Yet More Digital Material Published – Land Tax 1798

We live in interesting times… has today made the 1798 Land Tax Redemption Schedules available to search and view on their web site. As ever you will need to have the appropriate subscription to view these. Ancestry’s introduction to this set of Land Tax records provides little context for this collection so here’s an extract from the ‘Oxford Companion to Local & Family History’:

“…in 1698 the direct poundage rate was replaced by a system of quotas at county, hundred, and parish or township level. During the 18th century the tax evolved into a true land tax, assessed on land, buildings, and various forms of rents. Relatively few records survive before 1780, but from that date until the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832 annual copies or ‘duplicates’ of the assessments owed by each owner of real property and by each of his tenants were lodged at the Quarter Sessions in order to establish a qualification for the vote at county elections. These duplicates survive in bulk amongst the quarter sessions papers at county record offices. The only return that covers almost all of England and Wales is that of 1798, kept in 121 volumes at the National Archives in class IR 23.”

Academic historians have for many years mused about the usefulness of Land Tax returns. However, I have found them very useful for tracing the tenure of the many small-holdings in the Saundersfoot area using the near-complete run for the 1786-1831 period held at the Pembrokeshire Record Office.

From my experience, there are three main benefits for researchers in this new publication.

Firstly, in its marketing, Ancestry is promoting this new material as ‘almost a mini-census’. In general there is a touch of hype to this but, for the Saundersfoot area, it is not far wrong. Many of our collier and artisan ancestors were granted leases to small-holdings of around one to ten acres or so. What is interesting and unusual is that their landlords granted these on extended terms, for example the survivor of three named lives. The reason why large landowners were keen on this is that such leases attracted voting rights for the tenants and, in the days of public polling, they assumed that these tenants, in consideration for (apparent) improved security of tenure, would vote according to their wishes. As a result, more colliers in our area are recorded in the Land Tax returns then you’d expect to find for other areas where such leases were uncommon.

The second benefit is that the schedules list not only the lessees’ names but also that of the landowner (or the ‘proprietor’ as Ancestry shows it as). Finding this name acts as a portal into landowners’ estate collections where rentals and leases can be valuable sources of material. For our area, much has survived and the collections for, in particular, the Picton Castle estate (mostly at the National Library of Wales – NLW) and the Gogerddan estate (again held at NLW) are real gems in providing further material for researchers.

Lastly, for those of us fortunate to have landowners in our trees, this publication gives a quick and efficient view of the land they owned across wide areas and also county boundaries. For example, although I am not linked in any way to them, in my research into the Child family of Begelly House I was unaware before today just how much land they owned in Carmarthenshire.

While there’s much of benefit, I do have the usual gripes about the standard of transcription that Ancestry has achieved. It is lousy. For example, St Issells has been transcribed throughout as ‘Saint Glsels’ – at least consistently. ‘Begelly’ thankfully is Begelly. But don’t get me started on the wierd transcriptions of many of the surnames!

NLW Newspaper Digitisation Project – update

Back in October 2010 I posted a note about the future of the National Library’s project to digitise and publish on-line its newspaper collection. Well, the future is almost with us. NLW has posted an update on its blog today…expect a summer baby.

This is good news of course seeing that the albeit wonderful British Library/Findmypast project to digitise so much of the British Library’s huge collection contains as yet little Welsh material and none at all for our area.

My comments about the NLW project seventeen months ago still remain: their site will be free to use so no payment required BUT the NLW project is limited to only newspapers it is has original copies of. So, we will be to access a complete run of the Pembrokeshire Herald but little of the various late 19th century Tenby newspapers, many of which were so gossipy.

I wonder whether the British Library will arrange for the papers that it has copies of that NLW doesn’t have to be digitised under the Findmypast contract. Yes, we will need to pay for access but at least they will cover the gaps. I will do some digging.

Roll on summer!

A Problem with and the 1911 census?

The indexed and digitised census returns provided by the likes of Ancestry and Findmypast have been a boon to family historians over the last 10 years. With so many millions of names published on-line we of course expect there to be errors and for the most part we can work with this – as long that is the database that provides the data to us is working correctly.

I prefer Ancestry’s database to Findmypast‘s as the former allows you to search on any piece of data while Findmypast is more restrictive. For example, on Ancestry, there’s no need to enter a name at all so you can search on parish name alone if you want to. This is very useful for those of us with local history interests as well as genealogy.

