The National Archives - English burial and cemetery records online and on film | The National Archives (2024)

Hello. I’m happy to be here today. I’m not going to be talking, despite the FamilySearch logo, exclusively about FamilySearch things today. But I’m going to talk about online things first, and then the things which are not online, that have to do with cemetery and burial records.

Today I will talk to you about eight different websites where you can find cemetery and/or burial records, and try to explain to you which records are on which website, because this is always the hard part – with the plethora of websites that exist today – is to know which one is the appropriate one for what you are trying to look for.

Following that, we will talk about the off-line records, and how you access those, and where you can find them. I’ve put the websites in alphabetical order, which means that we start with Ancestry and end with The Genealogist.

Ancestry, as you know, is a very large website, and one of its characteristics is that it has been, over time, very difficult to find a particular database in it. Suppose you know that the Royal Irish Constabulary records are on Ancestry, how do you go about finding them, so that you can search them (because they are a very small database)?

And until recently the card catalogue tab, which is where you do a key word search for databases in Ancestry, has been cleverly hidden away someplace where nobody could ever find it.

But it’s now, if you go to the homepage and click on the tab that says Search, of the four or five choices that you’re given, the last one is the card catalogue, so now it’s much easier. You can kind of Google-search, if you will, Ancestry’s set of databases – so you might type in Australia marriages or something like that.

In this case, I’m going to show you three different examples of the kinds of list you will get, depending on what you type in for the search.

So, if you type in England burials, you will get a list – which is shown here on the screen. The problem is that some of the ones, like the ones that say ‘Devon England extracted parish records’ – although you can tell there are 616,000 of them – you’ve no idea where the parishes you are interested in are included, and in fact you’re not much smarter once you go to that database.

The most important database in numbers is the second one, which is London Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, but if we leave the baptisms and the marriages out, probably that group which is prior to 1813 is about the same size as the line above, which is the post-1813 – when the printed form started to be used.

So, it’s very helpful to know that you’ve got two and a half million London burial records, 19th century, essentially, which you can look at on Ancestry. That’s probably the strong point of their burial things, and this is what happens if you want to search one of these – you can choose to use the ordinary garden-variety search form. I don’t recommend it.

If you know your people are from the East End, then choose an East End borough first and then you can, very helpfully, see the list of churches in that borough for which they have records. And remember that these records were available at the LMA [London Metropolitan Archive], so if you know that they were at the LMA, they ought to be on one of these lists.

I’ve chosen Camden, and I’ve highlighted Highgate St Michael – that’s the church that seems like it should be the right church for Highgate Cemetery. It’s the church that looks like it’s in Highgate Cemetery – in fact it’s the next-door neighbour to Highgate Cemetery.

The Highgate Cemetery records are not shown on this page – they’re further down, under St Pancras is where there’s a particular sort of outpost of St Pancras, which is dedicated to Highgate.

But this shows you very clearly what sorts of places are there. I’m asking myself is Bishop Stortford really part of Camden? Is it nowadays? [Audience laughs] Well, anyway, there you go. You get what you get.

Right, Colchester looks like it’s moved into Camden in this case as well, but never mind, so, this tells you that there may be more than London at foot in this database, so rummage about and see if you can find the right place, because we all know that a more narrow search is a more successful search.

What none of us want are things which are results which are irrelevant to us that we are trying to go through.

Now, if I switch and type in Lancashire burials into my card catalogue search screen I get four, three Liverpool sets of burial records. You know that Ancestry has recently put up an enormous number of records of different faiths for Liverpool, and so of course I could have searched under Liverpool and I would have got the same three things.

But it turns out that Liverpool is pretty much all they have for Lancashire, and that’s also helpful for you to know, and there are Catholic ones and then the same split, prior and after 1812, for the other burial records.

It is helpful to see the number of records that are there – it gives you some idea of what the coverage might be. So that’s what happens there.

