How land records can help your research

The Victorian house I mentioned was constructed around 1865-70. The local Poor Law Rate Books indicated that from 1865, the occupant was paying rates for a “house and land with a gross rateable value of £33. 0s. 0d at Green Head” and that the house was actually owned by the business owned by the occupier and his two brothers.[1]  However ownership of the land was not transferred to the brothers until November 1871.  Prior to the transfer the land had been owned by William Rishworth, a yeoman farmer who lived in a village a few miles away.  William’s wife was Mary Paget and her father, William Paget, a farmer, bequeathed the land to Mary in his will made on 16th December 1812.[2] The Tithe apportionment map* of 1842 identifies a number of Closes (parcels of land) being owned by William Rishworth but being occupied by William Smith. These same Closes are mentioned in the three indentures** made on November 16th 1871 and registered at West Riding Registry of Deeds Wakefield, which records the conveyance of the land from William Rishworth to the brothers.[3]

In 1816, Joseph Paget, by the means of a deed of lease and release***, passed the ownership of his land to his four farmer sons, William (father of Mary), Joshua, Thomas and James.[4] In 1801 the Pagets also acquired land from the widow of Henry Comaleach. In the deed dated 1796 which records Henry’s own acquisition of the land, mention is made to land previously owned by The Reverend Jonathan Kighley, who had an “Estate in Utley”, ‘by virtue of an Act of Parliament obtained for enclosing the common moor and waste land within the manor of Kighley(sic, Thwaites, and Newsholme, laying on the south side of the Turnpike road from Kighley to Skipton’.  The land was enclosed by Lords Richard and George Henry Cavendish, Benjamin Ferrand, Reverend Charles Knowlton, Rector of Keighley, Joshua Field  ‘and others’  in 1780.[5]

The Local Studies Library has a copy of a sketch map drawn in 1612 for the Earl of Devonshire, which identified his land, in the parish of Keighley. The original of this map is held at Chatsworth House. Although not to scale, this map identifies areas of common moors and waste land around the town and the Turnpike road. Until the enclosure map can be located it cannot be proved the house is built on enclosed land, as seems likely.

*You can learn more about Tithes and Tithe Apportionment by reading the

**An Indenture is a binding legal agreement, contract or other document involving two or more parties. These documents got their name from the “indented” side of the document. The agreement would be written out twice (or more as required) and the document was divided up by cutting a “wavy” line. To prove a document was not a fraudulent copy, the two sides could be matched up together.

***Lease and release This site gives an excellent explanation of lease and release

There are many different types of deed and the University of Nottingham has produced a useful list which explains the various different types.



[1] Keighley Local Studies Library BK1/15/1-60.

[2] West Riding Registry of Deeds Ref QM/677/730.  

[3] West Riding Registry of Deeds Ref 664/260/298 Ref 664/261/299, Ref 664/261/300.

[4] West Riding Registry of Deeds Ref  GI/180/196. 

[5] Keighley Library Bk 315.

Land Records

The prospect of looking for your ancestors in land records might seem rather daunting at first sight, particularly if you are relatively new to family history research, but they can be a fascinating source of information. One of the first problems is knowing where to start. There are many different types of deeds and understanding what each type of deed is, and what type of infromation it contains can be , at least initially, quite challenging. For students of house history, land records are essential tools. Even if you live in a modern house, the land upon which it stands has a history and an exploration of the records can yield names of both land owners and tenants.

As part of my MLitt Degree studies, I undertook some research into the land upon which my 1970s home stands. Opposite is a large Victorian detached house. The deeds of my house, and those of the house opposite, which I obtained via the Land Registry for a small fee, confirmed what I already suspected.[1] My home was built on land which once formed part of the gardens of the old house.  My own deeds and the deeds of the house opposite were about 95% identical, with the only difference being relevant to my own house. The deeds gave some names, and I was then able to visit the wonderful Registry of Deeds in Wakefield to start tracking back the records relevant to the land upon which my home sits.

