July 2011

The Top Five for English Family History Research

These are my top five lists of books, blogs and websites that can assist you with your family history research in England. Do you have any that you feel should be added? If so please leave a comment.


Ancestral Trails” by Mark D. Herber; published by Genealogical Publishing Co.

Tracing your Ancestors in the National Archives: The website and beyond” by Amanda Bevan; published by The National Archives of England

Parish & Registration Districts in England & Wales” by Dr. Penelope Christensen; published by Heritage Productions

A Genealogical Gazetteer of England” Compiled by Frank Smith; published by Genealogical Publishing Co.

Army Records for Family Historians” by Simon Fowler and William Spencer; published by The National Archives of England


The Family Recorder

British and Irish Genealogy

Great War Heroes

Anglo Celtic Connections

London Roots Research



A2A Access to Archives

National Archives Documents Online

England Jurisdictions 1851 Map


©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Twelve Months of Genealogy – August

This month we are going to research the lives of our female ancestors.

In the first week we are going to look at the different occupations that our female ancestors may have done. I had a 3X Great Grandmother who was a midwife in the mid 1800s in Scotland. The University of Manchester has a website entitled “UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery.” Here you can find information and recommended reading on the subject.

If your ancestor was a governess you can find a bibliography at The Victorian Web. Did you know that women worked in the mines? You can find out more information on women’s involvement in the Industrial Revolution here.

You could find women working on the farm, the fisheries, textile mills and many other places outside the home.

In week two we will examine how women took care of their families without the basic services we take for granted today. Many women lived out in the middle of nowhere and had no neighbours to run to for assistance. Doctors were few and far between and money was scarce. So what did they do to take care of their family?

Home doctoring was a common practice. Today we might call it homeopathy. Women knew the basic herbs and other natural substances that would help heal their family of minor ailments. If things were more serious all they could do was try to make their patient more comfortable. If a doctor was available sometimes they would take items from the farm as payment, a few chickens, eggs or vegetables.

Home teaching was prevalent during this time as schools were either too far away or non-existent. Women may also be the preacher on Sunday instilling the values and teachings of the Bible to their family.

Women would do the family chores and then help their husbands on the farm if no farm labour was available or they could not afford it. You can find out about life on a Victorian farm in England here.

Let’s look at how single women coped during week three. The only occupations opened to single women of the middle or upper classes were nurse, teacher, nun and governess. These were considered respectable jobs for middle and upper class women. Single women from the lower classes were found working in the field, in domestic service, in the mines, in the factory and anywhere else they could find work to support themselves and their families.

Middle and upper class women were not encouraged to go out and find work. If they were single it was felt they were needed at home to care for aging parents and any siblings that may still be at home. You sometimes find single women moving in with siblings to help when a spouse has died.

Lower class women went out and earned money. It was not their own to do with as they pleased because it was expected that the money would be put into the family coffers. The money these women brought in for their family meant the difference of having a roof over their head or a meal or not being able to provide those simple necessities. Domestic service was preferred for single women of the lower class as they could get board and meals and then send the money home to their family. It meant one less mouth to be fed in the family home.

In the fourth week of August we will examine the roll of women in the First World War. This was a time when women experienced a new freedom that had not been felt before. The men were at war and the women had to make sure the industries kept running and supplies kept going to the front to support the men.

The class system seemed to blur for a while and women were working in all kinds of occupations. There were organized groups such as the Women’s Legion that taught women to drive, be mechanics, cooks and many other things. These women worked on the home front but some of them found themselves at the front driving ambulances and working in field hospitals. You can find our more about women taking the place of men at work here and more about the role of women from 1900-1945 here.

If you are finding it too hot to go outside or you are having a staycation this year why not spend some time finding out more about your female ancestors and how they lived their lives.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Have You Checked Out The Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1791-1845) Yet?

This is a great resource to find out more about the places in Scotland where your ancestors lived. Chris Paton referred to this database a lot during his Scottish workshop in Toronto in June. When you first go into the website it asks you to sign in but further down non subscribers can browse the scanned pages. Subscribers get some extra features but this way you can check out the website for yourself and decide if you want to subscribe to get those additional features.

The browse scanned pages search page gives you several options. You can search by the place name in the parish or county reports, choose from the county lists, or choose from an A-Z list. Remember when reading these documents that sometimes the letter s may look like the letter f and a double s might look like ff.

My Rankin’s were bakers in Largs so I searched by that town name under parish reports. I get two choices from the Account of 1791-99 and one from 1834-45. All the options were descriptions of the parish of Largs. In the Account of 1791-99 the first entry is by Rev. Mr. Gilbert Lang and the second “By a Friend to Statistical Inquiries.” In the Account from 1834-45 the entry is by The Rev. John Down, Minister. Each description carries slightly different topics. The descriptions of the land and community are really interesting.

In Rev. Down’s entry is a heading entitled “Climate and Diseases” which a notation says “This department has been furnished by Dr. John Campbell, Largs.” Here I learn that in 1828 there was an epidemic of dysentery and in 1836 and 1837 an epidemic of erysipelas. Cholera showed up in 1832 and it is said that in two of the houses it was brought from Glasgow. They also say that they have typhus fever occasionally but it is mostly “confined to the poorer and worst lodged part of our population.” The parish says that “wonderful longevity exists at present” because there are a large number of people between the ages of 70 and 93.

If your family member died in Largs in 1828, 1836 or 1837 you might try and find out if it was because of the epidemics. Erysipelas is a skin infection that is caused by hemolytic Streptococcus. You might get a fever and large, raised red patches on the skin and other symptoms.

On the county lists I chose Wigton [Wigtown] home of my Grey and McCubbin families. You can choose a report from a pull down list; show reports in this county and find a report. I chose show reports in this county. This provided a similar listing as found in the pull down menu. I chose the parish of Leswalt as that is where my family was from.

Interestingly the section was written by The Rev. Andrew McCubbin, Minister. Now I will have to find out if he is connected to my McCubbin family. He tells me that Leswalt means “the meadow along the burn.” I learn that the parish is very hilly and has large sections of moss. There used to be an animal called “goat-whey” but you do not see them much anymore. You can find salmon and oysters in the waters of the parish. Leswalt “belonged to the monks of Tongland in the reign of James V.”

There is a listing of principle land owners and a population count starting in 1801 and every ten years to 1831. Under “Character of the People” Rev. McCubbin states that they “of late have improved much both in language and manners.”

Live stock found in the area is Galloway cattle and Cheviot sheep. The produce of the parish is oats and potatoes. They have just started to farm wheat. The market town and post office are in Stranraer. This would suggest to me that if I do not find them in the parish records in Leswalt I should try Stranraer. There is a parochial library “which contains nearly 400 volumes, and the people have a taste for reading.” He says that about “200 children attend the Sabbath schools.”

There is a section entitled “Poor and Parochial Funds” and here they say that the church takes care of the poor. Some money comes from a legacy left by the Earl of Stair. The interesting part is the statement that “the greater part of the poor, being Irish, are very frequent and importunate in their demands.” Stranraer is approximately 50 km from Ireland. This account is dated February 1838.

You can see how these Statistical Accounts can be a very useful part of your family history research.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved