Tuesday's Tip: Essex ancestors? Use SEAX to trace them

SEAXToday my focus is on the excellent SEAX website. For those who haven't come across SEAX before, this website holds the online computerised catalogue for the Essex Record Office (ERO) located in Chelmsford, and can be accessed at http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk.

Although SEAX contains descriptions of documents, it doesn't contain the actual text within them. However, the ERO are continually scanning their collections and adding them to the system so they can be viewed online and the best bit is that these scans of the original documents are free to view.
The start page of the SEAX website immediately brings up a Search box, no messing about wading through lots of text trying to find out where to begin. You can search for a combination of words or a phrase, such as a place or institution, a personal name or a document type and searches can be refined further by adding dates. Remember though, that if you try a name and nothing comes up, it doesn't necessarily mean your ancestor isn't listed in any of the documents it means you're going to have to see the original document and take a look. This isn't easy if, like me, you don't live near Essex. However, if you're desperate to know the contents of a particular document, ERO staff can perform remote searches for a fee (see this page for more information). Copies of certain documents can also be made (see here).

Parish records are often where many of us start when tracing ancestors before 1837 and this is where SEAX excels. As well as putting the name of a specific parish into the search box, there's another useful way of finding out where and which parish records are held.

On the start page, under the search box, there's a link called 'To see what registers we have available click here'. This takes you to a page where you can choose your parish and church and immediately see a list of the parish records and in what format they are kept.


If you're fortunate enough to find the words, 'Digital images', beside any particular entry, then clicking on the blue 'View' button beside it will bring up a summary page for the record with a thumbnail image of the first page. You can click the thumbnail to begin scanning through the records or choose an image from the drop-down box if you think you're going to need to start somewhere in the middle. The thumbnail image will update and you may be able to make out a year to give you an idea of where you are in the register. Click on the thumbnail and the larger image will appear. You can move to another image by clicking the dropdown box above the image and there are a number of tools you can use if you want to improve the picture such as sharpen, brightness, contrast, grey scale and invert, although I have to say the quality of the images are pretty good anyway.

Although the registers aren't indexed, if you're prepared to look a little harder, the outcome may be hugely beneficial. I found members of my Bowtell, Free and Fincham families this way within the Hadstock registers.

Parish records aren't the only digitised images on SEAX so, if you have Essex roots, I recommend a thorough search to see what you can discover about your parish of interest. It's even worth putting in a name, you never know, you might strike gold!

[Why Tuesday's Tip? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

Category: Handy Family History Links

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Thanks for this information. A good friend of mine has all his roots in Essex. This will really help!

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