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England Orphan Trail Resources 1500-1699 - Accessibility

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Please read this entire page. It explains what is involved for this time period.

A lot of this is visual - need to strip that back


Choosing a Profile to work on

1. Your Trailblazer will work with you to determine a good profile to work on. This may involve working out where you are already familiar with records, where you have a particular interest etc.

2. The Profile will be selected from a pre defined report which contains all the Orphan profiles for the period of time involved.

  • For OT2 Stage 1 (1600-1699)
  • For OT2 Stage 2 (1500-1599)

3. The Profile will no have a profile manager. All locations for birth, marriage and death will be in England. There will be family links (at least one parent and/or spouse; children are a bonus). There will be no more than one source.

4. Once the Profile has been agreed on between you both, don't forget to record what you're working on in your Trail Log.

5. Remember, you won't step on any toes, because it's an Orphaned Profile without a Profile Manager!

Getting your Profile ready to work on

1. Ensure you have the two main headings in place. Organise the information you have available into these headings.

== Biography ==
== Sources ==

2. Some profiles will also already have or will require, one or both of the following additional headings. Refer to the relevant section further below for usage information. Create one or both of these headings at this stage if you have information that can be organised into these headings. They can be created at any point.

== Research Notes ==
== Acknowledgements ==

3. Remove any headings which are not required or are not to standard.

4. Remove Ancestry.com/FamilySearch indices and any online trees. They are not accepted/reliable sources for pre-1700 profiles. Links to individual sources on FamilySearch and Ancestry are acceptable, and although they should be checked as part of your Research, they need not be removed if they can be validated.

5. Move (or remove if they are clearly erroneous) questionable sources to the Research Notes section to be dealt with during your Research. Create the section if necessary.

Conducting your research

The periods of time covered by OT2 introduces references other than the online databases you will be familiar with from OT1. The following sections introduce you to the types of Records you might be able to find, and where to find them. It is not conclusive and of course the person you are researching may not have been illustrious enough to have many records at all.

The Genealogical Proof Standard

The Genealogical Proof Standard is a method used to make genealogical conclusions with reasonable certainty. The standard sets out five essential steps for accurate research:

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research has been completed.
  2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
  3. The evidence is reliable and has been skillfully correlated and interpreted.
  4. Any contradictory evidence has been resolved.
  5. The conclusion has been soundly reasoned and coherently written.

For more information, see [FamilySearch: Understanding the Genealogical Proof Standard].

Please conduct your research with this method in mind.

Parish Registers

In Orphan Trail Part One, you learned how to use birth, marriage and death indexes from the GRO and FreeBMD, and how to use parish registers too. In Orphan Trail Part Two, you will be continuing your work with parish registers, although the earlier the date, the more likely it will be that the relevant register does not exist or is damaged.

The earliest parish registers date back to 1538 when King Henry VIII split with Rome and proclaimed himself head of the Church of England. As part of this new regime, Thomas Cromwell ruled that every vicar or rector must keep a record of all baptisms, marriages, and burials in his parish. In 1597, Queen Elizabeth ordered that the pages of such books be made of parchment which was more robust than paper.

Some early parish registers have survived, but others have not, or are damaged or incomplete. During English Civil War (1643-1647) many parishes did not keep records. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, parish registers are kept more completely again.

The format of parish registers has evolved over time. Many early registers record baptisms, marriages and burials in a single register. In 1660, the Burying in Woollen Acts meant that burial registers were often separate from Baptism and Marriage registers. In was not until 1812 that standardised printed registers became available for entering baptisms, marriages and burials separately.

The coverage of early parish registers is patchy at best, and there are no parish registers before 1538. Instead, you will often need to look for other sources to show when a person was born, married or died, as well as their relationship to other family members. You can find this information in a range of sources, including visitations, wills, manorial records and inquests post mortem.

Online parish register sources

  • FamilySearch.org: free; needs account (free also); has millions of worldwide records. Search within the catalog for parish registers which are unindexed and "image only".
  • FreeReg parish registers Parish registers transcribed by the same volunteer group as FreeBMD and FreeCen. Free to use, no account required. The coverage can be patchy, but the transcriptions are accurate and are of the full entry for a baptism, marriage or burial, often verbatim as the vicar wrote it. Easy to use search page.
  • FindMyPast: requires paid membership; good for English records - transcriptions and images; do not copy from members trees (use for clues).
  • ancestry.co.uk: requires paid membership; do not copy from member trees, as they are often unsourced (use for clues).

Searching the [https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page FamilySearch Research Wiki for a location will show you where particular parish registers can be located.


Heraldic visitations were tours of inspection throughout England, Wales and Ireland undertaken by officers of the College of Arms between 1530 to 1688. Their purpose was to regulate and register the coats of arms of the nobility, gentry and boroughs, and to record pedigrees of families.

