Tag Archives: Genealogy

Heritage Research Area Familiarisation Session

Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

Meet experienced staff at this free event which will act as a general beginners’ guide to resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a representative of staff on level 4 to place a reservation.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Our Heritage Research Familiarisation Session is now fully booked. If you haven’t managed to book on the session this time, we are planning to offer another one on a Saturday in September, date yet to be confirmed. Please check out the blog, the Lob website and twitter as well as posters located in the library nearer the time for confirmation of the date. 


New Year, New Additions

We haven’t updated you all for a while but we have some new additions to our Birmingham Collection printed bookstock. We hope you enjoy them!

New additions to our Birmingham Collection

New additions to our Birmingham Collection


1.Arthur, Valerie.
A History of Selly Oak Hospital. (2015).
BCOL 46.324 SEL, Level 4 & L 46.324 SEL, Level 5.

2.Cawood, Ian & Upton, Chris. (Ed.)
Joseph Chamberlain, International Statesman, National leader, Local Icon. (2016).
BCOL 78.1 CHA, Level 4 & L 78.1 CHA, Level 5.

3.Chinn, Carl & Dick, Malcolm.
Birmingham, The Workshop of the World. (2016).
BCOL 71 CHI, Level 4 & L 71 CHI, Level 5.

4.Coleman, Peter. (Ed.)
George Walton, 1796 – 1874. The Journal & Diary of a Rifleman of the 95th who fought at Waterloo. (2016).
BCOL 78.1 WAL, Level 4 & L 78.1 WAL, Level 5.

5.Gazey, Glynis.
Dear Wife ….. yours ‘til the end, Frank xxx. A Letter Journey Through World War 1. (2015).
L 78 HEF, Level 5

6.Hallam, David.
Challenging the Patriarchs : Women Candidates in the West Midlands for the 1918 General Election. (2015).
LF 76.8 HAL, Level 5.

7.Horizon Midlands.
Travel brochures and miscellaneous materials, c 1968 – c 1993.
Birmingham Trade Catalogue Collection

8.James, Pete.
Reference Works : The Library of Birmingham Photography Project. (2013).
BCOL 25.69, Level 4 & LF 25.69, Level 5.

9.Myers, Kevin.
Struggles for a Past. Irish and Afro – Caribbean Histories in England, 1951 – 2000. (2015).
L 21.85 MYE, Level 5.

10.Reekes, Andrew.
Speeches that Changed Britain : Oratory in Birmingham. (2016).
L 76.9 REE, Level 5.

11.Satre, Lowell, J.
Chocolate on Trial : Slavery, Politics & the Ethics of Business. (2005).
L 66.53 SAT, Level 5.

12.Sharp, Robert.
The Hoard and its History : Staffordshire’s Secrets Revealed. (2016).
BCOL 70.6 SHA, Level 4 & L 70.6 SHA, Level 5.

13.Thomas, Denise. (Ed.)
The Autobiography and Library of Thomas Hall B.D. (1610 – 1655). (2015).
L 78.1 HAL, Level 5.


Deciphering Cryptography for Family Historians

Marriage indexes

Birmingham marriage page range tables

Do you often get puzzled, nay perplexed by family history research? If only it were as simple as when shown on the television and wouldn’t we all love a PA answering to our every whim for warming lattes and restorative brioche butties. You agonise, you fret, you convulse over whether great aunt June wasn’t really a member of the KGB because you can’t find any reference to her breathing on the GRO (General Register Office) index and what do all of these esoteric codes and hieroglyphics relating to a marriage in eighteen o’ dreadful actually mean. Well, discombobulate no longer, people of the genealogical fraternity because assistance is at hand, propulsive yet sophisticated like Bond himself in a vintage Aston Martin DB5.

Let me introduce you to the wonders of the GRO Birmingham Marriage page range tables complied by P.L. Loach with assistance from David Fall where credited –

  •  Marriages registered in the Aston Registration District,1837 – 1924.
  • Marriages registered in the Birmingham Registration District, 1837 – 1924.
  • Marriages registered in the Birmingham North Registration District, 1924 – 1932.
  • Marriages registered in the Birmingham South Registration District, 1924 – 1932.
  • Marriages registered in the Kings Norton Registration District, 1837 – 1924.
  • Marriages registered in the West Bromwich Registration District, 1837 – 1932 (includes some north west Birmingham suburbs).

Once you have located the entry for the marriage you seek via the GRO index (which is accessible to view free of charge in Archives & Collections Service via Ancestry) and as long as the event occurred in the period covered by the marriage page range tables as outlined above, you should in theory be able to highlight which church the service took place at, although there are some noticeable exceptions which are identified when inspecting the tables. The tables are primarily arranged in yearly order and then by quarter –  March, June, September and December. The final part of the puzzle you require is the page number from the GRO citation found on Ancestry and all being well, the magical algorithms of the page tables will calculate their way to a revelation of which church the service took place in. You are then at liberty to explore other related resources held in our collections which may lead you to a copy of the parish entry for the marriage.

