Extend a Line in England Before the 1841 Census

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Censuses Connect Families[edit | edit source]

Census records are helpful to connect families (the ancestor to his siblings and parents, etc.) They also track the family in ten year increments, which is helpful because people move, for various reasons like work, close proximity to family, or availability of land to own. Without censuses, it’s hard to track people who move, especially if they have common first and last names, like John or Mary Smith. If an ancestor appeared in a census but was born before the census, search for ancestors in the same place(s) they were before.

How to Connect Families without Censuses[edit | edit source]

The most reliable way to do research in England before the 1841 census (the first census available) is through church records of vital events (birth, marriage, death.) Churches kept records from 1538 onward. Bishop’s transcripts of previous records were created later in order to preserve the older records that were falling apart. (Hence, you may find two of the same record. This is normal and they are most likely not records of different people. Watch carefully to notice whether the information is the same, or slightly different. This may indicate the same person versus a different one.)

Researchers vary their searching methods depending on personal preference. Some like to search backwards: first search for death records, then marriage, then birth. England death records help place the ancestor in a given place in time. Also, if an ancestor died young, her husband may have remarried, which can lead to finding his second wife and more children. One thing to note is that death records did not typically list parentage unless the record was of a child’s death. Direct line ancestors did not die as children, so this does not apply to them. However, if searching for an ancestor’s siblings, it is best to search for deaths, as some records for births are easiest to find in the child’s burial information.

Start with What You Already Know[edit | edit source]

When starting out pre-census, look first for the places the ancestors lived in the censuses they were before. First, look at all the information available on the ancestor who was listed in a census list. Carefully review all information to find areas where records could exist that give his parentage. If a birth record has not been found, this would list both his father’s name and his mother’s given name/-s. (England vital records did not list a married mother by her maiden name.)

Search for your ancestor's birth record in the county that the 1841 census says he was born. Also, if a marriage record has been found that lists his birthplace, search for him using that criteria.

Try Different Methods of Searching[edit | edit source]

Some researchers prefer broad search terms and gradually going smaller. An example of this is searching first for Joseph Allen born in England with his father named James Allen, then searching in Warwickshire, then searching in Birmingham, then taking note of the parish (jurisdiction of a church building and pastor). A researcher might also perform this search backwards. (Noticing the parish first, then searching broader.)

Notice the Specifics[edit | edit source]

Looking for specific dates and places along with names is very important. Often, siblings were born in the same parish, or surrounding parishes, as your ancestor. Unless the parents have really uncommon given names or the places the ancestor’s family has moved to is known, this is the only way to tell whether the ancestor had siblings or not.

Difference Between Church and Civil Records[edit | edit source]

Repeat the process of looking through church records to find other ancestors. Church records were often the only records to give vital (birth, marriage, and death) information. Civil registration (which are vital records outside of church authority) didn’t happen in England until 1837, just four years before the 1841 census.