Living in Yorkshire I am extremely fortunate to be able to visit the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield, the repository for summaries of the registered deeds deposited between 1704 and 1970. They are indexed by personal name and place and held by West Yorkshire Archive Service. The West Riding Justices of the Peace, by Act of Parliament, were made responsible for the establishment of a registry to record deeds, except copyhold and short leases, relating to land in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Its main purpose was to provide dependable proof of ownership. The West Riding included the area which became part of North Yorkshire after local government reorganisation in 1974.

A deed is a legal document. It is signed and delivered, especially if it concerns the ownership of property or legal rights. Such deeds include mortgage deeds, contracts, indentures, instruments, wills, and other legal documents.

In 2016, the Wakefield archive building was closed to enable archivists to remove all their holdings to a new purpose built archive.[2] Local researchers are eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Archive building on February 11th 2017.[3]

Tomorrow I will describe what I was able to discover about the land by making use of material held in Wakefield and Local Studies Library.




From the Workhouse to Oxord University

My recent blogs have been looking at education records, and I will conclude with a story about the boy from the workhouse who went to university, which I hope illustrates the fascinating details and information which can be gleaned from education records.

I was looking at workhouse records and came across the story of 5 orphaned brothers, one of whom was called John Dawson, aged 9  in 1840, when a letter had been written to relatives seeking financial support for him and his four brothers, who were aged 13, 11, 7 and 5 . Two of the relatives were clergymen and one of these offered to give John a home. There is evidence from workhouse records that early in 1841, John made the trip from West Yorkshire to Modbury in Devon. Fortunately he arrived in time for the 1841 census, where he can be found living with the Rev.Isaac Dawson and his wife Elizabeth.

By 1851, John was a “commoner” at Brasenose College Oxford. I contacted the archivist at Brasenose College who was able to find the following information:

According to the Brasenose College Register (1909) and Joseph Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 (1891) John Dawson was born in Yorkshire, the third son of William of Sutcliffe, Yorkshire. He matriculated (the formal ceremony of admittance as a member of the University) on 2 February 1849, aged 18.  At matriculation his status was given as armigeri filius, son of an esquire (originally a man entitled to bear heraldic arms). He was a Commoner (i.e. he did not hold a scholarship or exhibition).  He was awarded his B.A. in 1852 and his M.A. in 1857. The Master of Arts degree conferred full membership of the University with voting rights.

His father was indeed called William and Sutcliffe was part of the address where he lived, according to the Parish Registers. The information also mentioned being the son of an Esquire and it is highly probable that this information came from Isaac, who was in fact John’s great uncle.  Whilst I have not been able to find definitive evidence, I have reason to believe there is an element of truth in the statement. By 1861 John was back living in Modbury, where he can also be found in both the 1871 and 81 census records. By 1861 John was quite a wealthy young man, having inherited from Isaac:

“the residue of my property of what nature or kind soever whether personal or real to John Dawson of Modbury Bachelor of Arts of Brasenose College Oxford my grandnephew also I give and devise to the same John Dawson of Modbury etc.all my freehold property at Modbury consisting of houses gardens and an orchard and my freehold house and premises at Saltash Cornwall“ John was the executor of the will.

At the time of the 1891 census John was a Boarder at a lodging house in Oxford, still “living on his own means”. However it would appear that by the late 1880s life seems to have started to go a little haywire for John. I located a newspaper cutting which related to a “John Dawson MA of Brasenose College” being summoned by the Oxford Vice Chancellors Court for disorderly conduct early in 1889.

Oxford University Archives were able to provide me with copies of the case notes. The disorderly conduct involved John striking one of the college staff with a stick, amongst other less serious misdemeanours, and an unpaid bill. John failed to appear before the court and a warrant for “the apprehension of the defendant” was issued. Eventually the university instructed baliffs to seize John’s possessions. Oxford University Archives have been able to supply me with copies of the documents relating to the case including the bailiffs levy, a list of the goods seized , and the result of the auction of the goods.

