Genealogical Research Archives

Incest and Folk-Dancing

by Geoff Swinfield FSG

On 17th January 2013, Steve Jones, the eminent geneticist, gave his presentation Incest and Folk-Dancing: Two things to be avoided at Gresham College, Barnard’s Inn Hall, just off Holborn in London. The Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London, took his very amusing title from the famous quotation by Sir Thomas Beecham. Of course, he mainly concentrated on the former.

He first looked at what makes males so different to females in most species of animals. In most cases, this is due to the inheritance of that very odd structure, the Y-chromosome, which appears to be a former shadow of the X-chromosome from which it has deteriorated over millions of years. For many reasons, especially the testosterone which it generates, it causes male humans to succumb, at a much higher rate than females, to death from virtually every cause of disease and accident. Indeed, men are ten times more likely to be murderers and to be murdered than are women.

Steve then looked at how males and females differ in the relative production of their sex cells. How does their strategy affect the ability to find a mate and successfully reproduce their genetic code for future generations? For some reason, women, and females of all species which partake in sexual reproduction, are prepared to pass only half their genome on to their offspring whilst acting as a conduit for their partner’s share. The benefit is, of course, the inheritance of variation caused by mutation, which ultimately allows the species to evolve through natural selection. Amazingly, Steve quoted, that all the women in the world generate about 400 eggs every second, from which, on average, 5 babies are born. To fertilise those, men are generating “river loads” of sperm, when only a few are needed.

The next part of the presentation looked at how closely we are all related to each other. The chances are that we were something like 6th cousins to the person sitting next to us. Yes we are all descended from those who unknowingly were committing some form of incest! There are just not enough separate ancestors to go around. All our pedigrees show some degree of “inbreeding” through sharing common ancestors on many lines of descent. He illustrated just how far that can go with members of European royal households. In some instances, where over seven generations there should be 128 different ancestors, a number of “royals” have far less than 20, the lowest being just 8!

Why is important to “out-breed”? That will reduce the chance of passing on inherited diseases. In some isolated populations, such as in Finland, where lineages can be traced back to very few ancestors, this has culminated in the appearance in recent generations of “recessive” diseases.

This same lack of a wide choice of mates and inherent “incest” has also produced, in some isolated Italian valleys, the elimination of many of the original surnames which had flourished there. If some men only produce daughters, their family name will be lost. Eventually it is possible for everyone who lives there to have the same surname. In the neighbouring valley, the entire population is called something else!

DNA can now be used to study inbreeding. Using Turi King’s study at Leicester University of the Y-chromosome and surnames, Professor Jones showed that those men who have rarer surnames, such as Attenborough, are very likely to have the same form of the male chromosome. On the other extreme, those with the commonest surnames such as Smith (and Jones) will carry the full range of Ys from all parts of the human species.

We can now study all the other parts of the genome, the autosomes (or non sex-determining chromosomes) through so-called “runs of homozygosity” (ROHs). Looking at the inheritance of identical large blocks of the genetic code within populations, it is possible to measure their level of in or out breeding. Thus amongst the indigenous inhabitants of some islands off the coast of Croatia, there has been a very high level of inbreeding. [Interestingly, that is very close to the area where he went to do his snail experiments in the 1970s. I was able to remind him afterwards that, as an undergraduate, I had been part of the last of those expeditions as long ago as 1972]. Very high levels of ROHs demonstrate that they, as do those from The Orkneys, must have the same common ancestors on many lines of their family tree through inbreeding or varying degrees of hidden incest.

A fascinating insight into this “sin” and its impact on population genetics was thoroughly enjoyed by all those who were lucky enough to be present. We look forward to learning about the similarly wicked effects of folk-dancing on mankind in a future talk. 

Ordering Recent Death Certificates in England & Wales

by Geoff Swinfield


I have recently completed a research project in which I was commissioned to obtain copies of over 200 death certificates of people who died in 2011 and 2012. This proved to be a very taxing task!

Online access to the indexes of registration for England and Wales extends only to the end of 2006 through and After that, currently to the end of the June 2012, they are only available for research on microfiche at seven large libraries. Those are the British Library and Westminster Archives in London and the main city libraries in Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Plymouth and Bridgend. Using the two access points in London, references were found for all the registrations. Now came the task of ordering copies of the documents.

The certificate ordering service of the General Register Office only allows copies of certificates which were registered more than six months ago to be requested at £9.25 each. Even then, a few could not be produced because, although the full reference appears in the national indexes, having been entered locally, copies of the documents have not yet found their way to the Registrar General’s collection in Southport. This enabled me to obtain 153 of the required copies.How was I to obtain the missing documents and the more recent registrations which amounted to 52? They would have to come from the local registrars.

