General Genealogical Guidance


This page is very much "new-born" and we expect it will be expanded and improved frequently as thoughts occur to us. It should be worth your checking back to see what we have added.

This site is broadly Arbuthnot-surname dedicated.  It also covers the ancestors of a few specific closely-related individuals. Frequently we receive enquiries from people which relate to other families or branches in which we have not specialised. Rather than re-type the same answers each time, we refer people to this page, which contains links which may be useful. We do not vouch for the accuracy of information on other sites. The guidance given on this page is based on our experience as amateur genealogists who have used the internet and have found it both helpful but not always reliable (like Burke's Peerage, Landed Gentry, etc, qv below). A good way to begin your enquiries is to gather information, share it with others, and receive more information in return. For example, a cousin of yours might (unknown to you) have a birth certificate or marriage certificate or death certificate which tells you something new - like where to look next.

Without wishing to preach we begin by referring to the dictionary for a definition of this subject:

  Genealogical:   1  of or concerning genealogy; 2 tracing family descent.  Genealogical tree a chart like an inverted branching tree showing the descent of a family.   Genealogy   1  a a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor;   b an account or exposition of this;   2  the study and investigation of lines of descent.  

Surname-specific notice boards
There are three particular surname specific message boards, hosted by (this site is good because it automatically notifies folk with an interest in the name - as does Geneanet and RootsWeb-List [click subscribe to Arbuthnott-L]), (the most popular s-s notice board).   There are also surname specific resource boards such as DistantCousin. The Arbuthnot page is specifically targetted in these links, but if you are less interested in Arbuthnot than Smith, delete Arbuthnot and insert Smith. We urge you to make your subject stand out [full names, dates, place], i.e. not "Help please" but "Mary Arbuthnot (1823-1901) married Thomas Smith. Alaska". You should get a response (eventually). So far as Arbuthnot enquiries are concerned, you may be better off posting on this site by clicking here. There are sites containing family trees such as GenCircles. Again, the Arbuthnot name is specifically targetted in this link.
There are several general genealogical chat boards including
There are also numerous sites to which people post family trees such as and WorldConnect
Another site is at
Wikitree  is a relatively new site for all family trees - so far we have not found it very useful.
If the surname in which you are interested is sufficiently rare, you may find it listed at The Guild of One Name Studies

You are seeking information on a specific person
The largest on-line searchable database in the world must be that at Latter Day Saints which now contains the 1880 British Census and the 1881 US & Canada census records.
For people who were born post-1899 and died since 1995, we have had some successes at The webmaster at that site does not reply to emails and there is no facility to join the members' area.
We have found information at Gendex Index of surnames but this database appears at the moment unreachable online.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission covers Commonwealth service personnel killed 1914 - 1947.
Two further sites might be worth trying. The first is Family Tree Searcher which ostensibly finds family trees on the Internet. Enter your ancestor information just once to search for family trees at multiple online genealogy databases
The second uses an interactive questioning process to guide people as to where they might find records on the Internet that could further their research. These records could be census records, birth records, death records, directories, obituaries, etc, namely Advice for Effective Genealogy Searches. Answer a series of simple questions and get customized advice on the most effective next steps for searching for your ancestors.

Latter Day Saints, etc
The largest on-line searchable database in the world must be that at Latter Day Saints which now contains the 1880 British Census and the 1881 US & Canada census records.
Their online CDs include
England, Wales &  Scotland 1881 Census (SKU 50169) [£29.95] and
British Vital Records (SKU 50126) [£22.95] and
Pedigree Resource Files 1-25 [being Vol 1] (SKU 50255) [£55] and
Pedigree Resource Files 26-45 (SKU 50256-50259) [a waste of money at £17.95 each - buy Vol 2 instead] and
Family History Library Catalogue (SKU 50081) [£5.95] and
Personal Ancestral File 4.04 (SKU 77062) [£2] and
Personal Ancestral File 5.218 (SKU 77064) [£5.95].

LDS  CDs not yet available online include Western Europe Vital records index (SKU 50145) [£28.95], and Pedigree Resource Files 46 - 55 (SKU 50260-50262) [£17.95 each]. Pedigree Resource File Vol 2 (SKU 50261) is disks 26 - 50 [£55]. UK  Order tel: 08700 102051.

