Tracing Ancestors – Here’s How I Do It. I’ve been pondering what to write about today, I’ve covered all the basics in other posts and there are no major new releases to talk about – well no major releases that I’ve heard about !! So I’ve come up with an idea of sharing with you what records I have used to trace an ancestor. Each person on my family tree is different and very few of them have exactly the same records used so this might evolve into a series. Let’s try this as an experiment and you can let me know if it is helpful. I thought I would start with my father. I started my research well before the advent of home computers and the internet so some of this comes from that period, some from two trips to the LDS Salt Lake City Library and the vast majority from the era of the internet.
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Thomas William Elliott
1 Birth certificate – the first document that records his life is his birth certificate which tells us that he was the son of William Elliott, a builder’s labourer & Eliza Elliott formerly Bint and was born on the 15 October 1908 at 22 Edward Street, Aldershot, Hampshire. CLICK HERE to learn more about birth certificates and CLICK HERE to learn how to order one online.
2 Photo of birth place – I wanted to see if the house Thomas was born in still existed so I did a search of Google Maps Street View. House numbers can change which can cause difficulties, but all the houses apart from the church are modern buildings so the house has been demolished, but I did get a good image of the church. However it is always worth a look. CLICK HERE to access Google Street View
3 Baptism certificate – My father told me that he was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church which stood opposite his home. Neither of his parents were catholic, he felt it was just the fact he lived opposite that informed their choice for him. I now wanted a copy of the baptism entry for Thomas, as it was a Roman Catholic baptism the records aren’t held at the county record office so back to Google and a quick search showed they would be held at the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth offices. However I thought it worth while asking my parents if the original baptism certificate had survived several house moves and the trials and tribulations of time. My mother produced the certificate very quickly like a rabbit out of a magicians hat! It was only then that I discovered my father was 8 years old at the time of his baptism 26 November 1916. CLICK HERE to learn about interviewing family. Bear in mind even though they say they have told you everything – they sometimes haven’t!!
4 1911 Census – My parents were amongst the first people I searched for when the 1911 census was released. I found my father where I expected to find him further up Edward Street at number 43, he had told me they had moved a few doors up at some stage when he was a child. It is not unusual for families who are renting or lodging to move frequently in the Victorian/Edwardian era. The census showed that Thomas was living with his parents, that his father was employed by Mr Innys, a builder and that they had been married for 7 years and had only the one child, Thomas. William and Eliza hadn’t been married for 7 years because they both were, in fact, married to other people – but that is another story! CLICK HERE to learn more about census.
5 Territorial Army – I had been given a copy of a photograph of a group of Territorial soldiers. Some are in uniform, but other aren’t. My father told me it was taken on the day he signed up after a recruitment drive. There are 14 new recruits. I got the date 4 September 1928 from Thomas’s army record when he was called up for WW2. CLICK HERE to learn more about the history of the Territorial army.
6 1939 Register – I had been told that Thomas and his parents had moved to the house where I was later born when he was aged about 15 years old. So it was an easy, but exciting task to find him on the 1939 Register. By this time Thomas had completed his apprenticeship, I have his papers, as a bricklayer and was in full time employment. His father was a retired soldier living on a pension and his mother was a housewife. The 1939 Register gives full dates of birth which is very helpful. Thomas is aged 31 years and is unmarried. NOTE – the 1939 Register is now available on both Ancestry and FindMyPast. CLICK HERE to learn more about the 1939 Register.
7 Army Records – My sister purchased a copy of Thomas’s WW2 army records, they were quite expensive to buy, £35, and took over six months to receive. This is about the average time it takes as the records aren’t at The National Archives, but held at the Army Archives. I should imagine that in due course they will be transferred to the TNA. CLICK HERE to access the website to learn more.
8 Marriage Certificate – having survived the war my father returned to Farnborough and working as a bricklayer, by chance he met my mother who he had dated when he was a young man. The romance was rekindled and they married 31 July 1948. The marriage certificate gives all the usual details. CLICK HERE to learn more about marriage certificates and CLICK HERE to learn how to order one online.
9 Photographs and Newspaper cuttings – I am lucky enough to have some photographs and newspaper cuttings of Thomas’s bricklaying work so I have scanned those and attached them to my Ancestry online family tree.
10 Death Certificate – Sadly we now come to Thomas’s death certificate. It shows he died 9 September 1989 at Frimley Park Hospital, his occupation is given as well as his date of birth, cause of death and where he normally lived. Earlier certificates give less detail. CLICK HERE to learn more about death certificates and CLICK HERE to learn how to order one online.
11 Burial – Thomas is buried at the Aldershot Military Cemetery. Obviously I know the details of the burial plot and when it occurred, but if I had been researching an earlier ancestor then I would search Deceased Online who have the record 1856 – 1911. Records after 1911 are kept at the cemetery offices. CLICK HERE to learn more about DeceasedOnline.
Tracing Ancestors – Here’s How I Do It – Summary
I hope you have found this helpful, it is a good example of tracing 20th century ancestors and the wide variety of records available. Plus there will be more coming online in the future such as school records etc. I keep my family history online at Ancestry and also on Family Tree Maker on my laptop computer.
Let me know if you have found this of use to you, next time I’ll feature Thomas’s parents and and then you can learn why they didn’t marry!!
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