About the database
I have tried to provide answers to all the questions about our Families Database that you are likely to come up with but, to do so without swamping any one page, I have spread them around as follows:
* For questions about Genealogy in general, see Genealogy FAQ and the Genealogy lead page linked to above. Exceptionally, because it is the page which newcomers to the site might look at first, the latter includes a large section called ‘What is special about my database?‘.
* For general questions about the Families Database (such as ‘What limits are there to your Families Database?’), see Families Database FAQ. There is some overlap between that page and this one so, if you expect to find information below but do not, that is probably the next page you should try though please don’t forget that the Families Database drop-down menu (above) also has some pages that are there to help you get the most out of the Database.
* For specific questions about the Families Database, such as identification of the abbreviations used in the database, see below.
In case you are new to the site, perhaps having come here from the Registration process without reading the notes on its first page, I start with …
a YYYY = alive (young or old) in the year YYYY
aka = also known as
b = date of birth
Bart = baronet
bpt = date baptised/christened
bur = date buried
c = circa = about/approximately
CIC = Commander in Chief
d = date of death
div = divorced, formally separated, or marriage annulled
dsp = decesit sine prole = died without issue (children)
dspl = died without legitimate issue
dspm = died without male issue
dsps = died without surviving issue
d unm = died unmarried
dvm = decesit vita matris = died in the lifetime of the mother
dvp = decesit vita patris = died in the lifetime of the father
m. = married … (name of spouse)
mcrt = date of marriage contract
MP = Member of Parliament
MS = manuscript
p = name of unmarried partner (eg. mistress)
RN = Royal Navy
sb = should be
temp = in the time of
WS = Writer to the Signet (registered lawyer in Scotland)
When p is used within the identification of the Main Source(s) it stands for page (pp = pages).
It is likely that I have made some mistakes in recording data. I apologise for them in advance. However, I do believe that most of the inconsistencies in the database are not down to me. For example: many of the ‘inconsistencies’ between the cross-references in our database (one page showing something which is not exactly mirrored in another page) are either the fault of one or more of the sources I am using for the different pages (with it not being practicable for me to do the research needed to work out which is right) or do not in fact evidence an error. I mention below a few examples of why the latter may be the case. For the first of those ‘excuses’ (contradiction between our sources), please remember that part of the reason why I decided to work on the database in the first place was to provide a platform for such contradictions to be identified and sorted out. I have already sorted many by myself but I do need help to sort others. If you think you can help me sort out some more inconsistencies, please do let me know.
There are many cases where apparent inconsistencies (and other forms of discrepancy) between pages in the database are in fact not evidence of error. Instead they are evidence of omission/simplification or alternative description/interpretation. Here are some examples:
- Someone being described as of one place on one page but as of another place on another page. This will be quite common simply because many landowners owned more than one place. Even people who came to be strongly associated with one particular place may, perhaps when they were younger (perhaps at the time they married and so were ‘booked’ into their spouse’s family records), were (also) known as of another.
- People were often identified as being ‘of’ the place they were brought up in even though they later moved away from that place. In particular, it was quite common to describe people who were younger sons/brothers of squires as being ‘of’ the family seat even though they never lived in that place after they reached maturity.
- Some people had more than one first name, being generally/informally known by one of them but with formal records showing another.
- Some sources say that someone dsp (died without issue) whereas in fact they should have said dsps (died without surviving issue), spm (died without male issue) or dspl (died without legitimate issue) or even dsplms (died without surviving legitimate male issue).
As for inconsistencies between some of the spellings used and dates given in the database, see below for notes on our approach to such things.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE FAMILIES DATABASE
The Families Database is divided into 3 sections:
Section I – Ancient & Mythical
Section II – Continental Families – Medieval & Renaissance
Section III – British & Irish Families – Medieval, Renaissance & Modern
My main focus is on Section III which will always make up over 95% of the Database and which I take very seriously. However, whilst recognising that Sections I & II are of interest to many, I include them mainly for fun and do not take them as seriously. With few exceptions, I do not come forward more recently in time than generations with at least one person born by 1800. For many families, that enables me to overlap with the earliest census records. I do not cover more recent generations or families outside of the British Isles but I do offer links from our database to other web sites which do cover them (see The Stirnet Portal).
