Accessing Parish Records – Genealogy Sites

Many parish records are available online, and the best places to look for them are Ancestry, Find My Past, and My Heritage. There’s FamilySearch as well, but I will cover that in the next post. Just bear in mind that there is no simple way to work out where the records you are looking for are kept. They may not even be online at all, so you may need to use several different techniques to find them. And yes, I know these websites I mentioned require a subscription, but you can search the catalog without a membership, and the search results will help you decide whether a subscription to that site would be useful for you.

Ancestry. For my personal research, Ancestry has been a boon. That’s because the counties I search the most have records on Ancestry, including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Somerset. If you already have a subscription you can skip the first step.

  1. Navigate to Ancestry. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Vital Records under Historical Collections. This will bring you to a search page.
  2. At the top of the page you will see five options. Select Search and then Card Catalog. This will bring up the card catalog search page.
  3. On the left side, select Birth, Marriage & Death.
  4. In the Title box in the upper left, type the name of the county you are interested in and then hit the orange Search button.a_search
  5. You now have a list of collections that contain baptism, marriage,  and burial records for that county, including how many records are in the collection.

Find My Past. The process here is very similar, but the search option is right on the front page of the site.

  1. Navigate to Find My Past.
  2. At the top of the page click Search and select A-Z of record sets.
  3. On the left select United Kingdom (or just England).
  4. On the new page, click in the search box, enter the county you are looking for, and hit your Enter key.fmp_search
  5.  You now have a list similar to that for Ancestry.

My Heritage. This website has a lot of data, one way or another. But it’s focus is not on the United Kingdom. As such it is more limited, but if it has what you need it is just as important as the others. Here is the process:

  1. Navigate to My Heritage, scroll to the bottom of the page, and select “Historical records” under Home.
  2. On the “Welcome to SuperSearch” page, click on “Browse collection catalogue” on the right side towards the top.
  3. On the next page, again towards the upper right, click in the search box, enter the county name, and hit Enter to start the search.mh_search
  4. You now have a list similar to that for Ancestry.

Family History and Computers

I seem to spend most of my spare time doing family history research. Either that or preparing lessons to teach others how to do their own research. No, I’m not a professional researcher, but it still seems appropriate for me to concentrate my writing efforts on how to help others.

My comments about computers may be best received by people who have not fully book2embraced modern technology, like this delightful lady, or by those just beginning their family history journey. I would like to think there will be insights that will help anybody who cares to read these posts. Depending on your elvel of familiarity with technology, though. you may have a pretty steep learning curve. The best advice I can give is to encourage you to keep trying. It’ll grow on you.

Family history research is a lot easier now than it was 50 years ago when I first book1started my journey, but that does not mean that it is easy. There is still a lot of effort involved, but at least you likely will not need to drag huge tomes from the library shelf to look at every page in the hope of finding one tiny nugget of information. If anything, the process is more cerebral now because computers and the internet have given us so much more material than we had access to before. But traditional research in a document repository still has its place.

I often say that family history should be more than a collection of arcane facts and figures. Not only does finding out background information about the family, the neighborhood, local and national politics, and pictures of where your ancestors and distant cousins lived make it more interesting for you, but your children and grandchildren will love that kind of detail as well.

Remember, you will only be limited by your imagination. The information is out there!