However, there seems to be a problem with’s 1911 census database currently. The following is a good example of the problem. In the England database**, try searching on the following index field alone by entering the following wildcard “Pem*” in the “County or island” of birth field and for the 1911 census you will see that there are currently 483 names returned. By comparison, the same search for the 1901 census returns 9880 names. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that Ancestry has yet to finish indexing the 1911 census for England, claiming a worthy 75 percent coverage so far. While this explains part of the discrepancy, the above shows that it can only be a small part of the cause.

Another example confirms that Ancestry’s database appears to be in a mess. My great-grandfather, Richard Nash who was born in Begelly, was living in Newcastle upon Tyne in Northumberland at the time the 1911 census was taken. I can find him searching on Ancestry by entering “Richard” and “Nash” with “Northumberland” for his county of residence. The search returns just two “Richard Nash” and my ancestor is one of these. That is good. But try searching for surname “Nash” with “Pem*” in the “County or island” of birth. He does not appear.

Has anyone else encountered problems such as these?


** you will need to be a subscriber to Ancestry to follow these examples.

St David’s Day news

I see from Chris Paton’s blog that the Welsh parish register collection is due to go live on later today.  The article he links to suggests this includes 9 million records for baptisms, marriages and burials.

Obviously you will have to pay to get access to both the index and digital copies but this is a big step forward for the many researchers who live nowhere near Wales.


Doh! I knew I should have waited for the press release before posting the above. As you’ll see from this site, the Pembrokeshire records have not been posted yet, only those for Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Glamorganshire. I say only but this is still a big step forward as many of us will have ancestors who migrated from the Saundersfoot coalfield to Glamorgan and with Carmarthenshire so close to our area, you may find some interest there too.

The Pembrokeshire records are, according to the press release, due for posting in the “following weeks”.

Once we have the Church records online, what’s the likelihood of the Chapel records being posted too? A long way off methinks.

Some More Jam Tomorrow…Welsh Parish Registers

Interesting post on Dick Eastman’s reliable genealogy blog… are one of the main partners in this project. In my post about their digitising and indexing of the Chelsea Pensioner records, I made the point that Findmypast could have provided more data in the index to more easily locate matches.

In the land of so many Thomas, Davies and Jones the new index must be more efficient to search.

The National Probate Calendar of Wills and Administrations

Big news in the family history and local history world. Today has launched the National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941.

The National Library of Wales (NLW) has already provided free access on line to most pre-1858 probate documents for the Welsh dioceses. Ancestry’s new Index together with the digitised calendars on Ancestry cover much of the post-1858 period down to 1941. This is a big step forward for genealogists and also for local historians who want to check if someone left a will or not. Rather than having to travel to a district probate registry to conduct your own searches or paying someone else to do it for you, the new Index and the Calendars are available at your fingertips – but at a cost of course payable to Ancestry.

There are two parts to the collection:

Firstly Ancestry provides a searchable index containing the following information:

  • Name of deceased
  • Date of death
  • Probate year
  • Death place (generally limted to county only)

If you find a possible ancestor you can click through to the second part of the system: the digitised Calendars. These include much more valuable information such as:

  • Name
  • Residence
  • Place of death
  • Date of death
  • Occupation/status
  • Date probate granted
  • Name of person/people to whom probate granted, residence, relationship to deceased, occupation
  • Value of estate

Those of you who have appropriate subscriptions to Ancestry (i.e. Worldwide or Premium) should be able to view both the Index and Calendars without further charge. If you don’t have a subscription, then you will either have to buy one or “pay as you go”. Of course, many libraries and record offices in the UK provide free access to Ancestry and its rivals.

However, unlike the NLW system, Ancestry does not provide with access to the original wills etc themselves. For this you will need to extract data from the Index and/or Calendars and apply to the Probate Registry for a copy.

Be aware that the later Calendars (especially from the 1890s onwards) do not include all the data listed above. But the standard information required to order copies of the documents from the Probate Registry is always included (i.e. name of deceased, date of grant and registry where issued).

Having spent several hours looking at the Index and Calendars this afternoon I quickly found new information about several ancestors, one of whose estate was valued at just £5!. This system is a boon. I do have one criticism however: like Findmypast and its Chelsea Pensioner collection, Ancestry’s Index does not include full address details where the death took place, just the county. As a result it may not be easy to pinpoint an ancestor. Instead you may have to click on several people of the same name to see if they are the one you want. In a land full of too many Davies, Jones and Williams, this is a pain.