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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