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Q I am tracing my family, the BRAYs, and I started with John BRAY who married Annie MAY in 1884 in Boscastle. From there I traced the family back to Robert BRAY born in 1783 in Bodmin, Cornwall. He married Mary Ann PASSMORE. I visited two websites and came up with varying results: on Rootsweb, they had one son, John born 1805; on the other site they had a daughter called Ann, born 1809. Both were born in Bodmin, Cornwall, but each site only mentions one child. Also, I can’t find Robert’s parents. As I have limited funds and have to rely on free sites I am lost as to where to go now. Can you help? 

Richard Hewitt

A Without knowing exactly which websites you looked at, it is not possible to comment on the particular as I don’t know what each claimed its coverage to be. But the warning must be that you need to be certain exactly what the source is for any information that appears on any website. Was it a complete extract for a defined period from a stated source? Or was it some individual researcher’s unverified, unsubstantiated hypothesis? Without that knowledge you cannot even guess at how trustworthy the information is, how complete the source coverage is, or even what dates it is purporting to cover. Random, serendipity searches have their place so long as you realise that they might only produce the odd, individual entry. Yes, they might well be the clues you need to undertake a more regularised search in the records indicated, or in some other source that you are more confident in with regard to its reliability and coverage. This must be the case with the two entries you have noted in Bodmin, in 1805 and 1809. If you are going to undertake family history research properly then you cannot rely on free sites – that is just not possible. These will undoubtedly help you with your research, particularly back to the mid-19th century, but they will not answer all your questions nor provide all the authoritative information you will require to build your family tree. Of course use them as much as you can but you must accept that there will come a point when information will only come at a cost, either online or by having to visit record offices, libraries, archives and other repositories. Even if you are convinced that you have found all that you need online or in other transcripts or indexes, it is always, always essential that at some point you view the original record, or a true copy of it, whether a digitised image or a microfilm copy. The International Genealogical Index (found at includes the baptisms of seven children of Robert and Mary Ann BRAY, between 1792 and 1809 (Thomas 1792, Mary 1794, John 1797, Elizabeth 1799, Robert 1802, William 1806 and Ann 1809). So, in your case you are going to have to look at copies of the Bodmin parish records. The originals are held at the Cornwall Record Office (Cornwall County Council, County Hall, Treyew Road, Truro, TR1 3AY; tel: 01872 322000; The registers may have been copied by the LDS Church and you should be able to order copies of the film to view at your local LDS Family History Centre – at a small cost. The full catalogue is on the FamilySearch website already mentioned. Copies may already be held at the Hyde Park FHC in London: visit its website to see if they are. Copies may also be held at the Society of Genealogists in London; visit its website to check this out (

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