Sussex-Plus Mailing List Web Site


This page offers general guidance for UK genealogy research. Here you will find definitions of abbreviations commonly used by subscribers to Sussex-Plus and other genealogy mailing lists. The hints section gives guidelines for more successful outcomes from queries posted to Sussex-Plus. There is also a section of links to useful genealogy web sites, many of these are especially useful for beginners.

Below you will find:



Links to the relevant websites are provided where possible.

Thanks to Mark Howells for providing the original definitions for many of the general references and to John Owen Smith for providing the definitions for the Surrey and Hampshire references.

Please scroll down to find an abbreviation or use these shortcuts to get to a particular one more quickly.

BMD Births, Marriages and Deaths

The indexes of civil registration for the United Kingdom from July 1837 to the present day. These indexes were often wrongly called the St Catherine's House indexes due to their former location in London. The indexes are available on microfiche from your local Family History Centre, at many major libraries in the UK and at the Family Records Centre in London among other locations. The indexes are used to find reference numbers so that you can order birth, marriage and death certificates. These can then be ordered in person or directly from the UK's Office for National Statistics. Also see FRC and ONS entries.

BT Bishops' Transcripts

Copies of the entries made in parish registers were supposed to be sent to the local Bishop annually from about 1598. For some parishes, the BTs have survived while the original parish registers have been lost. Be aware that these are copies of the originals and not the originals themselves. In parishes where the original registers and the BTs exist, it is usually worth consulting both, there are often different errors and omissions when you compare the two sources.

BVRI British Vital Records Index

The official title is the Vital Records Index British Isles but it's usually referred to as the BVRI. An LDS product on CD-Rom which is effectively a supplement to the IGI. It contains 5 million entries for christenings/baptisms (some also include birth date) and marriages taken from parish registers and a few other sources. The number of parishes covered for each county and the timespan for each parish varies widely. LDS say that Sussex entries cover 52 parishes, Kent 95, Hampshire 38 and Surrey 11.

CCA Canterbury Cathedral Archives

The East Kent "Record Office". Situated on the north side of Canterbury cathedral. The place to find most records for East Kent including parish registers.

CFKS Centre for Kentish Studies

The West Kent "Record Office". Situated at Maidstone. The place to find most records for West Kent including parish registers and Kent wills before 1858. Also contains a great deal of local history material.

CMB Christenings, Marriages and Burials

Christening (Baptism), Marriage and Burial entries found in Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts. A baptism can be on the same day as the child's birth or could occur up to many years later. Before central registration of births was introduced baptisms usually occurred within two weeks of the birth, usually on a Sunday. Burials usually took place within four days of death but there can be a longer gap if the body had to be transported a long distance from the place of death.

CRO County Record Office

County Record Offices are the places to find most of the records for dates before 1837 but contain much useful information for later dates as well. Every county has at least one Record Office, larger counties may have two or more Record Offices. Some do not have "Record Office" in their title. See CCA, CFKS, ESRO, HRO, SHC and WSRO definitions.

DNB Dictionary of National Biography

The standard British biographical dictionary with detailed biographies of some 40,000 British notables. Runs to 32 volumes published from 1885 to 1990. Available in printed form and on CD-ROM.

ESFHS East Surrey Family History Society

The main society for people researching their East Surrey ancestry. The ESFHS offers the usual membership benefits of a quarterly magazine and the opportunity to register your research interests. I believe this society has produced a lot of useful publications including many 1851 census indexes for the Surrey parts of London. Some have been produced in conjunction with WSFHS. (The dividing line between the interests of the West and East Surrey groups runs roughly along the River Mole).

ESRO East Sussex Record Office

The ESRO at Lewes is the place to find all parish registers and many other records relating to the parishes in the current (post 1974) county of East Sussex. One exception is that BTs for the whole of Sussex are held at the WSRO at Chichester.

FFHS Federation of Family History Societies

An umbrella organisation which all UK FFS can belong to and assist each other. They have produced many publications which offer an introduction to various aspects of family history research. A recent publication is the National Burial Index (NBI) on two CDs.

FHC Family History Centre

A network of over 3,000 centres world-wide provide access to the loanable materials of the Family History Library. Often found in association with a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these centres are usually staffed by LDS volunteers who can assist you in your research activities. They are open to all, you don't have to be an LDS member to use them and they won't attempt to convert you.