On the other hand, you might want to search under just the name, of one cemetery. It won’t come up so successfully, because you want the whole database to come up, so if you wanted to search for Highgate St Michael, don’t type that in – you’ve got to type in Camden burials, or London burials – and then try to drill down to it if it’s a London church.

The second website which I would like to draw your attention to is a website which, two years ago, was a very tiny dot on the horizon, and is now a very visible object in, I would say, the near distance, but which over the next couple of years is undoubtedly going to become one of the most important databases for people searching for death, or for burial records – and cremation records.

What I love about a website is one which tells you first of all its news – what they’ve done lately, but secondly on the right hand side something which tells you very clearly what the coverage is and what their databases are – and that’s vital to you.

This is a website in which you can do your searches for free, but then you can see images on pay-per-view. So, for example, under the coverage – here we have the coverage sorted by the dates added – and you can see that there have been quite a few Scottish things added.

Let me explain what DeceasedOnline is. DeceasedOnline is an offshoot; a company that’s day job is helping cemeteries and crematoria to manage their records, so they provide software to enable them to keep track of people they’re burying and cremating, and they help them to digitise their past records and make them searchable.

So, they are basically back office boys to cemeteries and crematoria. As an offshoot of that, they have got permission from all of these organisations to make it possible for people to search, at the first level, the records for free, which of course saves the time, and therefore the costs of the participating cemeteries and crematoria.

So as they get more and more people you’ll be feeling like you’re a very left out cemetery if you’ll not be using their software in the near future, and maybe a competitor will spring up. But this is an important thing and there will be a continual flood of more and more things coming to it.

So if, when you get home today, you decide to have a rummage about, and there’s nothing of any interest at all to you, look in three months. You’ll be surprised at what will appear here.

Now let’s see what happens. So here’s an advanced search, and I reckon you should do only advanced searches, because, frankly, it’s a waste of time on most websites to tick those boxes that they give you on the home page and just randomly start typing Tom Brown into them – it’s a bad idea.

OK, in this case, if you choose advanced, you can not only choose a region, you can choose a county which in the case of London is interpreted to be a borough and then you can choose some years and go for it. And I’ve made a search here just for a surname of Egerton – it’s a northern English, north-western English name. But in their database for London there are only six results and here they are.

Most of them are from the 1890s – I chose to look further at the one that is in 1859. You don’t know this but five of the six are from the St Pancras Cemetery and if you were at Who Do You Think You Are last February, that was the big news that Deceased Online was announcing at that time – in February – that the largest cemetery, I think certainly in London, maybe in the UK, was now searchable online.

And you can do that – you could have chosen just to search St Pancras and typed in your name and then doing that. Now, when you do that then you can I chose this one Kate Egerton who was buried in 1859 just to see what it was.

So the next page looks like this – you have two possibilities: you can see the actual burial register, which is the daily log book of a cemetery, right, tells you who they buried that day and in which plot, and all that sort of stuff. Or you can see, because all cemeteries have sort of numbering systems for graves, you can see who’s buried in the grave, besides the person whose name you found.

Now, there is a clue in the first line, where it says grave details and 55 other burials. We’ll come to that – but let’s first look at the burial register, and it looks like a burial register should look – there is the name of the person, the day that they were buried, their address, by whom the ceremony is performed, the age of the person – one year and six months, it’s a baby, and the day and the hour of the burial, and a description wherein it says second class, which is a clue that goes together with the 55 other people. Right?

And then the depth of the grave, and all of that, and the name of the undertaker and the address of the undertaker – so the person who delivered the body to be buried.

Now, if we go back and look at the grave details – and the number of the grave is shown in the upper right here – we can then see down at the bottom of this slide that in 1859, the day that this child was buried, she was buried on the 19th and you can’t see the rest, but there were three people buried in the same grave one on the 22nd, one on the 23rd, one on the 25th, one on the 29th and then nobody at all in that grave until 1880, yet which again on one day several people were deposited in the same grave and on the next day several people deposited in the same grave.

