England, Using Ancestry.com and Ancestry.co.uk for English Research

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Ancestry has revolutionized English census research, and provided many other very helpful indexes to English records.  The capabilities of the Ancestry search engine are some of the finest on the Internet.  This article will help you understand what is available on Ancestry for English research and how to access it.

Ancestry.co.uk is the British section of Ancestry.com. Both are subsciption sites that you must pay to access.  If you have a worldwide subscription, you will be able to use Ancestry.co.uk under the Ancestry.com umbrella. For ease of reference in this article, you can assume that anything found on Ancestry.co.uk can also be found on Ancestry.com.

Where to access Ancestry.co.uk[edit | edit source]

Many public libraries have a subsciption to Ancestry.com that you may use as a patron of their library. The Family History Library and the larger regional family history centers also have subscriptions.  An individual may purchase their own subscription directly from Ancestry.com.

What is available on Ancestry.co.uk for England[edit | edit source]

If you are looking for a specific database in Ancestry, try searching the Ancestry Card Catalog. You can use keywords to find one database of interest amongst the hundreds of thousands available.  Use keywords that describe the database, for example Pallots Marriage Index.  It is often helpful to search a particular database for your ancestor, as provides customized search field and limits extraneous results. 

You can also browse through all of the collections available.  (If you don't see the listing right away, scroll down the page.)  You can click at the bottom of each record type to see the complete listing available.

Census[edit | edit source]

The 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses for England are all available on Ancestry.co.uk. Every name on each census has been indexed. For more information on what can be found on English census records and how they can help you in your research, click here.

Tips for searching the English census on Ancestry.co.uk[edit | edit source]

Although the U.K. Census search page allosw you to search across all years of the English census, you will usually get better results by searching the particular census year.  You can do this by scrolling down the page and selecting the census for an individual year. 

There is no one “right way” to search.  The most important thing is to not give up if you don't find your ancestor right away, and to try many different approaches to finding them.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Pay attention to whether “exact matches” is checked or not.
  • If you leave “exact matches” unchecked, put in all the information you know about the ancestor.
  • Remember that ages as reported in the census are not reliable, so search for a range of years instead of an exact year. Children’s ages tend to be more reliable than adult’s ages, therefore sometimes it is best to find a family by searching for the children instead of the parents.

If you do check “exact matches”, sometimes less is better:

  • Narrow the search by the place of birth or the parish where they were living at the time of the census, if known. Be careful, the spelling may be different than expected.
  • Try narrowing the search by relationships instead.  Search for a child and put in their father and mother's name (be careful though, a parent may be deceased or the child may be living with grandparents or something else unexpected).
  • If you haven’t found your person yet, perhaps it is because their name was incorrectly transcribed in the indexing process. Be creative!
  • Try searching for someone else in the household, sometimes children are easier to find than adults. Uncommon given names can be helpful.
  • Try looking at everyone with that surname (leave the given name field blank) in the parish of residence.
  • Try looking at everyone with that given name (leave the surname field blank) in the parish of residence who is near the age you are expecting.
  • Try looking at everyone with that given name (leave surname field blank) with the paish of birth and approximate birth date as the ancestor.
  • You, as a human being, can scroll through the results and will likely spot the person whose name has been mis-indexed. YOU ARE SMARTER THAN THE COMPUTER!

Civil Registration Indexes[edit | edit source]

The English Government began Civil Registration of births, marriages, and deaths for all of England (and Wales) on 1 Jul 1837.  The INDEXES only are available on Ancestry.co.uk in two formats, computer searchable (called England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth, Marriage, or Death Index: 1837-1915 or1983), and images of index pages (called England & Wales, Birth, Marriage, or Death Index: 1837-1983).  The computer searchable indexes are also available on www.freebmd.org.uk which many people find easier to use.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Pallot's Marriage Index and Pallot's Baptism Index are available on Ancestry.co.uk.  The marriage index contains some 3.4 million names from 1780-1837 and covers most of central London plus many other parishes scattered throughout England (it is far from complete, however).  The baptism index contains approximately 600,000 names from 1780-1837.

Another large index to marriages can be found under the London Marriage Licenses index.

There is a Church of England parish register collection, mostly taken from parish registers that have been transcribed and printed in books.  While far from complete, it is a source that should not be overlooked when searching for a baptism, marriage or burial before 1837.

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Ancestry also boasts a modest collection of indexes to probate records.

Directories and Member Lists[edit | edit source]

This category contains an enormous collection of UK directories, as well as the alumni books of Oxford (1500-1886) and Cambridge (1261-1900) universities.

Military Records[edit | edit source]

The most important collection of English military records available on Ancestry is the World War I Service Records and World War I Pension records.  There are also medal rolls and other records avaiable.