Author Archives: Julia M.

Interesting reading – Elizabethan England

Hi all –

I’ve just found some new-to-me books which are available on my e-reader through our local library – what a rush! Thought some might be interested in knowing what I’ve found.

First, I’d already known about C. J. Sansom’s historical novels about the period. The hero, Matthew Shardlake, is a hunch-backed lawyer who interacts with many historical figures. The books certainly carry the flavour of those days vividly – the smells, sights, colours – the mass of people, some dying on the streets from starvation, some riding magnificent horses, the vast majority using their legs to get about, trying to avoid the refuse in the streets. As the author was/is a lawyer in this day and age, and a historian, they’re wonderfully evocative. (and they’re good mysteries, as well.)

Now I’ve found “The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England”, by Ian Mortimer. Now, it’s not as lively as the Shardlake novels – but it’s chock full of information that suddenly puts a lot of things in place. Such as the first occurrences of Poor Relief came in 1597 – in conjunction with a 2 year crop failure when thousands starved to death. There was NO poor relief prior to that – in fact, if you harboured one or more poor persons, you’d be fined. And if you were a ‘vagabond’, local authorities were to remove circles of tissue from your ears!  But as the author pointed out, the population almost doubled in the century, while traditional work diminished. The result? Lots of people in poverty so deep they could not rise above it. (and lots of dispossessed people searching for any work, of any kind, throughout the kingdom.)

He also wrote “The Time Traveler’s Guide to the Middle Ages.” Can’t wait to read it.

If you do try the Sheldrake novels, you might become a bit interested in Walsingham. (he’s one of the villains in the novels.) There’s an interesting history of his time in office – “Her Majesty’s Spymaster.” by Stephen Budiansky. It’s a firmly official history, based completely on documents discovered in European repositories – including the Vatican. Very interesting!! The author claims Walsingham set up the model for the modern-day intelligence services we see today, and does much to prove his point.  It certainly brings to life the idea that life itself in those days was anything but assured, no matter what your status.

Have any of you read any novels or histories of interest? (Or for that matter, any books on English genealogy?) Please, share.

And enjoy the coming Spring weather!!


Calendar Changes in 1752 and Quaker dating

In 1752, there was an immense change in the English calendar. The two major changes were these:
The New Year was changed from 25 March to 1 January, shortening the year 1751, which started 25 March and ended on 31 December, leaving only 282 days.
There was a second change in the calendar in 1752, in which the days between  September 2 and 14 were ‘dropped’.
An explanation – In 1752, the Julian Calendar, used by England and her Colonies at that time, was changed to the Gregorian, which had been adopted by Roman Catholic countries after 1582 (to about 1600), and other Protestant countries thereafter. England was the last to adopt the “new” calendar, and chose to do so September, 1752.
Genealogists need to be careful, because this can affect many dates of events.
The year in the Julian calendar (pre 1752) started on 25 March (or Lady’s Day), and ended on 24 March. One must check various transcriptions to ensure the transcribers reflect this by looking at the original records, if possible; I’ve checked LDS transcripts for records I’ve also transcribed, and their entries did not match the original registers, which makes their record dates from 1 January to 25 March, 1582 to 24 March, 1752, incorrect. (Goes to show, every transcription needs to be checked – or elsewise not fully accepted.)
These changes affected records in many ways. Some educated persons, believing the change should have been made in 1582, recorded a ‘double date’ – for instance, 12 February, 1666/67, indicating that while it was officially 1666, they considered it should have been 1667. This ‘double dating’ only applied to the periods of 1 Jan to 25 March, as the rest of the year was not in question. This appeared for the most part in legal documents such as wills and land transfers, but as 1752 approached, double dating appeared more frequently in church registers/records as well.
Some parish registers refer to O.S.= Old Style, and/or N.S.= New Style, especially in the years 1751-1752.
Because clerics and others were inconsistent in the recording of years, it’s essential to understand which dating system was being used for any specific year.
One should also be aware that Quaker dating is unique. For religious reasons, they do not use various common names for months and days of the week. Instead, they would show, for instance, “twelfth day, third month, one thousand seventeen and fifty”. As the first month was March, that would mean the actual date was 12 May, 1750. Sunday was always the first day of the week. This can be quite confusing especially during 1751 and 1752.
A handly date converter is at
Additionally, one must be very careful to understand how any particular Meeting recorded their dates; I’ve read the Philadelphia meeting differed from the Boston meeting in dating records! i.e., third day, second week, fourth month, one thousand seven hundred and forty. (Tuesday, 6 June, 1740) Use the converter to be sure of the day date.
Another explanation for these dating changes (with charts) can be seen at

February’s meeting, and some ideas about us

Hi everyone –

I’ve heard from Julie and Linda about the February meeting; seems the tour of the Library turned out to be very beneficial. Nice to know there are lots of resources there, and that we have such a nice tour director! <g> Mucho thanks to John. Also, Bob explained about our new MNGS web presence that’s being constructed; from what I’ve been told, it’s going to be great. We may not need to maintain this separate blogsite, but that’s up to all of you. Let me know what you’d like to do, once the new site is up and running. OK?

They both had ideas about what we might want to discuss in the March meeting; Linda said perhaps we need to discuss what we’d like to accomplish as a group, while Julie thought it might be helpful if everyone thought about giving specific information on a brick wall, family, or person they’d like to investigate. Remember, Lois volunteered to use her Find My Past membership to access those records, so some folks might actually put a dent into their wall. (Not everyone will be able to have their challenge addressed right off, however – she won’t have all day!)

Personally, I think we may need to discuss our April meeting, as it’s on the day of the MNGS Tech Conference. Will there be anyone to attend our meeting?

Bob asked in our first meeting about how to discover U.K. relatives back a ways in time, without specifying an exact time. There are lots of resources and records in his particular area of England, but how to get to them without being at the County Record Office is the challenge. Fortunately, the English have been very interested in their own history, and there are excellent books available which include transcriptions of records. They’re well worth a try. I personally use a Google search to find them. Also, if I visit a really great place, such as a University site, I check to see if they have references included – then comes more Google searches for those titles as well. Lastly, there’s always the National Archives A2A to check. Doing these things has led me into paths I’d never dreamt existed; found Manorial records detailing sizes of acreage and rents of some relatives in 1436!!

The University of Leicester has a website dedicated to old county directories. For Cornwall, that means one from the late 1700’s. They can be invaluable.

Also available from various sources are the following:

  • Voter lists from the 1850’s and 60’s
  • Subsidies of 1625
  • Protestation returns, 1641
  • 1660 Poll Tax
  • Parliamentary Survey of 1660
  • 1664 Hearth Taxes

And this is a partial list. Nothing was as sure as death and taxes – and when the King wanted money, it was from every square inch of the country; records of his ‘requests’ remain. So there ARE resources out there, just waiting for us to find them.

Another person asked why I’m using “U.K.” and not England and Wales. Guess it’s political correctness. There are people who believe deeply that Wales, and Cornwall, aren’t part of England. There are also many people living in England who feel the same way. But they all agree that it may be termed the United Kingdom, although I suspect no one in our group would be offended either way. Using “U.K.” is shorter.

Last thing, promise. A friend of mine took her laptop with her when going to physical therapy, and left it securely locked to a table when they called her name. When she returned, nothing worked. The dreaded “black screen” had struck. (and this was a 1 year old laptop!) She took it to Best Buy, and the Geek squad. It will be $2,000, and they MIGHT recover her data. Why is she willing to pay that? She had 3 years of intense genie work (a minimum of 30 hours a week) on it, WHICH SHE NEVER BACKED UP!

The thought makes my stomach clench. Please, backup everything – maybe even more than once. Really, losing data hurts a lot more than backing up.

Welcome to our blogsite!

We’re the English-Welsh Genealogy Interest Group, established in January, 2014, by members of the Minnesota Genealogical Society, to explore methods of researching U.K. records of value to genealogists, and help one another break down brick walls.

Our monthly meetings take place at area libraries at 10:00 a.m., on the last Saturday of each month. (Check our Meetings and Topics page for dates, times, and locations.) All members of MGS are invited to join us; we’d love to have you!

Are you on Facebook? Keep up with meeting information and links to genealogy news of interest to English and Welsh researchers by liking our Facebook page.

If you have questions or comments about our groups, email us at


Ancestry vs. FindMyPast – another view

This came from the Lost Cousins website newsletter (another fee-based resource for UK research, btw). (It’s free to search, but one has to pay to subscribe – it will match you to others researching the same names, by examining your data.)

Perhaps their viewpoint can add to the discussion we had re Ancestry and Find My Past at our meeting.

Choosing between Ancestry and findmypast

Earlier this month, possibly for the first time ever, there were special offers at both findmypast and Ancestry – so I got quite a few emails from members asking which site is the best.

The simple answer is that there isn’t a simple answer. Apart from basic resources like censuses and the GRO indexes there’s very little overlap between the records at the two sites – which means that whichever you choose you’re going to miss out on the records at the other site.

If you can afford subscriptions to both sites then that’s the ideal solution – when I’m researching my own family tree I move between the two sites frequently. For example, findmypast is usually the best site for searching the GRO death indexes, but Ancestry has the probate calendars; Ancestry has most of the major military collections for the Great War, but findmypast has by far the best collection of pre-1914 records; findmypast has the parish registers for Hertfordshire and part of Kent, where several of my ancestral lines started out – but Ancestry has most of London, which is where they ended up.

But if you really can’t afford two subscriptions (even after making savings on your gas, electricity, mobile phone, Internet security software, groceries and goodness knows what else by following Peter’s Tips) you’re going to have to work out which of the two sites offers the most useful records for your research at this time.

It might be as simple as switching from the site you’re currently using to the other one, on the basis that for now you’ve found as much as you can on the site you’re with – but it might entail reviewing what each site has to offer, especially in terms of parish records, and comparing this against your current needs.

These links will help you get started on the comparison:

Special Collections (at findmypast)
Parish Records (at Ancestry)
British Newspapers (at findmypast)
Military Records (at Ancestry)
Military Records (at findmypast)

The important thing is to be ready to make a decision, because sometimes there will be a discount offer that only lasts a few days.

