Church, parish and other religious records

This week in late July, members of the #ANZAncestryTime chat were looking at churches and parishes. What records can you find there?

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Why are Church or parish records an important resource for family history? What information can we find in them and how can they fill the gaps in our family history?

And then there’s the release of the Irish Catholic parish registers which have made it possible to analyse and collate families in a village.

Who has used Church Archives for their in-person research? They tend to be sadly overlooked.

They are not always accessible in Ireland but I have used the @rcblibrary many times for Church of Ireland records.

I find in Oz that some archivist will happily cite privacy legislation for something from the mid 19th century. It frustrates me that this is #pioneerhistory missing.

What a pain! I have had some diocesan archives give me a line about people maybe still being alive. The people in question had married in 1920, so I thought it was unlikely.

well I have written to a few parish priests over the years asking them to look at marriage records because I can’t find any in civil registration in Australia.

I visited ancestral churches when last in England and found ancestors named as Church wardens etc on a plaque on the wall of St Mary’s Polstead, Suffolk going back to the 1600’s. Quite moving

They fill in some gaps for people pre civil registration! They can bring you back that extra generation and give you names of the infants/bride/groom/deceased and parents names and witnesses, sponsors and much more!

When they are available, they give information on baptisms and marriages. Unfortunately, most of the records I want don’t exist.

parish records have become very useful in conjunction with the earlier census in UK. Helps with maiden names and parents.

“Let me count the ways…” Richest incl. Parish census, parents’ names (incl maiden names), address, witnesses’ names addresses. At min, consanguinity, clues to ancestors’ wealth, FAN and residence

They give the details of the parents, e.g. names, jobs, locations, the names/signatures of the witnesses and the signatures of the bride and groom.

I’ve been having great success tracking family through Catholic registers – the baptisms will list sponsors (godparents) who are often relatives, and mother’s maiden name often appears too – goldmine of information!

Just recently, English – @findmypast have a whole heap of Southwark diocese records. In the past, some brickwalls busted with Scottish RC registers.

You never know, Pauleen! Some parents might have liked to hedge their bets – I found a significant number of Protestant parents (one P, or both) getting their children baptised Catholic in Glasgow mid-19th cent.

Back in the day I trawled all the microfilms for “my” overseas parishes. Amazing what’s hidden in there well beyond one’s own family.

Lots of info on parish records in counties and countries here

List of Online Parish Clerks…

Removal orders can be quite confronting Alex. Thinking of your family as relying on parish welfare is hard

They can also provide a big clue to where someone may have originated

They get removed to the father’s parish of settlement which was usually where he was born

German Church books often contain information beyond baptisms, marriages and burials and record confirmations and communions and family names

Church &parish records are important in my #familyhistory research as they are about significant events in the lives of my ancestors. The main places I find these records are at the genealogy giants.

They are local to where the event took place so might include FANs and extra info in the margins

Church records often pre-date civil records so can take our family history further back in time. Some Parish records contain personal details about people, things we might not otherwise find out.

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What interesting or surprising information have you found in Church, Parish or other Religious records?

Saddest find was on the Cornwall OPS I found that Grace Seccomb was buried on 28 Sept 1835, the same day as her youngest baby was baptised. She had taken her own life being Felo de Se “Out of her mind.”

Communion rolls can be found even in Australia eg the Presbyterian ones for Murphys Creek Qld are in a Toowoomba library.

always worth checking your library catalogue. You never know what you’ll find.

Nothing that I can remember. I just wish the parishes I need to get records had them.

What looked like an infant baptism on transcription was revealed as an adult conversion from Presbyterian to RC. It helped link a branch of the family in & gave me a ‘new’ direct female ancestor’s name.

oh yes – I had one of those – so helpful! Was able to confirm the research I’d done and advise descendants that their ancestor was not in fact a Yorkshire man but a farmer from Stillorgan, Co. Dublin 🙂  I’ll be honest, this was an in-law to an ancillary line of my own but the names intrigued me and really helped to identify the family. I think his descendants were a little disappointed their origins weren’t more “illustrious” 🙂

John Wesley wrote a medical book! Surprising, he has tried many of them himself, and adds background to how his followers amongst others might have treated various conditions.…

1840 parish census – that my 20C grandmother’s birth place was once known as Dooleytown (her maiden name) and that my GGM’s family (other line) were CofI andnot RC #ANZAncestryTime They’ve also confirmed suspected familial ties between families (consanguinity)

I also discovered(realised?) via English CofE that a genealogy of one of my family branches was incorrect – and identified the correct marriage of my 5/6 GGPs in Bucks and not Glos

One of my second great grandmothers used a different version of her first name for almost every certificate. After a while I realised this may have been intentional.