General genealogical sites which will lead you all over the place
"Cyndi's List" is the best genealogy site on the internet, containing links to every imaginable resource in the world. and also provide a number of links.  There are also 
There are also numerous genealogical newsgroups.

General search engine which is invaluable
Google search engine


In Britain, a married woman and a widow will properly be referred to as Mrs John Smith or Mrs J.W. Smith; the senior married woman in the family may be known as Mrs Smith. A divorced woman is known as Mrs Jane Smith (or she may use her own initials). The senior woman in her family may be called Miss Smith, while other unmarried women in the family will be called Miss Jane Smith.

In USA and Canada a married woman will be called Mrs Jane Jones Smith.

Advice concerning UK enquiries
The UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It ioes not include Eire being the island of Ireland not including the counties which make up Northern Ireland. Great Britain is England-and-Wales and Scotland and various islands.
The National Register Archive is searchable by corporate, Personal name, family name and place name. General Registry Office is here.

Advice concerning English and Welsh enquiries
- 1837 being the all-important year
It is easiest to think of England and Wales as one country, since their civil registration records are centralised in the same places. Currently a project is well underway whereby all births, deaths & marriages are being collated by FreeBMD. The FreeBMD Project objective is to provide free Internet access to the Civil Registration index information for England and Wales 1837 - 1983. The Civil Registration system for recording births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales has existed since mid-1837, and the register index covered by this project comprises a large manually created collection of volumes covering the period to 1983. This index (which you can also visit in person at the Family Record Center described two paragraphs below) is one of the most significant single resources for genealogical research back to Victorian times. Note, however, that significant penalties for failure to register births, marriages or deaths were introduced only in the 1870s: prior to that, it does appear that not everyone bothered to comply with the civil registration requirements.  Once completed, the FreeBMD project will  provide on-line birth/marriage/death index information for the period 1837-1983, and increasingly it already does so for most years between 1837 and 1910.  The eagerly awaited date of project completion must remain hard to predict: the rate of progress continues to accelerate as the number of volunteers supporting the project with their time increases.  On the other hand, the final leap from 99% to 100% coverage seems likely to be delayed by the need carefully to evaluate errors, illegible entries and ambiguities in the underlying data as well as the unavoidable errors implicit in the transcription process itself.   If present trends continue it appears reasonable to estimate that the project will be 99% complete in respect of the period 1837 - 1983 by approximately 2007. The partially completed database is already searchable. This excellent project is sponsored by which has a banner on the FreeBMD page but is not itself free.

The new England and Wales registration index site, Family Research Link, at is an excellent resource - but expensive. For each Quarter from Q3 1837 to Q4 1983 you can view at your own screen the image of a page from the alphabetically sequenced manual index of births, marriages and deaths held at the Family Record Center (described in the next paragraph).   The quality of the images is not uniformly legible, and you may come across the occasional missing page, but the providers have committed to improve these aspects of their service.  Each page you  view will cost you 9.09 pence (or less if you prepay for a sufficiently large number of page views).  Each page is a copy of one microfiched page from the manual index.  When there is more than one page to choose from, pages may not always be sequenced alphabetically, which is sometimes also an issue with the manual index volumes themselves, especially before approximately 1868.  So you may spend money looking at pages that might not have the name you are actually searching for eg: You want the name ARBUTHNOT,   April-May-June Quarter 1841. You are given a choice of 1 page ARA-ARB, 5 pages ARB-ARB, 1 page ARB-ARC. Hence one sometimes has to open at least 3 pages to view all the ARBUTHNOT names for that one quarter in 1841. Where the underlying manual indexes are typed or printed (which applies to a most 'vital events' after about 1868 and a few from the earlier decades) the number of names per page is far greater than with the beautiful old handwritten pages, and the number of pages you will have to pay to study is correspondingly diminished.   The computer searchable data accessible at the same website for the period 1984 - 2002 is more user friendly because the underlying government database was computerized, and the index information usefully supplemented, from 1984.   1837online will become, for many genealogical purposes, redundant for the period 1837 - 1983 when the searchable database at FreeBMD is 100% complete.  It is, however, the way to find b, m & d since 1983.

The Family Record Centre in London has moved from St Catherine's House to Myddleton St, Islington. There they hold a large manual Index arranged, up to end 1983, in 4 alphabetically sequenced sets of volumes per annum, one for each quarter: index data for 1984 and subsequent years are collected in volumes covering one full year at a time which speeds up your search. Indexes covering the most recent year tend to be added approximately 12 months after the end of the year in question. Full birth/marriage/death details are not in the index which contains merely enough information to enable one to locate an entry, following which one can buy a copy Certificate, which contains as much detail as is available. The production and supply of actual copy certificates is processed several hundred miles away, in Lancashire, and there is a time lag - generally of approximately one week - (which delay can be reduced by handing over more money) between ordering a certificate and receiving it. The price per certificate  increased to GBP 7 (approximately USD 11) in April 2003.   The FRC also holds on fiche a number of  Wills prior to c.1867. You can also see these at the National Archives which is the new site in Kew under which the Public Records Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission are being merged. The Public Records Office has a mass of original documents although they have recently inconveniently relocated to the country. They have recently allowed access to the 1901 Census. For 1901 English Arbuthnot census records, click here. Certificates can be ordered online here (pw requires two letters minimum and one number minimum).

Baptisms, marriages and burials in England were also recorded by the church, and before 1837 the church records - parish records - are often the best (or only) available sources.   Through the eighteenth century these records acquired an increasingly standardised and legible format, and by the early nineteenth century, ministers frequently also included in baptism records a note of birth dates, and in burial records a note of death dates.   Parish records in a less structured format frequently survive tracking back to the English Civil War and sometimes earlier.   Parish records are generally accessible as transcriptions (frequently indexed) and / or fiche copies of the original register entries, collected together in the county record offices, generally sited in the English county towns.  The best way to access these records, usually,  is to visit the county record offices.  At a detailed level these offices vary significantly in terms of matters such as opening times, charges levied, accessibility etc.   Further, the English authorities have shifted county boundaries over the centuries so that, especially if your target parish is near the edge of a county, records may not be available at the county record office you would have anticipated.  Therefore, in order to use your time most efficiently, it generally makes sense to list the parishes that interest you and contact the county record office(s) you expect to have to visit in order to establish the extent and nature or available records for those parishes, before you commit to visit a specific county record office.

Marital and divorce records are at Somerset House, Strand.
Records of army personnel can be found through The Army Museum.
Another pay per view site being developed is Family History Online
Boyd's Marriage Index covers the period 1538-1840.
Curious Fox looks like a promising new site which concentrates on the links between families and the towns or villages where they lived.   The database permits you to search for items within a preset radius of a given town or village, which is usable and useful even if you do not yourself have a detailed regional map in your head or on your own desk at home. This offers you the opportunity to contact fellow researchers with a particular interest in specific names in specific regions - especially useful if you are researching English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish families with popular names. Historians of Britain differ over the extent of relocations in recent centuries, and genealogy researchers based outside Britain are a self selected sample whose ancestors may have been more than averagely itinerant.  Nevertheless, once you track back to before the Napoleonic Wars, it seems that many families remained in the same region through many generations, and these earlier centuries are, of course, precisely those for which many types of   record - baptismal registrations, wills etc - may be hardest to find and / or to interpret.  
Wills post 1858.
There is a searchable index of the extensive records at the British Library.
An excellent site setting out the military careers of British Officers who served in WWII is being created.
And the telephone directory is available at and
while reproduces most people listed in the Electoral Register

Information can be obtained from the 1911 Census but the British Government is being unlawful and secretive regarding it.
A terrific source of numerous genealogical books which one can read at their central London location is the Society of Genealogists (SoG).  Seriously afflicted genealogy addicts with British ancestors may think it worthwhile to join the SoG.  Members are permitted to borrow from the library subject to certain reasonable restrictions. We believe it is possible to access and IGI version 5 free from their terminals."" is a useful site, but it is not cheap to join. 
LDS  CDs not yet available online include Devon, Norfolk & Warwick 1851 Census,

Advice concerning Scottish enquiries
Many families have one or more surname-name specific website which should be a good starting point.
"Scottish" - searchable index of Scottish wills & testaments dating as far back as the 1500's.  Free to search, but if you want a digital copy, you have to pay for it.

