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Introduction

As time goes by, ever more sources of genealogical information become available online. This page is not going to cover the "obvious" sources (BMD and parish records at Ancestry, FamilySearch etc) but rather provides a short commentary on the various genealogy works that have been published over the last 200 years, many of which are now out of copyright and available for free. Given my own family history, these reference works all focus on the British Isles.

I will cover:

  1. Burke's ("Landed Gentry/Commoners", Burke's Peerage etc)
  2. Familiae Minorum Gentium
  3. Armorial Families
  4. Lincolnshire Pedigrees
  5. Miscelleanea Genealogica et Heraldica
  6. The Scots Peerage
  7. Cockayne (Complete Baronetage, Complete Peerage)
  8. Some British public school registers (e.g. Eton, Winchester)
  9. The Baronetage of England

These works are all digitised to varying degrees; you will usually find freely-accessible digitised books at either Google Books, Archive.org or the Hathi Trust. Physical copies may be available at your local library. The trick, of course, is to know which work you need. Some, but by no means all, these digital copies have been OCR'd, making them searchable and so these volumes may yield results when searching names online (e.g. google.com or bing.com). Unfortunately there are many that are not searchable digitally, which means you will need to have to painfully scroll down dozens of indexes in the hope of finding something useful. One site that has done a lot of the work for you is stirnet.com, so well worth a visit (and often appears in search results).

The following section will cover some of the main reference works for British family heritage, giving you a general idea of the scope of these works. In some instances, more detailed sub-pages can be found by following the links within each section.

A Note On Reliability

None of these works can be counted on to be fully reliable. Many were compiled using limited primary records (though many also take note to carefully document their data sources) and a healthy dash of wishful thinking. When it's important, I'd recommend supplementing any of these reference works with some research for primary records (BMD and/or parish) to confirm or deny the pedigree information they contain.

Burke's

A wide-ranging set of publications has been published under the general umbrella of Burke's. The most recent versions are available, for a subscription, directly from the publisher's website. The most useful include the three following series:

On top of these three, Burke's Family Records (first published 1897) tackled additional notable families who did not qualify to be covered within the Landed Gentry or Peerage series. And the Heraldic Illustrations series provides more pedigrees and, as the name suggests, illustrated coats of arms for some families ("the Principal Families of the Empire").

Follow this link to go into more depth on Burke's.

Familiae Minorum Gentium

Oftened abbreviated to FMG on my site, Familiae Minorum Gentium, by Joseph Hunter, is a 650 page manuscript that was transcribed and published posthumously by the Harleian Society over 1894-6. The focus was on family pedigrees for northern England, principally Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Lancashire.

There are four volumes, each arranged alphabetically by surname from A to Z (i.e. each volume covers the full alphabet). The entries themselves consist of tree-form pedigrees, with some footnotes dotted here and there (particularly where Hunter doubted the authenticity of a connection, or noted a relationship to another pedigree given elsewhere in his work). Volume 4 includes a complete index to all the pedigrees.

Armorial Families

Armorial Families: A Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-Armour, by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, was published in various editions (at least seven) between 1871 and 1928. Fox-Davies was particularly concerned with correct (i.e. properly-registered) coats of arms and spent much of his life trying to debunk families who were claiming arms without proper authority. In Armorial Families, Fox-Davies concentrates on families where he is sure of the right to bear arms, though he was not shy in indicating doubts for some of the families he covered.

Lincolnshire Pedigrees

As it name suggests, these are a collection of pedigrees specifically of Lincolnshire families, edited by the Rev. AR Maddison and published by the Harleian Society between 1902 and 1906. There are four volumes. The pedigrees are based on the Lincolnshire Visitation of 1634, with support from the earlier Visitations (1562 and 1592), the later 1666 Visitation and local parish registers where available.

  1. Volume 1: A-F
  2. Volume 2: G-O
  3. Volume 3: P-Y
  4. Volume 4: Additional Pedigrees (A-Z)