My Genealogy Alphabet Part 2

Here is the second instalment of my Genealogy Alphabet. Part 1 discussed genealogically valuable records from A-H. In part 2 of this blog, I look at collections from I-P. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here. Now, let’s continue:

I is for Inventories.  As mentioned in Administration Act Books, Inventories are lists of a deceased’s movable goods.  They were created to help value an estate, and give us an excellent insight into the everyday life of our ancestors.  The inventory might include work tools, clothing, furniture, even animals.  They really do paint a picture of how prosperous (or poor) our family was at a certain time in history.  Inventories may also lead us to Accounts, which were submitted to the court by the administrators, detailing the deceased’s expenditure (including debts), revealing business activities and the social status of our ancestors.

J is for Jury Lists.  Sometimes called Freeholders Lists, because a man was only eligible to sit on a jury if he held property (of a certain value).  Being a Freeholder had its privileges, but also came with duties – such as the poor rate, and jury service.  Jury Lists will pinpoint our ancestors in a certain place at a certain time; and are particularly useful when researching before the 1841 census, as they record an individual’s place of residence.  If an ancestor is named on a Jury List, you are very likely to find evidence of them in Tax Records, Poll Books, Land Records, and Freemen Registers to name but a few.

K is for Kelly’s Directories.  Kelly’s series of volumes were a kind of Yellow Pages of their time, but even better.  There’s so much to discover in them, from topographical information of a town/village to postage times and prices; tidal times to population statistics.  They include lists of individuals, business owners and local establishments such as schools and places of worship; so you can really build an idea of the community in which your ancestor lived.  However, the data was often gathered up to a year before each edition was published, so we can’t assume that an entry was always accurate at the time of publication.  It’s also important to remember that directories are not a complete survey of a locality – you would have to pay to be included, so if an individual/business could not afford to advertise, or did not wish to, they simply wouldn’t appear in the directory.

L is for Lease and Release.  There are many types of land record, and this form of conveyance was very popular between the mid-17th century and the mid-19th century.  Lease and Release were two separate documents: the first involved the vendor leasing a piece of land to the purchaser, the second (dated the very next day) recorded the vendor relinquishing his right of reversion and releasing it to the purchaser (for a fee).  It was a legal loophole that negated the need to enrol the transfer of land, which saved time and money.  Lease and Release documents will detail the land and parties involved, and may lead you to investigate other records associated with owning property (as mentioned in Jury Lists).

M is for Missing Pieces (of censuses).  Ok, so not technically a record set, but ‘Missing Pieces’ lists can be extremely useful to a family historian.  Find My Past have a great article which you can view here, listing parishes that are missing from the England, Wales and Scotland censuses.  If you are expecting a family to be living in a certain place, but can’t find them in the census, a quick check of a Missing Pieces list will reveal whether the census of that parish has any gaps.  If it doesn’t, then you might investigate whether the names have been mistranscribed, or perhaps the family were away visiting on the night the census was taken.  If you discover there are missing pieces for that parish in that census, it might save you going out of your mind and wasting time searching for something that doesn’t exist.  You can explore further at TNA’s Discovery site to establish whether the parish is missing in full, or only part. In the Advanced Search, simply enter the relevant series (for example RG11 for the 1881 census) and the word “Missing” to see results.

N is for Newspapers.  Most family historians are accustomed to using newspapers to assist them in their research, but do you only search for the names of individuals you are interested in?  Have you tried searching for street names?  I am certainly guilty of focusing too much on a specific ancestor, but since discovering this tip recently (I believe it was from the brilliant Melanie Backe-Hansen), I learned about lots of local events I’d been previously unaware of, that would have impacted my ancestors’ lives.  So give it a try!

O is for Overseers’ Accounts.  Poor Law records are some of my favourite collections, mostly because the majority of my ancestors were poor!  From the mid-16th century, the care of the poor was the responsibility of the parish.  New legislation created new records, and when the office of Overseer of the Poor was introduced in 1572, along came Overseers’ Accounts.  The documents detail money coming in (from Poor Rates, bequests etc) and money going out.  The expenses could include all sorts from clothing poor children, to coroners’ inquests.  Your ancestors’ death may be mentioned, leading you to investigate burial registers; or families might be listed which can help identify parents/children.  Sometimes cases of illegitimacy are referred to, which can indicate the possible existence of court records/bastardy bonds.

P is for Petitions for Clemency.  Before Robert Peel reformed criminal law in the 1820s, there were well over 200 capital offences.  Prisoners, family and friends applied to the Home Office for mercy, pleading for a pardon or at least commutation of the sentence.  Some convicted of lesser crimes also appealed, and pardons were frequently granted.  These records can give an insight into the anguish families were suffering, and offer another view to the case we may have read in court records and newspapers.

That concludes Part 2 of this blog. As I mentioned before, I haven’t delved too deeply into how, why or when the documents were created, this is simply a reminder of their existence.  The collections mentioned above are scattered across the country, and can be found in national or local archives, museums, history centres, even private hands.  Of course, as with most records, there are exceptions to who or what the collections concerned, whether it be the dates covered, or exemptions for particular individuals/groups, so there is no guarantee you will discover your ancestors in every record set. However, I do wish you every success in your quest. Happy researching!

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