Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 March 2015

Wednesday March 4th, 2015 | Geoff

The ancestry.co.uk website is always having additional sets of records added to it, and it is well worthwhile to keep an eye on what is going on there. Recently they added some potentially useful British Army records bearing the title Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929. To quote the description of these records that is given by Ancestry:

“This database contains records detailing the money owed to soldiers of the British Army who died in service from 1901 to 1929. A small percentage of soldiers who were discharged as ‘insane’ are also listed here. Records typically include the name of the soldier, his next of kin and their relationship, the date of death and sometimes the place, plus other details. In cases where the soldier was discharged as insane, the place and date of discharge are often recorded in the place and date of death field. The inclusion of the next of kin makes these records particularly valuable to family historians, as this information can help researchers take a family back another generation or distinguish between soldiers with the same name. Early records also list a soldier’s trade before enlistment.

Payments went first to widows, or, if the soldier wasn’t married, to a parent (often a mother) or siblings.”

These records can be very useful if you have traced a man in, say, the medal rolls, but haven’t found a service record for him and are wondering whether you have got the right chap. Assuming you know your man’s spouse’s name, this record can be used to prove or disprove this. Take the case of somebody I’ve mentioned in this blog previously, my great uncle Charles Hewitt (1878-1917), who was killed in action in France in April 1917. His entry in the Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 shows that his widow was Elizabeth A Hewitt. As I already know that Charlie’s married Elizabeth Ann Cuerden (b 1880) this very neatly shows that I have got the right man. If you know how to interpret it this record gives information about the amount Elizabeth received in pension, and whether the couple had any children. It doesn’t actually name any children.

So far I have been able to use these records to research a couple of the people who feature in my family history, and I don’t doubt that they will prove of further use in the future.

Speaking of ancestry.co.uk, I see that they have added more deaths to the England & Wales Civil Registration indexes on the website as a separate collection. These entries cover the period 2007-2013, so they very nearly bring us up to date – quite wonderful news.

I must admit that since the Civil Registration Certificates have become quite expensive I only buy them when I really do need to. I use the indexes that are online to establish the approximate dates of the deaths of the people on my records. If I can corroborate the information I obtain from the indexes I do so, but in most cases this is not possible, which means that I am not following best practice. Does this undermine the value of my research? Yes, it must do, and I regret that as I do try to be as accurate as is possible. I can only say that I do take as much care as I can over this, and I always indicate in my records where the information has come from, so anybody looking at them can see that where an element of doubt exists. Maybe one day the powers that be in the UK will make the information contained in certificates available to us without it being uneconomic for us to access it. That will be a nice change, and offer a solution to this particular problem.

Over the next few weeks I shall be using some of my available time to take part in a couple of research projects that are run by the Family & Community History Research Society (FACHRS). I have belonged to this society for many years – since it started, in fact, but due to my obsession with my family history interests I have never played as big a part in it as perhaps I should. Community history is a type of research that focusses on the wider community, rather than on individual families, and helps you to learn more about how far your family is typical ( or atypical) of other families in the community. I find this type of work very interesting.

FACHRS have run a number of research projects in the past, and have published the results of their research.  Basically the research is carried out by individual members in their locality, with expert guidance available where needed, and then the results of these individual pieces of research are combined to produce overall findings. Use of this method enables the production of both small scale and large scale results, and throws light on the ways in which local comunities relate to the bigger picture.

If you are interested in this kind of thing you can find out more by looking at the FACHRS website.

Another thing I have to look forward to this month is a trip to The National Archives at Kew. Helen and I will be getting up before dawn cracks in a couple of weeks time, and taking the train to London. This will be our first trip to TNA for several years, and we are looking forward to it very much. I’ll let you know how we get on.

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