Off-line, Wills are available from the Probate Registry in Edinburgh. If the deceased died before 1985, telephone 0131 535 1352; if he died after 1985, telephone 0131 247 2850.
"General Register Office for Scotland" - this is a "pay as you go" site covering 1553 - 1952.  You buy so many credits and that will give you access to search their databases and download copies of original records.  If you want a certified copy of a document, they will post it to you for a price. is an expensive but good site.
If you are looking for professional help re Scottish Genealogy, we recommend the Scots Ancestry Research Society [they don't pay us to say this].
  SARS will search the OPRs (before 1855) and the Statutory Registers (after 1855). They also consult, where possible, the pre-1855 church records of the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Seceder Congregations, which are available in the National Archives of Scotland. The Census returns, taken every ten years starting in 1841, are also a useful source of information on members of a household as they give ages, relationships and places of birth, although the 1841 Census is not as detailed. The last census open to public inspection is 1901. Other primary sources consulted are property records of house and land owners, and records of testaments (wills) and of succession. Published lists of tombstone inscriptions are also frequently searched, as is the small library of information collected by the Society during 50 years of research.
Statutory Records   Compulsory civil registration of births, deaths and marriages did not start in Scotland until 1855, 18 years after England, however   the Scottish certificates normally contain more information. They are held at New Register House, Edinburgh.
- Birth Certificates - contain date, place and time of birth; All given names of child; names of parents and occupation of father; date and place of parents' marriage; informant's name; usual address if different from place of birth; date of registration and name of registrar. district name and number; entry Number; .
- Marriage Certificates - contain Date and Place of Marriage; Name, Occupation, Address and Marital Status of both Bride and Groom; Names of Parents of both Bride and Groom and Fathers' Occupations: Ages of Bride and Groom; According to Which Church the Wedding Took Place and Name of Clergyman Officiating; Names of Witnesses and sometimes Their Addresses; Date of Registration and Name of Registrar. District Name and Number; Entry Number;
- Death Certificates - contain Date, Time, Place and Cause of Death; Name of Doctor who certified Death; Name of Informant; Occupation of Deceased; Names of Parents, whether or not they are Deceased and Occupation of Father; Sometimes Name of Spouse but always Age and Marital Status; Date of Registration and Name of Registrar. District Name and Number;
Old Parish Registers (OPR's)  The old parish registers of the Established Church of Scotland were compiled by the Session Clerks of the individual parishes where a person lived and are the prime source of information prior to the start of Statutory Registration (i.e. Pre-1855). The amount of information for each event recorded in each parish is variable, depending on the individual Session Clerk who was preparing the records, and are sometimes barely legible and to complicate matters further some registers are missing altogether.

Advice concerning Irish enquiries
Many parish records which had been centralised in Dublin were destroyed through a fire in 1922. Ireland is politically and administratively divided (with apologies for stating the obvious if you knew this already). Northern Ireland is part of the UK (United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland), being traditionally Protestant, whereas Eire, which comprises the majority of the island of Ireland, is mostly Roman Catholic. The sources of essential records are different in Northern Ireland as compared with Eire and we will soon be adding details as to where to find these. General Registry Office Northern Ireland is here. As always, there is an invaluable resource in the memories of relations found in the telephone directory ( in Eire, in Northern Ireland).  We asked SARS which professionals they they recommend in Ireland and they said they refer people to Ulster Historical Foundation, Balmoral Buildings, 12 College Square East, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT1 6DD or Heritage World, 26 Market Square, Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland BT70 1AB.
Deaths since 1 January 2003 are shown
"The Leitrim-Roscommon 1901 census" is in the course of being completed by volunteers

Advice concerning Australian enquiries
[In the course of being written]
Great list of links at
Detail of Australian immigration 1788 - 1967 at
Immigration pages
BDM New South Wales;  BDM Qld is not online.
State records - NSW
AccessGenealogy online - Australia, New Zealand & Tasmania
The electoral roll is not available unless you are an Australian MP or in the division (meaning constituency).
Telephone directory -
LDS  CDs not yet available online include Australian Vital records index (SKU 50095) [£7.95],
Australian links -
Metropolitan Cemeteries Board -
International links -
State Records Office of Western Australia -
Western Australian government agencies and services -
Online WA - your doorway to Western Australia's information and services -
Western Australian telephone directory -
Where is it online - map search -
The West Australian Newspaper -

Advice concerning South African enquiries
[In the course of being written]
The South African Records site is inaccessible directly. The NAAIRS website home page is
We have used this facility for large amounts of information that we have sourced and in some cases ordered from South Africa. The South African Record system is particularly good at Death Notices for genealogical information such as parentage, dates, spouses and estates / wills.

