval solder in your ancestry?

When teaching European history one of my favourite questions was:  How long was the Hundred Year War?  Answer:  116 years.  And better than that it really wasn’t a single war but rather a series of conflicts between England and France.

What’s this got to do with family history?  Didn’t you ever wonder if one of your ancestors held a longbow at the Battle of Agincourt?  Now you can find out!  And there is no charge for using this web site.

Dick Eastman started me on this quest – so thank you Dick  – when he reported on 7 October 2016 that the names of 3,500 French soldiers who took part in the Battle of Agincourt have just been added to the online database.  For those of you whose history is a little rusty the Battle of Agincourt was 1415.

Where’s the website and what records are available?   This large database is a joint project of the Universities of Reading and Southampton in England.  The database contains “the names of soldiers serving the English crown between 1369 and 1453. Most were fighting the French. In this second phase of the Hundred Years War major invasions of France were launched, including that of 1415 which culminated in Henry V’s victory at Agincourt 1415. We have also included soldiers serving in other theatres (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Calais etc), and in all types of service (expeditions on land and sea, garrisons, escorts, standing forces).

Why do we know so many names? The simple explanation is that soldiers received pay and this had to be audited. The financial officials of the crown were keen to check the soldiers were present and correct. The main way of doing this was by checking off their names at a muster, at the beginning of a campaign or during it, or every few months for troops in garrison. Thousands of muster rolls survive in archive collections in England, France and beyond. We also have the evidence of letters of protection which soldiers bought from the Chancery to prevent legal actions whilst they were absent from home.” ( )

It might be interesting to search some of your British or French surnames.  I found 27 Darbys!  There was even a Peter Darby who was an archer. Unfortunately this is a little further back than my present family tree goes, but maybe I can find a link.  I have a French Huguenot line of refugees who fled to England in the early 1600s but no sign of them here.

I have started looking for military records after finding one of my ancestors away from home for several years during the Napoleonic Wars – early 1800s. 

This website was a wonderful find.  I hope you enjoy using it.

Hint:  TNA means The National Archives at Kew in England

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