I apologise if I have mistakenly used “British” where “British & Irish” or “the British Isles” would have been more appropriate. As Great Britain was in control of Ireland for most of the period covered by the Families Database, in most cases using just “British” may in fact be technically correct but I would not like to give offence to anyone on such an issue. For the avoidance of doubt, please view “the British Isles’ as comprising Great Britain (England, Scotland & Wales), Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.
If you click on an inter-family link on one of the Family List pages in the Families Database then it should take you to above the named person within that person’s own family. This “above” will vary from being immediately above to being several lines above but the name should be visible on the page displayed (unless you are viewing this on a small screen, or with a large font size, in which case you might have to scroll down a little).
Don’t forget that you can use the back & forward arrows provided by your browser. Some browsers are better than others at taking you back to the right place on a page, particularly if you had scrolled up or down a page before using the arrow.
Whilst anyone may print out any of the Support Pages in the site (such as this page), only logged-in Members may print out the Families Database’s data pages. Members may find using Ctrl+P (holding down the Control key and then pressing p) an easier and more reliable way to print pages that using their browser’s normal print command. Many of the data pages will probably look best printed out with the paper orientated ‘Landscape’ (wide rather than tall) but for some you may find that ‘Portrait’ mode (tall rather than wide) works better.
All of the database’s pages are in PHP format which is normally very efficient with ordinary text. To help ensure that the data on the data pages are presented properly, they are contained within tables. Because the data does not appear until all of the relevant table has been fully uploaded, if your connection to the Internet is very slow then it might take a second or so for a long data page is uploaded & displayed This is unlikely to be a problem for many people..
File sizes of the data pages are given on the relevant alphabetical sub-index pages. All file sizes shown are approximate only. They are given in case they can help people gauge how quickly pages will take to load and/or print. We keep them under review and, if we see some files becoming too big, may split them into two or more parts. However, there is a compromise to be made between having files that are too large and having too many files. Files released since 23.05.11 use simpler coding than earlier files and so are significantly smaller. As reported in the answer to the question ‘Why is the font used on some data pages different from that used on other data pages?’ on Families Database FAQ, we are converting the earlier files to the new simpler format but that exercise will take some time to complete.
* The data pages list family members and their descendants. To avoid repetition, descendants through female lines are normally shown under the families of the husbands/partners.
* The Database is structured using a staggered system of 1. A. i. a. (1) (A) (i) (a) ((1)) ((A)) ((i)) ((a)) (((1))) (((A))) etc. to differentiate between the different generations (eldest at the top). The first named child (normally the eldest surviving son) is shown with the 1 A i a (etc.) whilst his siblings are shown lower down the page with 2 B ii b, 3 C iii c, etc.. Hence, each person on the page/section may be labelled (except the person at the top who may be identified simply as the person at the top).
Example: The Mary Gifford who married Thomas Oteley may be described as being on page Giffard04 at 3.B.iv.
On the same page is Yate Giffard of Devizes at 5.A.i.b.(2)(D)(iii).
* Siblings are normally listed in order of their date of birth (if known) except that boys are normally listed before girls. Originally no precedence was given to boys over girls but we have moved to that as standard procedure simply in order to maintain consistency firstly between our database and most of the sources we use and secondly within our database. Subject to that, we try to list the siblings in order of their age though less care is made on that for daughters than for sons simply because a reliable order of the daughters is rarely found and we do not want to give a false sense of security on that sort of thing.
* The standard/default colour for the names on the Family Lists pages is black unless the individual is linked to another place, either on the same page or on another Family List page, in which case it is in the standard link colour. Descendants shown through female lines are shown in a pinkish colour.
* If a name is given in bold on a Family List page then that shows that in due course (if not already):
– if it is at the top of the page or section, clicking on it will lead to another page that shows that person’s ancestors.
