We are both blessed and cursed to live in a time where exchange of information has become almost instantaneous regardless of where we live in the world, as the exchange of misinformation occurs as rapidly, and as frequently. For the genealogist, this has resulted in numerous online resources that are now available with the simple click of a mouse. The purpose of these pages is to direct you toward the more reputable resources that are available online to aid you in your family research.
It is important when evaluating the available records regarding your ancestry that the source of this information is evaluated critically. The adage "you get what you pay for" does not apply to the realm of ancestral research, and should perhaps be substituted with the term "buyer beware". A host of companies have evolved on the internet who charge, on a pay-per-view or subscription basis, for you to view 'instant' family histories and pedigrees either online, or have them mailed to your home. These are generally patron submitted works by individuals such as yourself, and may or may not be historically accurate. These companies profit both on the distribution of probable misinformation, and on the hard work of others such as yourself, regardless as to whether its basis is in truth or fiction.
Most information regarding your ancestors that is more than 75-100 years old, in most jurisdictions, is available freely as public information provided the appropriate resources are consulted. In some cases this necessitates visiting a record office in person. A few organizations are opting to capitalize on selling access to this public information online (original census records, civil registration data etc.), where you can pay for the convenience of consulting the original records from your home or office. This is certainly preferable to consulting ready-made pedigrees, and it is up to you whether you choose to opt for this convenience or not. A number of genealogy groups and family history centers worldwide are compiling some historical records (trades directories, parish records, ships lists etc.) and documents in CD form, that are available for a nominal fee to cover the cost of production. This also can prove to be a convenient method of researching your history, but copies of the original documents should be consulted to ascertain the accuracy of transcription.
Regardless of which resources are consulted in the reconstruction of your family origins, always consider whether or not you are viewing a historical document, or someone else's interpretation of the past before incorporating this information into your own family history.
To trace your Staveley family history, it is always advisable to work from the most recent information available to you, and proceed backwards in time. If you are starting from scratch, something as simple as a conversation with any living family members can yield a host of useful information. If possible find people who knew your parents or grandparents. Although searching paper documents can tell you when a person was born or died, it doesn't really convey the life that person may have led, or the kind of person they were. Old family photographs also should not be ignored. Make notes now of all the people that are standing in your grandparent's wedding photographs, and individuals in pictures from family gatherings and vacations...if you don't, chances are that over time some of those people will become forgotten.
The national census has been taken in England and Wales every 10 years since 1801, except in 1941. There was no requirement for the information obtained in the pre-1851 censuses for England and Wales to be centrally collected, and depending on the jurisdiction of interest these returns may or may not be available. The censuses for Ireland for 1821-1851 were largely destroyed in 1922. Some records survive from 1851 and are maintained at the National Archives in Dublin. Almost the entire 1861-1871 censuses were destroyed by court order. The censuses for Northern Ireland since 1931 follow the same general pattern as the rest of the United Kingdom.
The US census was instituted in 1790 and many of the transcripts are now available online on a pay-per-view basis.
In England the Civil Registration process was started on July 1, 1837. A record of every birth was required to be made within 42 days of the event, or face a fine. Unfortunately, compliance with the law was not required until 1875, and as such some individuals appear to have not been registered during the early years the national registration system was instituted. Marriages were registered similarly. Beginning in 1837 deaths should have been registered within 8 days, but after 1875 this requirement was reduced to 5 days. All records were submitted by local officials to the Registrar General in London and compiled on a quarterly basis. Of the records available to you as you start your search, these are perhaps the most useful. We are fortunate that the Staveley name is not as common as some other surnames, and therefore locating individuals in the index is relatively easy. It is important to note that exact dates of birth, marriage or death are not available in the index as each event is grouped by quarter. However, once an individual has been located in the index, copies of the full certificate(s) may be obtained that will include more details.
Note that in Scotland the civil registration system did not begin until January 1, 1855. In Ireland a similar system was started January 1, 1964 (with the exception of protestant marriages where a system was instituted April 1845).
Quarter Sessions: Periodic courts held in each county, that were mandated by a statute passed in England in 1388. They are termed Quarter Sessions as they were held four times per year. The Quarter sessions were later settled as Epiphany, Easter, Midsummer, and Michaelmas sessions. Quarter Sessions were also held in the colony of New South Wales. They also existed in North American colonies, and sometimes known as Courts of General Sessions.
