Whistler Family Sketches homepage
Family History Sources
With a focus on the English
counties of Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, and London.
Births, Marriages, Deaths
In England and Wales, a national system of registration of births,
marriages and deaths began in July 1837.
The free BMD (Births, Marriages and
Deaths) project gives online access to the quarterly indexes of these
Online search and ordering is available at the
General Register Office.
Before 1837 parish registers must be consulted.
A system for recording weddings, baptisms and burials in parish registers
began in 1538 during the reign of King Henry VIII.
Searchable indexes compiled from parish registers (with partial coverage only):
FamilySearch Historical Records,
A guide to the content is the
FamilySearch Guide by Archer Software.
(Old version: the
International Geneaological Index (IGI) of baptisms and marriages;
the Hugh Wallis guide:
IGI Batch Numbers).
Collections built-up by volunteer contributors:
FreeREG, UK Free REGisters
Find A Grave
Family history online databases (pay-for-view):
List of United Kingdom Records
(British Origins records moved to FindMyPast in 2014)
BMDregisters: non-conformist records and more
~~~ more databases ~~~
Deceased Online: burials
Family history societies with projects for transcribing and indexing
Berkshire Family History Society
Hampshire Genealogical Society
Oxfordshire Family History Society
Some library collections:
The Society of Genealogists, London ||
SoG Data Online
Oxfordshire History Centre, Cowley, Oxford
(merger of the Oxfordshire Record Office and Oxfordshire Studies).
As a general rule, the original parish records should be checked.
Some online databases include digitized images of parish registers.
For more research, some archives and record offices:
Berkshire Record Office,
Hampshire Record Office, Winchester
London Metropolitan Archives, London
City of Westminster Archives, London
Census returns provide a fascinating view of the members of a
household and their community.
In England, the 1841 census was the first to collect detailed family
information. A census followed every ten years.
Online access to census returns is offered by the
(previously named the Public Record Office) and the family history website:
Nostalgia: The "old" method of access to census returns was by
searching from microfilm copies at the Family Records Centre in Islington, London.
This centre was closed in March 2008 and its services transferred
to the National Archives in Kew in West London.
A useful reference source was the Hampshire
Genealogical Society Record Series name indexes, by census parish, for the 1851 census.
Directories provide information about the businesses and the
variety of occupations of people in a community.
A digital archive of directories, that can be browsed online,
is available in the Ancestry online databases:
London Directories, London Metropolitan Archives; and
UK, City and County Directories, (includes some London directories).
FindMyPast has the collection:
Britain, directories & almanacs
The annual Post Office London directories (the Ancestry collection
begins in 1801) have a number of sections including:
- The Commercial Directory gives names with business addresses and
- The Trades Directory gives business listings by type of trade.
- The Street Directory shows the shops and businesses, with
the names of their proprietors, by street.
London addresses can be tricky – streets were renamed and houses renumbered.
An excellent guide is
Street name changes.
Note: The Ancestry collection of directories is an updated version of
Directories (University of Leicester Special Collections).
Wills can provide an informative record of family relationships.
For people who died in or after 1858:
Search for Wills (England and Wales)
For wills made before the legal reforms of 1858, locating a will is not routine.
A guide is: "A practical guide to using wills for family history,"
Berkshire Family Historian, December 2001.
The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) was the senior
probate court for wills of relatively wealthy people living in the
south of England.
The Snell Berskhire collection at the library of the Society of Genealogists,
London, includes name indexes and abstracts of Berkshire wills proved in the
PCC for the years 1391–1737. A guide is:
"Description of the Snell Collection," Berkshire Family Historian,
Glossary of Terms for Wills, Surrey Plus Wills Index
Glossary of Probate Terms, FindMyPast
settlements, University of Nottingham
Online resources for wills:
An administration (abbreviation admin or admon), issued when no will
had been made, appointed one or more persons, usually next-of-kin, to
administer the deceased's estate.
Administrations, 1660–1700 (FindMyPast database)
Dates: Discussion is at the Wikipedia page
Old Style and New Style Dates.
Standard spelling is somewhat recent.
Therefore, a variety of spelling variations of names may appear in historical
records. That is, spelling variations may have no official meaning.
Reading Old Handwriting:
a platform for the transcription of historical documents
(reviewed in the Berkshire Family History Society in touch
newsletter, September 2021).
Revision Date: 2022.
The background is the Strawberry Thief pattern by the great
(William Morris Gallery).