Using The London Gazette For Your Genealogy Research. Hands up who knows about the London Gazette for their family history? Thought so, not that many of you! Well let’s put that to rights as if you don’t know about or haven’t used the Gazette then you are missing out on a super resource.
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The London Gazette was first published during the plague year of 1665. King Charles II moved the court from London to Oxford to avoid catching the disease and it became obvious that a publication was needed to inform others of government news. It is Britain’s oldest continuously published newspaper and is still published today albeit in electronic form online. As you can imagine over the centuries there has been some changes and it focus has widened – which is good news for genealogists. However it still has details of changes to the law and government policies.
So what can you expect to find when you are using the London Gazette for your genealogy research? The answer to that is names, dates and events and not just regarding the upper classes of society. Here is a list of items that will be found:-
- change of name that has been legally documented, rather than just adopting a new name
- bankruptcy notices
- deceased estates notices
- Granting of British citizenship
- Awarding of medals and meritorious actions
- Awarding of honors such as the Order of the British Empire
- military appointments and promotions
- Admiralty and War Office dispatches
- Notices from the civil service
Using The London Gazette For Your Genealogy Research – what might you find?
On the Home Page of the London Gazette website there is a nice and simple search box for searching their archives. I think the best way for me to explain what you might find is to show you a couple of examples.
I entered the surname Diddams, a fairly unusual name, but generally centered in Hampshire. The results showed that 109 notices with the name Diddams in it were available. Having got your results you can sort them by Oldest, Latest, Relevance or Default (no indication what this means). The results for Diddams dated from 1841 – 2018.
Let’s look at the earliest entry. Clicking on this entry in the search results bring you to the actual page, which you can download if you wish – and as good genealogists we do want to do that so we can attach it to our online/computer based trees or print off for our paper files. The name you have searched for isn’t highlighted so you need to read through the page to find your ancestor. This is arduous and the only danger is getting side tracked reading something that is fascinating, but has nothing to do with your genealogy!
The search results showed me that the result was regarding William Diddams late of Portsea, Hampshire, cordwainer. Cordwainer is another word for a boot and shoe maker. The page entry tells me that William Diddams, late of Portsea, Hampshire, cordwainer was held prisoner for debts and he will be brought before the court in Winchester on 10 December 1841. His goods have been seized and are held by the court. Anyone owed money by William can attend the court and oppose his discharge.
From this information I can now look at the 1841 census which was taken on 6 June 1841 and then track William through the census. I can also look for parish registers, newspaper reports, civil registration and other documents to find out what happen to William and whether he recovered from what must have been a major set-back in life.
I entered the surname Pottinger in the search box and this came up with 1,591 results. The results ran from 1741 – 2018. Let’s look at one of the entries.
28 September 1818. Extracts from a letter received from Lieutenant Pottinger, Provisional Collector of Ahmednuggur (India) dated 30 April 1818. Lieutenant Pottinger states that the men who entered Newassa Pergunnah and caused considerable alarm have been dispersed and have returned to their villages. He says that a small body of auxiliary horse would capture Ram Deen and his men as they are said to be exhausted to the last degree.
This would seem to be a report of possibly the 3rd Anglo-Maratha war in India and is a good example of how news from abroad was circulated throughout the country. Using this information we can look at British in India Records which are online, UK parish registers, army records, census to see if he returned to the UK etc.
Using The London Gazette For Your Genealogy Research – Where can it be accessed online?
The London Gazette has it’s own website – CLICK HERE to access the site – it is free to use and you don’t have to register. However if you think you might like to save your searches and pages you have found you can register and use those facilities. Either way they don’t ask for your credit card details. They have a Help and Guidance page which is concise and very helpful. Also included in this website is the Edinburgh Gazette which is very helpful for those with Scottish ancestry.
Ancestry has the London Gazette for the period 1825 – 1962, but it isn’t a complete run, there are gaps.
FindMyPast has the London Gazette supplement 1914 – 1920
As the complete run of gazettes are available online I recommend you use the London Gazette website.
Using The London Gazette For Your Genealogy Research – Summary
I hope you are now convinced you should include the London Gazette in your list of records to search for ancestors who were living from 1665 onwards. Information that is not available elsewhere or which wouldn’t be online can be found here. A quick and easy search facility makes this a joy to search and who knows what you might find!
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