I suspected I had a great-aunt who was a nun in a particular order. I wrote to the order’s archives and they sent me some fascinating material about her

There’s an idea. I believe Dad had a cousin who was a nun. Where would I even start?

There is an archive for the School Sisters of Notre Dame or SSND. Most orders have an archive. First task is to identify the order.

Task 1 completed. In a family funeral notice The Nun (as Dad calls her) is named as Sister Mary Peter Claver. So she is of the order of St Peter Claver. Now to track down their archives in Australia.

One thing that we might not think of is the more broad items in a church – donated “in memoriam” gifts, signs, kneeling cassocks etc.

My gg grandmother donated a stained glass window for the local church, so has her name below it. Women donors on one side of church, men donors on the other!

Actually, Dad heard from visiting Irish priest that men and women used to sit on opposite sides of the church during Mass. Will have to consult some experts!

Also have never heard that. Afaik, people sat in family groups, but it’s possible that earlier periods, it was more segregated

Probably back in ancient times! Was a Dublin priest from memory, so maybe different practices in rural areas

I believe even here in the 1910s-1920s the women were sometimes on different sides of the (RC) church. I’m told my grandfather would give other’s kids a clip under the ear to behave. Gasp!

Grenfell C of E stained glass window -Let Brotherly Love Continue” erected by my gg grandfather & his brother for another brother – always told as a kid “family is everything “

Sometimes Churches keep old weekly news letters or magazines that mention ancestors. It pays to visit and ask if you can

That’s a very good point Sharn and reminds me that I got a very good insight into one of my cousins, a minister in Kentucky who seems to have been quite progressive through such a magazine. He had a jazz quartet playing in the chapel in the 1960s!

How fabulous Tara. My grandfather played the piano in Church (when my grandmother could get him there. ) My mother played the church organ ( I just sang in the choir)

good reminder about the vital roles our families play in church life.

It doesn’t happen very often but some vicars kindly put the birth dates in the margins next to the date of baptism. So helpful.

I discovered to my surprise a church census for NBL- North Leith (I think) which included all sorts of warts and all comments on the local residents

From a settlement examination I discovered a bigamous marriage, military service and remarriage also birthplace and parentage of mother

I have had some success using church archives to find more general info about my grandfather’s involvement in the Hibernian Society. More to do post-covid.

Plenty of goss to be found in Kirk session records – hoping to get some time to look through them for my Fife relatives

Using christenings can help when 2 couples with similar names in the same parish or area great if you are a one namer

Sometime children are christened but no birth is registered I thought this was true for my ancestor but she was registered with a different first name and used her christened name

I found 8 children in one family who were baptised on same day in Scotland. In Australian church records, I found a family of 4 children from same family baptised on same day.

Fifteen years ago I saw a family march seven children up to the altar and all were baptized including the Dad, too. Eight total. Catholic mass, Londonderry, New Hampshire, total immersion.

Yes – I’ve found a Sydney family baptised in batches of two at a time – I deduced that this branch was not overly religious! In the 1840’s – Dad was a massive fan of vaccination – science over religion me thinks

A surprising benefit to me came from my church archive networks when this framed house blessing was offered to me.

I found out quite a bit about the health of my great-grandfather from the Portsmouth History Centre which identified an entry for him in the Portsea Island Workhouse register

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Which Church, Parish or other Religious records have you used and in which countries? What religions were they and did you find them easy to interpret?

OPR, Kirk Sessions on ScotlandsPeople. Church of Scotland. A few were not

I have only ever needed to find the English Parish records so no issues with interpreting them However about to do some local research which may need Welsh translating

Found most of this on Anglican Church records in Australia have been useful. I know some were Salvation Army, but haven’t had much luck getting details there. Some of the Irish side were Catholics though not practising, I think.

do the Salvos have Archives? I suppose they must. I just haven’t seen it written down anywhere.

US, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, S. Africa (none in ANZ so far). Yes, easy to interpret although I had to rely on my school French for some and a good map of Wales and a grounding in non-conformity/Methodism/Bible Christians for others!

@findmypast, @rootsireland, @NLIreland – those are the ones I know!

Yorkshire parish & bishops transcripts revealed lots for my Cordeaux/ Cordukes ancestors – pre 1800 in Crambe & a sibling record even had a 3 generation family tree – genealogy gold

I’ve used church baptisms and marriages in Ireland. They were Roman Catholic and they were easy to interpret as long as they didn’t have the most abysmal handwriting… 😒  (loved the ones that were in tables)

Some do have terrible handwriting don’t they Daniel. Luckily My Irish Catholic family’s Dublin baptisms were easy to read and a wonderful find

It made a nice change to use Jersey parish records- often copperplate and gorgeous 😁

one rather unusual source for me were early Wesleyan administrative records in Hobart. I knew my printer ancestor had done work for them. Found payment vouchers and some more examples of his printing. Gold!

Don’t forget Church events and ancestors were often advertised in newspapers so a place to start looking

These have been tremendously helpful. We had a DNA connection to some people we didn’t know at all or didn’t realise were family, and have found lots of family notices about who they knew in our family. Still haven’t found the exact link, but getting closer.

I seem to have inherited a lot of family bibles with notes written in them which tell me which churches my ancestors attended.

I’ve used mostly Catholic registers in NZ, Ireland, England and Scotland, and CoE and CoS. Looked through a lot of parish chest documents for my Suffolk families. Would love to find some Quakers – their recordkeeping is amazing, docs usually easy to read!

I acquired all my grandfather’s Hibernian sashes by writing to the society in Brisbane. What a coup! Matched up with news stories incl photos and family photos, and my memory of him at Corpus Christ processions

I am going to start working on the people on the headstones in the local graveyard many are in Welsh the parish records may also be in Welsh

I found Lutheran Church records in Toowoomba at the Local History Society that showed how much my g g g grandfather donated towards the building of the first Lutheran Church there. Shows economic circumstances

I’ve done Salvation Army research at the archives in Melbourne. Really useful

Have checked out St Georges church records in Battery Point Hobart. Found info on communion etc for mum, her sister and cousins

Australia (various states), England, Scotland, Ireland, Bavaria, Wales (ltd). TIP: Look beyond your own ancestor’s events to witnesses etc.

US, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, S. Africa (none in ANZ so far). Yes, easy to interpret although I had to rely on my school French for some and a good map of Wales and a grounding in non-conformity/Methodism/Bible Christians for others!

I guess I have used the most predictable ones e.g. baptisms, burials and marriage records but I have also been interested to learn about other sources like tithe records e.g. in Wales which can give quite detailed information about family and FANS.

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Where can we find Church, Parish or other Religious records? Suggest tips for understanding and using Church/Parish records.

A google book search showed me that I had an ancestor who was a Sexton and who wrote hymns. Also another who was a parson. I didn’t find this anywhere else

Don’t forget the Kirk session records now available at @ScotlandsPeople for more than the christening, marriages and burials.

Thanks Fran. I got amazing detail from the Kirk sessions during one day’s intense research in SCT. It enabled me to narrow down my ancestor’s approx year of death and the parish support they were receiving

It is worth joining the county family history society if you are stuck, eg Devon has lots of records available to members. Often have facebook group where you can ask questions too. And occasionally offer to investigate ‘brick walls’.

a good place to find out about UK records for an area is Genuki. Put this and the Parish or place name into your. search engine and it usually comes up trumps! There are also ‘online parish clerks’ for some areas who are a great contact point.

Many Irish church records have been digitised and indexed but not all. @NLIreland holds digital images of many of the RC parish registers up to about 1880s. have indexed RC/CofI parish record for Dublin and some other areas

FMP/Ancestry have indexed these parish records (caution transcription errors) Rootsireland have transcriptions of many later records and also have transcribed e.g. parish census. CofI/other faiths usually held in archives of those churches but some local.