Greetings, and our first meeting

Hi Everyone –

Never thought I’d be learning how to Blog, and set up a WordPress site, to tell you about our meetings and related subjects. But here goes! (and please, be patient – this will get better over time… I hope!!) (This is my second try with this post, as some folks couldn’t read it. Privacy gone wild??<g>

THIS BLOG IS NOW OPEN TO EVERYONE – no one needs to join WordPress in order to view it. (That is, IF I’ve changed the proper settings.)

We had a great meeting Jan. 18th, and decided quite a few things. The one you’ll notice most is this site; we wanted a way to tell everyone what’s happening, and allow each and every one of you to add information, correct anything necessary, and make suggestions or give ideas. So – this is the result.

We’ve agreed that the last Saturday in the month would be best to have meetings; we opted for the morning (10am) and agreed 1 1/2 hours would be perfect. Unless you’re told differently, it will be at the MGS offices. Lois assures us that we can always use GoToMeeting – which you can access from a laptop or desktop, a tablet, a cell-phone, or even a regular telephone! It’s free, and if a subject’s not of interest you can drop out at any time.

Please, feel free to join in the discussion here – I might very well not explain something clearly where someone else can. (now, about how parishes evolved….hehehe.)

We’re a nice mix of experienced/not-so-experienced folks; many have done lots of work in the U.S., but not much in the U.K. And some have done quite a bit of U.K. research. There’s a group of folks interested in UK to Canada to US, another group interested in Cornwall, another in Wales, and some aren’t sure in which county their families resided. Unless their surnames are quite unique, that’s very difficult to determine without specific information.  It was suggested that death certificates (in the US) might help,  as might Wills and land records. And discovering siblings may be crucial, as their records might produce the needed nuggets.

Everyone has questions – so 30 minutes of our meeting will be devoted to “problem solving” and everyone can learn at the same time. Lois has kindly volunteered to use her subscription to FindMyPast Worldwide, a fee-based website that has a huge collection of records. Ancestry has different, complimentary records. Library editions of Ancestry and FMP can be accessed for free from any LDS Family History Center, and many local libraries have Ancestry as well. FMP (library edition) will be added to MGS this summer. It was pointed out that Worldwide (paid) memberships have different search engines and parameters than the Library editions, so a search in Worldwide will return different results!

What about the rest of the time? We’ll have learning sessions for 20 – 30 minutes, the first being a tour of the MGS library collections focusing on England. (That will be in February.)

Everyone agreed to bring one or more URLs of websites they found helpful so we can build a great reference tool.

Lots of subjects for the learning sessions surfaced this time – what records exist prior to government requiring them (pre-1700) & how to access them, how to locate Quaker records in England, how best to learn about the governmental structures of each county (they’re all different, of course!) & their evolution, etc. Please feel free to add any subject you might find of interest – or we’ll soon run out of subject matter.

As for places to obtain answers on your own, it was suggested that GenUKI is a wonderful place to start. It’s been built and maintained by volunteers, is free, and each county has a coordinator, so if you have questions, there’s a way to obtain an answer.

The BBC has a great website devoted to “How To…” as well. (They have a hit tv show entitled “Who Do You Think You Are?”, which inspired them to develop the site.)  And the National Archives has tutorials which are very, very thorough – and well written.

The LDS FamilySearch website has ORIGINAL parish records online for many counties; for instance, every parish in Cornwall which had parish church records filmed are available. Unfortunately, only one parish in Yorkshire has been included – but who knows when YKS might appear. (Hope springs eternal.) Perhaps your county has been included, or soon will be. ‘Tis worth a check, at least.

The Mailing Lists at Rootsweb were also discussed. The lists are easy to locate; they’re about 2/3 down the left-hand column on the Rootsweb home page. You can Browse and Search the older posts, even if you don’t join – so be sure to look for your surname or location. You can also get an idea of how ‘lively’ the list is; if there are only 1 or 2 posts per month, why join? It’s free to join the Lists, and you don’t ever have to post – but then, you’ll miss the best benefit of membership. There are some wonderfully reliable, helpful people just waiting to help you – and they may have access to  records you’ll never be able to find.

To maintain privacy, it was suggested that some choose to set up a separate email address to use just for lists, so they won’t have to publicize their main address to those with whom they’re not acquainted. Just be sure to check the box for that addie, as that’s where your list messages will be delivered. (It can get confusing.)

The last half-hour of our meetings will be general discussions – wide ranging and open.

My recommended website this week?   Peter Christian has put the entire group of links he references in his book “The Genealogist’s Internet” (currently in it’s 5th edition) online, for free; he’s a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists (FSG), and revises the list yearly.  Have fun browsing this huge compendium! (It took me about a month to read entries under “Property, taxation, and the law”.  My favourite?  The Feet of Fines.)

Don’t let that put you off. It has great links to ‘basics’, as well.

It will fun to hear what you think of the site – good or bad. And I’m excited to hear what you think of this blog idea – good or bad. Feedback is needed!!