Frequently Asked Questions
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Some Family Lines
Matthew Copus - family history research and record searching
I have many years' experience of genealogical research and record searching in England, having begun by helping my parents in the early 1970s. I started out as a researcher on my own account in 1976, with a special interest in South West Kent - the area around Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and Maidstone. I have my own small indexes, mainly covering this same area; and a modest selection of genealogical books and other sources, some also concerned with this same area of Kent, though others are more general in scope.
I give a guaranteed (and personalised) response to every new enquiry, charging no fee for my initial careful assessment and (where appropriate) my quote or estimate. I always do my best to give an honest appraisal and even if I feel that I am myself unable to undertake a given research project, I will still make every effort to help as far as I am able, by for instance suggesting a fellow researcher who might be able to make the required searches, or some other option which may enable progress to be made.
It may, then, often be helpful if some detail can be given right away when first contacting me with an initial enquiry; and to this end the more detailed enquiry form on my pages at Expert Genealogy.com may be used if required. This is though certainly not obligatory and I will answer all enquiries, whether using that form, email, post, or the less detailed contact form available on this present website. I will be very pleased to hear from you by any of these means and would encourage you to contact me with any enquiries which you feel I may be able to help with.
My own indexes, while tiny compared, for example, to the extraordinary national Census indexes now readily available online, do give me ready access to a great deal of information, much of it relating to South West Kent. Since I also have copies of the original source material in microformat (microfilms or microfiche), as manuscript or typed transcripts or printed books, or in digital form on CD or DVD, I can provide full details of entries found by means of searches in my own indexes. I have always taken great pains to ensure accuracy in my indexes and of course in my wider research work, although it would be foolish to pretend that one's work can ever be absolutely, 100% accurate. Sometimes, for instance, it is simply impossible to decipher names or phrases with complete certainty, especially as the use of microfilm, digital or other copies is now so prevalent.
I will make "stand alone" searches in my own indexes for set fees starting from £5.00. When undertaking general, paid research projects for clients, I make no extra charge to them specifically for making use of the indexes and other sources I have available to me at home, in the course of the general, paid research work which I am already carrying out on their behalf. My fees are currently £15.00 per hour, plus expenses at cost).
In recent years, I have naturally made increasing use of the national and other resources now so much more readily available on the Internet. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the IGI and other sources on FamilySearch ; national Census returns and indexes (1841-1911) and other sources on Ancestry including PPR Will indexes (1858-1966), GRO indexes of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales (1837-2005) and databases created from them; and various sources on Find My Past , for example Census returns and indexes and GRO indexes and databases. Other useful online resources include the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills (1383-1857), now available through The National Archives' Discovery service (previously available on "Documents Online"); and Nonconformist and other "Non Parochial" registers on BMD Registers.
I make occasional searches in the Medway area parish registers (both before and after 1837) now available online on Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre's CityArk website . However, although I have lived in Chatham, in the heart of the Medway Towns, since 1988, I cannot in all honesty claim any special expertise in searches in, or great local knowledge of, this area (Chatham, Rochester, etc), since as noted above, my own area of particular interest lies further to the South and West in Kent. A list of local research specialists is maintained by the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre and is available on this CityArk website. Enquirers might then find it preferable to employ one of these specialists for searches in the Medway area.
Likewise, I have always preferred not to undertake extensive paid research in the London area (including those parts of North West Kent now in London, such as Greenwich), in the period before the start of Civil Registration in 1837, although I do now make some such searches as required, especially as there is now so much coverage of London area parish registers and other records on Ancestry and of those for the City of Westminster on Find My Past . I am of course able and willing, indeed delighted, to search the national records now available on the internet, 1837 onwards, including for these areas and am now more willing to consider searches in the other London resources available online, only. I am afraid that I still cannot claim to be an expert on London research, although in recent years I have made huge progress with many of my own London family lines (some of them quite challenging), largely using these excellent online resources.
Michael Gandy, a longstanding AGRA member, does offer a full London research service, in addition to his many other interests, including his Kent Marriage Indexes (all Kent, 1813-1837; East Kent, 1754-1812). Naturally, a number of other researchers also offer London research services and many of them appear in the list of AGRA members. A very useful "Member Expertise" page is available on AGRA's website and through this, such details as the geographical areas in which individual AGRA members specialise and their other research interests and preferences are now fully searchable.
After a career in genealogical research spanning some 40 years, having regularly helped me with London searches including some of those on my own "difficult" ancestors, Sydney Smith tells me that he is no longer taking on new research projects. However, he is still very happy to answer enquiries for searches in his well known West Kent Marriage Index (with complete coverage of all surviving marriages in West Kent, 1538-1812). Please contact him by email on:- firstname.lastname@example.org
Where I am myself able to take on a commission, I will gladly accept payments by PayPal, by arrangement. This method is most economical and convenient for payments from overseas. Within the UK, in view of the charges levied by PayPal, payment by cheque will probably usually still be preferable, although I can of course accept payment by PayPal even then, if for example paying by credit or debit card would be helpful.
I aim to report on searches as quickly as possible. The results of searches in my indexes and in the other material in my private collection, or of any other searches which I can carry out from home, should normally be available within one month from their being requested and often much more quickly than that. I do naturally make every effort to provide as quick and efficient a service as humanly possible. I am, though, a one man operation and do not have any secretarial or other backup, so there will regrettably often be longer delays. For the same reasons, I am only able to provide a postal and email service and I regret that I cannot offer telephone or personal consultations.
I do hope that these brief notes may be helpful. I hope that your research will be successful and that you will make many interesting discoveries. If you decide to contact me, I look forward to hearing from you.
Matthew Copus. December 2012.
307 Dale Street
Kent ME4 6QR
Web Site: www.mcopus.co.uk