– if it is not at the top of the page or section, clicking on it will lead to another page that shows that person’s descendants.
If the name (in bold) is already shown underlined and in a link colour then connection to that other page is already available. If a name is not in bold that does not mean that the site will not eventually show that person’s ancestors/descendants, only that there are no present plans to do so.
The abbreviations used within the data on the data pages are identified in a question above. Abbreviations used within the ‘Main sources’ notes at the bottom of the data pages are explained on Sources and Acknowledgements.
Individuals in the database that are accessible from the Selected Individuals page are accompanied by the sign § which, if clicked on, will take you to the top of the relevant section on that page. Individuals shown with §P§ have been made the subject of a Pen Profile within Stirnet Histories. Individuals shown with §R§ are ancestors of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his Duchess (Kate Middleton)& Harry who are mentioned on the Royals01 tree. Individuals shown with §T§ are mentioned on the Genealogy Traps page as someone whose genealogy is often misrepresented in other web sites. Clicking on such a sign will take you to the relevant page.
Where letters (from EGHJRSWY) are shown on the right of a page in the database (normally only where there is a link either to a continuation page for a son or to the husband’s family of a daughter), this means that the person identified is part of an Ancestral Line.
The symbol is used to link to other sites. For more information see The Stirnet Portal.
Please do not get concerned about the spelling of certain names (eg. Giffard or Gifford; Cunningham or Cunynghame or Cuninghame). Spelling was not important until recent times so, in the past, you often find the same person spelling his name in different ways. Similar problems arose with place names although, as such affected more people and it was often important to distinguish the places clearly to avoid confusion, they tended to settle to an agreed spelling more quickly than family names. With place names we have generally followed the spelling used in the relevant source. With family names, we have tried to be consistent within families but even that is not always possible. It was not just the family names that varied but also the given names. For example: Jean & Joan were interchangeable and sometimes were mixed up also with Jane and hence Janet, Jonet & Jennet; Helen, Ellen, Ela, Eleanor & Alianore also formed a set of interchangeble names.
One interesting spelling difference is between Stewart and Stuart. The basic family name was Stewart but when Matthew Stewart, 2nd Earl of Lennox, went to live in France he found that the French were unused to the ‘w’ in the middle of his name and preferred to spell it as Stuart. His family carried on with this. Hence when Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, married Lord Darnley, eldest son of the 4th Earl of Lennox, the name of the Royal Family changed from Stewart to Stuart and her son, James (VI of Scotland, I of England and Ireland), was a Stuart rather than a Stewart. However, just to confuse the issue, after that James came to the throne it became fashionable for several Stewart families to spell their name as Stuart or Steuart.
We are probably making all sorts of mistakes with the spelling of non-British family names so, for such families, you should be cautious about relying on what is shown in our database should you be using it for any ‘formal’ purpose. Sometimes we mix up English with French or another language (eg Count de XXX). Although we try to avoid obvious mistakes, the Database is not pretending to be technically correct on titles (or spellings) so please do not complain on this issue unless the ‘mistake’ leads to confusion between named individuals.
Dates are structured in the normal British way – in the order day.month.year – so that (for example) 07.06.1783 means 7th June 1783 (not 6th July 1783). In some cases, the day is omitted (eg. 06.1783 means June 1783). In the rare cases where the year is given in only 2 digits it is in the 21st century. We would have liked to follow the convention of identifying more clearly the month, perhaps in abbreviated form (eg. Sep or Sept for September or using Roman numerals), but decided not to in order to speed up the typing. Dates given in blue (sometimes in italics) have been found in a source which is not named on the relevant page. Where “Early” is given for the date on which a page in the database was uploaded, that means that the page was uploaded before 20.09.02.
