General Information about
Genealogical Research

Surnames provide the starting point for genealogical research. The name Overend is unusual but far from uncommon.

Before the Norman Conquest, surnames were rare. Names belonged to individuals, not to a family. Where this caused confusion, the individual's name was coupled with another - the place where he lived, his occupation or his relationship with someone else.

In the case of Overend, the name is derived from a dweller from the upper/outer part of the village or valley. To say that the Normans introduced the formal system of Christian names and surnames is an over-simplification. Methods of naming people which existed before 1066 continued for centuries afterwards.

The inclusion of the word de in a surname, as in William de Overende is commonly believed to be a sign of noble ancestry. In fact, it is often simply the Norman equivalent of atte, meaning 'of the' or 'from', and has in most cases undergone the same fate of sliding into the word following it, or disappearing altogether.

Whatever the generation, whichever the branch, the Overend ancestors will have been playing their part, great or humble, in the social history of their times. The facts unearthed about them will be of interest to those generations to follow.

Tracing your family Tree.

Information available from relatives

The first step in your research should be to write down all you know about yourself and your immediate family, then ask your relations to fill in the gaps. Invariably an aunt or uncle or parent will turn out to be one of those people whose minds store names, dates and details of births, marriages and deaths - the very substance of genealogy.

Look in family bibles, photograph albums, national health and employment insurance cards, tax returns, leases, receipts, school reports, forces' call up or discharge papers - anything which will provide a name or date will help.

Make a note of any churches mentioned. Their registers are a mine of information, and so are their gravestones - which may accurately record details of several generations of a family and include wives' maiden names.

Government Records - England

Until the second quarter of the 19th century there were no central registers of births, marriages and deaths. Registration was largely the responsibility of parish priests or clerks and the standard of records in the parish registers varies according to their skill and literacy.

In 1837, the present arrangements were introduced, whereby the Register General maintains a central record, drawn from the regional offices which in turn gets it from the registration districts and sub-districts throughout the country.

When carrying out searches of registers, the researcher is not allowed to work from the register itself, but only from indexes which are arranged alphabetically by surname.

Information given on Birth Certificates

Place and date of birth; sex; names; parent's names, including mothers maiden name; father's occupation; details of person registering.

Information given on Marriage Certificates

Place and date of marriage; names, ages, marital status, occupation and addresses of bride and groom; names and occupation of both fathers; witnesses.

Information given on Death Certificates

Place, date, cause of death; name, sex and occupation of deceased; informant.

Information available on other records

Service Records; Births, Marriages & Deaths of members of the armed forces occurring abroad. Army -from1796. Royal Air force from 1920

Births and Deaths at sea (Marine Register Book); from 1837.

Births and Deaths in aircraft (Air Register Book); from 1949

Consular Returns; from 1849 of Britons abroad, as registered by consular officers.

Records of Adoptions; from 1927 and include date and place of birth of child and names of adoptive parents.

Miscellaneous returns; from 1627 of British subjects overseas registered by various British High Commissioners.

Records of still births registered in England and Wales; from 1927 (Special Permission)

Chancery Proceedings;

Feet of Fines; 12th - 19th century.

Hearth Taxes; 1660-74

Patent Rolls;

Subsidy Rolls;

Inquisitions post-mortem;

Census Returns.

The first population census was taken in 1801 and it has been repeated every ten years since, apart from 1941.

Originally they only counted heads, but after 1841 they show all the people living in the household at that time, the address, their age and relationship to the head of the household. In some cases, the occupation and, from the 1851 census, the place of birth of each individual is also given.

One thing that the researcher should be aware of is that the 1841 census records ages from 1 to 15 precisely, those above 15 have been reduced to the nearest multiple of 5. So someone entered as 20 could be any age from 20 to 24.

A single stroke after a group of names shows that the family's listing is complete. Double strokes, that the a household is complete. The letter Y indicates someone born in the county in which he is living; N for someone born elsewhere. S = Scotland, I= Ireland and F for foreign birth.

Census returns can only be researched after one hundred years has elapsed since the census was taken. This means that the next one to be allowed to be viewed, is the census for 1901 available from the year 2001. This is because census information is confidential until all those included can be presumed dead. But for a small fee, the census staff will look on your behalf if you can produce written assurance that you have the family's permission and will not be using the information gained against the person concerned.

Censuses were taken on the following dates:

7 June 1841
31 March 1851
8 April 1861
3 April 1871
11 April 1981


Since 1858, all wills entered for probate have been recorded with the Principle Probate Registry at Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2. Prior to this date wills could be authenticated in one of more than 300 courts. These records may be available in Public Records Offices.

Local Records Offices and Libraries.

These places can be the source of many interesting pieces of information and should not be overlooked as a means of research.

Ecclesiastical Records.

The basic document is the parish register, which by law had to contain details not only of the believers, but also of dissenters and members of other faiths. Prior to Thomas Cromwell, who first made them compulsory, only 700 parishes had records going back to the reign of Henry VIII.

By good fortune, the time of Elizabeth I is well covered in most registers. A law of 1597 stipulated that they should be written on vellum, which wears better than paper. The person making the entries generally had handwriting worthy of the fine surface, and copied back-entries to the beginning of the reign. The same law introduced Bishops' Transcripts, annual reports summarising all Church events.

The damage done during the Civil War and afterwards was accompanied by the destruction or loss of many registers.

Other important dates.

1652 - Oliver Cromwell took away the clergy's sole right to conduct marriages and Justices of the Piece were allowed to perform civil ceremonies.

1678 - An act to help the wool trade insisted that corpses had to be buried in woollen shrouds, and witnesses to that effect had to sign the records. Useful to researchers because names of relatives who might otherwise have gone unrecorded thus appear.

1693 - The number of entries in parish registers drops, because they were taxed. However those referring to dissenters did not fall off, as the parish priest could be fined for failing to record them. The tax did not last long.

1783 - The tax on parish registration was re-introduced which produced a greatly inflated number of pauper burials because they alone were exempt from payment. The idea was again swiftly abandoned.

1751 - Lord Hardwicke's act insisted that marriage registration had to be kept in a separate book, and Banns had to be called in parishes of both the bride and groom. Banns registers often give more information than the marriage entry. The act exempted Jews and Quakers.

1752 - Revision of the calendar causes some dating problems. Until then, the new year began on Lady Day, March 25th. In compiling your family tree, use double-dating up to 1752. An entry recorded for, say, January 2nd 1699, should be copied as January 2nd, 1699/1700.

1812 - Baptism and Burial registers were standardised.

The earliest entries in the Kildwick Parish Church registers are written in Latin up to 1653. From 1653 to 1660 the register was written in English and afterwards reverts to Latin for a time and then back to English.


Most if not all families can trace a connection with an 'armiger' - someone who has been given the right to bear a coat of arms. But do not assume that the arms go with the surname; they go with the lineal heirs of the man awarded them, in strict accordance with the laws of arms.

From 1530 to 1687 the College of Arms held 'visitations' to check the credentials of those claiming the right to arms, and to record details of their descent.

All contents copyright 2003 Harry Overend.  All rights reserved.
Created by Harry Overend .