3 must-search, little-known, genealogy gems


17 January 2018
St-Paul's-©-Wellcome-Library-27099.jpg St Paul's Cathedral © Wellcome Collection
Family Tree asked a group of expert genealogists to share their personal favourite, but little-known, archive sources and websites and we were rewarded with a cache of genealogy gems. We reveal three of their top choices...

When Family Tree asked a group of expert genealogists to share their favourite, but little-known, archive sources and websites with us, we were rewarded with a cache of genealogy gems.

We wanted to find out their personal go-to resources, which may be lesser-known and under-used in the family history community. Sixteen dedicated family history researchers kindly shared their secret archive sources with us – and their inspired tips are just perfect for exploring yourself and reinvigorating your own research.

Here we've picked out three of our own favourites – all free – that you should find interesting and, most importantly, useful! 

You can read the full article, packed with exclusive genealogy research advice, in the February 2018 issue of Family Tree, available now.

1881 Crew Lists Database
Genealogist Dr Simon Wills picked this free web resource from The Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland, Canada, as his favourite. The archive has most British crew lists from 1863 onwards and is indexing them by name for the whole of 1881 to coincide with the census year. Crew lists, Simon tells us, provide you with an ancestor's year and place of birth, rank, dates of service, previous ship worked on, wages etc, and besides sailors you will find other onboard occupations too, such as cooks, carpenters and engineers.

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Contributions to the rebuilding of St Paul's
The Great Fire of London in 1666 not only shocked London but the entire country – and if your ancestors donated towards the relief fund to rebuild St Paul's Cathedral, they are very likely to be recorded as contributors in parish returns of the time. Around 3,300 English parishes responded to the appeal in 1677/78 to fund Christopher Wren's masterpiece and genealogist Stuart A Raymond has chosen the little-known records created as his favourite source. Formerly held in the Guildhall Library, now in the London Metropolitan Archives, the parish returns record the names of almost all contributors. For more details on Devon's St Paul's Cathedral fund parish returns, visit here.

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Placenames Database of Ireland
Genealogist and blogger Claire Santry calls the Placenames Database of Ireland 'a free online pot of gold'. It's a great place for beginner family historians researching Irish roots to get to grips with Ireland's 'somewhat confusing administrative land divisions and, if searching for one of Ireland's 61,000+ townlands, quickly discover the name of its civil parish, barony, county and electoral district – the basic pieces of information needed to steer the researcher to relevants sets of records', adds Claire. Beyond these handy tools, there's much more to be discovered too, including an extensive library of historical maps, gazeteers and archives relating to all kinds of places in Ireland, from townlands and harbours to burial grounds. There are audio files too, so you can hear correct pronounciations, 'a huge glossary of Irish topographical words' and more.

Discover more must-search genealogy gems recommended by expert researchers in the February 2018 issue of Family Tree!

Print of St Paul's Cathedral © Wellcome Collection reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence