Posts about genealogy research and my experiences

One Name Dilema

I need some help, advice or perhaps medication!

I’m seriously thinking about embarking on a One Name Study. I’ve been mulling this over for the last two or three weeks. I’ve looked at the Guild of One-Name Studies website, I’ve Googled “one name studies” loads of times and I’ve checked for one name study blogs and websites.

I know it will be an arduous task and I will need to be really well organised and committed. I am prepared for that – to be in for the long haul.

My wife’s family name is Espley and that’s the one I want to research. There are 108 Espley’s on the England 1841 census and 408 on the 1911 census. There are some other derivations of the name as you would expect – Epsley, Esply, Epsly, Aspley, Apsly and Asply – all appear on the 1911 census. Not sure how many of these are transcription errors – they will all need to be checked and recorded though.

I know some of the people we have in our family tree emigrated to Canada and New Zealand and most likely to other places as well.

To start with I am going to concentrate on the UK and see how I get on.

I could do with some advice about the best way to manage the information. I found one website offering a database called Custodian 3 and on various forums people have said that they have just used a spreadsheet, like Excel.

So should I just go for the commercial product and save time – it isn’t expensive but perhaps it’s not essential either. I’m not particulalrly good at setting up a database from scratch – I could probably manage a simple spreadsheet though. So any help or advice about your experiences if you have gone down this road would be welcome – thanks.

I’ve already handwritten the England 1841 census information and the IGI marriages into my trusty notebook. Just really to get a feel for how much work is going to be involved. I’m now itching to get this information into a database or spreadsheet.

I’m going to set myself a research plan – GRO indexes, rest of the census records and IGI births and deaths to start.

I’ve more or less decided to focus on Espley in the UK first and look overseas later. Other questions are – should I register with the Guild of One Name Studies right away and maybe register a website domain for when I’m ready to publish the results.

I’m getting really giddy about the prospect of starting this new project.

St Catherine’s House

As well as using the Central Library in Leeds for all our early research we got a few chances to visit St Catherine’s House in London.

Civil Registration began in the UK on 1st July 1837 and the records and registers were kept at Somerset House in London until 1970 when they were moved to St Catherine’s House. Because of it’s location the Civil Registration index became known as the St Catherine’s House Index. The records were moved again 1997 to the Family Records Centre at Myddleton Street, North London.

Looking though the registers in St Catherine’s House really felt like you were in touch with history. These are huge books – separate records for births, marriages and deaths. Each volume has the records for a calendar quarter for a particular year.

I knew my maternal grandmother’s birthday was 6th January 1897 so the record should have been in the March 1897 quarter. Her name was Florrie Musgrove. I had checked the records in the library at Leeds but hadn’t been able to find a record of her birth. On one of our visits to St Catherine’s House I was determined to have a thorough and systematic search.

It wasn’t where it should have been – not under Musgrove, or Musgrave, or Musgreave. It wasn’t in the June 1897 quarter or the September 1897 quarter. OK think laterally. After what seemed an age and just before we were ready to give up, there it was – in the March 1897 register after all – but under Florrie Mosgrove.

We were still early on in our research and it was a great lesson. Don’t accept things at face value and learn to question everything.

The marriage certificate for Fred and Florrie Musgrove also threw up another anomaly – but that’s for another week.

Where it all started

I don’t really remember what got me interested in looking at my family history. I used to talk to my mum and dad quite a lot about their childhood, memories and family. Although I always found it fascinating I can’t think there was a particular spark that lit the fire.

 I’ve just been to look at the early certificates I ordered and they date from 1996 – so I guess that was the time when I really started searching and spending money.

Of course this was well before the Internet became a vital source of information. My wife, Jayne, and I spent many hours in the local and family history section of the Central Library in Leeds. This section is down some long, dark and narrow passages – well away from “normal” library users.

All the birth, marriage and death registers were on magnetic tape. If you’ve been researching a while you know the sort of thing I mean. Reels of tape had to fed through the spools on the “reader” machines. I’ve lost count of how many times we put them in upside down or backwards way round.

In those days you had to book time on the viewing machines. The local and family history section was always busy and if you managed to get a couple of hours on a machine you were lucky.

The other main source of information is the International Genealogical Index (IGI). This is an index of genealogical information maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You probably know them better as the Mormons.

Anyway the IGI contains birth, marriage and death records from several sources including church and parish records. Back in 1996 the IGI was only available on Microfiche at the library. These days it is readily available online at

Whenever we had time we would set off for the library with a packed lunch ready to spend time looking for that elusive record. Now I know you’re thinking it sounds a bit like train spotting but at least it was indoors.

Until you’ve experienced it then it’s hard to describe the excitement of finding the entry you’ve been looking for after trawling through reels and reels of tape because you didn’t have an accurate date.

Hello world!

Welcome to my new blog about my family history.  I have been researching my family for about 16 years now.  I haven’t found anyone famous or even infamous – yet!  Just good solid working folk.

Some pages have information already and others are work in progress.

I hope you will find my stories sometimes interesting and ocassionally humorous.  All comments welcome.

Let me hear from you especially if your name is Dawson, Musgrove, Hurtley, Paley….or any of the other family names that crop up in future.