You’re getting the idea – this is a common grave. It’s not a grave to which there are going to be any markers. But it’s interesting information for you to know, what the circ*mstances were in which the person you are interested in has been buried.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, there are a couple of things to do with DeceasedOnline. Let’s talk about finances.

The first one is: the finances of DeceasedOnline are – you pay nothing to do a search for any of the cemeteries they have, but you can’t see the burial register. You can find out where somebody was buried and what day they were buried on, but you can’t see the burial register or the details about who else is in the grave without paying money.

You can do this on a pay-per-view, or you can have a subscription either.

Now I will tell you a secret; which won’t be secret once I’ve told you. We have negotiated, at the (London) Family History Center, an institutional subscription, with DeceasedOnline. So that if you were to come to our place, you would be able to look at the images, privies, records without having to pay. We are paying.

So if we’re paying, would you please not look up 1000 people? [Audience laughs] Please don’t come and do your one-name studies on our nickel – just look for your actual relatives please.

Now, the next thing that was on the first page is family history societies. Family history societies, in my personal foreign opinion, are one of the great marvels of the English character, in which we have a couple of hundred organisations which have been doing sterling work in recording genealogical information, and publishing it, for a hundred years – and they are remarkable.

Most of their published information is not online. I would say technology caught the family history societies amidships sometime in the 1990s, leaving them with garages full of fiche, and little books, and CDs and all these things which they had been so industriously publishing all along, and no money left over to build websites and move all of this stuff to the websites.

Nonetheless, from time to time you will find a family history society which has some records, which probably have been indexed more recently, in which they have decided to publish on their website.

More power to them, and that’s great and it’s free. We will talk about family history societies later, with a view to what you can find out from them in the offline categories, but you must never ever, when you have a family that’s in a certain area, you must take every advantage of the local people who have spent so much time doing volunteer local work.

Now I want to talk about the FamilySearch website. FamilySearch has, I mean, well, FamilySearch has a lot of records online, but I’m going to show you three types of examples.

In this case, this is coming from the new version of the FamilySearch website, and it is coming from the home page you go to Europe, and then you have to scroll down through various countries until you get to England, and under England, if you look at this whole section which has little cameras off to the left, and the middle column says ‘Browse Images’ then you are looking at records which have not been indexed, but which you can look at online.

Now you’re going to say ‘mmm, isn’t it going to take me a week to go through one film?’ and the answer is no, because they have broken the film if it has, let’s say, baptisms, marriages and burials, into sections ‘Baptisms, Marriages and Burials’, and even within that into years, so you can usually get within a few frames of what it is that you are looking for.

So you must absolutely pay attention to this, because, although you can see with Norfolk that there are some which are monumental inscriptions, but apart from the one which says ‘Poor Law Union Records’ and ‘The Norfolk Register of Electors’, marriage banns, and marriage banns and allegations, all the rest of them are going to have burial records in them.
So why wouldn’t you look there?

Now, if you look at the ones that say ‘Norfolk Parish Registers’ or ‘Norfolk Bishops’ Transcriptions’ how many of you have used Norfolk Parish Registers? Nobody? Hundreds of parishes on that list.

You go to Norfolk, you click on it, it shows you hundreds of parishes. You choose your parish; it gives you a list of records and a number of years. Don’t know why you’re here, you should be sitting at home doing this. [Audience laughs]

This is free, it has far more records than Deceased Online and Ancestry put together, and we have only started with FamilySearch. This is a very serious resource for you.

However, there are indexed records for burials on FamilySearch. I know there’s a hot rumour going around – oh what’s this, I’ve not got the right image – there’s a hot rumour going around that the IDI, which of course doesn’t exist of course in the new website, doesn’t have any burials. But you’ll discover under the title on the same list.

Right, so you’ll find further up this list – at the very top of England you’ll find England burials over a wide time span. That’s a different thing, because those English burials are indexes only, and don’t show you the image of the record. And there are more than 15 million of those and of course I can’t count with this one how many there are, because I don’t know exactly how many frames there are, and how many names per frame, and so on and so on.

So you want to get onto FamilySearch and have a little look – both at the images that you browse, and also at England burials.

