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Researching your Family History

Researching your Family History in the Longtown Area

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If you want a researcher to help you with your family history, Cumberland Ancestor Trackers are based near Longtown, and can do research for you at reasonable rates, including taking photos of local places and gravestones.If you enjoy doing the research yourself, here are a few hints for those trying to trace their Longtown ancestors back before the start of civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in 1837.Internet genealogy is both popular and enjoyable, but many family trees on well known websites are incorrect - try to look for original sources, and always check any data you are given from any other source. Treat all your family tales with caution - they might have passed down from one generation to the next, but often miss out any details (like illegitimacy) which the older generation did not wish to tell their children. Remember that people often lied about their age on the census! For example, the Longtown Registrar, Thomas Plenderleath, gave his age in the 1851 census as 58. He died a few weeks later (attacked in the Bush Hotel in Longtown, after a row about census payments) and in the evidence, his wife said he was six weeks short of 61. Even registars were vain enough to lie about their ages.The websites ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk are brilliant sources of census information and well worth joining. If this is too expensive for you, ask at your local library if they have a subscription which would allow you to access census records etc. (Like that at Cumbria Libraries). If you can't find your ancestors in the census in Longtown, try looking in the Scottish census - many farm servants moved regularly over the border in search of work.Longtown is in the parish of Arthuret, but as it was an extensive parish, some people were baptised or married in nearby parishes such as Kirklinton, Kirkandrews on Esk, Nicholforest, Rockliffe or over the border in Canonbie or Gretna. Look at the Familysearch website for church baptisms and marriages, and some burials.Families from a Scottish background in particular often attended the Longtown Presbyterian church, or had their children baptised in Scotland, so if you cannot find any trace of your ancestors in the Cumbrian border parishes, try looking at Scotlandspeople, which has records both before and after civil registration in 1855. You have to pay to view the records, but if you can't get to Scotland yourself, it is well worth the price, as long as you plan your searches carefully. You can also download Scottish wills from this site.After 1837, you should be able to find Birth, Marriage and Deaths certificates for your English ancestors: these are mostly indexed at FREE BMD which also gives instructions on how to buy certificates. Longtown was the local registration district until 1939, when it became part of the Border registration district. The Longtown registration area included parishes such as Bewcastle and Stapleton which were some distance from Longtown itself.Before civil registration started in June 1837, the place to look is in the church records of baptisms, marriages and burials, copies of which can be found in the Carlisle Record Office. They also hold copies of local wills, which can give great help with your family history. There is also a wealth of information to be found in the Cumbrian libraries. - try searching in their online catalogue for the parish you are interested in.For details about the different Cumberland parishes in the Longtown area, see Steve Bulman's excellent site, which has parish descriptions from a trade directory of 1847 : it also has a list of Longtown entries in the Jollie's Guide of 1811. ILLEGITIMATE BIRTHSLongtown had a particularly high level of illegitimate births. In 1860-61, for example, the Longtown registration district had the highest level of illegitimate births in Cumberland, and the 3rd highest in England and Wales. Out of 636 registered births in that year, 104 were illegitimate. Before 1837, the father of an illegitimate child is often named in the parish register, and the child may take its father's surname, even thought the parents never married. After 1837, birth certificates rarely mention the father's name, even when it was widely known. Even after civil registration, children did not always use the name on their birth certificate: they may have taken a fathers or stepfathers name, or may use different names on different censuses. So people might name their real father on a marriage certificate even though their parents never married and their baptism record is for an illegitimate child with the mother's surname. Don't assume that the name your ancestors were married under, is the same as the name they were baptised with.IRREGULAR MARRIAGES A lot of people from Longtown had irregular marriages at Gretna or Springfield, sometimes before an "official" marriage in church, sometimes the irregular marriage was the only ceremony they had. The records for irregular marriages at Gretna Hall are available to view on ancestry.co.uk website, but there were many other "priests" at Gretna whose records have been lost or are in different locations. The GRO website in Scotland has a document you can download showing where the existing records are held. The Special Collections at Durham University Library has copies of the marriage registers of Robert Elliot and Joseph Paisley, in the early 1800s. There are copies of other registers at the Ewart library in Dumfries.PRESBYTERIANSScots living or working in Longtown may have belonged to the Presbyterian church. Their children may therefore have been baptised in Scotland, often in their parents home town.There was a Presbyterian Church in Longtown, which opened about 1800. It was connected with the established Church of Scotland, and had a chapel in Netherby street. It closed in 1897. The Carlisle Record Office have a transcription of the baptism register, or it is available on microfiche from Ancestral Indexes. The original is in the Record Office in Edinburgh.There was a split in the congregation in about 1834, and a new chapel was built which became the United Secessionist Church; the records for this chapel are not available at the record office in Carlisle.There are a few entries for families from Kirklinton and Stapleton (notably the Davidson family) in the Brampton Presbyterian church register, which is not currently on the IGI, but can be viewed on microfilm at the Carlisle record office.There was also a Methodist chapel in Kirklinton, though the location of any records from this chapel are unknown.Entries from some Presbyterian churches in Cumberland can be seen at the BMD REGISTERS website.QUAKERSThere was a Quaker Meeting House at Sikeside in Kirklinton, with many families from Kirklinton attending, and at Solport in Stapleton. The Carlisle Record Office has some of the records on microfilm, or contact the Quaker Family History Society for advice. Some of the quaker records can also be viewed at the BMD REGISTERS websiteMEMORIAL INSCRIPTIONSMany people doing their family history concentrate on baptisms and marriages, but there is a wealth of information to be found in churchyards. In the early 19th century and before that, people were not necessarily buried in their local parishes, but where their parents and grandparents had been buried. You might find the gravestone of your ancestors in their local churchyard; often the gravestones on either side are also of family members. If you find your ancestors were not buried in their local parish, try to find out where they were buried - they most likely have a family link to that parish. For example, many of the TATE, GRAHAM and FERGUSON families of Longtown were buried at Kirkandrews on Esk, where their ancestors were buried. Older gravestones often have an earlier generation of the same family mentioned on the back of the gravestone, so always check both sides of the stone.The Cumbria Family History Society has published memorial inscriptions for Arthuret, Kirklinton, Stapleton and Hethersgill on CD. Inscriptions for Kirkandrews on Esk are published by the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society. They also sell transcription of pre 1855 MIs for Canonbie, Gretna, Half Morton and Tower of Sark, where many Longtown people were buried. A few families from the Nicholforest/Bewcastle/Stapleton area (e.g. some TURNBULL, KYLE, ARMSTRONG, PATTISON and SCOTT families) were buried in Ettleton cemetery in Roxburghshire.MAPS I find the modern Ordnance Survey Explorer maps very useful, especially if you are planning to visit the area: most of the place names have not changed, and they give a good idea of the geography of the area, which varies from the coastline and marsh land at Rockcliffe, to the hills and forests of Liddesdale, as well as showing public footpaths.Landranger 85 shows Longtown and Gretna. For a more detailed look:Explorer 315 (Carlisle), shows most of Arthuret , Gretna and Kirklinton324 (Liddesdale and Kershope Forest) shows Bewcastle and Nicholforest.323 (Eskdale) shows the area just north of Longtown into Scotland.For old settlements which have long vanished, the best map I have found is Donald's map of Cumberland 1774, recently published by the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society.