FHL Family History Library

Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this library is the largest repository of genealogical materials in the world. Microfilm and microfiche copies of a large amount of its materials are available on loan to your local Family History Centre.

FRC Family Records Centre

The Family Records Centre at Myddleton Place in London is the 'new St. Catherine's House' and more. It combines the public search rooms of the Office for National Statistics' General Register Office (indexes for births, marriages, and deaths back to 1837), formerly at St. Catherine's House, with the census and wills rooms of the Public Record Office, formerly in Chancery Lane.

FTM Family Tree Maker

The most commercially successful of the many software packages for genealogy.

FT Mag Family Tree Magazine

The most widely circulated snail mail magazine for UK genealogy, Family Tree Magazine is a monthly publication full of useful information. Not to be confused with the new US magazine called Family Tree.

GEDCOM Genealogical Data Communications

The GEDCOM standard is the data format by which genealogists trade their research information on computer files. All major genealogy software packages will convert data into GEDCOM format.

GENUKI UK and Ireland Genealogical Information Service

The most complete single source for UK genealogy on the Internet, GENUKI is a co-operative venture relying on volunteers to place genealogy information on the Internet in an organized manner.

GOONS Guild Of One Name Studies

This society helps co-ordinate one name studies - research into particular surnames regardless of pedigree. For example, a one name study may be collecting all the occurrences of the SUSSEX surname whether they are related or not.

GRO General Register Office

Part of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the GRO is responsible for the recording of births, marriages, and deaths in the England & Wales since 1837. You apply to the GRO for certified copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates.

HGS Hampshire Genealogical Society

The main society for people researching their Hampshire ancestry. The HGS offers the usual membership benefits of a quarterly magazine and the opportunity to register your research interests. It has also indexed the 1851 census and recently completed a burials index for the whole of Hampshire.

HRO Hampshire Record Office

The HRO at Winchester is the place to find all parish registers and many other records relating to parishes in the county of Hampshire. Also manuscripts relating to the bishops of Winchester, which cover a wider area.

IGI International Genealogical Index

Developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Department, the IGI is a finding aid for millions of individuals. Originally on microfiche, then on CD-ROMs at your local Family History Centres, part of the IGI is now available on the Internet: Search the IGI

KFHS Kent Family History Society

The main society for people researching their Kent ancestry. KFHS offers the usual membership benefits of a quarterly magazine and the opportunity to register your research interests. In addition KFHS has many copies of parish registers and many other useful records available for sale on fiche. They also offer a postage stamp exchange scheme so that you can avoid expensive IRCs. KFHS also operates a mailing list open to members only.

LDS Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Often referred to as the Mormons, members of this denomination have a duty to research their ancestors in order to perform religious rites over the dead. Because of this obligation, the LDS church has developed the largest single repository of genealogy information in the world at their Family History Library. They are kind enough to share this information with everyone, both LDS and non-LDS.

MI Monumental Inscription

The remembrances inscribed on gravestones. MIs are often recorded by the local Family History Society or other organization.

NBI National Burial Index

An ongoing project by the FFHS to publish burial entries from parish registers extracted by volunteers from UK FFS. The first issue is on two CDs and there will be more to follow in later years. There are no entries for Sussex in the first edition and very few for Kent.

OED Oxford English Dictionary

The ultimate reference work on the English language. An excellent source for archaic and obscure words and terms. Available both in a full printed edition, compact edition with micro-printing, and also on CD-ROM.

ONS Office for National Statistics

The ONS is responsible for the conduct of the English and Welsh censuses and, through its GRO branch, for the registration of all births, marriages and deaths since 1837.

PAF Personal Ancestral File

The computer software package put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, PAF probably has more users than any other genealogy software.

PR Parish Register

Parish registers contain Christening (Baptism), Marriage and Burial entries. Registers began in the 1500s but not all of them survived. They are the main source of genealogical information for events before 1837 and are also useful after that date. Older ones have usually been deposited at the appropriate Record Office but those still in use are held by the current incumbent of the parish. Some parishes have retained all of their registers and these can only be viewed by contacting the current holder. Sussex has/had over 400 parishes, Kent 410+, Surrey 150+, Hampshire 300+, Isle of Wight 32.

