Beginning the Search for Your English Ancestors

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You've done it!  You have traced your ancestors back to the immigrating ancestor and discovered (or confirmed) your ancestor immigrated from England. 

Now you are ready to begin your genealogy research in the English records.

Do you know what records for your English ancestors exist? What records should you look in first? Where are those records housed?

Let's explore where to start your English genealogy research.

Begin the Search for Your English Ancestors

As with any new-to-you records, take time prior to the start of your research to familiarize yourself with record collections. Know the answers to questions such as 

  • What time periods and locations do the records include?
  • What type of information does the record include?

Knowing answers to these questions ahead of time prevents you from wasting valuable research time searching for information that was not recorded or was lost over time.

English Census Records

Most genealogy researchers are familiar with census records making these a great place to start your research.

English census records began in 1841 and were taken every 10 years.  Census records actually began in 1801, but prior to the 1841 census, the census records did not include the names of the individuals. The 1911 census is the latest census accessible to the public.

Keep in mind as you explore the English census, an individual's age may be rounded down to the nearest "5". This practice of rounding an individual's age will be a new concept for US researchers as they begin the hunt for their English ancestors.  For example, in the 1841 census, a female aged 24 years will be listed as 20 years of age. Children less than 15 years of age are enumerated with their correct age. You'll find English Census records available on all the major subscription sites (see resource list at the bottom).

Civil Registrations

Remember the year 1837!

Civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths (BMD) began in 1837 resulting in a national index. If you find your ancestor in the civil registration index, you can then order a copy of the actual certificate.

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England and Wales Birth Registration Index (Source: FamilySearch.org)

                                                            

The England and Wales Birth, Death, and Marriage Registration Indices can be found on FamilySearch.org.

Parish Registers

If you are researching ancestors prior to 1837, turn to the parish records. Going back to their beginning in 1538, these can be a gold mine for the genealogy researcher.

Parish records were created and kept locally by the vicar recording baptisms, marriages and burials. Typically, parish records were kept chronological order. The tricky part of researching parish registers is knowing which parish your ancestor lived in and which county that parish was located in. Many parish registers have been indexed, transcribed or digitized. 

Beginning in 1598, copies of the parish register known as the bishop's transcripts were sent annually to the parish bishop. These make good substitutes for damaged or missing parish registers. If you fail to find your ancestor in the traditional parish records, check the bishop's transcripts.

Passenger Lists

Passenger lists are another resource to find your English ancestors. Genealogy researchers are both thrilled and frustrated by the variety of information found in these records. Earlier passenger lists may provide only minimal information on passengers, while later passenger lists can contain quite a bit of information on individual passengers. From example, the 1920's passenger lists out of the UK asked for the last known UK address!

1923 UK Passenger-List
1923 UK Passenger  List for the Aquitania (Source: FindMyPast.org, courtesy of The National Archives, London, England)

                                                     

Resources For English Records

Resources for English records include:

Not sure where your American ancestor immigrated from? Find strategies for researching your immigrant ancestors in Where Did My Immigrant Ancestors Come From? 

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Lisa Sig Photo 200 x 200Lisa Lisson is the writer, educator and genealogy researcher behind Are You My Cousin? and believes researching your genealogy does not have to be overwhelming. All you need is a solid plan, a genealogy toolbox and the knowledge to use those tools. Specializing in southern US research and finding those elusive females, Lisa is passionate about helping others find resources and tools to confidently research their genealogy. Lisa can be found online at LisaLisson.com , Facebook and Pinterest