The Manks differ from their Celtic brethren in paying no regard to genealogies, arising doubtless from the obscurity of their families. Lord Teignmouth, 1836
In writing these pages I assume that you are not resident on the Island - if so then you can obtain information in a more
personal way by asking at the Library in the Manx Museum or at the library of
the IoM Family History Society in Peel.
I have put these pages together based on the number of questions both addressed to me and posted on the Family History Bulletin Board - a brief 'getting started' page is included.
The first question to be asked is what makes you think that you
may have Manx ancestry? A name beginning with C, K or
especially Q is a good start!- seriously the number of Manx
names is limited and it may well be worth checking the set of pages
on Manx Names.
This paucity and local concentration of names is also true of Christian names - many families and generations would share very few names. Family reconstruction from parish records can be very error prone, unlike the situation in much of England.
I also assume that you are a descendant of a Manx emigrant - though there were some emigrants earlier than the 19th Century, the majority of Manx emigration occurred post 1825 directed at America, especially the region around Cleveland and then later to Australia and New Zealand. No records, other than those concerned with transportation under the criminal code, were kept on the Island, either in the form of passenger lists or otherwise, of such emigrants, though there may be lists of immigrants into America etc. that list place of birth.
As you are probably aware the Island consists of some 220 square
miles situated in the middle of
the Irish sea as the, by now hackneyed, phrase has it 'midway
between the two adjacent islands'. The Isle of Man is not part of
England or even of the United Kingdom! However the Lordship
of Man is vested in the British Crown and though some decisions
affecting the Island are made in London no legislation made in the
British Parliament applies to the Island unless explicitly stated to
do so and approved by its own parliament Tynwald.
It is impossible to construct a full family history without some knowledge of historical and geographical aspects of the Island as these are unique and quite distinct from those of England. The history, as far as needed for genealogy, can be split into 5 (possibly 6) periods:
A guide to the literature is given elsewhere; the most detailed, and so far unreplaced, is the History of the Isle of Man by A.W.Moore published in 1900.
Records giving names of significant number of people other than the main families etc. do not appear until the early 16th Century when the Manorial Records start. However it is unlikely that any reliable family history going back much beyond the mid 16th Century, can be constructed from Manx records, though some sort of outline can sometimes be traced back to the 15th Century.
The Church, Anglican (or Church of England) for the period of interest, played a significant part in Manx government for a century or so later than it did in England - in fact it was still responsible for probate of wills etc. until 1884. The Manx church under Bishop Wilson, 1698-1755, was likened to that of Charles I almost a century earlier. The Diocese of Sodor and Man is one of the oldest in the Anglican Communion, though originally affixed to Trondheim in Norway it was moved to come under York in the 15th Century, though the act of Uniformity did not apply to Mann and thus the Manx Church is still governed by its own annual convocation.
The Island was split into some 17 parishes
in the mid 12th Century and these have remained the basis
of both ecclesiastical and civil control until recent dates. Some
knowledge of the land
division of the Island is essential to any understanding of the
It is these parish records, started in the late 16th Century that allow family reconstruction as civil registration, though possible from 1849, did not become compulsory until 1878, some 42 years later than in England and Wales. The entries in these parish registers form the basis of the Manx entries in the International Genealogical Index.
The Island has been included in the UK decennial census since 1821, the Census Enumerators Books (CEB's) exist from 1841 onwards. The Family History Society has transcribed the 1851 census and publishes it indexed by parish and town. The 1881 census is available on-line at www.familysearch.org or on CD-ROM. The 1841, 1851, 1861,1871, 1891 and 1901 censuses are also available in indexed form. All census returns up to and including the 1891 census are available on microfilm published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ('Mormons') - a guide to these and other LDS films is available.
Subsequent pages expand on these various topics - I must however acknowledge my debt to The Manx Family Tree 2nd edition 1994 (ISBN 0-9523963-0-0) edited by J. Narasimham, N. Crowe and P. Lewthwaite. A 3rd edition is now available.
A good summary article on how to find your Manx roots was given in Nigel Crowe's Starting your research - the first article in the Journal of the IoM Family History Society vol 1 no1 pp5-9 1979.