After our Live Broadcast this Remembrance Weekend, we held a live Q&A; on our Facebook page. Our experts were on hand to answer some of your trickiest family history questions, as well as queries about Findmypast. We thought the questions were excellent, so we've posted them - along with our answers below. If you have further questions, please do post them in the comments section at the bottom of the post, and we'll do our best to get them answered.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to our Facebook Q&A; - we hope to hold another one soon.

Bring your past to life with Findmypast

 

  • I’m trying to follow up on a clue from an 1871 Census record for a child born in County Cork, Ireland. He is the son of a serviceman in the British Army (Royal Artillery). How can I find parish records or birth registrations for children of service-members who were stationed in Cork in the 1870s?
  • Amy Sell, British Newspaper Archive/Findmypast - We have birth records for British citizens living abroad from that period, however it depends on whether the parents registered the births as to whether they will appear. Try searching these British National Armed Forces births. Or these overseas births. You may also find marriage information on army service records from that period.

  • I enjoyed your broadcast, I’m ready to dive into Findmypast! Can you cover the passenger records portion again? Are the records available on Findmypast, and if so, what years and ports? Thanks!
  • Joshua Taylor, Findmypast US – This is a collection we’re working to build, so they will come online gradually for all ports in the United States

  • If someone is searching for their German ancestors on Findmypast, what would you recommend first – for example entering the name and searching all records, or drilling down to a specific collection?
  • Joshua Taylor – The best suggestion I have is to do a general search across the collections, selecting the ‘World’ option for ‘where’ an ancestor is from.

  • How expensive are records from Cardiff, Wales from the 1800s if you live in the United States?
  • Joshua Taylor – The good news is that Findmypast has the complete collection of parish registers from Wales, so this weekend there is no charge. After that, you can access these records from a subscription.

  • My ancestor died in Stockport in 1834. Will probated. How do I research this more, as it pertains to a son who moved to the US in 1830.
  • Joshua Taylor – Start with the US census, the 1850 census will list all members of a household. You can also look into the arrival records into New York (they start in 1820) to see if he comes up.

  • Will 1800 Newfoundland records be added? Specifically records covering most of 1800's for St. John, a region of Newfoundland?
  • Joshua Taylor - This is certainly an area we are focusing on, so it is quite possible they will appear online in the future.
  • Is there any possibility of putting Overland Trail records on Findmypast? Manuscripts, etc.
  • Joshua Taylor – It’s certainly something we can consider. You will find some historic resources in the local histories and PERSI materials.

  • Could there be any reason why someone isn’t on the Social Security Death Index?
  • Joshua Taylor – There are several potential reasons. The benefit might have gone unclaimed, or the person might not have had a social security number.
  • How did naturalization policy fluctuate in the US? 1790 policy vs 1890 policy, for example.
  • Joshua Taylor – There were great fluctuations in the policy. A great resource is a book titled ‘Naturalization Records in the United States’ by Christine Schaefer.

  • Do Findmypast have the Titanic survivors who came to the USA with the ship Carpathia?
  • Joshua Taylor – These till be included in one of our upcoming collections (the records do exist!).

  • How do Findmypast keep up with the Australian Aboriginal Records?
  • Joshua Taylor – There are some here.

  • What records are coming next for the US?
  • Joshua Taylor – A sea of immigration collections, military records from the U.S. army and marine corps to name just a few.

  • What other Canadian records are you planning to put online?
  • Joshua Taylor – While we’re keeping some of this news ‘close to the vest’, we do have several collections coming up that will include births, marriages and deaths across Canada.

  • With all of these record sets, is there a way which gives you a clue that something may match one of your ancestors?
  • Joshua Taylor – One trick is to build a profile of each ancestor (you can use the Findmypast family tree builder for this) and then compare what you know (name, date, place, etc.). Sometimes you can use an occupation to tell two individuals apart (i.e. individuals with the same name might routinely be listed as a ‘farmer’ when another will be listed as a ‘merchant’). Try to get inside the heads of the record keepers and figure out how they would tell someone apart.

  • I was a member but couldn’t find the information I was looking for. I will try again this weekend. Any guidance about finding a military marriage record from 1841-1849? My ancestor was stationed in the UK and Ceylon starting in 1841 and his children’s baptisms are located in the chaplain’s returns of baptisms. Why can’t I find his marriage records?

  • Amy Sell – We have marriage records for British citizens living abroad from that time period, but it does depend on whether they registered their marriage as to whether it will appear. Try searching these British National Armed Forces marriages, or these marriages overseas. You might also find marriage information on Army service records from that period.

Get started with your family tree at Findmypast

  • Are there any resources at my local library that I can use for free?
  • Amy Sell – Many local libraries have Findmypast available for you to use – if they don’t, ask them to get it!

  • What can a certificate tell me that the records can’t?
  • Amy Sell – Birth certificates can tell you an exact date of birth and exact place of birth. They’ll also give you the child’s parents’ names and father’s occupation. Marriage certificates can give the exact date and place of marriage, full names of each person, occupation, place of residence, father’s name and occupation. Death certificates will give you the exact date and place of death, the cause of death and also the informant (often a relative). I find them really useful for checking that I’m tracing the right line and adding extra generations to my family tree.