The Quarter Sessions heard crimes which could not be tried by the Justices of the Peace without a jury in petty sessions, which were sent up by the process of indictment to be heard in Quarter Sessions. The Quarter Sessions in each county was presided over by two or more Justices of the Peace, and a Chairman, who sat with a jury. In county boroughs which were entitled to have their own Quarter Sessions, there was a single Recorder instead of a bench of justices.
The Quarter Sessions did not have jurisdiction to hear the most serious crimes, most notably those which could be punished by capital punishment or later life imprisonment. These crimes were sent for trial at the periodic Assizes.
Assizes: Justices of the Court of King's Bench travelled around the country on five commissions: of assize, of nisi prius, of oyer and terminer, and of gaol delivery. By the Assize of Clarendon of 1166, King Henry II established trial by jury by a grand assize of sixteen men in land disputes, and provided for itinerant justices to set up county courts. Prior to the Magna Carta in 1215, writs of assize had to be tried at Westminster or await trial at the septennial circuit of justices of eyre, but the great charter provided that land disputes should be tried by annual assizes.
An Act passed in the reign of King Edward I provided that writs summoning juries to Westminster were to appoint a time and place for hearing the causes with the county of origin. Thus they were known as writs of nisi prius (Latin "unless before"): the jury would hear the case at Westminster unless the king's justices had assembled a court in the county to deal with the case beforehand. The commission of oyer and terminer (meaning meaning to hear and determine), was a general commission to hear and decide cases, while the commission of gaol delivery required the justices to try all prisoners held in the gaols. Few substantial changes in this system occurred until the mid-nineteenth century.
Do not assume that because your ancestors were Paupers, Coal Miners, or Agricultural Labourers, that your ancestors were never entitled to a coat of arms. Families quite often did not remain in the same social class for than a few generations. Even if your family does appear to have been in service to others for hundreds of years, it doesn't mean that was always the case. Overall, the Staveleys do however seem to be fairly predictable in their armigerous achievements. Regardless, it is still important to have a least a basic understanding of heraldry, and how grants of arms have been awarded. There have been a number of Staveley grants of arms in the past, but that does not necessarily entitle you to bear the same arms simply because you carry the Staveley surname. It is therefore also important to understand the rules governing how such achievements of arms are inherited from one generation to the next.
Travel to the United States became more prevalent as the Steam Ships were able to cross the Atlantic at great speed. Numerous ships manifest databases exist. For an index of Staveleys that traveled to the United States during the mid to late 19th Century, see Immigration Records.
Land and Property Records
Deed registries may contain descriptions of properties and names and addresses of transacting parties. Land and Hearth tax records also survive. It is also important to review probate records as they can be important sources of information regarding heritable properties.
Do not overlook military records as sources of valuable genealogical information. Often such documents may contain a physical description of an ancestor, their civilian occupation, even a name and address of next of kin. These records may state which theatres of war, or on what vessels your Staveley ancestor served, in a addition to any medals awards, or injuries sustained during their service.
Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts
Traditionally records of births, marriages and deaths were kept in local parish church registers. Copies of these records were sometimes retranscribed into "Bishop's Transcripts" and kept outside of the parish. Parish records are still the critical source of original records, and likely to be the most accurate resources available. A single copy of a parish register however was vulnerable and could be damaged, destroyed or lost. By 1597 it was decreed that on Sundays the incumbent and churchwardens would make a transcript of the baptisms, marriages, and burials performed in the preceding week, and this copy of the transcript was to be sent to the bishop on New Year's Eve to keep in the diocesan registry. Note that prior to 1752, New Years Eve occurred on March 24th, the day before 'Lady Day in the Julian calendar'. The LDS Church has retranscribed many of the parish registers from England into online searchable databases, and holds copies of the registers on microfilm at the Salt Lake library. It is important to note however that not all parish registers were microfilmed or transcribed.
Roman Catholic Records:
After the dissolution of the monasteries, Roman Catholics were not officially recognized in Britain after 1534 for many years. Many Catholics continued to practice their religion in secrecy, but when caught, were often subject to severe persecution and punishment. As a result, Catholic registers were not initially kept. From 1562, Recusant Rolls were kept, as lists of non-attenders of the new Established Church. Not all individuals recorded on the Recusant Rolls were necessarily Catholic, and the denominations generally aren't stated on these records. However, lists specifically of Papists were recorded in 1680, 1705/6, 1767 and 1781. These rolls may contain information regarding names, family relationships, residence, status within the community, occupation, date of the offense, and any amercements paid. If your ancestors appear in the Recusant Rolls, you might also find additional information regarding fines and punishments recorded in the county Quarter Sessions for that year. In addition, Catholic's estates had to be registered with Cleark of the Peace between 1717 to 1791. The Staveleys of East Witton are one such group that were tried for the crime of Recusancy on several occasions and appear both in the Recusant Rolls and in the Quarter Sessions documents.
