This is a blog about English Ancestors – mine, and perhaps yours too.
But why ‘English’ ancestors? Why not ‘British’?
Well, for the simple reason that whilst the principles and practice of ancestry will be the same the world over, the records and sometimes the knowledge required even for researching the various parts of the United Kingdom can be quite different. My area of expertise is with English records. I know, and am constantly learning more about, which English records would likely provide the information I need to help me progress.
That isn’t to say that my ancestry is entirely English.
I have connections to the island of Ireland – North and Eire – and would love to be able to trace my Irish roots further back in time. Alas, the records can differ quite considerably from English ones. What’s more, many – but not all – were destroyed in a huge fire at the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922. There’s also the issue of surnames: the same name may have been recorded in English or Gaelic, and with various spellings. And on top of all that, records may never have existed in the first place. I haven’t given up on my Irish roots; learning more about Irish family research is on the ‘To Do List’, but all my Irish forebears pre-date 1830, and I’ve accepted, sadly, that I may never find them.
So what about other parts of Great Britain? I haven’t had much need to delve into the records of these nations, although there are as yet unproven hints of Scottish and Welsh ancestry in my research. Scottish records too, have some differences in comparison with the English, with some Scotland-specific websites, such as Scotland’s People. Even researching distant Welsh ancestors requires certain specialist knowledge; while the wide usage of certain surnames brings its own problems. (My probable Welsh connections, for example involve the surnames Thomas and Jones, which I have found is like seeking a needle in a haystack!)
Researching our ancestry gives us knowledge and reason to celebrate every part of our roots. Our ancestors’ stories and experiences are the back-story to our own lives: they are part of who we are. Anyone who considers themselves ‘British through and through’ will likely have a mosaic of cultures and heritage running through their past. I’m proud of my mysterious great great grandfather who seems to have hailed from Prussia. I’m intrigued by the 10x great grandfather who likely reached these shores after fleeing religious persecution in Flanders or the Netherlands. And being from Yorkshire, I’m delighted at the hefty chunk of Scandinavian in my DNA – my thousand year-old Viking roots.
But the English records are where most of my ancestors are to be found for the past few hundred years, and this is where my expertise has developed. Since in this blog I hope, amongst other things, to show you how you can research your own family history, it seems appropriate to limit it to what I know best.
I hope you’ll join me. 🙂