Advice concerning Indian enquiries
India under British rule was (broadly) organised into three regions ("presidencies"), Madras, Bengal & Bombay.  There is a large East India Company (& other) archive on the 3rd floor at the British Library in the Euston Road where there is an index of births, deaths & marriages approx 1709-1948. Brides are not listed until 1899 (1910 in the case of Bombay) - but they may be on Roots Web India-L and Cathy Day's site.
RootsWeb India Mail List is very active.
We recommend
Cathy L Day's site.
The Society of Genealogists also have significant EIC records in their library
We have a favourable impression of Dr Katherine H Prior, freelance historian of colonial India, 175 Russell Court, Woburn Place, London WC1H 0LR, UK
Bookshops include:
Ram Advani, Mayfair Building, Hazaratganj, Lucknow 226001. , phone 0522-222354
Messrs K. Krishnamurthy, Books and Periodicals, New # 38 Thanikachalam Road, Madras 600 017, Tamil Nadu, INDIA Phone: (044) 434 4519 Fax (044) 434 2009 E-mail: Website:

Vikram Jain, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd, Post Box 5715, 54 Rani Jhansi Road, New Delhi-110 055  INDIA Tel: 91-11-23671668, 23673650, 23636097, 23638992 Fax: 91-11-23612745 Email: Email: Website:
A.A.Hussain, Arif Arastu (Prop), Hyderabad,

Advice concerning North American enquiries
In our experience, North America contains some of the best genealogists in the world, whether measured by enthusiasm, or pertinent American knowledge. We do not feel competent to teach them a subject they know so well but will add helpful contributions they themselves choose to share with their fellow genealogists. If the online records of UK & Eire births, deaths, burials, cemeteries and marriages were as meticulously recorded as they are on the western side of the ocean, life would be simpler. One of our correspondents has helpfully contributed the following:

"" is a useful site.
"" has yielded results.
"" shows California deaths 1940-97.
"" is a useful site, but it is not cheap to join.  To gain access to all their records costs US$19.95 per month.  If you can afford this, it is definitely worth it.  There is a ton of information here. Contents include numerous family trees, US Census records, Immigration records, birth, marriage, military and death records, and US newspaper extracts 1786-1900. There are records at for the British Isles & Canada, but it is mainly US oriented.
"Ellis Island Records" offers some USA immigration info.
The best US Social Security Death Index is at
And the "US GenWeb" offers helpful pointers for all USA states.
Telephone directories include Switchboard and

LDS  CDs not yet available online include US 1880 Census & National index [55 CDs] (SKU 50168) [£45], North American Vital records index (SKU 50029) [£17.95], Middle America - Mexico Vital records index (SKU 50163) [£11.95],

Advice concerning Canadian enquiries
The "Canada GenWeb"  -  a helpful site for every province in Canada.
"inGeneas Database" is a great place to go if you're looking for Canadian immigration records.
Bizarrely "The Census of Canada 1901" is not searchable by family name.
"Roots Web" shows British "Home children" who were sent to Canada 1870 - 1940
"The National Archives of Canada" is great for searching for World War I military records and the 1871 and 1901 Canadian census records.
"Chateauguay Valley Parish Registers"  -  Many Irish & Scottish people went to this area of Quebec when they first emigrated to Canada.  The Chateauguay Valley / Huntingdon area is south of Montreal near the New York border.  If anyone is looking for relations in this area, this is a wonderful site to search.  New information is added all the time.
"Huntingdon County GenWeb" has substantial information about the same area as the link above.  Transcripts of old newspaper obits, births, baptism & marriages are free to search through.
"British Columbia Archives" - good source for birth, death & marriage records - free to search and copy.  Lots of Arbuthnots at this site and quite a few of the related families.
Gayle Sennott's website "Cemeteries of Ontario, Canada" has transcripts of many cemeteries from several different counties in Ontario.  Lots of Arbuthnots here and quite a few of the related families.  She has had great response from this site and it seems to be helping quite a few people, both Canadian & American, who are looking for their ancestors in Ontario; she will be adding to this site once the winter weather has disappeared.

