Family History in Southwest England
Your Genealogical Roots

Is your heritage and family history in southwest England, in that enchanting ancient yet so modern toe of the British Isles? Devon. Dorset. Hampshire Isle of Wight, Somerset and Wiltshire. For just these family history pages we will add Cornwall, although it was never a part of Wessex as such. When going to Devon from Cornwall one is going into England – ask a Cornish local!

Was your ancestor on the Mayflower? Did your ancestor go to Australia or New Zealand? A must could well be Plymouth, a city that could be arguably called the city that formed the modern world. So many ships made Plymouth their last port of call. Go to the quay and see the Mayflower Steps, or the inscriptions on monuments on the quay to the First Fleet and other incredible adventures of our ancestors. Walk in their footsteps.

Online data bases

Good News!

Find My Past releases thousands of local records online, each week there seems to be more. Besides all their many other records there are military records, the 1939 Register and now the 1921 Census.

Forces War Records There are over 10,000,000, yes ten million records in their data base. Many of those men and women are from the southwest of England, navy, army and airforce. They have taken part all over the world, many making the final sacrifice and many living on with the impact of that service. They deserve pride of place in our family history for without them our world would not be free.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Genes Reunited are a friendly lot. It has many strengths in that it does have the census records and other databases, but perhaps its strongest is the fact that it is people specific. Put a name in their search field and see what happens!

The Genealogist starts where the other data bases finish!!! It is another excellent search engine for family records. Their maps are incredible and brings to life the area where our ancestors lived. They are also useful for non conformist records. There were a lot of non conformists in the south west. Bit of a rebellious lot at times!!!

Ancestry  is perhaps and arguably the most famous online data base but rather due to their advertising. They are very similar to Find My Past. It is often a good idea if you cannot find something in one of them to try one of the others! Very good for DNA searches.

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The Region and YOU

The south west of England is a lovely region it is a wonder your ancestors could tear themselves away. Yet they did. Probably better prospects elsewhere, religious feelings or a brighter future for their families of which you are a part. You probably agree they did the right thing at the time and you, later down the track, have benefited.

Are you curious about the area they came from? Do you wish to see what they saw and walk in their footsteps for a while? Well why not! It is not just curiosity it is a feeling of empathy with them, your family. A bit like when you saw the marriage certificate for the first time of your great grandparents perhaps that you hardly knew anything about, that feeling in the throat and the heart, very hard to describe but if you are reading this you will know! An incredible feeling isn't it – takes over.

The places may have changed since their day. The cities of Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth in particular were badly bombed and were rebuilt. Their city centres have really changed. Many other places have grown. But it is not all change, there is a lot still there to explore.

In many cases you may be able to find where they lived - Find My Past is a good starter for this. The Genealogist has old maps!!  Why not take a photo of the house perhaps.

A camera is going to be a must have for this trip!!!! There is the church where they were baptised and/or married. There may be gravestones in the churchyard or cemetery. Did they go to a local school – is it still there? What about where they worked – you might be lucky.

Walk in their footsteps through the streets they walked. Visit that old pub that was likely to be the one your ancestor had his pint and played darts. (Many English pubs these days do great meals and not expensive.) There just might be a corner shop still, not many now with all the supermarkets. That park there – did they play there as children? Or did they play in the streets, it was safe to do so then. Imagine them there playing together with a ball. a hoop or hopscotch perhaps.

May be it is a village or hamlet where they lived. You could well be luckier here for they are less changed. Well except that those lovely old chocolate box cottages that are now just one cottage. That could well have been cottages for two or three agricultural labourers families. Farms do not need the amount of labour these days with modern machinery for the jobs that were once done with horses.

Stand in the gate of a field and gaze at the land they worked. They grew grain and root crops, kept sheep and cattle, perhaps planted and tended those hedges beside you. Are there birds singing there in those hedges? They are the descendants of the birds that sang when your ancestors were there. Perhaps they are singing to you.

Imagine children running along those footpaths playing chase or hide and seek. Those footpaths tend to call you - come and explore.

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How to get there

Your trip will need planning!!! There will be so much you will want to cram in. Explore the pages of this still growing site. Your place may be there and it will be a start.  Coach travel can be booked, quite good and inexpensive actually! Hand your luggage to the driver and get on, sit back and relax! Traveline is also a handy site to check for public transport times.

One must have is to allow time. It cannot be rushed, too precious.

Happy Hunting.

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In these centenary years of WWI Forces War Records and other genealogical data bases provide excellent resources for finding our military ancestors who fought so bravely under appalling conditions.

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an old photograph

1939 Register on Find My Past

The United Kingdom's 1939 register of everyone in the country taken at the outbreak of World War II is on Find My Past. This is a register, not a census but still contains a great deal of information.

Find My Past also has the 1921 census.

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Useful Information

Getting to and around Wessex

There is a lot of information regarding airports, ferries and public transport on this link. Useful read, particularly if you are coming in from overseas as many family historians will be.

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Hire cars

Why not leave the car at home this year and hire one when you get to your destination. Saves a lot of hassle with the traffic on the inward and outward journey! If one is required from home or the airport - well why not.

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Travel by coach

If you do decide the leave the car at home and help the environment too, why not go National Express. They run coaches all over the country. Some pretty good fares too.

Just imagine - sit back and relax, no hassling with the traffic!!!

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Travel by Train

Virgin Trains are useful if you are travelling mainline to and from London from Scotland, the North of England, Birmingham and Wales. Mainly useful for main line travelling. Change to other train companies for the South West.

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Public Transport

Otherwise most public transport - trains and buses - can be found on this most useful site Traveline  Whatever did we do without it!!!

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