Armed with the name of the relevant registration district, the number of the individual subdistrict and the 9-digit national reference number for each event, all of which appear in the national indexes, I naively believed that, by contacting each register office, this would be a straightforward process.

I was amazed to learn that the unique national number, attributed to each recently-registered event since the beginning of 2011, means virtually nothing locally. Most did not know what it meant or stated that “no-one has ever given us that information before when applying for a copy”. One registrar was surprised that I could quote the number and could use it to identify the correct document. Most required to know in which of their districts the event had been registered. Of course, I did not know that as the national indexes only provide a (sub)district number. Foolishly, I thought that by telling Surrey that the event was recorded in their area “7591L” that would inform them whether the document was at Guildford, Weybridge or any of their other offices. No such joy.

Incidentally, the 9-digit reference appears on every very recent (2011/12) certified copy, whether it comes from the GRO or a local registrar. This is presumably generated by the Registration Online (RON) project which was to enable rapid capture centrally of new registrations. Why can’t this be used to identify and produce any certified copy, wherever it is ordered or issued?

Often, the telephone was answered by a call centre which also dealt with the council tax and non-collection of waste. Application could only be made “on completion of a form” and I was asked to provide information about where the person had lived and died and in the case of women their maiden surname! None of which I knew! That is what I wanted to discover by obtaining a certified copy for my client.

How much was I charged for my pains? A number of the offices wanted me to tell them if the copy I needed was in a “current” or an “archived” volume as that determined its price. This was regularly quoted at £7 for a very recent record but £10 if the relevant volume was now full. As I did not have access to their records, I was at loss to know how I could have that answer! They would have to go to check.

What I eventually paid ranged from £15 as the standard charge for each copy from Monmouthshire down to as little as £4 for a certificate from South Gloucestershire. They are certainly a law unto themselves.

What struck me about the whole project was that, despite the objective of the DoVE (Digitisation of Vital Events) system, introduced in 2005 and suspended in 2010, which would link local registrars together, streamline the registration process and provide centralised access to records, this has not been achieved in any shape or form.

Useful Links:

Order BMD Certificates

Civil Registration (GENUKI page)

Holders of GRO Indexes

Register Offices in England and Wales




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Three Photographs


We were recently asked if we could help discover more about a photo of a lady in a wedding dress. Barbara Willis looks after the photo collection at the Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne, Dorset. She explained that some years ago they had been given three photos and a dress by a local lady. The dress is a long gown with a print of pink and gold flowers. Luckily, the photos had been labelled on the back. Wouldn’t it be good if all our ancestors had taken the time to do that? The dress had been featured in an exhibition of wedding dresses at the Museum and Barbara wanted to know if it would be possible to find out a little more about the people in the photos, especially the lady in the dress.


Barbara Budden wedding dress 8.10.38




Father Mother Dorothy Blake & Barbara. Just before 2nd war at Acton. Parents Golden Wedding anniversary












August 1920 Constantinople. Capt E J B Budden Middlesex Regt







Luckily, we had a date in 1938 and what we thought was a fairly uncommon surname. The people at the Museum thought the donor of the items was a Mrs Blake-Budden, but there is no birth, marriage or death to be found in the indexes of general registration for anyone with the surname Blake-Budden. As the group photo referred to Blake and Barbara, perhaps there were the forenames of the couple. Disappointingly, there were also no entries in the indexes for a man called Blake Budden.

A search for the marriage of anyone called Barbara to a man with the surname Budden met with more success. There were only two during the 1930s and one of these was for a groom with the same initials as the soldier photographed in Constantinople. Eustace J B Budden and Barbara S Budden married in Chelsea registration district in the December quarter of 1938. The surname Budden is apparently much more common that we had first thought, especially in the Dorset area. Perhaps the couple were cousins. We could conduct further searches in the future to check that out.

Eustace James B Budden was born in the Brentford district in 1891. We also found his baptism online at, which confirms that his full name was indeed Eustace James Blake Budden, christened on 15th September 1891 at St Mary’s, Acton. He was the son of Robert Blake and Edith Westaway Blake, of 5 Rosemont Road. Perhaps he preferred being called Blake rather than Eustace!

The family was found in the census of 1891 living at Rosemont Road, in 1901 at Florence Road, Ealing, and in 1911 at 43 Corfton Road, Ealing. They were all Londoners and Eustace was their only child. The parents, Robert Blake Budden and Edith Westaway Force, married in 1890 at Brentford.

Budden household 1911, 43 Corfton Road, Ealing

The 1911 census described Blake as “Student, University College”.  From an online list of all graduates from 1836 to 1926, we found that Blake obtained his BSc at University College London and appears to have graduated as late as 1919, with the Great War interrupting his studies. There is a World War I medal card for him, also available through Ancestry which confirms that he was a captain in the Middlesex Regiment.


The National Archives holds an officer’s record file for him  (WO 374/10605). It tells us that Blake was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1910, after serving in the Officer Training Corps whilst he was at Repton School. At the outbreak of war, he was on an extended stay in Frankfurt and was taken prisoner there in August 1914. He saw no active service, remaining a prisoner for the duration of the War and was repatriated shortly after the Armistice in November 1918. Soon after his capture, his father, Robert, wrote to the War Office to enquire whether there was any possibility of Blake being included in an exchange of British nationals, suggesting that his knowledge of languages would make him a useful officer if only he could be released. After the war, Blake served as a Railway Traffic Officer with the Allied Forces of Occupation in Constantinople. He relinquished his commission in 1922 and travelled back to Britain on the Orient Express.


Barbara Sloggett Budden’s birth was registered in the March quarter of 1900 in the Christchurch district of Dorset. Her death in Bournemouth in June 1990 gives the exact date as 30 January 1900. She donated the dress and photos to the Museum just two years before she died.

Barbara’s family were living at Boscastle, Iddesleigh Road, Bournemouth in 1901 and 1911. Her father, Horace, was a merchant tailor and her older sister, Dorothy, was still at home in 1901. By 1911 she was living with relatives in Hammersmith. Horace Budden had married Laura Evangeline Anderson in Brighton in 1889.

As Robert Blake Budden died in 1932, at the age of 77, in Brentford district, the group photo must be of Barbara’s parents’ golden wedding anniversary, rather than Blake’s.

Apart from Blake’s service record, which we copied at The National Archives,  the rest was all discovered during an evening’s browsing on the internet.

Wills – an Important Source


One of the most useful sources for family historians is probate documents. If an ancestor left a will, it will often contain information about members of the extended family, such as this one written by Henrietta Jones of New Southgate in 1945. Henrietta  left monetary bequests to a whole list of relatives and friends.

We might also gain an insight into what kind of life the testator lived, what their occupation was, any property they owned, as well as details of  their personal estate such as jewellery and household effects.

Even if an ancestor died without leaving a will, the next of kin or their representative would have had to apply for a grant of administration in order to dispose of the assets of the deceased.

Since 12 January 1858, all wills in England and Wales have been proved and letters of administration granted by a civil probate court, replacing the rather complicated hierarchy of ecclesiastical courts which had been operating since medieval times. Copies were sent from district registries to the Principal Probate Registry (PPR) and they compiled annual calendars.

These calendars can be searched at First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1V 6NP, with most of the more recent entries now available on computer, back to about 1920. Calendars for 1861 – 1941 (with a few years missing) have also been digitised by Ancestry and can therefore be searched online.






Copies can then be ordered, either by visiting PPR or by post. Full instructions are available on their website. Until September 2011, it was possible to get a same-day copy of any will or administration at PPR. This service was extensively used by intestacy professionals and ‘heir hunting’ firms. Unfortunately, the so-called one-hour service has now been withdrawn and the quickest option is to collect documents a week later.

It would be a mistake to assume that only our more wealthy ancestors left wills. This example shows that in 1948, George Ernest Tertius Swinfield left to his daughter, Frances Olive Payne, “one pair of steps, one deck chair, the hearth rug from my front room, one lamb wool bed cover, pots and saucepans and my ring…”. His other daughter, Sylvia, inherited her father’s bird cage.










Tracing a Silversmith’s Family


We were recently commissioned to do some research by Geoffrey Munn, managing director of  Wartski of Grafton Street, London W1 and jewellery expert on the Antiques Roadshow. He had an interest in the work of Gilbert Leigh Marks (1861-1905) and wanted to find relatives alive today who might have information or perhaps photos of him.


Marks was a talented silversmith and metalworker who, despite his career being cut short by ill health and an early death, produced perhaps 700-800 pieces. His work is recognisable by its use of patterns taken from nature and he was considered one of the finest art silversmiths working in the Arts and Crafts tradition. Marks lived in Croydon and married Florence Elizabeth Ford (1864-1917) in 1888. The couple had no children and the aim of our research was to find living relatives of Florence’s large familyof brothers and sisters, some of whom had been left pieces of Marks’s work in his wife’s will.





We then went on to trace descendants of Marks’s assistant, Louis Movio, an accomplished metal worker and silversmith in his own right. Movio was born in Milan in about 1857/8 and also died young, aged only 43, in Birmingham.

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Diary Dates for 2011

I am giving the following family history talks during 2011. All are welcome to attend. Please click the links for more details.

Wed 11 May 7.30pm

Woolwich Family History Society DNA Tests for Family Historians

Wed 18 May 2pm

Society of Genealogists Parish Registers and Parish Chest Records Online

Sat 28 May 10.30am

Society of Genealogists

I’m Stuck

Sat 4 Jun 10.30am

Society of Genealogists My Ancestor Came From London

Tue 21 Jun 7.15pm

Shropshire Family History Society Finding Living and Missing People

Wed 19 Oct 2pm

Society of Genealogists

Tracing Living Relatives and Missing People

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Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Yes, it’s almost that time of year again. Who Do You Think You Are? Live  will be at London’s Olympia once more, on 25, 26, 27 February 2011. This is the biggest event in the UK calendar for family history and much more.

All the big names will be there, including AncestryFindMyPast  and FamilySearch.  There will be a military pavilion and DNA workshops. The Society of Genealogists will be running its 18th Family History Show, with stalls hosted by many family history societies. The Society’s team of experts will be offering advice at bookable one-to-one sessions throughout all three days.

Celebrities from the TV series will be sharing their behind-the-scenes stories and there will be over 100 workshops on a huge range of subjects and aimed at all levels of experience.

I shall be there on all three days, dispensing advice in the Ask the Experts area and also running workshops on how to break down your brick walls.

The full price of  tickets is £20 per day, but there are lots of deals available, including a two for £25 offer from the Society of Genealogists, so there’s no need to pay the full admission price.

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Start Your Family Tree Week



…. will run from 26 December 2010 to 1 Jan 2011.

All the talk of family stories around the Christmas dinner table makes the festive period the perfect time to focus on building your family tree.  This seasonal initiative is a collaboration between several of the UK’s major genealogical sites.  The Society of Genealogists, Find My Past, Genes Reunited, Scotland’s People and Eneclann are all participating. They will have hints, tips and offers to help you start researching your ancestry.

Once you’ve made a start, if you could do with a helping hand, let us know. We look forward to hearing from you in 2011.  Happy New Year!

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New Ways to Find Your London Ancestors

Probably the most notable thing to happen in the world of family history in the past couple of years has been the appearance of so much new information on the internet. This is not a completely new thing, of course. Online genealogical listings and indexes have been around almost as long as the internet. Anything which makes searching easier and more accessible to family historians is clearly a good thing and as a result, more people are now tracing their ancestors than ever before.

But we are always told that we should treat these secondary sources of information with caution. A secondary source may be described as anything which does not show you the original document, as it was recorded at the time the information was provided. This might be an entry in a parish register, a page in a census or maybe a will or marriage licence allegation.

What is so exciting about recent developments on the internet is the huge number of original documents we can now examine, often at a modest cost of course, from the comfort of our own homes.

The most significant of these collections for anyone with London ancestors  has to be the collection of parish registers held by the London Metropolitan Archives  which has recently been digitised in partnership with Ancestry.  London has always been a difficult area for research, with its high density of population, huge number of parishes and the surprising mobility of its inhabitants. Being able to search a significant number of these parishes online, for your ancestor’s baptism, marriage or burial has made it possible to find much more about these Londoners than ever before.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect and there are still some problems to overcome. Not all London parish registers in the LMA’s collection have yet been included. Some images are online but have not yet been indexed. Sometimes the indexing will include errors and omissions – hardly surprising when you think of the enormous volume of work involved and see the damaged state of some of the registers and the difficult handwriting they contain. Many registers have fallen victim to the Blitz or the Great Fire and do not even survive at all. Burials in the Capital are often particularly difficult to locate, with many graveyards becoming full and increasingly unsanitary much sooner than those in the provinces.

If your London ancestors  are still proving to be elusive, perhaps we at GSGS can help you. There may be other sources we can use or alternative methods of searching. We are always happy to talk over your particular problem and suggest a possible solution. Contact us  either by phone or e-mail to see how we can help.

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Sticky: Professional Research in London


Welcome to my research pages. My name is Geoff Swinfield and I am a professional genealogist covering all of the British Isles. This is achieved using all the major online databases and the resources found in these London repositories:

Society of Genealogists, LDS London Family History Centre, London Metropolitan Archives, Westminster Archives, British Library, Guildhall Library, Principal Probate Registry and The National Archives.

If you would like to discuss your research and/or need any assistance, please use the Contact Us Tab at the top of this page or telephone: 0208 325 3670

Address: 14 Beaconsfield Road, Mottingham, London SE9 4DP


Research Director of Achievements Ltd (1983-1993) and Ancestors Ltd (1993-1999).

Proprietor of Geoff Swinfield Genealogical Services (1999 to date).

Teacher of genealogical sources and techniques at Society of Genealogists and to family history societies.

Collaborated with a number of medical establishments to apply genealogical techniques to the study of families with inherited diseases.

Probate and intestacy research for solicitors and other professionals.


Licentiate in Heraldry and Genealogy (LHG), PhD in Genetics.


General genealogy throughout Britain, probate research, tracing living relatives and finding missing people.

DNA tests and their application to genealogy.

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