"Early Ontario Records" is a great resource for finding early Ontario records.  Some are even dedicated to Stormont County which is where most of the Arbuthnots and related families resided over the years.  Other districts and counties are also covered.
"Granny's Genealogy Garden" contains numerous census records for various counties in Ontario.
"The Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid - OCFA" - type in a surname and all cemeteries containing that name will show in a list.
"Ontario Locator"  -  if you don't know what county or township a cemetery or placename is in, this is the place to find out.
"Marriages in Ontario : 1800 - 1924"  - searchable database of thousands of early Ontario marriages - free !!
"In Search of Your Canadian Past" is also a super site.  All counties in Ontario are covered and you can search for a county, township or village map which contains the names of the people who lived there, where their property was located and how many acres of land they owned.  You can also search by using a surname which will give you a list of all people in Ontario regardless of what county or township they lived in;  from there, you can find a map showing the location of their property.  The site also tells you approx. what date your ancestors lived in the area.
This next site is about the village of Morewood, Ontario.  It contains some old photos of early settlers and information about the village history.  No pictures of Arbuthnots, but some of the related families are mentioned.
Quite a few Arbuthnots are buried in Morewood Presbyterian Cemetery and the family of Ann Arbuthnot & James Kyle [Table 6] lived there.
LDS  CDs not yet available online include Canada 1881 Census & Index,

Records of births, marriages and deaths covering most of the nineteenth century - at least from the time of the Napoleonic occupation - are normally accessible on microfiche by visiting the relevant provincial archive office.  Relevant certificates use a standard format so the document language (which switches from French to Latin to Dutch according to period) is less challenging than you might anticipate. Regional Archives are located in each of the twelve provincial capitals, so it is helpful if you know which part of the Netherlands interests you before you start. An excellent overview of Dutch archival locations is provided by Piet and Willeke Molema-Smitshoek.

Traditionally Dutch people were given Latin versions of their given names at baptism, but applied Dutch versions for daily use, so, as examples, ancestors known to you as Piet or Ton may well have been christened Petrus or Antonius. Be aware, too, that personal privacy is taken seriously in the Netherlands:  if you are concerned to know 'vital event' (birth, marriage, death) details covering the last one hundred years, you will probably get further by approaching living family members than by attempting to scrutinize public records. In the Netherlands when a couple marries it is normal that the family names of the parties will be combined.  If Mr Molema marries Miss Smitshoek, their family name will become Molema-Smitshoek. (This genealogically helpful habit may have been acquired from the Spanish who occupied the ('northern') Netherlands until famously evicted by the early seventeenth century.) When children marry in their turn, however, only the paternal half of the name will be retained to the next generation. 

