Adventure to Yorkshire and unlock your heritage today 

So, you’re US-born, but the search for your ancestors has taken you across the pond to the county of Yorkshire in the North of England. Home to much of the coal and steel industries in the United Kingdom, you may have found your ancestor in the tourism centre of the City of York, or perhaps in Leeds, where much of the country’s textile manufacturing took place. It’s an amazing discovery, of course, but where do you go from there? Which resources are best to continue delving deep into your heritage? It might seem like a daunting task to dive into the millions of records available to you, but fear not: Findmypast have an exhaustive selection of parish records, social history directories and institution books to help you pinpoint your ancestor’s whereabouts.

The first stage in mapping out the life of your ancestor is the ever-crucial birth, marriage and death records. BMDs really are the branches of your family tree, helping shape and sculpt your personal history as the years go by. Findmypast’s Yorkshire Baptisms collection is over 9 million records strong, and they span all the way from the mid-16th century to the year 2000. These records give you the perfect place to start working backwards – not only will you discover when and where exactly your ancestor’s life began, but you could unlock the names of their parents, allowing you to explore multiple generations.

Wadsley parish baptism records

If you are struggling to find your ancestor in this collection, broaden your search: try filtering through Findmypast’s 15 million Yorkshire civil births, taken from a variety of collections such as records from the armed forces and the more expansive England & Wales Births 1837-2006. Make sure to experiment with how you search, including using wildcards and Findmypast’s intuitive name variant features, and you’ll have pinpointed your ancestor in no time.

Once you’ve tracked them down, you’ll want to discover all you can about their life. When did they marry? Were they buried in the same area they spent their life, or did they move around? Using the information you find in their birth or baptism record, you can begin delving into the details of their life adventure. Try Findmypast’s Yorkshire Marriages, which will not only give you the specifics of their union but potentially whole other branches of your heritage to explore, oftentimes with details on your ancestor’s trade and both spouses’ parents.

Two 1904 Yorkshire marriage records, from Sheffield

If you’re looking to close out their journey, there are nearly 7 million records in their Yorkshire Burials collection. But don’t forget: these collections aren’t the be all and end all. You can filter all civil birth, marriage, death and parish records from Findmypast’s ‘All records’ search screen, pulling from numerous extensive collections across the site.

Genealogy is more than just birth and death dates, though – what about the lifetime in between? This is where the boundless world of social history takes the stand, and we’d be remiss not to touch on Findmypast’s historical newspaper archives. Alongside the British Library, they’ve partaken in the biggest newspaper digitisation effort that Britain has ever seen, releasing tens of thousands of new pages each week. With millions of articles from Sheffield to Scarborough, Bridlington to Bradford, local newspapers can give you everything from scandal and sporting fixtures to politics and property development.

The front page of the Scarborough Gazette, 1868

You can even filter your search to an exact date, or try their ‘Article type’ filters. Give the ‘Family notices’ one a go – you may find a moment of celebration or poignant note of remembrance, written by your ancestors themselves.

Alternatively, directories and institution records can all help add some colour to the jigsaw of your ancestor’s life. Yorkshire Registers and Records is an incredible collection of journals to help kick off your social history journey. Within its pages, you’ll find various publications covering everything from historical area guides, poll books, biographies and genealogies of selected persons, patient records, school registers, full-colour historical maps, and even whimsically-told local lore and legend. You can search for your ancestor to see if they appear in any of these stories, or simply take a leisurely browse through the history of the county. If there was ever a collection you could get lost in, this is it.

A historical map of part of Yorkshire, found in the Yorkshire: Scenery, Lore and Legends publication 

Beyond that, institution records and crime records could also help you unearth any trials or tribulations your ancestor faced. Sheffield Crime and Convicts 1769-1931 details both the perpetrators and the victims of any given crime. Most of these records note more petty crimes, such as Cam Butler Ward who owned a dog without a license, or Jesse Davis who was simply listed as a ‘disorderly servant’. On the other hand, you could take a wander through Findmypast’s hospital and mental institution records – they have admissions for both South Yorkshire and Sheffield, totaling 36,000 records and covering both the South Yorkshire Asylum and the Sheffield General Infirmary.

Sheffield Infirmary, pictured in 1804, courtesy of the British Library’s Topographical Collection of George III.

The South Yorkshire Asylum – later known as Middlewood Hospital – also noted a cause of insanity, and interestingly, 54 patients had this listed simply as ‘love’. After all, family history means discovering heartache and loss just as much as joy and triumph.

Of course, this is only skimming the surface of what Findmypast have available, but exploring any of these resources will give you a strong foundation from which to build a bold picture of your ancestor’s life in the North of England. There’s almost no limit to the stories waiting to be told – what could you discover?

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