There are also a couple of other newspaper cuttings which mention a John Dawson being drunk and disorderly. The area of Oxford is that shown in the court papers.

From the above, you can see how traditional records have been complemented by the university records and I hope this blog will encourage you to explore your ancestors’ education.

Other Education Records

University education records might not seem an obvious place to look for your ancestor. The earliest universities are Oxford which was established in the 12th century, followed by Cambridge. Form the 15th century onwards, four universities St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were established. Trinity College Dublin dates from the late 16th century. Both London and Durham universities were established in the 19th century.  Universities have Alumni records and a number of these have been digitised. It is possible to obtain information, such as the name of the student’s father, home location etc. They also have many other records, for example Oxford University Chancellors Court where, amongst other things, students could be investigated and punished for their misdemeanours. More recent information will of course be subject to the requirements of the Data Protection legislation.

Other providers of education include the Mechanics Institutes and the WEA.  Mechanics Institutes were intended to provide educational opportunities for working men although there are examples of them becoming more like clubs for factory owners and the professional classes. In my home town, 3 daughters of a local clergyman would walk to town in order to borrow books from the Mechanics Institute Library. You might have heard of them: Charlotte Emily and Anne Bronte.  As a backlash, the local Temperance Movement set up a meeting place “free from the influence of alcohol” where members of the labouring classes (men!) could meet, read newspapers and listen to lectures. A number of non-conformist churches and chapels had their own educational establishments too where it is possible to locate ancestors.

The WEA continues to thrive and is providing educational courses in the twenty first century. One of the requirements placed upon Workhouse Guardians by the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was to provide education for pauper children at a time when education provision for the children of the poor. Guardian minute books may contain information about the employment of teaching staff and lesson content. It is also worth checking trade directories to identify schools which operated in the local community.

Tomorrow, I will tell the story of my research which uncovered a student who went from a workhouse to Oxford University.

School Log Books


School log books can be a wonderful resource, not only for family historians but also for local history researchers.

The keeping of school log books was established in England in 1862. It was introduced to Scotland the following decade. Elementary schools were required to be accountable to the public and had to maintain a record of their activities. By the 1980s however, many school ceased to maintain the school log book. Unsurprisingly, and in common with other types of records, not every school log book has survived, but with luck you will have a fascinating insight into the life of the school, the pupils and staff.

When the books were introduced, the head teacher was required to write up the log book each day, but by the 1987s it was reduced to once a week. When schools were inspected, the inspector examined the log book to ensure things were being done.

Log books are also give an opportunity to read about life in the local community too. Whilst the entries focussed on the academic activities of the school they also report of adverse weather, which had the potential to disrupt attendance by the pupils. Outbreaks of contagious illnesses featured too, particularly if children were sent home to avoid infecting their classmates.  Another reason for absences, particularly in rural schools, were the absences resulting from children being required to help with harvesting. Some schools in London also granted holidays to enable children to go hop picking. National events would be mentioned, celebrations of the jubilees and the impact of war on the local community.

As family historians we are familiar with the 1939 Register which was collated at the outbreak of war. Many children from London schools were evacuated to locations considered to be places of safety. This explains why sometimes that relative you are seeking is somewhere else completely and not with their family.


Nineteenth and early twentieth century school records.

Going to school is something we take for granted, even if school days were not necessarily the happiest of our lives, but have you ever given any thought to how your ancestors were educated?

Some researchers are often shocked when looking at early census returns to find that very young children were working, but in many households, all able bodied people had to contribute to the household finances. My own grandfather left school at the age of eleven, but was able to avoid working in the Lancashire cotton mills and found work as a junior clerk in a cycle shop!

