Welcome to the Ancestry Academy…

September is here and children all over the country are heading back to school. It’s the perfect time to dig out your pencil case and do some learning of your own – in the Ancestry Academy! Whether you’re a new starter or a top set whiz kid, this week’s lessons will help you develop your family history skills and make brand new discoveries.

Tuesday, First Period, Biology

Births, marriages and deaths: Dissecting your ancestors’ lives

At its heart, family history involves looking at the circle of life that joins all of us to our children, parents and ancestors. This is brought into clear focus by our official birth, marriage and death indexes. Dissecting these records can give you a clear picture of how your family fits together.

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Top set

If your ancestors had common names, it can be tricky to pick them out from the birth, marriage and death indexes. We’ll look at how you can bring in other records to help pinpoint the correct people.

We’re looking for our grandfather, William Smith. We knew him well, and visited him often at his home at 128 Nags Head Road, Enfield. Still, we’re having problems spotting him in the indexes…

  1. Too easy?

    1We know William died around 1930. So, go into the England & Wales, Death Index, 1916-2005 and enter his details. We’ll assume he was buried near his home, so type Middlesex, England in the location, and click ‘Show Advanced’ then use +/- 2 by the death year to search a larger time period. There are far too many results to digest – even if you only look at the deaths registered in Edmonton, William’s nearest district, there are more than 20 that match your search.

  2. Too easy?

    2Let’s try a different approach. If William was baptised, he should appear in London Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980. Enter the same information, except these records were taken at a more local level, so you can use Enfield as the location. You’ll see one result that looks really promising, at Enfield Highway St James in 1928. Click ‘See Image’, look around for William, and you’ll find him listed with his abode – 128 Nags Head Road. We’ve found the right man!

  3. Too easy?

    3The parish record gives us not only William’s precise death year, but also his age when he died, 72 – suggesting a birth year around 1856. So, go back to the Death Index and try again, using these vital clues. This time, you’ll see one obvious match, registered in Edmonton. You could now order a copy of William’s death certificate, to discover exactly where and when he died and even the cause of death.

  4. Too easy?

    4We know William married his wife Martha in 1885. Try searching for William in England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915. Again there are far too many matches to wade through. Instead, turn to London Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921. Here you can use the spouse’s first name in your search, then look at the estimated birth years to find the right William. There’s a wedding to a Martha Brumming that looks right, but it’s listed as 1886. However, click ‘View Image’ and you can see it actually happened in 1885 – this is why you should always check the original records.

  5. Too easy?

    5Now go back to England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915, and this time search for Martha Brumming in Middlesex in December 1885. You’ll see one correct result – you can now order a copy of the marriage certificate to discover where and when she married William, and the names and occupations of both their fathers. Just click on the shopping trolley icon to see an order form – obviously you don’t need to actually place an order, as this is just an example.

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You can use a similar technique to pinpoint your ancestors’ birth records – discover their exact date of birth in parish records, then order a birth certificate to check that the dates match. Let’s imagine we know that William Smith was born in the same parish where he died. Can you find the most likely record in London Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906, and tell us the exact date of birth? As a tip, you’ll need to allow a little leeway with the age that was given when he died.

Note down the answer and keep it safe until the end of the week – you’ll be tested on your responses on Friday!



Monday's free period

Prize Draw 1

Family Tree Maker

Win 1 of 10 copies of our latest software

Be one of the first people to get your hands
on the new and improved version of our award-winning family history software. It comes complete with improved integration with your Ancestry.co.uk account, advanced charts and reports, interactive timelines and maps, and many more great new features.
We have ten copies ready to be won.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Tuesday’s free period

Prize Draw 2

WDYTYA? magazine

10 subscriptions up for grabs

Trace your family's past and discover your roots with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Brought to you by the team
behind BBC History Magazine, and the
official companion to the successful TV
series, WDYTYA? magazine's features
range from military to social history, telling
the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people and how they used to live. We have ten subscriptions to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Wednesday’s free period

Prize Draw 3

Worldwide Memberships

Win 1 of 5 annual memberships

Our worldwide membership provides everything you need to trace your family history around the world. Scour the globe
with unlimited access to our entire library
of over 7 billion records, plus guaranteed access to all our new releases. We have
five annual memberships to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Thursday’s free period

Prize Draw 4

National Trust passes

Win 1 of 50 pairs of tickets

We’re working with the National Trust to preserve our nation’s history, and help you uncover your family’s place in it. To
celebrate our partnership, we’re giving away 50 pairs of day passes to the National Trust property of your choice. Don’t miss the
chance to experience the history of Uppark, see the beauty of Fountains Abbey, or visit another of the Trust’s 350 properties.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September