PRO Public Record Office

The Public Record Office is the old name for The National Archives, which are at Kew in Surrey. The TNA is the repository of the national archives for England, Wales and the United Kingdom. They are the keepers of the nation's records back to the Domesday book of 1086.

RO Record Office

Record Office is often used as the abbreviation for County Record Office when it is clear that the Record Office for a particular county is being referred to rather than the Public Record Office. See CRO and PRO definitions.

SCH St Catherine's House

Former location of the Births, Marriages and Deaths indexes which were often incorrectly known as the SCH indexes. Now held at the Family Records Centre at Myddleton Place, London. See BMD, FRC, GRO and ONS definitions.

SFHG Sussex Family History Group

The main society for people researching their Sussex ancestry. SFHG offers the usual membership benefits of a quarterly magazine and the opportunity to register your research interests. The SFHG research interests setup is far superior to that of many other societies. In addition SFHG has copies of some census transcripts and other useful records available for sale on fiche. SFHG also operates a mailing list open to members only.

SHC Surrey History Centre

The Surrey "Record Office". The new Surrey History Centre at Woking is the place to find all parish registers and many other records relating to the county of Surrey. The SHC is part of the Surrey History Service.

SKS Some Kind Soul

Usually used when begging for a lookup or an explanation on a mailing list. See the Hints below for what can be considered a reasonable request for a lookup.

SLC Salt Lake City

In Utah, USA. The headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See FHC, FHL, IGI, LDS and PAF.

SoG Society of Genealogists

The premier society for the study of genealogy and family history in the United Kingdom. Their library in London is excellent, they have a terrific online shopping bookshop, and their publications are often must-haves for serious research.

TNA The National Archives

The National Archives is the new name for the Public Record Office. They are at Kew in Surrey. The TNA is the repository of the national archives for England, Wales and the United Kingdom. They are the keepers of the nation's records back to the Domesday book of 1086.

VKS Very Kind Soul

Used when asking for a bigger favour than would be expected of SKS!

WSFHS West Surrey Family History Society

The main society for people researching their West Surrey ancestry. The WSFHS offers the usual membership benefits of a quarterly magazine and the opportunity to register your research interests. (The dividing line between the interests of the West and East Surrey groups runs roughly along the River Mole).

WSRO West Sussex Record Office

The WSRO at Chichester is the place to find all parish registers and many other records relating to the parishes in the current (post 1974) county of West Sussex. In addition the WSRO holds BTs for the whole of Sussex.

For many more abbreviations and definitions see:
Dr Ashton Emery's A-Z of British Genealogical Research

Hints for researching via Sussex-Plus

When posting a message that requests a lookup please be aware of what constitutes a reasonable request. This article covers requests regarding parish registers, censuses, geography, BMD registrations, history and occupations. There are many other types of request but it's not easy to define them. Ask but don't expect success is the best attitude. The only doubtful messages are those that ask about or mention living people. As well as being an invasion of their privacy there are possible legal consequences unless you have their full, written permission.

Whatever type of request you ask for always give all the information that you have about the person you're researching. This should include full name, place and date. If you don't know the exact place or date then give an estimate. Try to remember to put each surname in capitals as it makes reading requests so much easier.

While you may get lucky and find a relative through the mailing list you are actually more likely to find one by joining a family history society or through a surname interests list website. If you are researching a very unusual surname then consider setting a website, as basic as you like. One of the first things typed into a search engine is a person's surname so cousins will often turn up this way.

Many people cannot afford the time to be on all the mailing lists for the areas their ancestors came from so will not see your list of Sussex-Plus interests. Mailing lists typically have 400-1,200 subscribers, family history societies often have over 3,000 members so your chances of finding a connection are greatly increased.

Surname interest lists have entries from many times that number of people and are continually being added to. Unfortunately, in recent years the best surname interest websites have mostly closed. Often this has been due to the volunteer no longer having the time to keep the site updated and no other volunteer came forward. Also, in these days of increased spam and virus actitivity I would not recommend joining any site that displays email addresses in uncoded form. The Sussex Family History Group Surname Interests pages do still exist, do code the addresses and can be seen by non-members, although more are only available to members.

