These names should be added to your family tree. Your next step is to obtain a marriage certificate for the parents of Henry Alan Crosbie. You know from the birth certificate that they were called Arthur Alan Crosbie and Ada George, so you can hunt for this combination in the marriage indexes, where you come across them in in the Bath registration district. Using the reference you obtain from the index, you can once again order the certificate. When it arrives, this document will give you further names for your family tree.
The marriage certificate tells you that Arthur Alan Crosbie was 22 years old at the time of his marriage, that he worked as a trainee teacher and that his father was William Arthur Crosbie, a wheelwright. As for Ada, she was 18 years old at the time of the marriage, had no occupation and her father was Frederick George, a chair maker.
You have now identified two of your great great grandparents! So now what? Well, you have enough information to search for the next round of birth certificates. You now know that Arthur Alan Crosbie was 22 when he married in , which means that he should have been born in or about Ada George was 18 in , so was probably born in or about It is a good idea to allow a bit of room for error when calculating years of birth from marriage certificates because it was not unusual for one or both parties to doctor their ages a little - perhaps to make the bride appear younger than the groom, or to pretend they were over 21, which would allow them to marry without parental consent.
It is a good idea to allow a bit of room for error when calculating years of birth from marriage certificates because it was not unusual for one or both parties to doctor their ages a little You should therefore search the birth indexes for Arthur and Ada in the relevant years, and a few years either side. If you are lucky, there will only be one person of each name born in the right time period, leaving you confident that you have found the right ones.
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However, you will have to do some checking when the certificates arrive. You know from the marriage certificate that Arthur's father was William Arthur Crosbie, and Ada's father Frederick George, so does this information match what is recorded on the birth certificates? You may even find that the professions of wheelwright and chair maker that appear on the marriage certificate are replicated on the birth certificates, but remember that many years had passed in between, and people might have changed occupation between one document and the next.
Once you are happy that you have the correct birth certificates for Arthur and Ada, you will have the full names of both sets of parents, so can continue by searching for both marriage certificates. With luck and sound technique, you might keep this pattern up for several generations. Wouldn't it be lovely if everything always worked out this simply? Well, sometimes it does, especially if you are dealing with an unusual name. But there are never any guarantees in genealogical research, and often all sorts of complications emerge that force you to turn detective to keep yourself on the straight and narrow.
For example, the name Henry Alan Crosbie is not very common, and you are unlikely to find lots of options in the indexes. But what if the name you are looking for is John Smith or Anne Williams? Then when you search the birth indexes, you are likely to come up with dozens and dozens of options. It will then be up to you to choose between them.
Sometimes you will have to order more than one certificate before you find the right one. You might even find that there were two people called John Smith born at the same time in the same place, and worst of all, with parents of similar names.
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Then you really do have to be careful! The census, which we will come to in the next section, is a fabulous tool for distinguishing between different people, particularly by pinpointing our ancestors' exact location. If you follow the rule that you never put anyone on your family tree unless you are sure of their identity, and that you ask yourself at every turn if you are sure this is the right person, you are likely to keep on track.
The census is a very exciting tool for family historians because it allows us to see a snapshot of our ancestors: we may see them at home with their families, in a military barracks, at boarding school, visiting friends or relatives, in prison or in all kinds of other places.
We see information such as how each member of each household was related or connected to all the others, how old everybody was, where they were born and what jobs they had. It can be like peering in at the window of our ancestor's home. The census was taken once every ten years, and returns for are available online. Returns after are not yet available to the public.
In Ireland, the only available censuses are and see 'Elsewhere on the Web' to locate these tools.
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Returning to our example of the Crosbie family, you know that Henry Alan Crosbie was born in Bath in , so could search for him as a baby in the census. From his birth certificate, you know his parents' names and his father's occupation as well as where he was born, so it should be fairly easy to identify the correct return. Now you can see Henry in his domestic setting. You might learn from this return that Henry had three siblings, or that a widowed grandparent lived with the family - and dozens of other details.
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You could then search for Henry and his family on the census, when we might expect Henry to be listed as a scholar. Perhaps there are now further siblings, or someone you thought should be in the household is missing - have they married, died or moved away? By the census, you may find that Henry too has left home: is he living as a lodger with someone else?
Or has he himself married? You could also use the census to trace your family further back and confirm the links you have from your certificates. You know that Henry's parents, Arthur and Ada, did not marry until , so they will both be single on the census. You might be able to find them at home with their parents, and again on On earlier censuses, you may find even earlier generations of the family. It is always a good idea to collect as many census returns as you can for each ancestor. At every stage make sure that your certificates and census returns agree with one another and are describing the same family.
Information provided on the census can be very useful in confirming who is in our family tree, and indeed who is not part of the family. For example, if your ancestor was indeed called John Smith, and you are having trouble distinguishing the correct birth record from the numerous options, the census might just be able to help. If the correct John Smith married in , and gave his address as 18 Church Green, Newquay, on his marriage certificate, then you might be able to find him at this address on the census.
You will then have the names of both of his parents and probably several siblings, too, as well as his place of birth. Some sites just give indexes and you order copies of the original document from there, according to what you find - that's fine because you can see the information for yourself when your document arrives. If you like to look at everything on a site, it is better to have a subscription that lasts for a certain period of time, during which you may look at whatever you like as many times as you please. If you simply want two or three records, and you have the option, you might be better off paying only for what you view.
Hint: Often there is a free trial period for subscription sites so you can decide if it really is for you. Hint: Often when you look at a record on a subscription site, you can return to it for free for a period of time - but make sure you get a print out of the searches you have done, along with the results. When you have done your basic genealogy and built a skeleton family tree, it is time to investigate more specialised websites, for example, those containing military or employment records, parish records or wills.
But you will need some basic information to make best use of what they have on offer: there is no point in paying to look for details of your great grandfather's military career if you don't know his full name, date of birth and the force in which he served. Without this kind of background information, you will have trouble identifying your ancestor among the thousands of others.
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In other words, you need to use genealogical sites in the right order to ensure that you get the most out of them. Here are some features shared by many of the excellent sites - and some questions that you might like to ask:. If your grandfather was a merchant seaman, for example, does this site contain seamen's records for the period during which he served? You shouldn't have to pay to find out whether or not you want to use a website, so it is a great help if there is an explanation of what records are available, what you need to know to identify your ancestor and what more you can hope to learn about them from the records you might find.
From the description accompanying the site, you need to be sure of what you've searched - or eliminated - by using the site. These can be very useful in understanding and interpreting whatever material you find relating to you ancestor. Of course, sometimes you won't find what you're looking for online; it's the same when you go to an archive. And not all resources are available on the web, so your path may inevitably lead to an archive in the end.
But the web is a good place to get started. Don't forget to search for sites that tap into your area of genealogical interest! There are websites of all descriptions, shapes and sizes that cater for genealogists, from databases to message forums, general information, help and support sites, family tree display tools - the list is endless.
But unless you are after some specific information obtained from a historical record, you shouldn't really have to pay for these sites. Some of the most popular features are included on subscription sites anyway. If you are in need of a piece of advice, or wondering where you can find your next piece of information, have a look at the following free sites:. You can use these sites to make contact with the genealogy community, and see if other researchers recommend the sites that you have to pay for. She is the co-author of Genealogy Online for Dummies and is a frequent contributor to family history magazines.
She has appeared as a genealogist on television, radio and in the national press, and works as a media and private researcher, a writer and a lecturer. Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so.
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