Most of the earlier immigrants to the American colonies came from England. Thousands also arrived from Wales, mainly through Pennsylvania and Virginia. Tracing your ancestors back into England or Wales can be easy or difficult, depending on the time period. If your ancestors arrived after 1906, a passenger manifest would provide their specific place of previous residence. Before 1906, most passenger arrival lists would just give the name of a country as their birthplace or last place of residence. Marriage or death certificates in their new home might reveal their birthplace in the ‘Old Country’.
England and Wales have decennial censuses from 1841 forward, with some fragmented censuses surviving in certain localities before 1841. These are a fantastic tools for finding your ancestors who were alive, as well as each member of the household living there in that time period. There are also civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths from 1837 forward in both England and Wales. The indexes are online, and the original certificates can be ordered from each county’s civil registration office.
Before 1831, the ability to locate your ancestors in England depends mainly on the parish registers. The Church of England parish registers have been digitized and indexed online, back to the earliest date of each parish’s existence. The earliest parish records extend back as far as 1538. Some parish registers have been lost, but most are extant. Spellings may vary, as there was no concept of exact spelling until the mid to late 1800’s. Many people were illiterate, and spelling was simply a matter of the clerk or census taker recording it the way it sounded to him. In the earlier censuses, ages were rounded off to the nearest ‘5’, which can throw an amateur researcher off the correct trail.
There are also meticulously maintained probate records and land records in England and Wales, which often provide valuable genealogical information. For those who were not so fortunate to own land or leave an inheritance, there are tax lists and poor house records that can be helpful.
Researching in England and Wales can be fairly straightforward, but occasionally, there were ancestors who eluded the usual record keeping process. A skilled professional genealogist knows various other types of obscure records that can be employed for filling in the gaps. Heritage Consulting has excellent England and British Isles researchers with decades of experience. They know the varying cultures from one area of the country to another, their principle industries, and their geographically unique records. They have solved some very difficult cases, and broken through where others had tried and given up hope.