Yet until the 1870 Education Act was passed (in England) few children received any education. Much of the education available was delivered by charities and the churches, Catholic, Anglican and non-conformist. However, it was not until school boards were established as a result of the Act of Parliament that the provision of formal education for children became the norm. All children had to attend school until the age of ten, the age was raised to eleven in 1893 and twelve in 1899. Education was not free, and it was not until 1891 that fees were abolished. There were similar requirements in Scotland but the legislation was separate.

If you are able to identify the educational establishment your ancestor attended, you may be lucky and be able to find the school admission records and school log book. In recent years FindMyPast has been able to put many school records on line covering the period 1870 to 1914, and Ancestry has a collection of admission books from schools in London for the period 1840 to 1911. In addition to the London schools, there are other school records available on Ancestry, including the public schools Eton and Harrow. (In the UK a Public School is a private fee paying school.)

Admission records will confirm the date the child was admitted to school, their date of birth and the name of the parent, usually father, and the address where the family lived. The roll can also tell you whether or not this was the first school the child attended, their religion and the date the child left school. Sometimes the family moved away from the locality, and the name of a new school might be included too.

I once was able to confirm the death of a father when the admission roll information had been amended and the mother was named as the parent. A small note in the margin of the register confirmed the father had died.

Obviously there are issues of Data Protection, which means that only records over 100 years old can be accessed, but where they can be found these records can often reinforce information gathered from other sources, for example census records.

Admission records are not the only school records which are worth examination. School log books are another wonderful resource and in my next blog, I will give some examples of the information these books can provide.

Salt Lake City here I come.

I am starting to get excited about my trip to Rootstech 2017, which takes place in Salt Lake City between February 8th and 11th. This will be my second trip to Rootstech, and I think I will be much better prepared to make the most of my trip. Rootstech hosts an amazing number of workshops (more than 200 over 3 days) and a large exhibition and I have downloaded the app onto my phone to help with my planning of the various workshops I hope to attend. I will be doing a lot of walking around the conference centre, so comfortable shoes are an essential, along with boots, mittens scarf and hat.

I am also looking forward to meeting many of the amazing genealogists I met last year, and to making some new friends. I will be tweeting and blogging about the event too, so you can see what I am getting up to.

You can find out more about Rootstech on the website:

A visit to Salt Lake City is probably on every family historian’s “Bucket List” as we are all probably aware of the amazing resources which have been gathered over the years. The quantity of the resources of the Family History Library is staggering.  According to the website, more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed records, almost ¾ million microfiche, more than 350,000 books etc and more than 4.500 periodicals and other electronic resources are available to be researched and at no cost to the researcher. They have records from Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa, with the majority of records being about individuals who lived pre 1930.

There are lots of people around to help you find what you are seeking, so it is one of the things I am planning to do whilst in Salt Lake. Last year I was able to view the microfilmed records of the Kent parish where ancestors were baptised in 1805. I hope to be able to push the lines back a little further next month.

Walking in your Ancestors Footsteps

Spending a few days in Edinburgh has given me the opportunity to walk around some of the locations where, according to the 1851 census, ancestors once resided.  My walk took me along parts of the Royal Mile and down some of the “Closes” which run from the Royal Mile down towards Princes Street Gardens and the railway line which runs alongside the gardens.

Prior to my walk, I spent a little time investigating some of the old maps of the city, and reading about the history of what is known as the “Old Town”. A wonderful resource for family and social historians is the collection of maps available on line via the National Library of Scotland : This is an amazing collection of digitised maps covering not only Scotland but the whole of the UK. If you have never looked at the site I can recommend it highly. Of particular interest was the collection of town plans of Edinburgh, as I was aware that during the 19th century, significant areas of the Old Town had been redeveloped and improved to get rid of the insanitary conditions which had been rife in the area, and which could well explain the derivation of the name for Edinburgh of “Auld Reekie”.

