Friday, November 21, 2014

Finding Ancestors in Great Britain

St. Margaret's Parish, org. ca 1752, near Westminister in London
Before the Virginia Colony was formed in 1607, most of its earliest immigrants were in England. That means that the genealogist and historian must determine that location.  In other words, the shire or parish. This is generally found from hints in the American records.  The oldest Virginia Wills and Testaments provide details concerning properties owned in England, as well as the names of relatives and friends.  Also, names of parishes.  Another source is deed records.  Then, there are immigration records which disclose the place of embarkation.  Coldham's The Complete Book of Emigrants 1607-1660 is an excellent resource.  Finally, tthere is the generalized research effort.  What I mean is reading old Wills (in the county/counties where your ancestor resided) is the way to go.  I mean, everybody's, all of them.  If you found one for your ancestor, then take notes on the names of witnesses, purchases of items, receipts given, and every person mentioned.  Then, search for those person's wills.  Neighbors married neighbors, socialized, shared a lifetime together.  That makes anyone mentioned in your ancestor's wills or deeds a very important source for learning who's who and how they were related.  The Land Patents are another good resource in discerning who received the first lands and approximately where they were located.  Remember, many persons came over as servants and did not own land until later.  In 1607 there were 105 settlers. By 1609, the Virginia Company sent 500 more. In 1621/1622 there was a massacre which killed hundreds of persons, yet by 1635 there were estimated to be about 5,000 persons.  That is not many people.  Thus, the names of neighbors accelerate in importance. It is noteworthy that members of the same families also stopped over in New England and did not settle in Virginia.  Those records also have a digging deeper factor.  The first item of research in England should be the parish register.  For generations, families attending the same parish.  There are three categories: christenings, marriages and mortuaries.  Your surnames from all three should be carefully written down with the idea of identifying families when you better understand the situation.  Meanwhile, Virginia Pioneers contains the images of old Virginia Wills and Estates which should save the researcher some time because there are tons of records to explore in Virginia as well as in Great Britain!

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