Background on GENUKI's approach
Help and Guidance 2021: New Page: Version 1.1
GENUKI is very easy to use. Get started here. This background on the structure of GENUKI's information is designed to help all users (both visitors and maintainers) to understand what to expect and how to interpret it.
You can see more on
- Geographical Areas and Boundaries
- GENUKI: Organising the Virtual Library
- Using Maps
GENUKI focuses on sources and information for genealogical work in the British Isles, a geographical term for a group of islands lying off the north-west coast of mainland Europe. It is not a strict political or administrative definition. We describe the whole area as UK and Ireland made up of:
- Ireland (ie Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland),
- the Channel Islands and
- the Isle of Man.
Legally, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are largely self governing and are not part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have devolved forms of limited self government within the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is an independent state.
A four level hierarchy
The geographical areas in GENUKI are structured as a four-level hierarchy.
- The top level corresponds to the British Isles as a whole (UK+I)
- The next level consists of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
- The third level of the hierarchy corresponds to counties (and the separate islands comprising the Channel Islands),
- The fourth level corresponds to towns and parishes within the third level areas (counties and islands).
The fourth level can also be used flexibly to show more complex areas such as towns containing parishes or parishes that are better considered as made up of a number of smaller areas. The approach is usually based on the availability of records and the ease of accessing the information.
Genealogy and boundaries
In common with most information sources of relevance to genealogy the boundaries and descriptions reflect the accessibility of and terms used in major archives and how various important sets of official records are organised. No political implications are intended. Thus Ireland is the term used to cover the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - since their official records and their genealogical traditions are inextricably mixed together.
Within the countries the county areas we use are based on the pre-1974 counties: there is extensive information on these Historic Counties provided by the Association of British Counties. This focus is likely to more useful in relation to the period for which most genealogy is concerned. The more recent administrative areas of local government, in particular for all of England and Wales do have an impact on precisely how some services are organised notably Archives and Record Offices. There are more details of these UK and I boundary changes over time. .
Similarly for parishes in each county we focus mostly on the ecclesiastical parishes as they were defined in the middle of the 19th Century. We are aiming to show these boundaries on the maps you see on the parish pages. There are some issues of historical debate and the available information to decide exactly where those boundaries should be.
All place pages have information under topic headings listed alphabetically. The topics are based on the set of subject headings used by the Family History Library catalogue (now Family Search Library). We have adapted that set for use on British Isles information. Not all topics appear on all pages although there is a minimum list shown on all parish pages.
The topic headings are mostly self-explanatory. Clarification is available in a summary based largely on the FLC descriptions.
Current topics used
This is the full list. Those marked with D appear on all pages ie they are dynamically created or auto generated; those marked with C are the main additional targets in our search for information if not at parish then certainly at county level.
A small number of topics have subtopics available. These are used by some maintainers for particular tasks.
Focus on place
We record items of information (web links, book titles) under the topic heading for the geographical level that best matches the scope of the information. Thus information about the parish registers of Clovelly in Devon would be shown under
- British Isles:
- Church Records
Some documents consist of large sets of records relating to England and Wales, such as the Census
You would find these under
- British Isles
Those larger sets of records will often be organised according to county and it it is possible to provide a separate reference we show that under the county as well. So that county part of the census set of records for Devon would be placed under:
- British Isles:
How far we are able to do this very specific cross-referencing depends on how well the source is organised and how easy it is to identify all the places that might be referred to in it. With some internet based sources it can be simpler to search within the source for information about a particular place.
Sources are external and internal
Many of the sources we identify are other websites. This was one of the initial reasons for GENUKI being devised. While we cannot guarantee that all these sources will remain available (some for example are the produced and managed by individuals) we do try to make sure that the links shown are live and that there is an indication of what you will find.
Fortunately many volunteers across UK and I have put considerable effort into collating and transcribing original records. Many of these are hosted within GENUKI. These are listed in the appropriate topic at county and parish level and are accessible to read or download. They are normally in pdf format.
We aim to offer accurate and up to date information on all sources of information, with particular care in updating web links. There is guidance on the accuracy we ask transcribers to meet in providing information that we hold here.
Our advice is to skip quickly to the smallest place in which you have an interest (very often the parish). You will often find there specific references and links to help you. You can then look at the county or other levels to see what other information might be useful.
Supporting Information: Churches and Gazetteer
GENUKI's core virtual library has supporting sets of information on churches and on the specific geography of locations in a gazetteer . Some of the information is automatically extracted and used in the main GENUKI place pages. The location information supports the linkages between the 4 level hierarchy of place and real geographic relationships. In addition the individual records can be searched and browsed directly.
Most genealogists need to search church registers to find the baptism/marriage/burial record of an elusive ancestor. But which churches? Sometimes that's straightforward enough, but often we find ourselves researching unfamiliar parts of the country. Some places don't seem to appear under the place-name expected, maybe because of a simple change of name, maybe because large town now was once a hamlet and the area you're looking for appears under the name of an ancient parish. A parish may take its name from what is now just an obscure hamlet that you never have heard of.
In addition to Church of England parish churches there are non-conformist chapels. Even quite small villages once had two - or even three - different 'flavours' of Methodist chapel; one Congregationalist chapel (in Wales); and occasionally at least one Baptist chapel too! Now there is often not much trace of any of them.
The Churches Directory started life as the GENUKI Church Database Project with the aim of producing a simple list of the parishes that were in existence in about 1837. But this is now being greatly expanded to become a complete list of churches (and cemeteries) in the British Isles, together with a lot more information about those individual churches. You can start a search here and items from the directory also appear in the parish pages.
The Genuki gazetteer holds the geographic co-ordinates of the location for a particular place name. These include not only the counties and parishes but also many smaller places within the parishes. This enables us to show the location on the dynamic maps and also perform the searches for "nearby places".
Many places are shown at a single point on a map and the gazetteer entries contain point locations. Sometimes these are precise and sometimes they are approximations relating to the boundary of the named area. The boundary typically depends on the administrative area bearing that name and those can change over time. The same name is also frequently used when naming different types of administrative area which have different boundaries e.g. ancient parishes, registration districts, poor law unions etc. As building development has occurred over the years new place names have been added and this can mean that the names for a particular area have changed over time.
There is a continuous effort to make locations more precise and to capture the boundaries of different areas. This is made much easier by the new mapping system. You can start a search of the gazetteer here.
We have two types of map in Genuki:
- "static" maps: at the top of each county page and in some counties in parish pages as well. These are simple images and give a general indication of the location of the particular area. At country and county level they are "clickable" to help navigation
- "interactive" or "dynamic" maps: these appear in most parish pages at the top and in gazetteer and church place pages. They hold a variety of base maps (both modern and historic). They are used to show precise locations and can be zoomed.
When viewing an interactive map you will see three icon controls
- zoom in and out (top left)
- full screen toggle (second left)
- available layers (top right): clicking on this will show a variety of available maps. These may vary from place to place according to the sources for that location. You can select from modern maps, a satellite view, a range of maps dating back to the 19th Century - usually with one large scale version - and the Kane and Oliver parish boundary maps.
We also provide links on all place pages to maps relevant to that place. In most cases the links on specific place pages will take you directly to that place in these other mapping services. The available maps are:
- Google Maps
- StreetMap (Current Ordnance Survey maps)
- Bing (was Multimap)
- Old Maps Online (Other old maps.)
- National Library of Scotland (Old Ordnance Survey maps)
- Vision of Britain (Click "Historical units & statistics" for administrative areas.)
- English Jurisdictions in 1851 (Unfortunately the LDS have removed the facility to enable us to specify a starting location, you will need to search yourself on their map.)
- Magic (Geographic information) (Click + on map if it doesn't show)
- GeoHack (Links to on-line maps and location specific services.)
GENUKI was started by volunteers to provide a free service to all those using the internet. That remains our way of working. Not only are there volunteers directly involved in the maintenance of GENUKI now but there have also been many more over the years who have participated in that task and others who have provided transcriptions and other material. We work closely with local Family History Societies both to support their work and as a key resource for our visitors.
There remain other free resources but in recent years there has a substantial growth in commercial services, such as Ancestry and Find My Past with significant searchable databases of records of individuals. These provide the opportunity to search both in breadth and depth for particular individuals who may be part of your family tree. As you reach further back into your ancestry you will find increasing need to understand the context in which those ancestors lived and the availability of records beyond the simple births. marriages and deaths. GENUKI offers a structured route into that world of local people and places. It enables you to find and understand those additional records that will help identify your ancestors. In addition it can offer you sources to flesh out the full history of a family through time.