When we search census records, we are obviously looking for a name and when we find the name, there is an address, or location which helps us to “place” the household during the year in question. The pages we view on line form part of the enumerators book and list all the households he (and it was usually a he) visited, in order to gather the census data.  Whilst the address where your ancestors lived may still exist, it may not necessarily be identical to the address where, more than 100 years ago the family resided. Not least, streets could have been renumbered, redeveloped or even renamed.  This is why it is important to check any maps, and also to look at the description of the enumeration area which is written at the front of the enumerators book.  By comparing the enumerators description with a contemporaneous map , you can then compare the evidence with a modern map to assess what of todays location resembles that of yesteryear.

The first thing I noticed was that Cockburn Street, which curls down from the Royal Mile towards Market Street, was not present on the 1850s town plan. I subsequently found reference to it having been created about 15 years after the 1851 census in a book entitled Lost Edinburgh by Hamish Coghill published in 2005. This meant that at least some of the area I intended to walk, would not be entirely recognisable to the ancestors.

These two maps show how the streets changed between 1851 and 1866 and cover the area where I took my walk at the weekend. They give a great example of how the topography of an area can change in a short period.

Another useful resource for genealogists and historians are the maps, produced by Alan Godfrey. There is a comprehensive list of old maps available to buy at reasonable price on their website.

So if you are planning to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors, it is well worth doing some preliminary research into your proposed route, checking the enumeration district description and comparing the information with local plans or maps before setting out to explore.

My Christmas New Year Challenge (Part Three) – Grave concerns

One of the more unusual resources which family historians can make use of are the graves where ancestors were buried. During the last few months, I have been able to solve a couple of genealogical puzzles by identifying other occupants of family graves. In the first instance, I had been told that the family “knew” that a particular surname was connected to the family, but my client only knew of this information as a family story, so had no source or any other knowledge to explain the connection, or if indeed the family story was correct. Having identified the grave number from an index in the Local Studies Library, I called into the Bereavement Services office, where the staff found the necessary information I had requested, and then proceeded to locate the names of the other people buried the family grave.  Sure enough, two of the occupants bore the “mystery” name and from that snippet of information, it was possible to identify the connection, to the satisfaction of the client.

My two blogs earlier this week about Ivor Tempest Greenwood noted that various members of the family emigrated to Australia. Another family group of emigrants were identified and the final connection was made by investigating the identity of the one year old child who was buried in the same grave as Ivor Tempest Greenwood.

This child was the second burial in the family grave, and took place on 16 December 1902. The first burial which took place on 20 September 1900, was William Harper, a compositor, the husband of Sarah Harper nee Bruncker, and Ivor’s grandfather. At the time of William’s burial, his last address was given as The Asylum Lancaster, which is supported by the evidence of his whereabouts given in the 1891 census. Ivor was buried on 19 September 1914 and the final burial was that of William’s wife Sarah on 10 September 1928.

The child, John William Dray, was born too late to be recorded in the 1901 census, his birth was registered in the last quarter of 1901. The burial register provided the address where he had been living. By searching for the address, rather than by name, it was possible to find a John and Louisa Dray recorded at the same address. Knowing Sarah Greenwood nee Harper had a sister Louisa, it was a simple task to find her marriage in 1897 to John Dray. The church registers are available in the West Yorkshire collection on Ancestry, and the details confirmed that Louisa Harper was indeed the daughter of William a compositor.  John William Dray was Ivor Tempest Greenwood’s cousin.

This family sailed from London to Australia on 8 May1914 on board the Osterley arriving on  22 June. John Dray served in the Australian Imperial Force, enlisting on 5 November 1914. His attestation papers confirm that he had also served in the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, the regiment in which men from Keighley and the Worth Valley served.

It was only by investigating the identity of John William Dray that it was possible to identify another branch of the extended Greenwood/Harper/Bruncker family who made the long trip to Brisbane.