I’m giving you now a site, which strictly doesn’t belong in this talk. I can make it belong, by fudging just a little bit.

Find A Grave is an American volunteer site, meaning that everything on it is organised by groups of volunteers – sort of like Free BMD. Most of the records which are on it, are American, but not all; and besides, your English auntie might have died in America, you never know.

It has 64 million grave records, which is huge, but I would say, some less than 10,000 of them are probably from the British Isles. So officially I can say there are English records on it, but not to any huge extent; but I will show you what kind of records there are.

The other thing that you need to know is that the records on Find A Grave are not, in general, indexed records. Neither are they monumental inscriptions. What they are – there is an index – but what they are, there’s no burial register which has been transcribed; they are simply photographs of the grave. Which is why there is a picture of a tombstone on the homepage.

If you Google ‘findagrave’ as one word, you’ll find it.

Right, they have entries from lots of different countries, and you see England is on the list. So, let’s say we look for somebody buried in England called Turner, and we get a page like this; and that’s it says we get 1112 matches – and I’m only looking at the first bit.

Here, on the right hand side, are some little icons, and the photo icon for the headstone, which says RIP, appears by the name of certain people on the left hand side. And that’s an indication to you that there is a photograph of that tombstone associated with this, and that’s what I’m going to look at.

Look at the one, the first one with the little tombstone – the one with the flowers incidentally is in case you happen to know who that person is, you can put an electronic flower on their grave, and if you like, leave your email address in case somebody else is interested in the same grave – they could contact you; a little bit like bumping into somebody when you would happen to be at the cemetery at the same time.

So let’s choose the person who’s listed as A Mason (in italics) Turner and see who it is. Well, this is the tombstone in Goole, in Yorkshire, and it says in memory of George Mason died 1941 aged 81, the wife of the above S Mason, died 1943, aged 78, and A Turner, daughter, died 1978. Aged 79, and then some more Masons.

So she’s called A Mason Turner, because she’s clearly identified as a Mason by birth on this headstone. Right? And that’s all you get in this case, is a photograph of this headstone. But, heck, that’s good right? It’s very good. If you did Mason, you’d get the other people.

Now, let me talk about FindMyPast, in terms of commercial websites. FindMyPast is the strongest website, in terms of the numbers of records for burials at cemeteries, and they have, several different categories.

You get to it by going to the ‘Births, Marriages, Deaths’ tab on their homepage and then you’ve got, of course, to slog through the baptisms, and births, and the marriages, and get down to where they have the deaths and the burials, and you’ll see that in Burials, they list four different major databases.

Boyd’s London Burials is an old database made by a previous director of the Society of Genealogists, who was what we would call a man from another generation. He was a very prolific indexer and record keeper – he recorded only male burials, because he said the women didn’t own any property anyway. [Audience laughs]

So if you’re going to use that database, you need to be aware that it doesn’t have any women in it. It’s only men. 243,000 men.

From a practical point of view it is difficult if somebody is buried as Elizabeth Turner, say, to know whose wife she was – so I agree it’s harder to find out. But nowadays, nobody would undertake a work which would be so much work and only do one sex.

The City of London Burials really means the 98 churches of the city, but there are a few bits that go with it – Spa Field’s Non-Conformist Cemetery is famous. Southwick – I don’t know how that got in there, and Tower Hamlets, which is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, we’ll come back to them in a minute.

The Society of Genealogists itself has done a huge amount of work, in transcribing the burials of firstly, about 50 of the City of London churches, and latterly, in recent years, in actually finishing the work. So if you have people that you know are living in the City of London, then this is the place you have to come to look.

We remember the National Burial Index, which now has come out now in three different editions on CD right? I’m not quite sure 13.4 million is the number of burials, from the second CD – I’m not quite sure what’s on the third edition.

