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Family history: a research guide

Because the names in all Connected Histories resources have been marked up or tagged, genealogical research using this website is easy and rewarding.

Contents of this article

Name-intensive resources

Every resource in Connected Histories includes some relevant information, but the most name intensive resources include the following:

Clergy of the Church of England Database: This database includes information about over 100,000 individual clerics, schoolteachers, and patrons who practiced in England and Wales between 1540 and 1835. The level of detail varies, but in addition to records concerning education and ecclesiastical appointments, some information is provided about births (including birthplace and parents), marriages and deaths. The most complete entries allow one to trace entire careers, as clerics moved from one appointment to another across various dioceses.

London Lives, 1690-1800 and the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online: Organised explicitly around name searching, London Lives, 1690-1800 provides access to 3.35 million name instances contained in 240,000 pages of manuscript documents about crime, poverty and social policy, as well as fifteen datasets on a wide range of topics. The workspace and set creation functions allow records relating to the same invididual to be connected in sets and the wiki allows for biographies of the best documented individuals to be written. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, whose records from 1674 to 1819 are included in London Lives, 1690-1800, contains over 1.2 million names of people who appeared at London's central criminal court between 1674 and 1913, as defendants, victims, witnesses, jurors and judges.

Origins.net: A family history website which offers subscription acess to a wide range of genealogical records from the United Kingdom and Ireland, many of which are not available online anywhere else. Connected Histories includes abstracts of apprenticeship enrolments from 60 City of London Livery Companies from 1442 to 1850, abstracts of settlement examinations from two London parishes between 1742 and 1868, and abstracts of wills from Surrey and south London, 1470-1856.

History of Parliament: The online database contains 21,420 biographies of Members of Parliament, and 2,831 constituency surveys, miscellaneous surveys and articles. Because of the strongly biographical character of the work, the History of Parliament contains rich details reflecting both the family connections and close associates of MPs and their relatives.

British History Online: Several of the sources in this extensive collection include large numbers of names, particularly those from the elite classes. The Calendars of State Papers include information about individual appointments, titles, inheritance, and marriages, while the Catalogue of Ancient Deeds and Feet of Fines provide information about relationships within and between families. Wills are listed in the records of the Lincoln Record Society (1272-1532), London Hustings (1258-1688) and London Consistory Court (1492-1547). Woodhead's Rulers of London, Bevan's Aldermen of London and the Oxford alumni records, Fasti and Alumni Oxonienses, provide biographies. Tax listings, including the Tudor Subsidy Rolls, London Inhabitants within the Walls 1695 and the Registers of York Freemen, as well as several collections of apprenticeship records from the London Livery companies, provide more extensive listings of names.

Strengths and weaknesses

With the exception of Origins.net, none of the resources included in Connected Histories is explicitly designed for genealogical research, so while there is rich relevant material available about individual lives, it needs to be selected from other less useful results. Many name instances found in these sources, for example in London Lives, 1690-1800, come with very little contextual evidence, making it difficult to determine whether the document is referring to a known individual. It is also important to note that in many of the resources names have been marked up using natural language processing, which is only around 75 per cent accurate, as explained in About this project. Finally, Connected Histories does not provide a comprehensive collection of genealogical information for any locality, so family historians will need to supplement what they find here with other internet and archival sources.

Search strategies

As with any genealogical research, the more contextual detail you include in your search, by using place names and date ranges, the better. Connected Histories includes a wide range of sources covering more than four centuries of British history, so searches for most names will produce an excessive number of results. The Advanced search page allows you to search by full name, given name or surname.

Given the fact that some names are missed by natural language processing, where precision is required in search results it is advisable to search for names using keyword searching, using a phrase search where both forename and surname are known.

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