Advice concerning Norwegian enquiries
The Norwegian National Archives are at
The NATIONAL STATE ARCHIVES SYSTEM (Arkivverket) is composed of:
and THE REGIONAL STATE ARCHIVES - (Statsarkivene) which contains documents from the regional and local branches of the state administration. There are eight regional archives in Norway: Oslo, Hamar, Kongsberg, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø.
Contact information for the archives:
The article How To Trace Your Norwegian Ancestors is reading recommended by the National Archives.
For researching Oslo, consult the OSLO CITY ARCHIVES (Byarkivet) and the OSLO PUBLIC LIBRARY (Deichmanske Bibliotek) The central branch has microfilm of Oslo and parish records. They must be over 60 years old for public access.
The Deichmanske genealogy sectiom on the Internet: (Mostly in Norwegian)
The Norwegian family research 'bible'
: "Våre Røtter" (Our Roots) by N.J. Stoa og P.Ø. Sandberg (1992, revised 2001).
A respected genealogical handbook that includes useful addresses and an overview of microfilm archives.
"Norske Gaardnavne 1898-1936" (Norwegian farm/estate names) by Oluf Rygh and others;
The standard reference with 75,000 names, soon fully accessible on the Internet:
Computerizing censuses and parish registers and other resources back to 1865.
has computer registered census information from 1801 for all of Norway in a searchable database on the Internet:
English information, Norwegian needed to make use of site.
Excellent, much in English.
Norsk Slektshistorisk Forening (NSF - The Norwegian Genealogical Society) is Norway's oldest national association for genealogists. In addition to their publishing activities, the Norwegian Genealogical Society runs a library in Oslo. Here you can, during the opening hours on Mondays and Thursdays 1100-2000, make use of the association's large collections of genealogical (family) books and 'bygdebøker' (farm and family histories/rural chronicles). For information regarding the Norwegian Genealogical Society, please e-mail
Family history is of particular importance for the Mormons, and their genealogical centers have wide resources. In Oslo, the church has a large microfilm collection. There is a CD not yet available online - Scandinavian Vital records index (SKU 50108) [£14.95] - through the Latter Day Saints
Excellent general knowledge genealogy portal, but all in Norwegian.
There are three Usenet newsgroups:
news:no.fritid.slektsforsking.etterlysing (find relations and people)

France, Belgium, Spain etc
The "herd books" (of the "blue-blooded") in the UK are of course "Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage", "Burke's Peerage & Baronetage" & "Burke's Landed Gentry" - see the section immediately following.
The equivalent in Belgium is the "Almanach de Gotha"
We are told that the equivalent in France is "High life" which includes telephone numbers (we have not seen it)
In the Spanish tradition, everyone has two surnames, the antepenultimate one is the father's surname and the last name is the mother's surname. On getttting married they keep their previous names and become Maria Father Mother de Husband.
Many royal households have their own websites

Burke's Peerage, Landed Gentry, etc
For information on leading families of the British isles, the various publications of Burkes can be an excellent starting point.   The best known publications are Burke's Peerage and Burke's Landed Gentry.   There are also from time to time publications focusing on leading families in Ireland or (most recently) Scotland.  We have also found valuable pointers in Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerages published 1883. They charge £18.74 for full access to their records for 24 hours.

Burke's tends to prune out family branches where they decline or fade from prominence, and often the older volumes can yield even more surprises than the newer editions. Burke's publications contain huge amounts of data and inevitably errors can occur. Some volumes do appear to contain more errors than others, but we have the impression that any Burke's entry will be as reliable as the records and memory of whichever family member(s) provided the information. The quality of the resulting paragraphs as published appears to be variable, and information obtained from Burke's should as far as possible be corroborated to other sources.   Because Burke's publications are widely available, they are often quoted on the web, with or without attribution.   There is therefore a risk that you will find on the web what you recognise as independent corroboration of something you found in Burke's, when in reality you have merely corroborated that someone else found the same item(s) of information in Burke's.

Genealogists have recognised the value of Burke's publications for many years, and even in second hand bookshops they tend to be expensive.  However, they can often be found in libraries, and if you live in England there will generally be a collection of them at your local county record office. (If any northern/southern American, southern African  or Antipodean reader has a tip  to share for finding Burke's publications in your own country, we will happily insert your tip at this point.)

On the web, as in a new town, finding books and book shops is often most satisfying when done for oneself.   Few things can beat the serendipitous frisson you get from finding an old book you had not realised you were looking for.   However, a couple of tips here may be useful. Try

There is a website which covers many second hand book shops which we have found helpful. It does not specialise specifically in genealogy, but by entering appropriate key words to the inbuilt search engine you can, of course, make it specialise in anything you choose.   The site is at You might also try Heraldry Today and

A specialist genealogy bookshop which we have found especially helpful is Quintin Publications of Rhode Island.  They specialise in republishing those old out of print genealogy books, often compiled in the tail end of the nineteenth century, the last time genealogy was seriously popular.  Some of those books are a marvellous source.   Some are seriously misleading.   Often both those descriptions will apply to different aspects of the same book.    Quintin Publications will also produce books on CD which makes them cheaper to buy and easier to search with a computer.   Their website is at

The fellow is shown as born 1783/84 - what does this mean?
There are most commonly two possibilities

1.    Church records show he was baptised in January 1784.   The custom of the time and place was to baptise infants within a few weeks of their birth. But no information is available concerning his actual birth date which might, therefore, have been either towards the end of 1783 or early in 1784.

