Archive for 'Grandparent'

The Role of the Census in Your Genealogy Research

One very important tool in your genealogical research is the census; however, they can also be problematic. When researching your lineage it is important to establish when and where a specific relative lived, which is one way the census is helpful. Yet, you have to understand that these records were compiled by other human beings and are not always error free.

Front page of the 2011 census form.

Front page of the 2011 census form. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


United Kingdom census results, particularly those dated 1841 and later are very valuable tools in that they were the first to list all members of a household. Previous census would only list the name of the head of the household, ignoring children, spouses and other relatives that might live under the same roof.

Census data is often considered the foundation of genealogical research and depending upon the era in which it was taken can contain a great deal of information. Let’s say you have traced the movements of a particular ancestor and you are pretty sure where they lived, but you cannot find property records to support your conclusions. A census of the area could tell you where they lived  and even where they were born (if this is missing from your research).


Many census data was often copied several times for different organizations, which increases the margin of potential error. At the end of the day, a fallible human being was the enumerator and there are bound to be a few mistakes.

What You Should Know

When it comes to researching census data you will want to become familiar with the manner in which they were taken and the meaning behind certain abbreviations. For example, in the 1841 UK census professions would be abbreviated, some examples include:

  • Ag Lab- agricultural laborer
  • FS- Female servant
  • Sh- shopman
  • M- Manufacturer
  • m- maker (boots etc…)


A census can be very important to your research, filling in the blanks and even helping you locate a particular ancestor who seems to have fallen off the map. That being said you have to be aware of their limitations and propensity for mistakes or errors. Utilizing census data is not difficult but may require a little reading between the lines, so to speak. As of 2012 the UK census data is complete and searchable from 1841-1911.


How can help you find out about your genealogy

English: Headquarters of (formerl...

Headquarters of (formerly “The Generations Network”) in Provo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whether you are new to genealogy or have been researching your family tree for many years can be a very useful tool. It is true that there are many free resources out there for determining your roots, sometimes the family history will take you places you cannot easily access physically or you will run into a roadblock on the way. (UK)

Formerly known as The Generations Network, is an online database containing 5 billion records. Since this is an American based company, the records begin with genealogical data for the United States, though records for other countries are constantly being uploaded to the site. For example, they now have indexes and images of every census from 1841-1911 for:

Other records on include but are not limited to:

  • Military service- Draft, enlistment, awards, decorations, pensions, news, photos and much more
  • Parish Records- baptism, birth, death, marriage and burial- these records are vital to anyone researching before 1837 when Civil Registration began.
  • Variety of records added daily- such as Abstracts of wills 1658 Wooten etc…

Genealogical Research

As you prepare to use the databases at to fill in your family history, it is important that you compile some basic information ahead of time. There is a wealth of information in oral tradition among your current living relatives for example. Start by listing your family members, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and more. Include significant dates and locations to each name, such as where/ when they were born, married, gave birth, died and burial.

Follow your oral records up with as much physical data as possible. Many of these records are public and can be copied and kept in your own genealogical binders. When you begin searching through the archives at these records may help, you fill in the blanks or confirm that you are tracing the right family lines on the site. In some cases, especially for very old records, the copy will be degraded or missing words and sentences. Having your own copies will cut down on the possibility of errors.

Interesting Information

Tracing all the roots of your family tree can be a fun and eye opening experience. Many times, you will find personal letters and anecdotes that add personality to your great-great-great-great grandmother twice removed! You may even find some surprising results such as Irish, Scottish or even American Indian heritage that you knew nothing about. is a valuable source for compiling your family history, wherever it may take you in the world.


Should you use a subscription bases service like for your family history? It is true that there are many free resources both online and off, but if you are like most people, your time may be severely limited. Being able to access the databases in your spare time (even at 2 am sometimes) can be a valuable asset.

Finding Your Roots: African Genealogy

Around the world, there are millions of people who can claim African heritage. Many people today are interested in tracing their roots all the way back to their African ancestors, which can pose some difficulty not encountered by other races. This is due in large part by the fact that many Africans came to the UK and America’s as slaves. While it may be a little more difficult, it is not impossible.

English: The Hunted Slaves

The Hunted Slaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting Started

In the beginning, researching family history with African genealogy is not much different than any other search. Whether you are attempting to go back to the 1800’s or find your great-great-great grandparents the process is the same. Tips for getting started:

  • Record as much recent information as possible- parents, grandparents etc…
  • Fill in dates- birth, deaths, marriages, divorce (anything important life dates)
  • Fill in locations for the above dates wherever possible

Your first source of information will of course be your personal store of information, once you have exhausted what you know it is time to turn to your family.  Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all good sources of information. You may want to make separate lists for each individual you interview, that way you can cross-reference and look for discrepancies.


The next phase of your research is confirming what you have learned from oral tradition and that is done through physical objects such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, rental agreements, mortgages and much more. Confirmation of dates and names can often be found in local cemeteries.

As you go through this process, you may find you have to prune the family tree a bit. Oral tradition may be full of “aunts”, “uncles” and “cousins” who are not actually related to you. It is also important to note that uncle Jim may actually have been born Randolph James.

Slave Records

Much of the above is a matter of rinse lather repeat until you go back far enough to encounter slave records in your family history. Again, it is not impossible but you will need to approach the search a bit differently. Researching African Genealogy for this time period will be challenging because many slaves did not have recognized surnames during slavery. Some possibilities for surnames include:

  • Owners surname
  • Mothers surname
  • Surname of father (might be another slave or owner)
  • Assigned surname- this happened often after emancipation, names were issued by church or state
  • Chosen- freed men and women were allowed to simply choose a surname for themselves

It will be best to work backwards through property records of freed slaves, then attempt to find owner information and so on. How far back you can go will depend a great deal, on how well records were kept for a specific area.


It is important to note that not all UK citizens of African heritage are descendants of slaves and tracing roots across continents can be difficult for any genealogist. If you find you are running into significant issues there are professionals who can assist you and many resources online such as Find A Grave dot com and others.