Important for them, is to know that of course the coverage between counties is not equal, and that’s because the origin of the database was to provide an outlet for all these family history societies to dump their burial records into, and in the way, of the strong-minded English people, some societies thought that was a good idea and contributed, and others thought it was a really bad idea and didn’t. Probably the ones with the full garages of CDs right? They wanted to sell down the stock a bit more before they got into doing things online.

But you need to know that it’s mostly first half, 19th century, mostly. Very useful. Then comes a thing that is almost as bad as the FamilySearch ‘England Burials 1538 to 1920’, you know – what does that tell you about anything?

So in the case of FindMyPast, they have a very nice little thing where you can click and find out what that database is, and at the moment, the parish burial records includes two spectacular large cemeteries in Australia, and quite a lot of others which are genuinely English.

There’s got to be some overlap between the Liverpool burials in FindMyPast and the ones which have just been put up on Ancestry, which is always good for those of us searching, because the search engines are different and the transcriptions are different, and the images are probably different, so if you can’t find them in one you might as well look in the other, which is good.

So, this is a very serious good important collection of burials and as FindMyPast and Ancestry are both adding records all the time I’m sure they will grow.

Now GenesReunited is another site you may not have used. It also has burial records. Almost impossible with GenesReunited to figure out what burial records they have and what burial records they don’t have, so I’m unable to tell you too much about it, and I was too cheap to pay the money to do something to have a little look.

The Genealogist has genuine burial records of the non-conformist and non-parochial records are RG 4 and 5 mostly Methodists, Baptists and RG 6 – Quakers, RG 7- Fleet Marriages – no burials in there, and RG8 which has quite a number of London Cemetery records in it for whatever reason.

I think Victoria Cemetery, which I think is in Forest Gate, is amongst the ones that are in RG 8, which will mean since they’re in RG 8, they will not appear in the LMA records and therefore won’t be in the London Burials from Ancestry. So you really should look at The Genealogist if you have London ancestors, as well as the Ancestry London series.

The other records are mostly scanned copies of books that are out of copyright, and they’re very invaluable but they are limited and more than one site has them available. That’s all that I’m going to say about records in general.

Let me now just talk as I promised for a minute about the Magnificent Seven London cemeteries. I’ve put up the dates to remind you, and the map, to remind you what they are, and the dates are there to help you understand that this the big movement of get out of the city of London, bury people outside and in ten years these seven cemeteries were established – some of them with their own little railway lines going there and all that, and they’re all very important, and generally around London, as you can see from the maps.

So between Kensal Green in 1832, and the one in Tower Hamlets in 1841. Now Tower Hamlets is where? It’s in Find My Past. Right?

Ok, so here’s the list of where you’re going to find all these. Abney Park incidentally is entirely anon – it’s a cemetery with unconsecrated ground – anybody can be buried there. Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, but the ground is unconsecrated. It has its own website, which I will show you.

The big cemetery, which is not so far away from where I live in Kensington and Chelsea, is Brompton. And Brompton – I think you have the records the for Brompton Cemetery, the TNA has records to Brompton Cemetery, and you’ll have to come here and look at them because they ain’t been digitised and to my knowledge they’re not indexed are they, Gerry? No.

So there are a few Brompton graves on the Brompton website. Brompton is a cemetery which has become a royal park and because it’s a royal park they’ve kind of divorced themselves from anything to do with the reason why it was established, and the records have been sent to The National Archives – so if you want to look at Brompton Cemetery you need to come to Kew.

Highgate, I’ve explained to you, is under the borough Camden in Ancestry, but not under the Highgate Church, under St Pancras. Kensal Green is also on Ancestry and you will find it listed as a separate cemetery under Kensington and Chelsea.

You will find Norwood, which is in the borough of Lambeth in Ancestry, but Norwood also has its own website. Nunhead appears under Southwark, in Ancestry, and Tower Hamlets, as we’ve said, appears in FindMyPast.

So, if you have people who lived in London, after 1832, who died in London after 1832, the great likelihood is that they’re buried in one of these cemeteries. Got it?

And now I’ve just revealed to you, where the records are for those cemeteries, and most of them are available online with the exception of Brompton, for which you have to actually work hard.

