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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Getting around a Genealogy Roadblock in England

Donna's Question:
In searching my husband's family tree, I've hit a road block at his great-great-great-greatgrandfather, William Jackson. William came here from England, according to the DAR, to fight as a patriot in the Revolutionary War and was born in the early 1750's. They have no other information that would help me trace the tree back in England. No town, or county, or any place to even start, and with a common name like William Jackson, it won't be easy to latch on to the right Jackson roots. What would you suggest I do to get started?

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Donna, If you are very fortunate, the English Jackson family was comfortably well off. And William's parent or sibling or Great Uncle Chauncey left a will which bequeathed half the family silver to William. Or perhaps William did right for himself in the Colonies, and he left a little something to his nephew Percival back in England.

There are several hundred years' worth of wills tucked away at the National Archives. Some of them are indexed and available online. There are also very nice Research Guides to help you. Just remember that you will have to search for odd spellings of where William lived, in addition to "America" or "Virginia". You may want to read my article explaining how to use the National Archives website Ordering Documents Online from National Archives in Kew England - a Comedy of Errors Part 1

The newspaper (and patience) is your friend. William's attorney may have sent to England to have a notice appear in the local papers that might have gone something like this.... "William Jackson, late of Little Tripworth by the Sea, having died in Tappahannock Virginia on the 14th ult....." Newspapers here may contain legal notices, or reports of passengers recently arrived. You can try href="" > or for online newspapers.

You say William was born "early 1750s." It would help if you had a more precise birthdate (as well as an exact death date). There are a wealth of English parish records. Some of them are available online. Armed with a birthdate and some idea of location, you can do a credible job of finding suitable candidates for further research.

You did not mention William's wife. Were they married here? Or in England? Where is her family?

Look also to pupil lists at English schools. Men who succeeded in the Colonies sometimes sent their sons to England to be educated. And check incoming passengerlists for William's sons or grandsons returning from England.

Follow the male heirs. In later documents, perhaps obituaries, you might find a mention of "educated at Oxford" or something similar.


  1. Greetings,
    I just wanted to say Thank You for your wonderful answers to such varied questions,
    and to let know I have nominated your site for the Kreativ Blogger award. Please see to collect.

  2. I agree with Theresa. I wish I had a decent question to ask but I have just started. But these answers are great!!!

  3. Never in a million years would I have looked in English school records. Great! Thanks.