Sunday, 24 April 2011
England and Britain are not the same - and why it matters
For the genealogist, or any other researcher using British records, it is really important to know the difference, or you could be looking in the wrong place, or failing to look in the right one, which is just as bad. If you are not from the British Isles you may find this confusing; you are not alone. It's not just that some English people say England when they mean the UK, and vice-versa (and I have even heard history professors do this, and they really should know better).
I found a file among Home Office Correspondence in The National Archives (ref: HO 45/7928) which contained a petition, together with the official response. I transcribed both documents and placed them on the Your Archives wiki site, so you can read A Protest against The Name England being imposed upon the United Kingdom for yourself. See what you think.
A century and a half on, confusion still reigns. I am trying to do my bit, and in a couple of weeks I shall be delivering my talk 'What is Britain' at the NGS Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. I have previously given it in Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia and Utah, so after Charleston that will only leave 45 states to go...
I am being sponsored by FamilySearch to deliver this and another talk, and I am very grateful for their support. I have also recorded a shortened version of 'What is Britain' which can be viewed on the Research Courses page. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, I see they have filed it under 'England Research', presumably because there is no 'UK' or 'British Isles' Research section. Oh well. I have commented on this before in my earlier posts on the way that FamilySearch now describes records from the British Isles.
I won't go into any more detail here, but for a good online account see Uniting the Kingdoms.
I enjoyed seeing the flag of St George around London today. I think it looks better on a flagpole or a building than draped around tubby shaven-headed young men with lots of tattoos and no neck, but that's just my opinion.