2.    The child was born in 1784 under the Gregorian calendar but in 1783 under the Julian calendar.  
The Gregorian calendar is the calendar widely used in the English speaking world today.   Under the Gregorian calendar the year begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st.   Under the Julian calendar (which interestingly is still, subject to an additional eleven day delay to allow for a slow postal services, followed by the UK tax office) the year begins on March 26 and ends only on March 25.   Therefore the date which under the Gregorian calendar we should recognise as March 20th 1784 would, under the Julian calendar, be shown as March 20th 1783.
The Julian calendar, based on the calendar established by the emperor Julius Caesar, was generally applied throughout Europe till the late sixteenth century.   The Julian calendar presupposed that each year lasted 365.25 days.   However, the time taken by the earth to circumnavigate the sun is actually more than 11 minutes greater than that.   There is considerable uncertainty as to how precisely the Julian calendar was applied between it's establishment by Julius Caesar and the Council of Nicea whereat, over three centuries after Christ's birth, the early church fathers 'adopted' the Julian Calendar calendar (subject to the caveat that for Christendom, Year 0 was the perceived year of Christ's birth, whereas for Julius Caesar, Year 0 would have been the year credited with Rome's foundation).   In any event, by 1582, the calendar year end and the winter solstace had cumulatively drifted apart, giving rise to the March 25 year end.   
Theoretically the change over from Julian to Gregorian occurred at the end of 2nd September 1752 the next day being 14th September.

The Gregorian calendar, with its 31 December year end, was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and rapidly replaced the Julian calendar in Catholic continental Europe.   Protestant Europe was suspicious and held out against the Gregorian calendar.   The last major European country to switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was Britain, in 1752.   In principal the colonies, including those in northern America, switched at that same date.   In practice the switch was far from instantaneous, and anyone using English parish records several decades beyond 1752 may still encounter use of the old Julian calendar, with its tell-tale March 25 year end.   You have been warned.

The site will tell you the day on which a date fell.

Heraldry and titles
There is no such thing as a family crest. A crest is part of a coat of arms and they are awarded to an individual and, as a general rule, pass to his oldest son only.
Heraldry and titles are not really the subject of this page but we recommend these pages:
-      Pimbley's Dictionary of heraldic terms
-      Frequently asked heraldic questions
-      Extract re Scottish heraldry
-      Fake titles

What's the difference between Christening and Baptism?

None, although there used to be.  A baby's christening used to be the naming ceremony (the bestowal of a Christian name) that accompanied the act of baptism. Nowadays, when people ask for a Christening, they're really talking about Baptism.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is one of two sacraments in the Church; the other is communion.    It represents a deliberate act of identification with the person of Jesus Christ and his Church.

What do the abbreviations mean?
Bap - baptized / christened
B.S. - British subject
Bt - Baronet
ca. - circa / about
CBE - Commander of the British Empire
dd - dated
Dsp - died without issue
Dspl - died without legitimate issue
Dspm - died without male issue
Dspml - died without legitimate male issue
D unm - died unmarried
Dvm - died during his/her mother's lifetime
Dvp - died during his/her father's lifetime
Dvu - died during his/her spouse's lifetime
EIC - East India Company
fl - floruit - living (in)
GCB - Knight Grand Commander of the Bath
HEIC - Hon East India Company
KB - Knight of the Bath
KCB - Knight Commander of the Bath
KCMG - Knight Commander of the British Empire
KCVO - Knight Commander of the Victorian Order
KG - Knight of the Garter
Kia - killed in action
KT - Knight of the Thistle
MBE - Member of the British Empire
MLC - Member of the Legislative Council (in India)
OBE - Order of the British Empire
OCS - Overseas Civil Service / Servants
OIOC - Oriental & India Office collections
Q1 - January, February or March            )             Date of registration -
Q2 - April, May or June                            )             so a birth on 30 June
Q3 - July, August or September              )             will probably be
Q4 - October, November or December  )              registered in Q3
WS - Writer to the Signet (a Scottish solicitor)

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Last amended  20:44  23 September 2006