Take advantage of the weak UK pound and get those birth, marriage and death certificates ordered through rootspast

If you or your friends have family ties to England and Wales, we are now offering a service to undertake the necessary research and then to obtain from the General Record Office copies of birth, marriage and death certificates.

The registration of the event must be in England or Wales and fall between 1837 and 2005. The price for the service, which includes a transcription (so you can decipher the text), is £30 UK pounds per certificate, plus the relevant postage charge to anywhere in the world.

Send a short email to paul@rootspast.com and I'll get back to you with details.
British coin denominations and their values from the historic era can sometimes be difficult to remember. A really nice web resource to bookmark, with images and explanations, is this site from the Royal Mint Museum:

If you have ever wondered whether your British ancestors may have suffered at the hands of criminals, or indeed, been accused or convicted themselves, then the criminal records from the famous Old Bailey in London are available to search online for free.

Covering the period 1674-1913, the proceedings of nearly 200,000 criminal trials can be searched by surname, conviction type and date period:


A fantastic resource!

pic - Central Criminal Court, The Old Bailey by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864)
This is the Last Will and Testament of .......

Wills are a great genealogy data source and if you have British ancestors, a free will search is available from the National Archives (1384-1858):


ps - the photo is from the churchyard in Whitby, North Yorkshire - the setting in Bram Stoker's Dracula, courtesy of Barry at http://www.flickr.com/photos/barryslemmings/6814141737/
Here is a blank 5 generation fan chart for you to use.

Click on the image below. This will make it bigger.

Hover your cursor over the larger image, then right click on your mouse, and select "Save Image As".  Name the image whatever you want and save it to your computer.

Remember the root person goes in the middle block (green) and the paternal relationships to the left (blue blocks) and the maternal  to the right (pink blocks).

The Convict

Chapter 1 - Cows

Ready to be read. Please share if you enjoy this.

Following on from my last posting about the first convict ship to arrive in Australia, I thought it would be interesting to do some detective work and find out some more about one of the convicts who was on board one of the 11 ships that landed on 26 January 1788.

The facts gathered read like a drama, and this has inspired me to tell the tale in the fashion of a serial. If you like these, please pass them on and share. You never know "The Convict" may become the next Hollywood blockbuster.
Why did Australia become a penal colony for the British?

In the period 1718 to 1783, about 50,000 British criminals were sentenced to “transportation” and were transported to the British colonies in America.

Then between 1775 and 1783 the hostilities of the American War of Independence resulted in transportation being brought to a halt, and following the war British hulks and gaols began to overflow with criminals.

In 1786, King George III proclaimed New South Wales in Australia a British colony (Captain James Cook had landed at Botany Bay in 1770) and on 23 January 1787, Secretary of State, Lord Sydney, notified Parliament that he had agreed to send the first convicts to New South Wales. He chose Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal Navy to lead the fleet and to be the first governor.

The First Fleet

On 13 May 1787, 11 ships of the First Fleet set sail from Portsmouth in Hampshire, England under Phillip’s command, who had been given instructions from the King about managing the convicts and granting and settling the land.  The fleet comprised at least 1,350 persons, of which 780 were convicts and 570 were freemen, women and children, together with four companies of marines.  

Twenty percent of the convicts were women and the oldest convict was 82 years of age.  About half the convicts had been sentenced to transportation in Middlesex, with the remainder having been tried in the county assizes in Kent, Sussex and Devon.

In addition, there were animals on board: 44 sheep, 4 cows, 1 bull and Captain Phillip’s own greyhounds, as well as farming equipment (hatchets, nails, axes, knives, and seeds).  Phillip’s instructions also included opening up a dialogue with the aboriginal peoples; to win them over to being occupied by the British.

Eight months of voyage later, on 18 January 1788, the Captain Phillip’s fleet arrived in Botany Bay.  However, the landing party were suitably unimpressed with the site and moved the fleet to Port Jackson and settled in Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788.

Phillip ordered trees to be felled and land cleared.  Tents were erected and a blacksmiths established along with a hospital and a store and an area designated separately for the convict women to be housed.
To the native population, the establishment of the colony was disturbing.  No respect was given to their territorial boundaries, and the appearance of red-coated armed soldiers with a ruthless streak against the convicts must have appeared very strange. However, it was another import that ravaged them. Within a year many of the aborigines around the cove had died of smallpox; the disease that was brought to Australian shores from England aboard the First Fleet.
The physical appearance of an ancestor can only be truly obtained from photography or a portrait.  The next best thing would be a written description.  These can be found within some army enlistment documents.

Take the example below.  This is from the enlistment documents for William Cooper, dated 5 February 1896, when he was examined to determine his fitness to join the Royal Artillery of the British Army.

He is declared “fit” by the army surgeon:

and is also measured and the following description is given:

  • Age: 19 years and 6 months;
  • Height: 5 feet 8 and a half inches;
  • Weight: 147 lbs;
  • Chest: Minimum 35 and a half inches;
  • Maximum expansion: 38 inches;
  • Complexion: Fresh;
  • Eyes: Blue;
  • Hair: Brown;
  • Religious denomination: Church of England; and
  • Distinctive marks: “Small mole left side of neck 1 inch below the collar bone”

So, why the picture of actor Kiefer Sutherland? Well, although a bit older than William Cooper, Kiefer has the same height, weight, eye and hair colour as our 1896 recruitee.
A really helpful tool for calculating the day of week an event took place.  So, if you want to know what day 16 October 1857 was, this little tool will help you:


ps - it was a Friday