Other Nonconformist Registers:
Catholics were not unique in not maintaining registers. Other dissenting congregations also did not maintain registers in an effort to avoid detection, and subsequent persecution and punishment The Society of Friends was among the first to maintain registers. A number of registers for Quaker, Presbyterian, Independent Church, and Baptist congregations also survive. A vast majority of these nonconformist registers were surrendered to the Registrar General in 1858 and are available for viewing at the PRO, and some county archive facilities.
Was your Staveley ancestor the creative, entrepreneurial type? Did they ever petition for a patent for an invention? You might be surprised. A number of Staveley inventions are documented in the archives of the US and UK patent offices, and most of these catalogues are available for searching online.
Poor Law Records
In England, Acts of 1536, 1572, 1576 and 1597 prescribed relief for the poor on a parish basis. Poor were classified as either Impotent, Able-bodied, or Vagrants/Beggars. The 'Impotent' poor could not look after themselves or go to work. They included the ill, the infirm, and the elderly. It was generally held that they should be looked after. The 'Able-bodied' poor normally refered to those who were unable to find work - either due to cyclical or long term unemployment in the area, or a lack of skills. The 'vagrants' or 'beggers' were deemed those who could work but had refused to. They were normaly seen as people needing punishment, and as such were often sent to so called 'houses of correction'.
The Act of 1572 made poor relief the subject of local taxation, while the 1576 Act made provision for "setting the poor on work and for avoidance of idleness", including the creation of "houses of correction" for persistent idlers.The Poor Law Act of 1601 created a national system, paid for by levying local taxes, making provisions:
- to provide work or apprentiships for children who were orphaned or whose parents could not maintain them
- to provide materials to "set the poor on work"
- to offer relief to people who were unable to work — mainly those who were "lame, impotent, old, blind", and "the putting out of children to be apprentices".
Relief for those that were to ill or old to work, the so called 'impotent' poor, were normally cared for in parish alms houses. Meanwhile able-bodied beggars who had refused work were often placed in houses of correction. However, provision for the many able-bodied poor in the workhouse, which provided accommodation at the same time as work, was relatively unusual, and most workhouses developed later.
There was much variation in the application of the law and there was a tendency for the destitute to migrate towards the more generous parishes. This led to the Settlement Act 1662 which allowed relief only to established residents of a parish - mainly through birth, marriage and apprentiship. The Act was criticised in later years for its effect in distorting the labour market, through the power given to parishes to let them remove 'undeserving' poor.
In 1722 Poor Law Unions were formed, where groups of parishes assumed responsibility for an area, to provide the impoverished. Boards of the Guardian's of the Poor were formed to oversea the Union. Some pre-1834 records do not survive, but most post-1834 records are readily available. The Guardian's records contain names and ages of head of households and the type of relief provided. Address, non-relief income, disabilities, reasons for needing relief and dependent information may also be recorded, all of which is valuable to any family historian.
Wills, when available, are excellent resources for confirming relationships determined through civil registration searches, parish and census records. They are also often an excellent source of rare information that may not be readily available elsewhere. Although it was more common for our wealthy ancestors to leave wills, some of our relatively poor ancestors have also made wills. After 1529 the courts granted that probate was free of charge providing the deceased's personal effects did not amount to more than ₤5. Until 1882 any married woman was required to obtain permission from her husband to make a will. If you locate a will for a female ancestor prior to this date she was likely either a widow or a spinster.
For a registry of certificates and wills held by other members of our group see here.
Trades directories were functionally similar to telephone books. Early directories generally included local tradespeople listed by surname, or ordered under individual trades, advertisements for local businesses and local historical information. Some later directories may include names and addresses of local private residents, and area maps. Many directories were compiled including Kelly's, Bulmer's, and Pigot's from the early 1800's onward. Although the information contained in these directories may be limited, they can be useful to help identify where and when your ancestors might have been.