Access to ancestral records has never been easier than it is today. Many websites have been launched to assist family history researchers in their efforts to find information about their ancestors and related families. Additionally, many existing government and related websites have been rewritten to add new family history research sections.
One of the sites is UK BMD. This site gathers together links to all the other websites offering online transcriptions to birth, marriage, death, church and censuses indexes (and sometimes the records themselves) for the United Kingdom. Before you can order a birth, marriage or death certificate from the British Government, you must know the filing or registration number. UK BMD can help you find that number.
Another UK site is the UK National Archives. This site is a one-stop portal to search the catalogues of more than 395 record offices and other repositories of historical records across the UK. In all, it currently includes over a billion items including deeds, wills, apprenticeship agreements, court files, bastardy related records (warrants, maintenance orders), parish removal orders, overseers of the poor records and merchant records.
Each item is described in enough detail that individual people mentioned in the document are often listed by name. You can use the search engine to search for a keyword (surnames or parishes are best) in the entire set of catalogues, or you can narrow the search to specific record offices or time periods. Once you find a record that interests you, you can then contact the record office in question to order a copy.
While researching our lineage, we often find units of measure that we either aren’t familiar with or that are no longer commonly used. Online Conversions is a free site that has more conversion tools than any other site I’ve seen. Did you know that 1 ell [Scotland] = 1.35 arms-length? Me either. Take a look at it today. You’ll probably end up using the site for more than family history research.
If you think you are the only person with ancestors who were criminals or were involved in activities that weren’t socially acceptable, well, you aren’t alone. Almost all of us will find black sheep in our lineage at least once. In fact, so many researchers have found ‘characters’ in their lineage, that a Black Sheep Society was created. You can view some of the crimes committed by ancestors of society members on the Blacksheep Ancestors site.
In my own family, one of my great grandmothers was hung as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts along with three of my great aunts. A few years ago, many of her descendants worked to get their “crimes” forgiven by the Massachusetts State Legislature. We were successful when grandma and our aunts were granted full pardons by the legislature and the governor signed the pardoning bill into law. Susanna North Martin was hung on 19 Jul 1692 and after over 300 years her record was finally cleared.
Other websites that list records for criminals are:
1. Homicides in Chicago 1870-1930
2. Federal Bureau of Prisons Database
We may have ancestors who were black sheep; but for the researcher, at least we can find them. In most cases their crimes were well documented.
Take some time this week to search the web for documents and information on your own family.