Dunedin Family History Group

Otago and Southland related research


Researching in England

Before commencing your English research you should do your New Zealand Research First.

You need to know the counties of England and Wales especially as to when there was changes in their boundaries and how this affected the storage and archiving of records.

The biggest boundary changes took place in 1974 so it is important you obtain a copy of maps both pre and post 1974.


You also need to consult “Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers”. Parish registers are a vast, important but widely scattered archive. The Atlas includes the famous county ‘parish’ maps, which show pre-1832 parochial boundaries, colour-coded probate jurisdictions, starting dates of surviving registers, and churches and chapels, where relevant.

Topographical maps face each ‘parish’ map and show the contemporary road system and other local features to help deduce the likely movement of people beyond the searcher’s starting point. The Index lists the parishes, with grid references to the county maps.

For every individual county we can see the boundaries of the Hundreds or Wapentakes, boundaries of parishes, the hills, valleys, roads and waterways, the churches and main centres of habitation, as they were in 1832. Each county is briefly described as to dimensions, shape and the type of crops or manufacturing the inhabitants were likely to be dependent on. Each county’s population is given for the census years 1841 –1891.

Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions are clearly defined in each county, showing which court was most likely to have dealt with an ancestor’s pre-1858 Last Will and Testament. In each parish, remembering that the maps are from 1832, we have the commencement date of the Parish Register.

At the back of the book, for each county, all the parishes are listed with the dates and whereabouts (at the time of publication) of the Original Parish Registers and other relevant Indexes and Records. A grid reference pinpoints each parish on its county map.

It indicates the present whereabouts of original registers and copies and whether a parish is included in other indexes. It also gives registration districts and census information. The Dunedin Public Library has the first and second editions of this publication for borrowing. The third edition, which is the most up-to-date version available, is reference only.


Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages for England and Wales began on 1 July 1837. The indexes to these records have been microfiched and cover only England and Wales but not the Channel Islands. Each year is divided into 4 quarters ending 31 March, 30 June, 30 September, and 31 December. Indexing is based on the date of registration, not the date of the actual event. This is an index only and does not contain full details from the certificates.

You can search the indexes on-line at findmypast.com or Ancestry.com and other Internet sites. These are pay per view sites. They are also be searched free at –


However FreeBMD is an ongoing project, the aim of which is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and to provide free Internet access to the transcribed records. The transcribing of the records is carried out by teams of volunteers and contains index information for the period 1837-1983. It is important to note that this is not yet a whole transcript for all births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales.

Births. Marriages and deaths 1837-1874 –

The law stated that all births and deaths after 1st July 1837 MAY (not MUST) be registered by the Registrar of the District without payment of a fee provided that a birth is registered within 6 weeks of the event. A birth cannot be registered after 6 weeks without payment of a fee of 7/6d. It cannot be registered at all more than 6 months after the event.

The time at which a death may be registered is not limited.

However in 1874 registration became compulsory and the responsibility to register a birth or death passed to the individual concerned.

Marriages, unless performed in a Registry Office, have always been the responsibility of the Church.


Date and place of birth

Given name of child


Name of father

Name and maiden surname of mother

Occupation of the father

Address and relationship of the informant


Date and place of death

Full name and age of the deceased

Occupation of the deceased

Cause of death

Name and relationship of the informant


Registration district

Year and place marriage solemnised

Entry number

Date of marriage

Full names of bride and groom

Ages of bride and groom (may state “full” meaning 21 or over; or “minor” meaning under 21, rather than actual age.

Condition (bachelor, spinster, widower, widow)

Rank or profession

Residential address at the time of marriage

Full names and occupations of the bride’s and groom’s father

Whether married by licence or by banns

Name of marriage celebrant

Full names of witnesses.

Note: no mention of the bride or groom’s mother


The following are just a few of the many websites for online ordering of English bmds.






Or if you do not have Internet you can write to:

Certificate Services Section, General Register Office, PO Box 2, Southport PR8 2JD, England.

Members of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) can order copies of English marriage certificates through the NZSG. Visit their website www.genealogy.org.nz and look under SERVICES for further information.


Recording of baptismal records began in 1538 (after the formation of the Church of England). In 1597 an Act of Parliament made the practice compulsory. Until civil registration began in 1837, parish registers would be the main source for locating birth details.

Until 1813, when a standard baptismal form was introduced to be completed by the minister, the amount of information in a baptismal entry varied from church to church and time period to time period.