Parish Registers

Older parish registers have usually been deposited at the county Register Office but any that are still in use will still be held in the parish. Asking for lookups from parish registers is not guaranteed to produce a result as it depends on whether another researcher is planning a trip to a Record Office in the near future (and anticipates having time to add in extra work!). A few registers and/or transcripts have been published by various Family History Societies. If any other subscriber has one of these publications then you may get lucky but don't expect this to happen very often.

It is possible to see films of most deposited parish registers for all counties at Family History Centres world-wide. See Mark Howells's guide to using LDS centres for much useful advice. So you might get lucky if another subscriber is researching people in the same parish as you and has the relevant film on hire at an LDS centre. Again not very likely to occur frequently.


Achieving good results from Census lookup requests requires some knowledge of what is possible.

Copies of the census returns for their own county are held at the various Record Offices and main libraries will often have copies of the returns for their immediate area. Copies of all the census returns for England and Wales are held at the Family Records Centre in London and they can all be requested at Family History Centres world-wide.

The availability of census indexes on the Internet has greatly increased in the last few years. All the UK censuses that are available for consultation have now been indexed but most of them require payment at some stage, usually for the more sophisticated searching and almost always to see the actual entries. I will not be describing them in detail as I do not have the funds to use them. Some forms of the paid services appear to allow their clients to do look-ups for other people so most requests will find a willing volunteer. The likelihood of success after requesting a census lookup for a village is about the same as when requesting a parish register lookup. You must always specify all that you know about the person(s) you'll looking for in order for volunteers to make effective searches for you.

If you prefer to do things yourself I've left in some of the hints for locating the information without totally relying on others.

Published name indexes do not exist for the majority of censuses, those that do may be offered in print, fiche or CD versions. Those known to exist are described below and on the individual county pages. Subscribers to Sussex-Plus usually have copies of most of the published indexes and many will respond to requests for simple lookups. It is not expensive to buy the indexes yourself, when you have many families in one area these indexes are extremely useful for tracking their relatives.

The 1901 UK census has been indexed and is available on the internet. Consulting the index is free but you have to pay to access the entries. The index was not prepared by native English speakers and has quite a few errors and restrictions on complicated searches. Limited copies on fiche are available at the FRC and local Record Offices.

The 1891 census has very few published indexes. The 1901 census index site also offers a very basic search facility for the 1891 census. Unlike the 1901 searching you cannot use any wild cards or search on any field except names and ages. The information provided in the search result is also very limited. It does not tell you where the person was born so is useless in most cases unless the person you're looking for has a unique name for the limited age range you're allowed to specify.

The 1881 census was fully indexed in the 1980s and 1990s by members of local Family History Societies and is available from LDS on CDs at a very reasonable price. Many people have copies so for best results state the person's full name, expected age and county they were thought to be living in. For common surnames it's useful to state their probable birthplace and what town they may have lived in. The CDs are a very useful tool but it's always best to check the actual entries as no index can ever be error free. The actual entries also give descriptions of each enumeration district and the names of the enumerators and the registrars. This information can often give you extra valuable clues.

LDS offer an on-line 1881 index and free access to the transcribed entries. However, the search facilities provided are very limited. Unlike the version on CDs you cannot search using any wild cards, nor by birth or census place, nor by occupation.

The 1871 and 1861 census have rarely been indexed in print. The 1901 census site offers the same very limited search for the 1871, 1861, 1851 and 1841 censuses as offered for the 1891 census.

The 1851 census has often been indexed by Family History Society volunteers. Some counties have complete coverage but by no means all have been done. Indexes vary considerably in content, some are full transcripts but others may offer little more than a list of surnames with film and folio references. The actual entries should be consulted as before.

The 1841 census offers less information than the later censuses so very few attempts have been made to index it. Searching can be quicker than with the later censuses as there's less information to look at and the population was much less. Birthplaces are not stated, people were only asked if they were born in the county they were living in. Many people didn't know or lied as they thought they might be sent back where they came from. Ages were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest five years except for children under 15. These instructions weren't understood by all enumerators so you will find examples of actual ages, ages rounded up to the nearest five and occasionally rounding done to the nearest 10 years. Relationships weren't stated so it's easy to get confused. Occupations were only usually given for the head of the household so adult children's occupations often don't appear. The returns were often made in pencil so films may be difficult to read. It's still worth consulting them though, even if you have to use other types of records to complete the picture.

