Thanks to the hard work of volunteer transcribers, the FreeCEN and FreeBMD web resources are a boon to people researching British genealogy.
Having another look at my Greenaway family from Cornwall, I decided to follow up some of the descendants of brothers and sisters of my ancestors, and FreeCEN made it easy.
FreeCEN means free census lookups and the volunteer transcribers are busy transcribing all the 19th century British censuses from 1841 to 1891.
In the case of Cornwall, the transcription is complete, and if you go to the FreeCEN site you can find charts that show what progress has been made on transcription for the various counties. You might even like to volunteer to transcribe some entries, and so help fellow genealogists.
Anyway, here’s what I did with the Greenaways yesterday. You might find this method useful in your own research.
My great great great grandparents were Richard Greenaway and Mary Michell. From the marriage register of St Breward, Cornwall, I knew that their daughter Mary Ann Greenaway married John Joel Wiliams on 27 December 1852.
So I went to the FreeCEN Search Page and entered just a few items:
First names: Mary
Age or Birth Year: 1832 (with +/- 2 years)
Birth County: Cornwall
Census County: All Counties
Census Place: All places
After getting a list of possible hits, I chose the one born at St Breward, and clicked on “Household” to see who was there, and having noted the information, clicked on “Revise Query”, and changed the census year to 1871, 1881 and 1891.
In the space of about 40 minutes I had a picture of the family at ten-year intervals over a period of 40 years. I discovered the names and other information about their children – John George born on the Scilly Isles about 1857 (I’d never have thought to look there!), and Augusta, born at St Beward in 1861.
Before FreeCen I would have had to order a census microfilm from the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and travelled 70 km to Johannesburg to read it in the local library, and trawl through the whole film in the hope of finding the whole family. I might have managed to do that once a month or so, so it would have taken me 6 months or more to trawl through all the films for each census.
And if I had belonged to an earlier generation of family history researchers, I’d have had to travel to London to look at the original census records, and 30 years ago only the 1861 and 1871 ones woudl have been open for public viewing. Truly, this generation of researchers has never had it so good!
I did the same thing with the next generation. Mary Ann Williams’s brother was my great great grandfather Richard Greenaway who married Mary Ann Tilly (or Tilley).
Among their children was a Mary Jane who married Richard Pascoe, also at St Breward, in 1869. So there were only three censuses to look at, but following the same procedure, I’d found them all within about 20 minutes, and, again, new information: the names of their children.
- Edith, born at St Breward in 1871
- Martin, born at Barrow, Lancashire, in 1877
- George, born at Stoke Climsland, Cornwall, in 1882
- Richard, born at Budock, Cornwall, in 1885
Who says ancestors didn’t move around?
So my grateful thanks to all the volunteers who trasncribed the census records for FreeCEN. Even if I want to check the originals or the microfilms, just to make sure there are no transcription errors, I now know where to look.