Also use (€) for better transcriptions and different but overlapping coverage.

Yes! And also good for CofI records in some parishes. And one of the features I like is that you can search by e.g. marriages by Father’s name and in some counties events by name of witness/sponsor

Only record of one GGGPs marriage found on Rootsireland (no civil record found for some reason!)

Check FamilySearch and their wiki for details on your parish/area of interest – wonderful information about what records there are and where you might find them. Many registers digitised and online too.

The Genealogist is good for non conformists and not just transcriptions

FamilySearch has lots. Scotlands People, Irish Genealogy. Not many baptisms found for my family.

All the big genealogy sites have information about using Church Records. Well worth reading.

Many records are being digitised by FMP & Ancestry but some are still only accessible in the Archives Family Search have some only accessible at FHL

Amazing background and clues can be found in surprising books eg a history of Bishop P Dunne. Told of his influence in his parish (my ancestors’), attitudes to working life etc

For the first time in my research I am using English parish baptism records. I am used to the mother’s maiden names being used in Ireland, Scotland, Channel Islands and Ticino! So I feel deprived if England.

information on church records are “everywhere”. Books especially can be very informative for early pioneer days. Archives, LDS, online, on site in a church

yes good point Pauleen. Societies have often published books/indexes to local parish records but of course you always want to see the original.

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General comments

As I got into family history I was astounded to find my father’s “non-Catholic” family had even Presbyterian-RC (maternal & Paternal) and my mother’s dyed-in-the wool RC was Methodist-Anglican-RC

My Scottish grandfather was Catholic Pauleen but my Irish grandmother Protestant so she pretended his family were not catholic even popping an A in the Mc to make it Mac and less catholic looking. Sometimes our ancestors did strange things

Growing up in the sixties when it was very much WASP / Catholic divide – delighted to discover Irish Catholic convict ancestors & amused by gg grandfather buried in c of e section & both wives (who were sisters) in the RC section at Rookwood

Blog posts relating to church and religion

Pauleen – Irish in Surry Hills, Catholic branches, Corpus Christi march, Church records and archives, Church archives,

Hilary – Settlement examination,

Alex – Workhouse register,

Readers: Which church or parish records have you found useful? What interesting information did you find?

Discussing births, marriages and deaths

This #ANZAncestryTime chat from June gave lots of tips about birth, death and marriage certificates as well as other sources to help prove the information found on these certificates.

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Have you an interesting story to tell about searching for births, deaths or marriages (BDM)?

I couldn’t find my GGGPs c. 1880 marriage anywhere in the Irish civil records. Eventually found it through local archive and broke chunk through a brick wall on that line. Names and addresses of 3 GGFs and from there to 3 GGMs. Also a birth around the same time – every other family birth registered – this one found registered FIFTEEN years after actual birth. I’m not sure what the delay was. I knew it was unlikely the birth hadn’t been registered since they were business owner/upwardly mobile. Baptismal record contained parents’ names so I just searched all civil until I found it.

Have one Irish family who seemed to be allergic to both baptisms and registrations. A big range between about 1860 to late 1870s. Strange thing is the younger ones were “done” and I could accept the lack of rego near 1864 but the lack of baptisms bothers me. Illiterate and a fisherman.

Tara, I’ve also searched for them in England/Wales as being at sea, that might be possible. No marriage, no births…sigh!!! And David is not a common Irish name as far as I’ve seen. Think I may have a mental block/rut now.

DM me later Pauleen (bed time here) and maybe two heads will solve your conundrum. It might be due to the region they were from. E.G. Some Donegal parishes I’ve searched only have parish records from 1860s – after civil reg. And in marginal areas civil records not always solid

Also got 2 birth certificates within the 100 year time frame via a probate claim where a separated wife suddenly reappeared to claim ex husband’s estate, had to include her girls birth certificates

I have an ancestor whose mother’s name was different on all three certificates – birth, marriage, and death. I *think* I’ve worked out who his mother was, but really need DNA to confirm it. On the #ToDoList

#research for my uncle whose #ancestors were married x2 4 yrs apart. Same #church #priest #bride #groom Different addresses #marital status for groom 😲Parish #archivist chqd orig Church records-nothing helpful. Using #Facebook to chq local knowledge

One of my GGGrandfather’s was summoned before the Balranald bench almost 10 years after the birth of his last child ‘for making wilfully false statements respecting his marriage to… for the purpose of insertion in a Register of Births (two charges)’!