Here is, Norwood shows there as having its own website, and here it is, and there is a database and you can search it, just by the name of the person, and see if you can find somebody there.

This is another cemetery, established another ten years later, Brookwood, which I think is in Surrey. Brookwood is in Surrey, and it’s a huge cemetery, fully the size of the other Magnificent Seven, just established ten years or so later, and they have, this is a very, well I think it’s a tale of exploitation, a group of volunteers have transcribed and indexed the Brookwood records, thinking that they would be allowed to publish them.

They should have got this in writing before they started, because the cemetery has never let them publish them, and now sells the benefit of their work. I’m not saying it’s not for a good cause – it is for a good cause, cos all the cemeteries need funds for their restoration and upkeep – but I think it’s, well, I think it’s too bad that that group of volunteers weren’t more clear with the cemetery, before they got engaged in doing all of that work. They had intended to make it available for free.

So for burials and cemeteries on microfilm, microfiche or CDs, I have three different categories. One are family history societies – I could have put The National Archives on this, because of Brompton and other burial records which you happen to have here, but I’m counting the non-conformist ones as being already part of The Genealogist and other websites by now.

The family history societies are very, very important sources, and then I’ve put the London Family History Centre for reasons that I hope will become obvious and ordering microfilm from…

Let’s start with family history societies. Family history societies look here’s Lincolnshire; you think it’s a quiet place, not much going on there, but wait until you see their publication list. People in Lincolnshire must be staying indoors indexing in the winter when that cold wind is blowing from Moscow right?

Because they have done endless numbers of CD ROMs and little booklets which have burial records in them, and honestly, I mean if I had people in one of these parishes, I’d have bought that CD in a heartbeat. I might be checking to see if it happened to be available on Ancestry or if it was Norfolk I’d be looking at the browse images.

But even then if you had a family that was widely deep into certain parishes it might be quicker to get the CD.

I’ll give another example – here’s Cornwall. Another quiet place you’d think, except maybe in July and August. Well, Cornwall, when you go in to the Cornwall Family History Society and you want to look at publications, you click on publication and it gives you a list of Cornish parishes which this long – it’s enormous.

Then you choose a parish – I’ve chosen the parish of Camborne, and they tell you the things they have published about Camborne. As they will tell you the things they’ve published about St Austell’s, or St Buryan, Penzance or whatever.

And they have done a fabulous job – this is, someday all these records will be easier to access, I’m confident. My guess is in the next five to ten years. But most of this stuff in this cases some of them are PDFs, some of them are CDS, some of them are books, no doubt some of them are microfiche, but sooner or later this will all appear online. And what a blessing it will be, to take advantage of the work that all these people have done.

Now here’s Birmingham and Midland. You know about look-up services and quite a few of these family history societies will do a look-up for you, as long as you don’t ask them for fifty people. If you ask them for one or two they will look through their own publications and tell you whether your person is on that CD – you can save the ten pounds.

In this case, the name of the person you would ask is here, cos you ask a specific person who has certain sets of records at their house, would they please look up this for you. I mean it’s a great thing – talk about the Big Society, this is the Big Society in action no? Helping out people on a volunteer basis.

Ok, so, family history societies let me underline three times, are very important for looking for records which are not online. You just have to drill down until you get to the relevant family history society and you ask them, it’s even worth sending them a question – if they haven’t published the parish you’re interested in (because in some cases they’re in the middle of it) and in other cases they’ve done it but just haven’t got around to publishing it cos the publications committee chairman is feeling poorly.

So you should ask them in any event because they are the local people, they know the local surnames; they know the spelling of the local villages and hamlets.

Now, if you happen to be near to London, then you could come to the London Family History Centre in South Kensington to look for things which are not online.

There’s a cemetery called Woodgrange in the East End, and I knew we had the films for it, and when you go to our website there’s this little box on the homepage, which most people think is for typing microfilm numbers in, but it’s really like a little Google thing and you can type in Mauritius, or you can type in St Helena, or, in this case, you can type in Woodgrange.