We would love to be able to give reliable birth, date & marriage dates for all of the people named in our database but that is simply not possible. Often our sources disagree with each other so that, in frustration, we sometimes don’t give any dates at all. Whilst many of the dates we show are certain, we recommend that you view all of the dates in this database (and almost every other database that deals with generations more than 200 years ago) as guideline rather than definitive. Early on we gave up trying to be consistent with different conventions (eg 1638-9 instead of 1638/9) as we thought that such would suggest that our dates are more reliable than we think they are. We apologise for any unease this may give to those for whom this is ‘an offence’ but we think it best not to pretend to be able to deliver certainty when we think certainty is not achievable. See Dates in databases for an article on why those conventions exist.
Dates are often useful for helping to sort out the generations but even then one has to be careful as there is often generational overlap. We tend to avoid popular tips such as 30 years a generation (or 100 years for 3 generations), and 2 year gaps between children, but accept that they can sometimes be useful when applied with common sense.
Where a date is given in the format “after DD.MM.YYYY”, it may appear reasonable to suppose that we are normally thinking in terms of no more than a few weeks after the given date (if “after MM.YYYY” is given, then the range could be a few months; if “after YYYY”, a few years). However, sometimes the ‘after date’ given for a death is the date given on a will so we may not know if the individual concerned lived for days or years after making the will. Similarly, a ‘before date’ for a death may refer to a date when a will was proved (after death) or a successor’s title to a property was confirmed. In either case such could sometimes take just a few days but other times take a few years. Remember also that marriage contracts, though normally dated before the marriage, were sometimes dated after. You may by now realise why we do not always spend much time filling in dates in our database. Whilst it is of course true that they can add much interest and use to a database, they can sometimes lead to over-confidence & unmerited assumption and thence to mistakes. Our primary focus for the Families Database is on getting the family connections right and so we place less emphasis on dates than many other database compilers do. As should be clear in the database, we do not hold back too much from including dates when we think it reasonable or useful to do so but please remember that, particularly for early generations, we think of the dates that are shown as of ‘guideline use’ rather than as definitive.
Early records can sometimes be confusing in the way that they refer to people as already being a “lord of” some place and then being appointed as a Lord. The prime distinction is between feudal lordship and parliamentary Lordship. In the early days, of course, there was no Parliament. A feudal lord was someone recognised by the authorities as having feudal rights of ownership over an area, normally called a ‘barony’. A parliamentary Lord was what we would nowadays view as a ‘real’ lord. In England, parliamentary lords were called Barons whilst non-parliamentary feudal and other local lords became known as ‘squires’ although that title was also widely used for anyone who had a property that was significant in the region. Although some can still call themselves ‘lord of the manor’, squires are not permitted to call themselves Lord So-and-so. In Scotland, the title remained the same but the tradition evolved of using the English word Lord for a parliamentary Lord and the Scots word laird for the equivalent of squire. For the sake of consistency between English and Scots families, the Families Database only rarely uses the title ‘Baron’ but instead normally uses ‘Lord’ (with a capital L), leaving ‘lord’ (with a small L) for non-parliamentary lords.
In Britain there has long been the tradition that only the head of an enobled family may inherit the title. In some countries in Continental Europe it was different eg. all of the sons of a Count could call themselves Count (although this normally followed into the next generation for only the head of the family).
One thing to remember when considering names and titles is that those which are of the form “Xxxx of Yyyy” can mean a lot, or a little, or anything in-between. Sometimes that Yyyy represented a major estate, other times it was just a simple farm, and sometimes it was just the name of the place that person came from. However, if the same reference is repeated over several generations (“Xxxx, 5th of Yyyy”) it is likely not only that ownership rather than just location is implied – although, of course, this may not apply to Peers (eg. the Earls of Essex did not actually own all of Essex) – but also that the Yyyy was something more substantial than just an allotment. If a person is described as “Xxxx in Yyyy” then that indicates merely a location or base for that person without any implication that the person actually owned that place. However, we are not always consistent with that and sometimes “of” is given when it would perhaps have been better to use “in”. This applies particularly where a major town or city has been named so, hopefully, such inconsistency should not cause any significant confusion (eg. we trust that you would not consider “John Smith of London” as suggesting that John Smith actually owned the whole of London).