Many visitation records have been published and are available online. You will find some useful links on the County Resources Pages and the [of England Wales Page]. You need to be mindful that some of the older published visitations were based on unofficial copies of the original visitations and may contain errors.


Not everyone left a will and not all wills have survived. Before 1858, wills were proved in church courts. The highest court was the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), although there were more than 200 church courts, each with a separate register of wills. Which court dealt with a person's will depended on where they died, the location of their property and its value.

You learn more about finding wills, probate and administration records in FamilySearch's guide to England Probate Records.

Some early and medieval wills have been published and are available online. You will find some useful links on the County Resources Pages. You can also find copies of wills and probate records online on Ancestry (including PCC wills) and FindMyPast.

It's a good idea to do a thorough search to see if anyone else has already done a transaction elsewhere which can be leveraged - may save time! Your Trailblazer can advise you regarding Will transcription help.

    • Should be summarised on the profile or transcribed onto FSP if more than 5-10 lines.
    • Link people mentioned to relevant WT profiles.

For Windows users, a tool called Transcript may be helpful, and it is free.

Inquisition Post Mortems

Section needs to be written. I don’t think covered anywhere else?

Livery Companys

Section needs to be written. I don’t think covered anywhere else?

[London Roll]
[Livery Company]

Local Histories and County records

Section needs to be written.

County Resources

Biographical Resources

Section needs to be written. Use for clues, reminder not to cut and paste etc.

  • Wikipedia
  • ONDB
  • History of Parliament

The Aristocracy, Peerage, Knights and Baronets

Section needs to be written. I don’t think covered anywhere else?

  • Peerage
  • Aristocracy
  • Knighthoods (Shaw)
  • Baronetage (Cokaye & Gazeetes), Link to Baronets categorisation??
  • Reminder about Suffix & Prefix usage

Old Maps

Section needs to be written. I don’t think covered anywhere else?

BHO Maps

Reading Old Handwriting

Reading the handwriting in parish registers and other old documents can sometimes be challenging, At first glance, the writing might look illegible, but with patience and practice you can learn to read it. The study of old handwriting is known as palaeography. There are some great online tutorials to help you learn, including:

The Calendar in England Pre-1752

In these older parish registers, you will invariably see the New Year beginning on 25 March (Lady Day), not 1 January. This is known as the Old Style (O.S.) New Year which was used in England until the adoption of New Style (N.S.) New Year from 1 January 1752. For more information, see:

You may also have to refer to the records kept by the Society of Religious Friends or Quakers. Quakers used another slightly different calendar again, starting on 1 March (rather than the 25th) and they also (mostly) didn't use the names of months which they regarded as "pagan", using the number of the month in the year instead. An excellent resource for this has been produced by the Society of Friends.

In legal documents, you will find dates written using Regnal years rather than calendar years. The Regnal year is the year of the reign of the King or Queen, and is calculated from the date of their accession to the throne and not their Coronation. For example, Elizabeth I came to the throne on 17 November 1558. This means that the Regnal year 10 Elizabeth 1 (the tenth year of the reign of Elizabeth I) ran from 17 November 1568 to 16 November 1569. You can convert regnal years to calendar years using a regnal calendar table.

Access to Records

As before in OT1, the preferred records to use are available for free. However if you come across a record that appears to be behind a paywall, discuss it with your Trailblazer or raise it in the Research-Assistance Channel in Discord if you have access. Many members of the England Project have subscriptions and are happy to help you find information if you can provide appropriate leads.

Repeated use of the same source

Here's how to use the same source citation multiple times. The first time you use it, include a "name" inside the ref tag, like this:

<ref name="somerset wills"> Weaver F W. Somerset Medieval Wills, 1531-1588. London: Harrison and Sons, 1905. Page 70-1.<ref>

The next time you cite this source, you can just use this:

<ref name="somerset wills" />

Done this way, all subsequent footnotes for this same source will point to the same footnote at the bottom of the page. Note that " in the example above is a quotation mark, not two apostrophes.

Validate Primary Relationships

Is this something we want OT2 Trailers to do?

  • Validate the primary relationships of the Profile you are working on.
    • If possible, confirm parents, spouses, children and siblings.
    • Create profiles which do not exist, using at least one source - more if easily available.
  • Are the correct parents/spouse(s)/children attached to the profile? Discuss any proposed detachments or changes of family members in the comments section of the profile and with your Trailblazer.