  • Why am I struggling to find Scottish records?
  • Amy Sell – A lot of record collections at Findmypast do cover Scotland (such as the census collection, British Army service records and newspapers), but ScotlandsPeople is the Scottish government’s own family history website and is the best place for Scottish research. You’ll find birth, marriage and death records, parish records, census records and much more at scotlandspeople.gov.uk

  • When you enter a name, would it be better to do a general search or drill down to a specific record group?
  • Amy Sell – It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you know you want to find your ancestor in the 1911 census, for example, I would recommend using the A-Z list of records and using the individual search screen as it will give you extra search fields. Searching the whole collection can be great for finding new leads though. For instance, I entered my great-great-great-grandfather’s name and date of birth and found a record I never would have thought of looking for otherwise.

  • How can you get into records that show old royal lines?
  • Joshua Taylor – There are several great published sources for this (from the US), many written by famed scholar Gary Boyd Roberts. ‘The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States and Notable Kin’ (two volumes).

  • I think each certificate (birth, marriage or death) costs around £10. So, to build a full family tree back to 1837 might cost how much?
  • Myko Clelland, Findmypast – Very difficult to answer. If you imagine that there will be around six generations to get you back that far, each one doubling, there will be quite a few to get! It’s best to get them over time and use other records that are available on Findmypast so that you are certain you’re looking at the right people.

  • How would one go about approaching a genealogist to research my family history?
  • Joshua Taylor – It can be good to ask specific questions, or identify a specific brick wall you want someone to work on. Start by asking them to work for a specific time frame (5 hours, 10 hours, etc.) and then move forward from there.

  • Is there a list of newspapers covered on Findmypast?
  • Amy Sell – Findmypast have the same newspapers as those online at the British Newspaper Archive. You can find a full list here.

  • How do we know what newspapers have been released?
  • Amy Sell – Findmypast have the same newspapers as those online at the British Newspaper Archive. Register for free at the British Newspaper Archive and you’ll be emailed a monthly update about which titles have been added.

  • Are there private type newspapers included in the Findmypast archive? I’m thinking of Barnardo’s Homes ‘Ups and Downs’.
  • Amy Sell – That particular title isn’t included at the moment, but you can suggest the ones you’d like to see online via the British Newspaper Archive’s feedback forum.

  • My wife’s (Northern) Irish Catholic family are very hard to discover – their surname is Metrusty. Any ideas?
  • Myko Clelland – Get in touch with PRONI (the public record office for Northern Ireland) and they should have a little more for you – their birth, marriage and death indexes are online now and you can order their certificates straight from there to get yourself far enough back to use some of the more interesting records on Findmypast.

  • Are there more Petty Court records coming to Findmypast?
  • Joshua Taylor – Yes, we still have a few million to release.

  • My mother was in the ATS in World War 2 – are there any records for this?
  • Paul Nixon, military expert at Findmypast – All records post 1920 are still with the MoD. Try this site for more information - http://www.veterans-uk.info/

  • How can we research our US ancestors’ involvement in World War 1 in terms of what action they saw in Europe?
  • Paul Nixon – We have published some US draft cards and more will follow.

  • My grandpa was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in World War 1, and received the Victory Medal. How do I research his active service?
  • Paul Nixon – We have RNVR medal rolls and also service records for the Royal Naval Division.

  • My grandfather did his National Service – how do I go about researching that and find out more if I don’t have dates etc?
  • Paul Nixon – All records post 1920 are still with the MoD. Try this site for more information - http://www.veterans-uk.info/

  • I have a James Hartley who claims to have been born in Liverpool in 1831 according to the 1851 census. I’ve looked for him since 1971 but still can’t find him. Any ideas that may help?
  • Paul Nixon – Have you tried our 1861 Worldwide Army Index?

  • Were any Death Telegrams saved during this time? How were the family notified?
  • Paul Nixon – I have seen some death telegrams in WO 363 records, but they do not commonly survive.

  • Generally speaking, how many US servicemen that were drafted continued on as career military? Was it common to do this, or did they usually go back to civilian life?
  • Paul Nixon – If the US army was anything like the British army, probably a very small percentage elected to stay on. But certainly, some men found a military career to their liking and stayed on. Remember too that the economic situation in Europe and America was depressed and an army career was, for many, better than the prospect of unemployment.

  • My grandfather was on H.M.S. George V with King George V when they took surrender of the German fleet at Scapa Flow. Do you have any online naval records?
  • Paul Nixon – As mentioned, we have naval personnel records from 1899-1919 for officers and men as well but there would not necessarily mention, in your case, taking a surrender.

  • Any Merchant Marines records, specifically from World War 2?
  • Paul Nixon – All records post 1920 are still with the MoD. Try this site for more information - http://www.veterans-uk.info/

  • Were there any African American British soldiers?
  • Paul Nixon – We certainly had men from the West Indies Regiment which was nominally a British Army regiment, but I have not come across African American British soldiers.

  • Do any of these record sets that you spoke of include photos?
  • Paul Nixon – No, they do not.

  • Do Findmypast have the records for the Brits that fought in Palestine?
  • Paul Nixon – No, they’re still with the MoD.

  • Is it reasonable to study the location your ancestor lived in and find units that were formed in that area to limit the possibilities?
  • Paul Nixon – To a degree, but it didn’t follow that a man would join a local regiment, and once conscription came in, men were sent where they were needed most.

Who will you discover? Start searching now!