I haven’t had a lot of spare time over the last week – mainly due to having guests and a party to organize over the weekend – but what time I have had has been spent poring avidly over the latest records the folks at www.findmypast.co.uk have added to their resources, and it’s been an exciting time indeed. No wonder my poor little laptop has been groaning and creaking of late!
Appropriately enough on St David’s Day (1 March), FMP published nearly four million new Welsh records reproduced from parish registers, the results of an ongoing collaborative project they have going with the National Library of Wales and the Welsh County Archivists Group. Though there is still a lot more to come, I was particularly excited that this update contained huge numbers of records for Glamorgan, where a great many of Mum’s ancestors hail from, and also for Denbighshire and Flintshire, the coverage for which had been very poor previously (and where significant portions of Dad’s family were / are based).
What I find particularly valuable about these latest additions is that in many cases, alongside indexed (and thus easily searchable) transcripts of the records, they have provided high-quality digital images of the original records that often yield further information not included in the standardized, reduced format of the transcripts. To give them their due, the transcripts do generally indicate whether there is further personal information included in the original register, but this can be a source of slight frustration if you have no access to the original.
Marriage records are the case in point here: while the transcripts contain what is admittedly the most important information such as the names of the bride and groom, the date and location of the marriage and (if the information is contained in the original manuscript) ages of the parties and their parishes of origin, plus – from 1837 on in most cases – the names and professions of the fathers of the groom and bride respectively, what is generally not included in the transcripts is the more precise abode(s) of the bridal couple, names of the witnesses (these were often family members so are worth researching in their own right), and information as to whether the various parties signed their names or – if they didn’t know how to write their name – made a cross or other mark in the register. The latter point can be interesting in terms of giving insight into levels of education in the age before schooling was compulsory, and on the more emotional level there is a certain thrill associated with actually seeing the handwriting of your ancestors – sometimes beautifully formed, more often a spidery scrawl or a scratchy, blotted mark on the page.
Here are the signatures (or mark) of my great-great grandparents Thomas John and Ann Thomas, who married in Llansamlet in 1866, plus their two witnesses (who from their surnames look as though they might have been relatives of Ann, though I have the impression that every second person in Llansamlet had the surname Thomas at this date):
(This is just the couple of lines at the bottom of the full register entry. I hope it gives an idea of what I mean without infringing copyright.)
I won’t bore you here with all sorts of individual details about the new connections I’ve found out over the last week; suffice it to say that I have…
- found a number of “new” ancestors by being able to move back a generation or two in several cases
- filled out a few branches of my family through discovering siblings, cousins and in-laws turning up as marriage witnesses
- removed a few question marks about whether individuals of the same name turning up in different parishes /areas were the same person or not
- solved some mysteries and dispelled a couple of myths about various people’s provenance
- opened up numerous new cans of worms to be dealt with in the future 😉