You can read other posts Journey to a Specific Project HERE.
Thinking back to the pre-internet days, researching our family history or a specific project was a labour of love. We worked from ourselves backward, talking to family members and friends, looking back and original documents and certificates and then we needed to access resources likely where our ancestors lived, or perhaps to order a certificate, in the hope that it was our ancestor and would shed clues to the family further back.
To order that certificate we needed to access the indexes of Births, Marriages and Deaths. These were at St Catherine’s House and prior to that Somerset House in London. Firstly, the Births were in red folders, marriages in green and deaths in black. Each book represented a quarter of the events in all the registration districts in England and Wales. So for example, my Grandfather was born on 3 March 1908, he was registered in the Guildford Registration District, and his index reference can be found in the first quarter of 1908 births. Armed with the registration district as well as the volume and page number the certificate can be ordered. It would then arrive in the post (letterbox, stamps, postman!). So you get the idea, it was time consuming and costly.
Then we have baptisms and burials which form part of the parish records – so if I look at the church where I know my Grandfather was baptised I can find the entry. Sometimes the vicar provided the date the baby was born or individual was born – not all are baptised and if you want to marry in a church then you needed to be baptised first.
Working on a One-Name Study was even more time consuming and most people started their journey by collecting the material from the St Catherine’s indexes. One Guild of One-Name Studies member told me that it took them 10 years to collect the information for their surname and the variants. That is right, 10 years. Even then you needed to either access the original certificate or search the parish records, assuming you knew where to look.
For my Orlando study, it took three years for me to extract the Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales. Today, you can download the material from FreeBMD in under 30 minutes (depending on the popularity of the surname) for events that took place from September 1837 up until 1983 (although I see today the date has extended until 1999, but is not complete).
The same process existed for marriages, and that is why the Guild of One-Name Studies member benefit of Marriage Challenges is so useful, as are the indexes. We discuss this further as part of the Introduction to One-Name Studies course and a practical element in the Practicalities of a One-Name Study course