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WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY WERE? Investigating ancestral locations online By Malcolm Fowles Beyond Namespotting Investigating locations is a key to: getting more out of visits understanding more about how your ancestors lived Investigating maps What you can find on the web

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Investigating ancestral locations online

By Malcolm Fowles

beyond namespotting
Beyond Namespotting
  • Investigating locations is a key to:
    • getting more out of visits
    • understanding more about how your ancestors lived
  • Investigating maps
    • What you can find on the web
    • What maps can tell you
  • Investigating what maps cannot tell you
george kerslake s locations
George Kerslake’s locations
  • Born 1847, West Buckland, SOM
  • 1851(p2), 1861 West Buckland
  • 1868 m Susan Braddick of Dalwood, DEVin St Johns church Eastover, Bridgwater, SOM
  • 1871 Rustywell, Yeovil, SOM
  • 1874 Susan died in Yeovil
  • 1876 m Jane Baker of Bridgwater in Bridgwater
  • 1881 13 Earl St, Oxford
  • 1891, 1901 91 Wellington Rd, Bridgwater
  • Died 1924, Bridgwater registration district
west buckland som
West Buckland, SOM
  • Parishes are easy to investigate from GENUKI’s well organised links to online maps
    • The parish page “Maps” heading usually links to an old map of limited use
    • For more versatile maps use the “Nearby Places” link at the top of the parish page …
    • … then click on the OS grid reference, in this case ST170200
    • The links here includes the old map in a more helpful form
  • Other useful map sites
    • MapQuest is good for orienting yourself
      • Several useful levels of zoom and clear mapping of road names
      • Search by “City” name even for small villages
    • OS Get-a-map provides 1:25000 maps online
      • Crucial extra detail, such as names of farms and buildings
      • Navigation aids for systematic exploration of the vicinity
when map searches fail
When map searches fail
  • E.g. George Kerslake’s father Thomas was born in
    • but no map site findsKingsbrompton
  • Suspect, in this sequence:
    • An incorrect census transcription, if you have no image
    • An older placename
    • An ignorant census enumerator
  • GENUKI search or Google should quickly reveal whether an old name exists, and identify its modern form
  • But I’ve been stumped by several problems together:
    • King’s Ash, a mistranscription of Rings Ash
    • Rings Ash, an alternative form of the more usual Ringsash
    • Ringsash, an old name for Ashreigney
    • I would have found it eventually, but the Rootsweb mailing list for Devon got back with the answer within an hour
where exactly in west buckland
Where exactly in West Buckland?
  • A parish name alone tells you little or nothing
  • Look for additional features:
    • The census enumeration district
      • Narrow the search and even suggest which way the enumerator went
    • The address or building of your ancestor
      • Not easy in the countryside: George is at Park Cottages
    • Adjacent buildings on census pages (as many as possible)
      • Park Cottages follow Tottles (whose head is the village blacksmith) and an uninhabited house
      • And before Mount Pleasant and Sayers Hill
  • Locate the features on old and new maps
    • The modern OS map shows Sawyers (sic) Hill and Park Farm
    • The 1891 map shows the smithy, Tottles, Sawyers Hill and Park Cottage (sic), though not in the enumerated sequence
    • The road happens to be the boundary of the enumeration district
    • Park Farm, to which the cottages may be tied, is nearby on the ground but far away in the census, being in the adjacent district
location and occupation
Location and Occupation
  • People lived very near to their work
    • Countrysiders (e.g. farmers, ag.labs) typically in hamlets, farms and isolated cottages
    • Paid labourers within an easy walk of the workplace
    • Trades and professions (e.g. smiths, shoemakers, clergy) typically in villages
    • Domestic servants anywhere
george kerslake s dwellings and occupations
George Kerslake’s dwellings and occupations







Ag Lab, age 13


Foundries, a (road) carriage works and the Bristol and Exeter Railway station

Railway carriage examiner

B.E.R. Yeovil branch line

Railways porter: train examiner

G.W.R. took over B.E.R. in 1876


Railway wheel turner

G.W.R. Bridgwater carriage works south of the station

West Buckland with parents

Eastover, Bridgwater

Married in parish church

Rustywell, Yeovil

Next to Yeovil goods depot

13 Earl Street, Oxford

Streets of G.W.R. housing on the main road east of the station

91 Wellington Road,


The railway station approach road

where was the house
Where was the house?
  • Maps for a precise address rather than just a road name:
    • MapQuest as above
    • Transport Direct and some regional Traveline sites
      • search for address at start/end of journey, then show map
    • Royal Mail Postcode Finder gives you the postcode to use in most other search tools
    • But what if the house or street has gone?
  • Digimap
    • Historic mapsover time for the same locality
      • 1:2500 (and 1:10000 revisions) not available elsewhere
      • 1:2500 maps show road names
    • The contemporary 1:1250 map shows house names & numbers
    • Available to Athens users only (via Library Databases page)