2005-12-31

Porirua Library Genealogy Section

I use the General Register Office to order UK birth, death and marriage certificates for anscestors from England.

To order a certificate you need something known as GRO index reference information. The GRO index reference information comprises the quarter, year, district name, volume number and page number of the record requested.

Some of this information is available online using services line Ancestry, FreeBMD or Find My Past. The definitive collection is held on microfiche and available at various places.

What suprised me is the Porirua City Library has an extensive collection of genealogy information, including the GRO indexes on microfiche. Porirua is about 20 minutes drive from where I live so I went in today to do some research.

The genealogy section in the library has lots of stuff. This includes:

  • GRO indexes on microfiche for 1837-1930i
  • IGI information on microfiche
  • English census CDROM’s and computers to use them on
  • Reference book section specifically for genealogy and New Zealand history
  • Index of New Zealand birth, deaths and marriages on microfiche
  • Cemetry records, transcriptions, etc on microfiche
  • Lots of other stuff

They even have a genealogy assistant there to help you out. The person walked me through the entire section showing me what was available and giving advice on how to look up information.

Thanks to the GRO indexes I was able to compile information for lots of people in my family tree, all ready for when I can afford to order the information from the General Register Office.

Looking up the information is easy. The microfiche are seperated into the births, deaths and marriages. For example I was looking for the birth information for Juanita Isabella Halle who I knew to be born in 1864. I took the microfiche for each quarter in 1864, looking up ‘Halle’, a relatively rare surname. I found the entry in the December quarter (always the last one you look for!):

Juanita Isabella Halle, Islington, 1b, 222

Using this I can order her birth certificate. Juanita’s information is actually available on Ancestry so what are the advantages in using the microfiche indexes?

For one, if I didn’t have an Ancestry subscription the library option is free. Ancestry’s search relies on OCR’d (Optical Character Recognition) versions of computer scans of the index. If the OCR is imperfect it may have the names slightly incorrect resulting in making it hard to find. Looking at the actual record on microfiche may make it easier to identify.

An example of the OCR problem is searching for another ancestory of mine. Cornelius Double, died September quarter in 1856. The record in Ancestry has an incorrect page number as it couldn’t scan the last character. This character is readable (just) on the microfiche.

The big advantage with online search databases is being able to do instant searches across a range of dates. Microfiche records make for a nice backup if the online search finds nothing and its at no cost - except my time.

When searching for marriage records you have the choice of looking for the spouse’s surname or the grooms. They both point to the same GRO reference. Pick the name which is likely to be more rare. In searching for the marriage information for Cornelius Double and Mary Fletcher, married in 1843, there were lots of Fletchers. But very few Double’s. So it was much easier finding Cornelius’ record.

I also did some searching through the New Zealand cemetery records which I’d never done before. More on that in another post.

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