Other things to take care of

Images and Backgrounds

If there were any Images or Backgrounds already included in your profile, check they are correct/appropriate for that profile and make sure the image is a public domain image and has a source attached, or that there is a clear statement of why the image can be used on WikiTree. If you identify a problem please discuss with your Trailblazer.
The use of Images & Backgrounds is not a requirement however many people like to use them to embellish their Profiles. If you do decide to use images and backgrounds be sure to consult with the [Galleries and Collections which have given Permission for use of Images] for information where to sources from.
Include a note on the complexities of copyright etc - or include a link if there's something already written up

Stickers, Categories and Templates

Where do Categories, Templates and Stickers go? This is the order in which you must place the codes:

[[Category:xxx]] {{Template:xxx}} ==Biography== {{Sticker}} narrative biography about the person <nowiki>==Sources== <references /> ==Acknowledgments==

Note: when you are editing a profile and click 'Preview' to see how it will look before you save it - categories will not appear. Templates will show up; stickers will show up, but categories won't.


Stickers are placed on the profile in the Biography Box to note something important about the person, or to honour them. There may be up to five stickers on a profile, but any one of them must be removed if the Profile Manager objects. The code goes immediately underneath the heading : ==Biography==.

Here are some examples of stickers:

Cross of St George
... ... ... was born in England.
{{England Sticker}}
Flag of Warwickshire (adopted 2016)
... ... ... was born in Warwickshire, England.
{{England Sticker|Warwickshire}}
English flag
... ... ... has English ancestors.
{{English Ancestor Sticker}}
... ... ... died young.
{{Died Young}}

Here is the [WikiTree Help Page on Stickers] This page gives further details about stickers from an Orphan Trail perspective.


Categories are the text links you see at the bottom of profiles. There is a handy link at the top of the profile to take you directly to the categories section if that profile has been added to any categories (as shown below).

Examples are: [[Category:Bodmin, Cornwall]] or [[Category:Pellyne Name Study]] Putting a link like this onto a profile will group it together with other profiles who also have the same link. Thus, you may be able to see all the people who lived in Bodmin, for example, or who are part of the Pellyne Name Study (historical profiles).

Another important use for categories are the maintenance categories, for example [[Category:Devon, Needs Profiles Created]] or [[Category:Staffordshire, Needs Death Record]].

To add a profile to a category, click on the category button above the text edit box. This will open a separate text box where you can start to type the name of the category you wish to place the profile in, as shown below. Once the name of the category you wish to use pops up, click on it and it will put the category in the correct position in the profile.

For more help with categories see [How to Categorize].

Here is a page explaining how to create categories.


Templates are specific words or phrases between a pair of double curly brackets, which create a banner. They are always placed at the top of the profile. Here are some you may see when editing English profiles.

The England Project box

If you come across a profile with this in the text {{England}} it will present as this:

English flag
... ... ... is managed by the England Project.
Join: England Project
Discuss: england

This indicates that the England Project is the main Profile Manager of this profile. This is the only reason the England Project box is added to a profile. If you wish to indicate that a person was born in England, you will use the England Sticker (see below).

Research Boxes

Research Boxes are added to profiles when more research is needed. {{Unsourced}} or {{Unsourced|Devon}} or {{Unsourced|AnotherCounty}} puts the unsourced profile onto the relevant county's Unsourced Profiles page for anybody (but especially the Sourcerers) to work on.

Another frequently used template is {{Estimated Date}}, where the birth date is calculated or estimated. The reason for giving that estimation should be given in the biography or research notes section. It gives this banner in a profile:

The Birth Date is a rough estimate. See the text for details.

The Birth Date is a rough estimate. See the text for details.

This page gives further details about temlates from an Orphan Trail perspective


Check, evaluate and act on the profile’s Suggestions. You can do this either by reviewing the Suggestions from the Profile's drop down menu or when you do a full Save of the Profile.


Is this something we want OT2 to do? Check if your Profile has a Wikidata page and if so ensure you update your Profile according to the [Wikitree Wikidata recommendations].

Matches & Merges

Is this something we want OT2 to do? Search for Matches to check for possible merges.

Finalising your Profile

Requesting Profile reviews

At any time during this process, you are welcome to, and encouraged to, check in with your Trailblazer regularly and ask for help, tips or hints. They have all been through the OT so can provide advice and encouragement especially if you are finding it difficult to source information. In-progress Profile reviews are greatly recommended especially with your first OT2 Profiles.


When you are confident you have covered the above steps as relevant to your profile, it means you are ready to request a formal Profile review from your Trailblazer. Let them know when you believe you have met the above requirements and are ready to get your Profile finalised and they will work with you to achieve that.

What's next?

Once you have worked with your Trailblazer to finalise your Profile a new Profile can be selected, or your graduation will be confirmed depending on where you are on the trail.

Just like in OT1, the OT Template will be left on the profile until you graduate at which time your Trailblazer will remove it from all profiles you have worked on and note in the Acknowledgements section that the profile has been improved by an OT participant.

As OT2 is optional, unlike OT1, graduation from OT2 is not announced in Google Groups.

Example Profiles

table needs to be inserted

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Contact the Profile Managers privately: Susie Officer and Ann Browning. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
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