Censuses were taken in 1831, 1821, 1811 and 1801 but these have very rarely survived and are of very limited value. The government was only seeking a population count but a few parishes asked some extra questions. The most that is available usually consists of the name of the head of the household, possibly his occupation and the number of inhabitants of each house. Some of these have been transcribed by members of Family History Societies.


Asking for geographical information will usually be successful but you will usually also get some responses telling you that you need a better map. There are various maps available on-line but there is no real substitute for a paper map that you can take around with you. Current day road maps at a scale of 3 inches to the mile will show most villages and show you how your ancestors might have moved between them. For more detailed maps the Ordnance Survey Landranger series cover the whole of England, Wales and Scotland in 204 sheets at a scale of 1.25 inches to one mile (2cm to 1km). Ordnance Survey do a more detailed scale series at 2.5 inches to one mile (4cm to 1km), these show smaller hamlets and may enable you to find individual rural dwellings.

Late Victorian large scale Ordnance Survey maps are now available on-line. These are from roughly 1870-90 and are very useful for finding places mentioned in the censuses. Find them at Old Maps.

Older maps are difficult to find on-line but some Family History Societies have on-line maps which show the locations of parishes. For example see the Sussex Family History Group Sussex parishes map.

The firm of David and Charles produce a series of reproductions of Victorian Ordnance Survey maps. Their address is Brunel House, Newton Abbot, Devon. I don't know of a website but their maps may be available at some of the on-line bookshops.

Birth, Marriage & Death Registrations

If you would like someone to look up an entry in the GRO indexes of births, marriages and deaths you may occasionally get lucky. Specify exact names, dates and places if possible. The indexes are held in large and heavy books at the Family Record Centre in London and copies on fiche are kept at some large libraries and Record Offices. Access to the fiche copies is often restricted due to high demand so people usually have more than enough to look up for themselves in their allotted time. Very few people look at these indexes on a regular basis so it isn't very likely that anyone will be able to look for you in the immediate future.

Searching can take a long time if you don't know the exact year. There are books for four quarters in each year, a scan of all the books for one type of index for a ten year period takes about an hour when conducting a one-name study. Using the fiche can be slower due to limitations with access to the fiche storage. Asking for more than the simplest of BMD lookups is unlikely to succeed very often.

Before making an index request you should first try the FreeBMD website. Volunteers have worked very hard to transcribe all the entries in the indexes for 1837-99, efforts increased greatly in the last few years and years covered now often extend into the 1910s. Coverage in August 2007 the original aim is almost complete. The indexing system means that you can get lists of every entry that took place in a particular quarter in a specified registration district and therefore get a list of all potential marriage partners for a the person you are checking. Demand on the site can be heavy so you may get a busy message, try again a few minutes later or late night/early morning. The site is at FreeBMD


Other subscribers may have some knowledge of the history of the area your ancestors lived in but of course there can be no guarantees. If listers have access to books about particular places they are usually more than willing to share information and point you to books of interest.


Census returns often mention occupations that have long since gone. It's worth asking about any that don't appear on web-sites, some may be variants of others or have been subject to error by enumerators or transcribers. Here are a few that often generate queries:

Scholar - used for all children attending all types of schools
Annuitant - a person receiving some income similar to a pension
Independent (or Ind) - a person not dependent on any parish relief and not having to work

There are several websites that offer definitions of occupations that are no longer familiar. Try these:

Occupational terms

Other Useful Links

Mark Howells's guide to using LDS centres
FreeBMD at RootsWeb
Batch numbers for English parishes on the IGI
Cyndi's List - Family History Centers - General Information
Search the Family History Library Catalogue
Family Records Centre - London
GENUKI web site - UK Geneaological Information
Guild Of One Name Studies (GOONS)
All About the IGI
LDS FamilySearch genealogy service web site
Cyndi's List - Genealogy Software Programs
John Fuller's list of UK Genealogy Mailing lists
Introduction Sussex Kent Surrey Hampshire Isle of Wight