1891 Census – Guildford. RG12; Piece: 560; Folio: 54; Page: 31. Reproduced with kind permission by Ancestry.co.uk

I was chatting to a friend at the weekend (someone as obsessed with family as I am, if that’s possible!) and we were celebrating the fact that she had found some information on a rather elusive ancestor.

She had first started researching this particular chap over 10 years ago, but with little success. She had the odd rummage around to try and find more about him but the odds were against him until she recently noticed some new records which had been added to the Find My Past website. On a hunch, she typed in his name and, to cut a long story short, found a set of records which gave her a huge amount of information and answered several queries she had about his family. This definitely deserved a celebratory cup of coffee and a custard cream!

I think this highlights two very important aspects of family history research:

1) Never give up the search!
2) Remember that all the genealogical websites are constantly updating their sites and adding new sets of records.

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1857. Reproduced by kind permission from Ancestry.co.uk

People often ask me “which is the best to subscribe to, Ancestry.com or Find My Past or The Genealogist?”. Well, they are all good and while they share some sets of records (eg, the census, the BMD indexes, etc) they also have different sets of records. For example, Ancestry.com has Surrey and Dorset parish registers (among others) but Find My Past has Welsh parish registers and the 1939 Register. The Genealogist has the tithe maps and various sets of wills that the others don’t have.

However, even the records that are shared can vary. For example, take the census. Ancestry.com and Find My Past use different sets of indexes, so you might well find that someone has transcribed something one way on Ancestry and another way on Find My Past. If you can, it’s well worth searching on both to try and find a missing ancestor.

Also, don’t just use the indexes (and we’ve talked about this before!). If you can browse through a set of records, do so. You may find other family members while you do!

If you subscribe to Ancestry or Find My Past, they will send you regular updates on what they have just released. Now, obviously, they are commercial companies and will be trying to ‘sell’ their product so they can ‘over-egg’ the pudding from time to time in but nevertheless, these updates are useful as they remind us of all their new accessions and indexes. Incidentally, it is worth scrolling down the pages of the various collections on these sites and reading the small print. These should tell you exactly what is included in the collection and, more importantly, what is not!

Edinburgh City Archives; Edinburgh, Scotland; Register of Voters for the City of Edinburgh and the Burgh of Leith; Reference: SL56/16. Reproduced with kind permission by Ancestry.co.uk

Ancestry.com have just announced a ‘latest addition’ to their database which are Scottish electoral registers. They are not for the whole of Scotland but cover quite a few large areas and include Edinburgh and Glasgow. Now, as anyone with Scottish ancestors will tell you, most of the records relating to Scotland can be found on the excellent Scotland’s People website. However, this is not a subscription site and you pay for each document you want to see. If you already have a subscription to Ancestry.com (and remember it’s free to use here at the Surrey History Centre) this is a very useful addition to your armoury of Scottish resources.

So keep checking to see what’s new on these sites – you might find some pleasant surprises.

Happy researching!

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