Quick ReferenceThe page range tables are available to view in the Heritage Research Area’s  Quick Reference section located on Level 4 of the Library of Birmingham at any point during the course of our full service hours of 11 am  – 7 pm Monday & Tuesday and 11 am  – 5 pm Wednesday to Saturday.


Happy espionage every one!

Paul Taylor
Archives & Collections Coordinator


The following items have been added to the various bookstock collections housed in Archives & Collections  –

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1821 Census of Sheldon

EP 42

EP 42 Sheldon Parish Box 6/3

Delving into the parish chest records for St Giles Sheldon in search of material to use in a family history workshop I came across a rather bland looking reference: EP 42 Box 6. Item 3.  Sheldon Population 1821. I was almost more taken by Item 1: An Act more effectually to prevent profane cursing and swearing (1745) – and wondered whether it was still on the statute books!

But knowing that there was a civil census taken in 1821, for which nationally there are only statistical returns available, I was interested enough to take a look. And I was rewarded by discovering that it is indeed the local parish listing compiled for the purposes of the census and listing the names of 79 heads of household.

I was really excited by the find as the most up-to-date guide to early Census schedules and listings available here:  http://www.essex.ac.uk/history/documents/research/RT2_Wall_2012.pdf recognises its existence but describes its location as unknown.  So I thought I had made a truly valuable find. However the earlier 1992 3rd edition of Gibson & Medlycott’s Local Census Listings 1522-1930 does list it and even correctly identifies it as being Item 3 in Box 6 of the St Giles Parish collection.  So I was a little deflated but still fascinated by seeing a relatively rare survivor of early census records. There are known to be surviving household lists from just 231 parishes out of a total of over 10,000 parishes in existence in 1821.

Sadly it doesn’t name all the inhabitants but it does give the age and gender breakdown for each household which could be used with the parish registers and other data from the rich collection of records from the parish chest to allow some family reconstitution. The listing is dated 2nd July 1821 and signed by the compiler Charles Curtis JP.  The Overseers or other local officials were required to undertake a survey by going from house to house on 28th May 1821 to gather data to furnish the statistical returns required of them.

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A Voice From the Past

Green Detected

A paperback book was brought into the AHP service counter by a couple who had bought the book from a charity shop in Castle Bromwich (from my memory). On inspecting the book, they found a couple of handwritten notes from a soldier and it seemed as though they were written to his children during the First World War. The soldier was identified as Sergeant Richard Greenfield, and the letters were addressed to Ellen and mentioned her siblings, Richard and William.

MS 4674/1 Letter from Richard Greenfield

MS 4674/1 Letter from Richard Greenfield

Prompted by the possibility that they might relate to a Birmingham family, I pursued a number of lines of enquiry, mainly on Ancestry.com.

First of all I searched military records for a Richard Greenfield and quickly found some records for a Birmingham born man who apparently joined the army twice. Firstly the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 18 August 1899, aged 21, regimental number 6967. From these records he appeared to have served in Malta, South Africa and India between February 1901 and October 1907. He was promoted to corporal in December 1905. A second regimental number 373999 seems to relate to a further period of service with the Warwickshire’s and there is information relating to a re-engagement of service in August 1911. Richard Greenfield was then mobilised on the 5 August 1914 and promoted to sergeant on 18 January 1915. A military history sheet appears to confirm that he was sent to serve in France from March 1915, and after a brief period in the UK he was part of an expeditionary force bound for France in May 1916. The military records also confirm that he was discharged in June/July 1919. One of the military history sheets gives some details of Richard’s father, wife and children and thus I have been able to follow up other elements of his life via the census, parish records, trade directories and ultimately his death certificate.

The census of 1891 finds the Greenfield family, father and son, plus mother and a further eight children living at 104 Charles Arthur Street (parents – Painter and Button worker respectively). Richard (son) is 14. The census of 1901 and the family is now living at 17 Arley Street. Richard (father) is now described as a House Painter and Anne (mother) now not in employment but with nine children still at home. Richard (son) joined the army in 1899 and hence is missing from this entry.