He was a bigamist to boot. I never found any birth certificates for his children except the two he was summoned for. When his first wife divorced him their was WONDERFUL information in the newspaper reports!

Sometimes makes for an more interesting story when they do not register BDM events.

I discovered my mothers first christian name was not what she thought it was. She probably never even knew she had the spelling wrong. Shows you that you do need to see the original records when possible to discover more of the story.

I have new questions courtesy of a cousin on Ancestry chat today. She asked why/how our GGGF remarried my GGGM when there is no evidence of his 1st wife’s death (her ancestor). Realised I’d never looked closely at the 1st marriage

2 children from 1st marriage, 1850 & 1853 8 children from 2nd marriage 1870-1889 All born around Yass NSW. There are a number of possible deaths for the 1st wife, 1866 registered Yass a particularly interesting one.

I have a suspicious one like that. My GGF remarried my GGM about 6 months after the previous wife registered their child. I’ve not found a death anywhere in England where they were living. Maybe Ireland. Where are the children?

I’m searching for great aunt’s husband, Robert Hargreaves. Had 2 bigamous marriages in Victoria – see Trove. Disappeared after his jail time in 1871. Where did he die? One of the colonies, New Zealand, England? Did he change his name? 2 of us are hunting him!

I knew nothing about my father’s family. His parents died within a few weeks of each other when my father was 6yo. I wrote about bursting into tears at Vic Births Deaths and Marriages

it really hits you doesn’t it when you are in those record offices – life is a precious fleeting things sometimes.

I have found several births and deaths between the census records now we have MMN on the indexes in England and Wales – Mothers Maiden Name

I was told by an aunt that there was a child who had died young not sure which generation. New indexes with MMN led me to discover my grandfather’s older brother

Witness on my great great grandmothers marriage certificate ended up being her brother in law – proving who her sister married then allowed me to find them arriving in Tasmania in 1860’s

Great reminder @tasteach to spend the time looking into the witnesses. They were often family

A friend at QFHS had always banged on about the value of searching the microfiche index to BDM that we have in the library. A friend’s mother was trying to find her grandmother’s birth but could not find it on the Registry Office website.  She knew she had the right date. Off we went to look at the microfiche at the QFHS library.There it was. No spelling mistakes. Just not in the online index. Human error I guess in the process of transferring. She was just missed. Check everything!

one marriage in 1866 bride registered under her mother’s maiden name as she was marrying a cousin with same surname, she had arrived in Australia under her father’s surname

I am probably the odd one out however I cannot think of any interesting stories related to my research of births, deaths and marriages. Perhaps it’s been too long since I had time to research to the memories have faded.

Searching for German names is always fun and games. The surname Zöller becomes Zeller, Zoller and, the best one, Tiller. Similarly McCorkindale has infinite spelling variations so I search for M*or*dale which gets most.

I spent 40 years looking for dad’s fathers birth. 20 years collaborating with half siblings of dad. Then finally DNA solved it. We were looking for wrong surname – he was a bigamist.

A story of not being able to find someone for a long time & then finding him under a different name entirely.

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Primary sources for BDM can vary in the information they contain. Tell us about the great and not so great ones and what they contain, accessibility, cost, etc.

Irish historical records with data protection parameters are freely available on but they only start in 1864 (except non-RC marriages from 1845).

But always worth checking for pre-1864 marriage registered even if couple were Catholic – you can sometimes strike it lucky.

Yes, one of them might have been Catholic & they got married in the COI to give themselves legal status. In practice, it’s a very limited number of marriages in this early civil registration period.

And not make assumptions about “everyone” being Catholic…a trap I nearly fell into with Mr Cassmob’s ancestors.

Even if they had converted prior to marriage, if one of the couple was ever Protestant, a RC marriage was illegal then, unless carried out in COI/RO

Yes, very good point, Pauleen! I had assumed, then found a CoI possibility, now back to Catholic again. Wishing for a Quaker!