I did this several times with no luck, until I realised it was spelled as one word. Once I got it spelled as one word, Bob’s your uncle, and here’s a list of all the burial registers for Woodgrange.

So the newer Victorian cemetery it looks like it starts in 1892; then 1894, which for some reason gets published as volumes one and two. So the volume numbers are not consecutive with the time, and it looks like the latest records are 1971. So if your people are from Forest Gate, and this is their local cemetery, there you are.

Now again if you do the kind of search I talked to you about with Ancestry, and you just type into that little search box Cambridge Cemetery, then it will show you some cemeteries. In this case there are only two – there’s Wisbech, and then something in the Histon Road non-conformist MI department, and you think well that’s not very interesting, but if you type something else in – suppose you typed in Durham Cemetery, then you get a list as long as your arm – all of microfilms from the Durham area.

Now you’ll see that on some of the entries there’s a line with an underscore under it and it says ‘the film we have is only one film – there are others from the same place’ which you could order, but there you are.

Chester-le-Street is well recorded 1891 to 1977, but the new cemetery only between 1914 and 1943, but probably the others are on another film. So already you’ve probably got, I would guess we have, on microfilm, records that are not online. How many records? I don’t know, at least as many as Find My Past has online.

This is another one – now I’m writing Manchester Cemetery. Well I’m getting all kinds of cemeteries, and I even have a crematorium – the Register of Cremations at the Manchester Crematorium.

Right, you know how to use that search engine now – you just type in the word cemetery and a place and see what happens. Type in burial and a place and it will pull up the parish rags – that may have the burials. Right? Or you can just type in the name of your parish and see what records we have of any kind for that parish; perhaps school records perhaps workhouse records.

Now, failing that – so you’ve been through all eight websites, you’ve looked in our catalogue, you’re not finding what you want, the family history society seems not to have done the right thing, so what’s your next move? Well, I mean you could drive to Carlisle, if that’s where it is right? You could go to the Isle of Man, or you could sit at home, go to the FamilySearch website and see if the Mormons have microfilm of it.

And that’s what I’m recommending you do if all else fails. Right? If you do that I recommend that you use the catalogue on the old FamilySearch website, which at the moment, in the way these things are, is more up to date than the one in the new FamilySearch website, and in my opinion also easier to use.

So, you would just go to Place Search and type in the name of your place, and have a go, and see if the LPS church has filmed your record.

Generally speaking it’s felt that records of genealogical interest – probably only five percent are online – and I would have said burials would be your higher priority, and might be as many as ten, but certainly it’s true that at least 80 percent of all the records of burials and cemeteries are not online.

Now that, of course, will change, but for those of you who are just starting to do research, you need to understand that there’s a lot more out there that is not online, and therefore, that’s why I keep telling you, go to your family history societies, be sure to look at the microfilm collection that the LDS church has made.

If you don’t live where coming to South Kensington is convenient for you, then you can order a film to whatever family history centre, of the hundred or so in the British Isles that is nearest for you; Reading maybe if you’re from this end.

All right, well, these things of course are of interest and more than interest, they’re of importance to us, because, for a reason that I think is sometimes a little hard to explain – knowing where your people are buried is important to us. There’s a tie between ourselves, and the people that came before us, and it’s important to us to know where they’re buried.

This is a moment of triumph in our family – when we discover an ancestor’s grave, underneath all the nettles – and it’s a source of great satisfaction. I can go back to the same cemetery – it’s all grown over again – but I know he’s down there, and I know who’s in the next piece of grass now and I know who’s in that tombstone that you can just see, because that one’s very visible.

And the three men are three men who all have the same name, and they are a father, a son and a grandson – all with the same name.

Well, that’s my message to you today. It’s all very well knowing the eight websites, but really most cemetery and burial records are not online, and you’re going to have to work harder to find them.

Transcribed by Sarah Coggrave as part of a volunteer project, May 2015

The National Archives - English burial and cemetery records online and on film | The National Archives (2024)
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