This week’s collection of blogs has given examples of how various strands of evidence can be used to put together a family story. Now all I can hope is that someone in Australia might be able to pick up the trail and identify any living relatives of Private Ivor Tempest Greenwood.


My Christmas New Year Challenge (Part Two)

My research into the family of Ivor Tempest Greenwood made use many of the usual resources any researcher uses whilst undertaking family history research. Birth, marriage and death certificates, census records and parish records are the everyday tools we can use, and we have to use the clues these records give us to piece together the evidence for the family story. Other available records can be scrutinised and form all the evidence,  the “jigsaw puzzle” of the family story develops.

Ivor’s father was William Henry Greenwood. His military records explain his whereabouts in 1901, as he was not to be found anywhere in the UK. The military records confirm he was on military service in South Africa at the time of 1901 census, presumably fighting in the Boer War.[1]  The papers also include information that William was awarded The Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Cape Colony, Orange State, and Transvaal South Africa 1901. So it I reassuring to know that I have not missed or misread a census record.

In 1911, the family are living together, along with William’s mother-in-law Sarah Harper, nee Bruckner and his nephew Henry Kenneth Bruncker, who was born in Derbyshire in 1908. I wanted to see how Henry fitted into the family tree and was eventually able to see how he was connected to the family by using evidence from ships passenger lists. A Thomas and Alice Bruncker, along with two children Henry and Hilda left England and arrived in Brisbane on 29th May 1913. From this information I was able to find the marriage of Thomas James Bruncker to Alice Harper, the sister of William Henry Greenwood’s wife Sarah. They married in Derwent Derbyshire on 20th May 1907. The 1911 census record for Thomas and Alice Bruncker gives their places of birth as Merthyr Tydfil and Manchester respectively. Hilda M Bruckner was born in 1912 also in Derbyshire.

Alice Harper was born on 13th April 1884 in Chorlton Manchester, where her father William, a compositor, was working. He was living in lodgings in Chorlton at the time of the 1881 census, whilst his wife and children were living with Mary Bruncker in South Wales. In 1891, William was incarcerated in the Lancaster Asylum and Sarah and her daughters Sarah, Mary and Louise were again in Wales. Alice however, was living in Bradford, a visitor in the household of Thomas Lewis and his wife Alice. No relationship is shown other than visitor, however, some extensive digging finally unearthed Alice Harper’s relationship to Alice Lewis, who was a Bruncker by birth, married a Mr Salisbury and finally a Mr Lewis, both ceremonies taking place in South Wales.

Alice Harper and her sister Mary, who was born 18th January 1880, were both baptised as adults on 7th April 1898, the same day as their nephew, Ivor’s brother, Henry Bruncker Greenwood. Their address was given as Fruit Street Keighley and their father William’s occupation was given as Compositor.[2]

Henry Bruncker Greenwood, set sail in in 1922. He was one of the first passengers to travel to Australia on board the SS Sophocles, a ship of the Aberdeen Line which had its maiden voyage in 1922. He arrived in Brisbane in May 1922 and he married in 1927. Henry was not the only passenger with the name Bruncker on board the SS Sophocles. Also on board were Eliseus Bruncker, his wife Llynilla and 10 month son, also called Eliseus. Eliseus Snr was born in Wales in 1888 and his parents, identified from census records, were Henry John Bruncker, a mason and Jane Thomas. Their marriage took place in Keighley at St John’s Church Ingrow on 2nd July 1883.[3] Henry’s father’s name is given as Thomas Bruncker, also a mason. Thomas was the brother of Sarah Harper nee Bruncker – the grandmother of Ivor Tempest Greenwood.

It surely cannot be a coincidence that Henry and Eliseus both travelled on board the same ship to Australia.

[1] Source British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008, 1908 Territorials Army Attestation papers; The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO).

[2] Source West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. ;West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; St  Mary’s Church Eastwood Keighley.

[3] Source West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. ;West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; St  John’s Church Ingrow Keighley.