It pays to look in other states for births. I unexpectedly found the birth of one child in Victoria to my NSW g g grandparents. They lived there for a year apparently

I have only researched in England and our BMD records are not the best. They start earlier than many but don’t have as much useful information

The baptism of an ancestor in Cornwall which showed he was baptised at his mother’s funeral. She had committed suicide. Thanks to the clerk who made those notes. I often wonder if she had post natal depression. It wouldn’t have been understood in the 1800’s.  Her death certificate states “ took her own life” verifying the note on the baptism. I’d probably not have looked at the cause but for the baptism.

Yeah, I can understand that. I’d probably have assumed it was death in childbirth if the death record wasn’t readily available.

It’s an evocative phrase. At first I didn’t get the new push to favour the phrase ‘died by suicide’, but it makes a lot of sense re understanding the mental pathology of suicide

Love Graham Jaunay webpage with what is on BDMs in each Aussie state

Irish RC parish records vary re info quality/detail. Freely available images via @NLIreland & indexed search for some Dublin/Cork/Kerry www.irishgenealogy. Dublin parish template unusually detailed wrt country: parents’ (& marriage witnesses) names addresses

In England I search with FreeBMD as bigger range, then check on GRO. NZ BDM has lots of errors in names, so you have to guess what it might be and narrow down the date

I use very many sources as I seem to research in a lot of places. FamilySearch has lots of them. England both GRO and FreeBMD, NZ BDM, Aussie States, ScotlandsPeople, Irish, Canadian, American sources. I go everywhere!

I love the NZ certificates as they hold a pile of useful information. I love their website You can figure out the actual date if you keep reducing the search date fields. Great for the distant branches when delaying cert. purchases.

Yes I use this trick on NSW BDM too, narrowing down date when I don’t want to buy the certificate for far distant spouses etc., works for births deaths and marriages

one of my husband’s ancestors appeared in latest Lost Cousins newsletter about to marry for the 5th time

I love the Tasmanian BDM from 1803 to 1900 – all digitized, online and cost nothing. Can also get many BDM till 1930 from CDROM for free as well

Click on Tasmanian names index then put name in search area, use the filters and then you can download copies etc or use that snipping tool…

I have been redoing my tree in FH7 and looking at certificates there are so many errors some are intentional to hide illegitimacy but others may be not

Love Queensland BDMs with so much information. Scottish records also have a lot of content but I do wish death records included burial information. English Records so mediocre it’s frustrating. I like being able to order online @ minimal cost.

oh yes I hear you re the English death certificates. I wonder why they bothered really. It just about says – they died – and that’s it. Next to useless.

Especially when they were born a long time ago as clearly they will have died. While there is little family details compared to other places the place & cause of death can be interesting.

Even using Scotlands People without buying the records can give so much information. I found a family 3 days ago for a distant cousin – followed my nose and there they were in Cadder

I love that the indexes in Qld & Vic have maiden surnames unlike NSW where it’s the most expensive to order a certificate & the index has only Christian names for parents

Scottish BDM’s have so much information on them. Norwegian records are fabulous too as long as you understand the naming systems (plural)

Remember the bad old days in Queensland when you used to have to request the marriage date of the parent’s when ordering a birth certificate. So pleased the UK registry office now seems to have seen the light regarding including mother’s maiden name.

I find the easiest BDMs to access are Victorian, but most of my Australian research has been in Vic, so I’m more familiar with Vic records. Vic BDMs do contain lot of info and are easily accessed online with immediate download

I have only researched in England and our BMD records are not the best. They start earlier than many but don’t have as much useful information

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What secondary sources have helped you with BDM records? How do you resolve any data conflicts?

@PRO_Vic metadata for probate/will files include date of death, so just searching their catalogue is very helpful (thanks PROV volunteers!). Early ones are digitised too. They can be very interesting (or boring) and fill in family blanks. I’ve also viewed more recent probate files @PRO_Vic in person and often a copy of the official death certificate is included.

my mother’s birthday books across the years she had added many births and deaths

Great tip! Another tip: don’t throw out those books or address books.