Bishops transcripts – These were ordered to be kept from 1598 when the clergy were required, within a month of Easter, to send transcripts of the registers for the previous year to the bishop of their diocese. After 1837, when civil registration started, many clergy ceased to send copies, although some did continue for quite some time. Bishops’ Transcripts are useful in that they provide a second record and may have survived when the parish register has not. Details of baptisms, marriages and burials were also sometimes recorded on loose sheets prior to copying into the registers, and it is possible that some Bishops Transcripts may include entries not listed in the parish registers.

One of the main indexes for church baptism records in England is the International Genealogical Index (IGI) available on-line at www.familysearch.org or by visiting a Family History Centre Library.

Parish Chest Records – these included poor taxes, ****y bonds, settlement and removal records, apprenticeship records, churchwarden records and other events relating to the church and village. The parish was responsible for taking care of the poor. Since this could be a large expense, they did not accept people on welfare lightly. If the family was not originally from the parish, the church authorities might send them back to their original parish to avoid having to support them. If a girl had an illegitimate child she and the child might become dependent on the parish. Every attempt was made to determine the identify of the father so he would have to provide support.


When someone dies leaving a will, the executor appointed under the will applies to court for a grant of probate, which authorises him or her to deal with the estate.

Probates are of interest to genealogists because wills are found with the probate records. Where someone dies without a Will letters of administration are granted to next-of-kin or some other persons, allowing that person to administer the property of an intestate.

Before 1858, probates and letters of administration were granted by the ecclesiastical courts and some manorial courts. The busiest and most prestigious of these courts was the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) based in London, but the other court worth mentioning is that of the Prerogative Court of York (PCY) which had jurisdiction in the northern province of York.

Probates and Letters of Administration of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) can be searched online


On 1 January 1858 a centralised probate system for England and Wales came into operation, and a Principal Probate Registry was established in London and a chain of district probate registries in important centres. An index of grants of probate and letters of administration was produced for each year.

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) holds the indexes to probates and letters of administration 1858 – 1943. These can be searched by members of the Society only.

The printout for wills and administrations 1858 – 1943 will give you surname, forename(s), occupation, date and place of death, date and place of probate registration, amount of estate, occupation of executor(s).

Once you receive your reply, you will have all the information you need to request a copy of the will or letters of administration through the NZSG UK Probates Purchasing Service. Visit their website for further details www.genealogy.org.nz


A census has taken place every ten years in England and Wales since 1801. However only the returns from 1841 contain any information on genealogical importance. There is a 100 year restriction of their use but a loop hole in the law has allowed for the early release of the 1911 census.

The census took place on the following nights –

1841 7 June

1851 30 March

1861 7 April

1871 2 April

1881 3 April

1891 5 April

1901 31 March

1911 2 April

From 1851 onwards the census was taken one day later than the English census so it is possible for your travelling ancestor to end up on both country’s census in the same year.

Because of World War II, there was no census in 1941. However, following the passage into law (on 5 September 1939) of the National Registration Act 1939 a population count was carried out on 29 September 1939, which was, in effect, a census.

Although the 1931 census was taken on 26 April 1931 the returns were destroyed by fire (in an accident and not after bombing) during the Second World War.

Below is a list of the changes that have taken place in the information compiled for census returned.
England Census Changes



Directories provide data about local communities, their infrastructure and the individuals inhabiting those communities. Published more frequently than the census, directories can also help you fill in any missing gaps.

Here are some of the key features you are likely to find in many directories on this site:

· Descriptions of cities, parishes, towns and villages. These may include geographical, historical and statistical details.

· Information about local facilities, institutions and associations

· Listings for private residents, traders, trades and professions

· Details of important people

· Advertisements



In time of war, dispatches from the various conflicts are published in the London Gazette. People referred to are said to have been “mentioned in despatches”.

Notices of engagements, marriages and bankruptcies also used to be published in the Gazette.



The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913

A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.


If you are a member of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists you can use their online newspaper indexes to follow up further information on the court cases. But you can also search for all aspects for your ancestors lives in the newspapers.

The newspapers can be found under “Members Services” at www.genealogy.org.nz

The searchable Newspapers available are:

1. Times Digital Archive – 200 years of The London Times

2. 17th & 18th Century Burney Collection – 1,270 newspapers and news pamphlets from the United Kingdom.

3. 19th Century British Library Newspapers – includes 46 papers originating in England, Scotland and Ireland

4. 19th Century US Newspapers – featuring full-text content and images from numerous newspapers from a range of urban and rural regions throughout the United States.


GENUKI – UK and Ireland Genealogy


The aim of GENUKI is to serve as a “virtual reference library” of genealogical information that is of particular relevance to the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is a non commercial service, provided by an ever-growing group of volunteers in co-operation with the Federation of Family History Societies and a number of its member societies.