Marriage entry from St. Gabriel, Deritend [EP 2/2/3/7]

Marriage entry from St. Gabriel, Deritend [EP 2/2/3/7]

The next formal record is of the banns of marriage of Richard Greenfield and Amy A Whitehead at St. Gabriel – they are married on 13 November 1910 [EP 2/2/3/7]. Richard is described as a porter and there is a suggestion that he returned to work as such at New St. Station after his discharge from the army – I haven’t been able to prove this although the 1911 census supports this theory. Richard was born in early 1878 and hence is 32 when he and Amy married.  The parish record describes Amy as a minor at this point in time. Like many others, the first child of Richard and Amy was born illegitimately on 21 October 1910 and this is Ellen, the child to whom the letters are addressed. A brother, Richard, was born on 14 October 1912 and he is also mentioned in the letters. The third child of Richard and Amy is William, born in early 1914 – the letter suggests he has been ill and indeed he died in January 1916. A further son is born in October 1916, named William also, and sadly dies in July 1918 before his second birthday.

The 1911 census finds Richard, Amy and Ellen living at 1 back, 13 Poole Street, Aston, with Richard’s occupation described as a Railway Porter. Richard Greenfield (the elder) and family remain at 17 Arley Street.

I did locate a death certificate for Richard Greenfield dated 13 June 1953, signed by a doctor from Dudley Road Hospital and registered by Amy A Greenfield. The couple had been living at 126 Norton Crescent, Birmingham 9. Although it is unlikely that Richard and Amy’s children are still alive, could there have been grandchildren? More detective work required……

Alison Smith

A thousand trades, a thousand stories

William Westley, 1731

William Westley, 1731

Birmingham is well known as a city of 1,000 trades but it might also be a city of 1,000 nations.  Trade has brought people from far and wide to live and work in the city and a look at the censuses from the nineteenth century reveal people coming from across Europe and the “East Indies” (South Asia) and the “West Indies” (the Caribbean).  In 1871 we find Paul Paulson and his wife Eliza, both singers, living in Coleshill Street near Dale End.  Paul was born in the East Indies – we can only guess as to his heritage.  Meanwhile over in Lichfield Street at the same time John Patnapally, a hawker and his wife Mary Ann,  was born in Mumbai and we can suppose his heritage was probably in part at least  South Asian.  There are equally large numbers of people from the West Indies – sometimes the census gives us a place, as in the case of Matthew, a clerk, and Matilda Hyman who were living with their daughter Lizzie, a teacher, in Albion Street.   He and his family were born in Kingston, Jamaica, part of a large Jewish community in Jamaica where they had settled, felling persecution in Europe from the 1530’s onwards.

The Hyman family shared the house with a boarder, Julius Scott, who was from Prussia, probably part of the Scottish Prussian Community established through trading links in the Middle Ages.  We know that Matthew Hyman was Jewish, as his burial at Balls Pond Road Jewish Cemetery in London is recorded in 1882.

Birmingham has always been a city of vibrant diversity with thousands of stories waiting to be told.

Rachel MacGregor

Birmingham Rate Books – now available on Ancestry

Example of Entry from 1881 Kings Norton Rate Book (CP KN/2/1/31 April 1881 Poor Rate Assessment)

Example of Entry from 1881 Kings Norton Rate Book (CP KN/2/1/31 April 1881 Poor Rate Assessment)

More Birmingham records have now been digitised and made available on Ancestry.com – free to access within Birmingham libraries.  The latest collection consists of 340 Rate Books with coverage dates from 1787 to 1913 although most date from the late 19th and early 20th century. They should prove a useful source of information for both family and local historians as they provide name and address details which complements those found in other sources such as decennial censuses and Street Directories. And one can use them to establish whether their ancestors were tenants or property owners whilst the rateable value of the property can be used to gauge the status of the occupant.

If an extended run of rate books has survived, they can potentially provide useful genealogical information where a number of generations have been recorded.

Rate books contain lists of owners and/or tenants with an assessment of the value of their property and the amount of the ‘rate’ set for a particular period of time. Rates were a tax or levy collected at a local level for a variety of purposes. The 1601 Act for the Relief of the Poor established the principle of compulsory rating and its use was gradually extended to cover other local purposes such as highways, sewers, lighting, and gaols. Later in the 19th Century various Acts of Parliament were passed to enable rates to be imposed for works which would benefit the community such as the 1845 Museum Act, the 1847 Baths and Wash-houses Act and the 1850 Public Libraries Acts.

The early books in the collection relate to individual parishes who were responsible for both the collection and distribution of the poor rate but following The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 it united parishes into unions and it became the responsibility of the Union to collect the revenue even though the individual parishes still administered the distribution to their resident paupers.

The collection can be searched by name of either the occupier or owner of the property or you can opt to browse through the rate books for a particular year and location. The first page in the rate book will help to identify the type and purpose of the rate in each book.

It should be noted that the current release on Ancestry does not comprise our entire collection of rate and levy books which are still available to view (mainly on microfilm) by prior appointment in the Wolfson Centre. These include many early rate and levy books for the Parish of Birmingham dating back to 1736.

Title Page from 1887 Rate Book for Saltley

Title Page from 1887 Rate Book for Saltley