Using christening/baptism records you need to be careful sometimes several children were baptised on the same day.

accessing Vic teacher records through Ancestry often reveals full birth date; this helped me with my GGrandmother’s birth year, for which I’ve not been able to locate birth certificate

yes excellent advice Helen. I have teachers in my family and much of the biographical information was originally obtained via Inspectors Reports in Archives and then confirmed through certificates.

Ryerson Index, Newspaper BDMs, Free BDM and genealogy sites

Ryerson index excellent but also Savill index for South Aust. Secondary Sources for BDM – Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices.  See story here…

We have the Wilson Collection

I use Trove & Papers Past to find those more recent than BDM sources. I love Papers Past. Wish there were more of them available

Newspapers of course, many Catholics in SA in early years did not register births, but they nearly always added death notices to newspapers. Today I’ve just found 2 more children of one family without birth registration

Some great tips from Judy – also see links to website pages at end of this post

Tip1: Before buying certificates, check whether they’re available (FREE) in files at the Archives. Record series where I’ve found certificates are listed at

Tip2: Biographical data in Hospital Admission Registers is often more complete and/or more accurate than data in death certificates

Tip3: If you can’t find a death certificate, look for an inquest. There are inquest files for many deaths that weren’t registered. This definitely happened in QLD & Victoria, & probably elsewhere. I’ve also seen (in Queensland) inquests for some stillbirths, which at that time weren’t registered as either a birth or a death

Tip4: On the FreeBMD Website (civil registration indexes for England/Wales BDMs), add Postems to entries for people you’re researching.

Tip5: Check the names on the Web page for the Miscellaneous Australian Certificates Index: For certificates mentioned there, a copy only costs $5.

This is a terrific tip! Didn’t know it. What I like about FreeBMD is the ability to search marriages easily, & when I’m being specific to a family, to return more that 5 years of results at a time (as with GRO)

I check on Cemetery records in NZ & Find A Grave – look at the photo if there is one. Often correct information from other sources. Did 2 today, 1 yesterday. I state in my @WikiTreers profiles any conflicts – had 1 today, gravestone versus someone’s memory!

great #records to help put peeps in time&space generally & find children’s birthdates are #school admission registers. #blessed in #Queensland many for #Government #schools #digitised avail #Online @QSArchives

Re transcriptions – search all available! Example: Rootsireland which has helped me with so much research (generally more accurate and more complete transcriptions than e.g. FS, FMP, Ancestry) doesn’t contain the transcripts of two baptisms for GGUs.

Newspapers, Calendar of Wills, Burials (1) A marriage notice confirmed father’s residence and death bef. 1877. (2) A Calendar of Wills entry gave DoD (not found in civil) (3) Auctioneer’s ad verified relationship between two men (4) burial = clues ->breakthrough

Military records were fantastic for me. I had an Irish soldier marry a Welsh woman but we didn’t know from where. His service record gave marriage date in UK & I was able to go back 4 generations from her on the Welsh line thereafter.

employment records will often provide a date of birth and probably a place of birth. School enrolment registers will also give a child’s approximate age so if you can’t find them anywhere else this is helpful.

remember those local histories or family histories written by your relatives might also be secondary sources

other places to find BDM information include military service records which provide a place of birth & parent’s name. A death certificate might be included with a will & sometimes a marriage certificate or an inquest provide provide additional information.

PapersPast, Trove & British Newspaper Archive are regular haunts for me. Then a time on Google searching for odd indexes. Hints from online trees – though these need to be verified.

Using christening/baptism records you need to be careful sometimes several children were baptised on the same day

… sometimes at the same time #parents were #married

Yes – I’ve found 3 batches x 2 kids each time in 1840’s in Windsor & Sydney – concluded that the family weren’t regular church goers

That’s true. I found the first five siblings born in Australia were baptised on one day

I’m guessing baptismal records and anything like birth dates on tombstones et al. I would resolve by trusting the record closest in time to the event, if that makes sense.

