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Advice when searching GRONI records

If you are tracing your family history, collect information that is readily available and likely to be accurate and use this as your starting point. Elderly relatives can be an invaluable source of information about previous generations.

Record your findings

As you progress with tracing your family history you will start to gather a lot of information. Make sure you record your findings to ensure your work is not wasted. The GRONI note taking facility, ‘My Notes’ is a useful tool which you can use as you search the indexes either in the public search room or online.

Notes are deleted from your GRONI account after 72 hours. If you are using the internet to access GRONI make sure you export or print your notes before they are deleted. If you are taking notes using ‘My Notes’ in the public search room, you will not have the option to export or print your notes. However, if you access your GRONI account later using the internet, you will be able to export or print your notes, as long as it is within the 72 hour period.

Refine your search

When you search GRONI you will get the total number of results that match the information you enter. As the system can only show a maximum of 200 results at once, you should search using as much information as possible. For a common name such as John Smith, it may help to reduce the years searched if you know the date or year of the registration. You can also select other search fields such as sex and district.

If you searched using a surname and date, the search results will list in alphabetical forename order. For example, if you searched for a birth using the surname Smiley but no forename, the search results will be:

Aaron Smiley
Benjamin Smiley
Brian Smiley
Cara Smiley

If sex is entered as female in this example, the search will return just one result - Cara Smiley.

If a forename is entered and the start of a surname eg Aaron Smi (see additional search functions), the order will be:

Aaron Smiley
Aaron Smith

Additional search functions

There are several ways to refine your search if you are having difficulty finding a record:

  • equals – if you select this option, the result will only return exact matches
  • begins with - if you search using the first three letters of a name, the result will be all names beginning with those letters
  • variants - the result may return possible variants. For- a search for Smyth may also return Smith - however the variants available are not exhaustive

Spelling

Spelling can be the key to unlocking your family history. While some names have remained the same over the years, others have changed beyond recognition. In the early 1900s when many people could not read and write, the registrar recorded the name and registered what they heard. A name such as Smith could have been recorded as Smyth, Davison as Davidson, White as Whyte, or McDonald as MacDonald.

Forenames can also have variants. The following are possible variants:

  • James/Seamus
  • John/Jack/Jackie
  • Mary/Maureen/Marie/Maria
  • Nancy/Agnes
  • Margaret/Maggie/Peggy

Illegible names

There are several reasons why names may not have been recorded for example if the name is illegible and has been impossible to capture for the index. In these cases ‘not captured’ has been inserted to enable searching.

For example, if you are searching for a George McDonald that you know was born in 1868 but cannot find the record, it may be worth replacing the forename with ‘not captured’. It is also common in the case of older records that a birth was registered before the forename of the child was agreed. In these cases ‘not captured’, combined with the surname, may help you find the record.

This will also be the case for the forenames and surnames of some foundlings (an abandoned baby where the parents are unknown).

Old handwriting

Handwriting has changed considerably since registration began. As a result, you may find that writing in some of the older records is difficult to understand. One of the most common examples of this is the formation of the letter ‘s’, especially when a double ‘s’ is present. In these cases, the first ‘s’ resembles the letter ‘f’ or ‘p’. The example shown here is "McGinness".

Abbreviations

Registrars, particularly in the case of older records, sometimes recorded names (usually forenames) using abbreviations common at the time. Examples such as Jno for John, Jas for James (see below), Saml for Samuel and Alexr for Alexander are all fairly common, especially in the 19th century. However, less common ones such as Xtian for Christian also occur.

Common abbreviations

The tables show some common abbreviations.

A
Abigail Abig Abraham, Abram Abr
Agnes Agn Alexander Alex
Alfred Alf Ambrose Amb
Andrew And Anne, Anna, Ann An
Anthony Ant Arthur Art
Augustus Aug

B
Barbara Barb Bartholomew Bart
Benjamin Ben Bridget Brid

C
Catherine, Katherine Cath Charles Chas
Christian Xtian Christopher Chris
Clement Clem Constance Const
Cornelius Corn Cuthbert Cuth

D
Daniel Dan David Dav
Deborah Deb Dorothy Dy

E
Edmund Edm Edward Edw
Elizabeth Eliz or Elz Eleanor, Helena Elnr
Emmanuel Eman Esther, Hester Esth
Ezekiel Ezek

F
Ferdinand Ferd Frederick Fred

G
Gabriel Gab Geoffrey, Jeffery Geof
George Geo Gertrude Gert
Gilbert Gilb Godfrey Godf
Gregory Greg Griffith Grif

H
Hannah Han Henry Hen
Herbert Herb Hester Esth
Hubert Hub Humphrey Hum

I
Isabel Isb

J
James Jas Jeffrey Geof
John Jn Joseph Jos

K
Katherine Cath

L
Lancelot Lan Lawrence Laur
Leonard Leon Lucretia Lucr
Lydia Lyd

M
Magdalen Mgd Margaret Mgt
Margery, Marjory Mgy Marmaduke Marm
Mary My Matthew, Mathias Math
Maurice Maur Michael Mich

N
Nathaniel Nath Nicholas Nic

P
Patrick Pat Penelope Pen
Peter Pet Philadelphia Philad
Philip Phil Phineas Phin
Priscilla Prisc Prudence Prud

R
Rachel Rach Raymond Ray
Rebecca Reb Reginald Reg
Richard Ric Robert Rob
Roger Rog Roland, Rowland Rol

S
Samuel Sam Sarah Sar
Silvester Silv Simon Sim
Solomon Sol Stephen, Steven Ste
Susan, Susanna Sus

T
Theodore Theo Theophilus Theoph
Thomas Tho Tomsin, Thomasine Tomsin
Tomothy Tim

U
Ursula Urs

V
Valentine Val Vincent Vinc

W
Walter Walt Wilfred Wilf
William Wm Winifred Win

Z
Zachariah Zach

Maiden names

If you are searching for birth or marriage records for female family members, remember to use their surname at birth. It is a common mistake to search for a female relative using their married name.

For death records, married women will be recorded under their married name so you don’t need to know their maiden name.

Maiden names are also a useful way of verifying your research as it was common for some families to give the mother’s maiden name as the middle name of the eldest child. This may help you reduce the number of potential records that match your search information.

Forename variations

It is not uncommon for people to be known by names other than their given first forename. In many cases people may be known by their middle name or by a shortened version of their forename or ‘nickname’. For example, someone who was recorded as ‘Margaret Anne’ on their birth certificate could be recorded as ‘Maggie Anne’ on their marriage or death certificates or they could simply be recorded as ‘Anne’ if that was the name they used. It is useful to consider a range of possibilities if you find that searching under the full given name does not provide you with results.

Siblings

Finding brothers or sisters of the person you are searching for can also prove a valuable tool in verifying whether potential families are your ancestors. Knowledge of the mother’s name is extremely helpful as combining search parameters such as surname, maiden name and expected year range will allow you to identify the siblings born within that range.

Date of registration

In a very small number of cases a registration will be recorded between two dates. This may occur in the case of a death where the exact date of death cannot be determined. The search will be against the first date recorded. For example, if a death was recorded ‘between 20 February 2005 and 22 February 2005’ and you search using a name and the year 2005 or 20 February 2005, the result will be returned. However, if you search using 22 February 2005 the result would not be returned. If you are aware that the record you are searching for may be recorded as between dates, it may be better to search by the year of registration.

Mistakes in index information

If you discover information about a record that you think is incorrect or if there is a problem with the quality of an image, please use 'request amendment' feature to register the issue.

GRONI will investigate and give you feedback on any action that is taken.

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