Friday, 22 April 2011

A Place in the Sun - using Fire Insurance Records for London Genealogy Research

If you have managed to trace your London ancestors back to the 1841 census and / or the start of civil registration in 1837, you have done well.  But what can you do next?

You can of course search the London Parish Records - but there are rather a large number of London Parishes and you may not find your ancestors where you expect them to be, as mobility was high around that time.  The addition of many (but not all) London Baptism, Marriage and Burial records to Ancestry UK's Premium subscription in the last few years has made this task much easier.  But the problem with using just the Parish Registers in London is that an address was not always given and if you are looking for a common name, this can sometimes lead to the wrong conclusions.  Also, if you can' find someone it doesn't mean they weren't there, as not all the London Parish Registers are on Ancestry! (See my earlier posts on London Parish Records -  Part 1 and London Parish Records Part 2 ).

There are other record sources which can be helpful at this stage - and one of those which is often overlooked is Fire Insurance records.  These typically give the date, the name of the insured, the address and often an occupation.  The Place in the Sun project, which started in 2003, has now indexed the Sun Fire Insurance registers from 1792 to 1839 (a useful period for searching pre-civil registration).  These can be searched online via The TNA's  Access to Archives website (I have already entered the terms Sun and Guildhall Library ihn this link to make things a bit easier) along with a name or an address. 

This is how I found my great great grandfather, who is listed as follows:

Charles Clifford 26 Parkers Place Dock Head saddler and harness maker (17 May 1820)

I was then able to trace the exact place he was either living or working at around the time of the record, and to map this location using old London maps, such as Greenwood's Map of London 1827.

An update on how the Place in the Sun project is progressing can be viewed here.
These Sun Fire Insurance records are just one collection among the many original Fire Insurance records which were previously held at the Guildhall library, but have recently moved to the London Metropolitan Archives.  Some of these records will actually cover properties outside London as well London itself.  A leaflet which describes the background and the variety of Fire Insurance records and where they are located can be downloaded here.

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research