Agree. Looking at marriage and death certs re. age I lean towards the marriage date, but there are always exceptions!

where there’s a conflict-of-interest between a civil registration and a parish baptism event, I generally opt for the baptism, but will note the difference. This is because if the parents were late registering they may have had to pay a fine.

my favourite alternative to civil certificates Is parish registers which can give you some of the same information. This applies even in Australia and has helped me solve missing information from early Queensland records.

Wills, and newspapers! Both full of detail, and especially helpful with women’s married names.

I have not encountered any major conflict in the newspapers using indexes you need to be aware of possible delay in registering births and even deaths

the best secondary source has to be the newspapers the person I just mentioned was in the newspaper and led to searching for further marriages than those known

Family reunions can help with living or just passed relatives, but still need proving eventually. Trove has also helped up to the 1950s.

MichaelGaida / Pixabay

What are some of the factors that might create a challenge finding the correct person? Any suggestions on how to overcome finding a difficult BDM record?

A GGM & GGF put a notice in the WGTN newspaper about their marriage. No registration or church records found. One child’s birth cert has marriage in MELB. No MELB records. No passenger. No records either divorcing their first partners or deaths yet found

Could this be a good one for another pair of eyes?

Or actually getting serious and working through it with a plan and timelines, etc rather than just random checking.

Checked at Archives in Wellington years ago when I just started however never recorded what I checked as I did not know about recording negative results. Or even if I got the right records to check. That’s why I need to do it properly this time around.

With Irish ancestors: unofficial name changes, dodgy ages. Best advice I can give is keep an open mind, think outside the box, check the period covered by records, and use FAN!

Oh yes on the Irish dodgy ages, husbands 3x gt grandparents emigrated claiming to be 10 years younger than they were! Could not have been married in 1832 at age 8 and 12😂 Found their ages on deaths, both in Adelaide hospital register.

And even those ages may not have been correct unless someone went back to the original parish records to confirm year of birth.

Yes, I agree but probably as close as I’ll get with the births likely to have been 1808-1812 pre the Galway birth registers currently available

For me, the biggest challenge is common names. Byrne was the most common surname in Dublin, at 1 in 10. AND, the Irish used the same given names in every family. AND two grandparents were Byrne. Solution = Time + line-by-line searches. Maybe!

if I knew the answer to this question I’d have all my brick walls knocked down! I think some of my ancestors just weren’t registered.

Bought a NZ printout of a birth for an Aussie cousin (too hard to buy from overseas). Solved the mystery of her DNA matches. Brief marriage that produced one child. Built her tree in a few minutes

Surname changes are the thing I find most challenging. My g grandmother was registered with the German family name but for younger siblings the name was different.

I recommend buying certificates rather than a transcription agent if you have non-English ancestors. As a family member you are more likely to recognise names and places.

Photographs in this collection from the New Zealand Tung Jung Association, a Chinese county association of people from or descended from people from the counties of Jung Seng & Tung Goon (Zheng Sheng, Dong Guan), east of provincial capital Guangzhou.

a frequently mis-spelt name (even with fuzzy matching). I think I have about a dozen spellings for Farish, various cousins have different surnames now

My Jones’ and Taylors’ are hugely challenging along with their ever repeating christian names

Common names, i.e. NINE William Browns died in Victoria in 1921, several close in age; death notice placed by his sister, sourced via Trove, helped me find him, then an inquest record (alas) too

 I highly recommend enlisting the help of other genie friends. Fresh eyes are always amazing 🙂

I agree with this tip Alex. Two sets of eyes can often solve a long standing brick wall. I’ve had experience of this a couple of times

if you know the exact date of birth and the first name sometimes it pays to not include the surname in your search

I have a James Smith who died in 1901 there are 2 of them died that year same age and district so burial record helps to confirm which is correct along with census

Bigamy, name changes – ways to solve now include DNA

Spelling variations always cause a challenge when you’re trying to find someone with an unusual name. The information on the certificate may include big gaps which happens with the earlier Qld records.

3844328 / Pixabay

Blog posts relating to topic

Judy – Postems on FreeBMD, Webpage tips searching in Queensland, Webpage hospital admission records, Genealogy advice and indexes, Miscellaneous Australian certificates index, Queensland genealogy blog

Pauleen – certificates,

Jennifer – at the record office,

Claire – results in unexpected places

Sue – using certificates and censuses