NEWS: New GRO Birth and Death Indexes and Digitized Certificates for reduced price – short time only

GRO-General Register Office Home page showing how to search indexes and order certificates

GRO-General Register Office Home page showing how to search indexes and order certificates

 News – New Indexes for civil registration birth and deaths in England and Wales that are a game changer. Plus for a short time period there is the option to order cheaper digital versions of the certificates. Read on for more details.

On November 3rd the General Register Office put online at www.gro.gov.uk completely new indexes for births (1837-1915 – 100 year closure) and deaths (1837-1957 – 50 year closure). These are completely new indexes created from the original registers made during the now abandoned DoVE project (Digitization of Vital Events). For these time periods these new indexes will certainly replace the other indexes that are readily available on free and commercial websites. All other national indexes have been created by transcribing the existing national indexes, which are at least two generations away from the original certificates, and thus transcription errors do exist.

It is the additions to the indexes that make for exciting news here. In the birth indexes the mother’s maiden name has been added to all records, originally this information was not added until 1911. In the birth indexes the age of death is now included in all records, something not added until December 1865. Also in both indexes all forenames have been extracted. There are no initials used here as in the published national indexes.

Urgency – What is time sensitive here is that on November 9th the General Register Office started offering digital copies of the birth and death certificates, in these periods only, for a reduced price of 6 Pounds (US$7.45), as opposed to the regular price of 9 Pounds 25 Pence (US$11.49) for the paper copies. This a trial offer and is only available for 3 weeks or 45,000 pdfs, whichever comes first. It will probably be the number of certificates as this is a bargain. So do your searches now. What the government will choose to do after this is a complete unknown. I personally ordered 4 certificates yesterday on the first day and have ordered another 10 this morning. I will be ordering more.

GRO - General Register Office search entry screen before login

GRO – General Register Office search entry screen before login

How to Access the new GRO Indexes and Order Certificates

Go to the website – www.gro.gov.uk. Click on the link for Order Certificates Online – this will take you to a certificate ordering service notice. Click on the link for Order Certificates Online and search the GRO historic birth and death indexes.

At this point you will first need to register. If you have done this in the past you will need to sign in and then you will be sent a validation key to your registered email address. If they are going to send you digital pdfs they want to guarantee that they have a valid email address. My validation key came quickly, but online discussion groups suggest that it might take an hour. If it still has not come check your spam folder, or check old email addresses you may have used in the past.

Once in you will be asked if you want to search the birth or death indexes. Making the choice opens up the appropriate search template.

Birth Indexes

GRO - General Register Office birth search Screen for Callaghan - Hagan children

GRO – General Register Office birth search Screen for Callaghan – Hagan children

There are three fields that are required – surname, gender and year. With surnames you can search for: exact matches only; phonetically similar variations; or similar sounding variations. Personally I have had good luck with the similar sounding variations especially when dealing with my easily corrupted names like Finnigan and Callaghan. With gender you have to select male or female which means you will probably be repeating all searches twice if you are looking for the children of a particular couple rather than an individual. Then you choose a year of registration – remember this may not be the year of birth if the even occurred towards the end of the year. You can choose to select +/- 0, 1 or 2 years. So when searching for the children of a couple open the range to 2 years, and repeat the searches at 5 year intervals to pick up all the intervening years, repeating again to pick up both sexes.

Your most likely search will be the addition of the mother’s maiden name, and again you have the three same variations as you had on the surname field.

Let’s do a search for the female children of a Callaghan and Hagan couple. For Callaghan I am choosing similar sounding names, and in this example I am choosing exact name for Hagan. I am searching in 1882 +/- 2 years. I get to two results. Mary Callaghan – mother’s maiden surname Hagan – GRO Reference: 1884 S Quarter in Gateshead Volume 10A Page 887. I also get Bridget Callighan – mother’s maiden surname Hagan – GRO Reference: 1881 J Quarter Volume 10A Page 932. Note the difference in surname Callaghan and Callighan. I knew of Mary’s existence as she lived long enough to be in next census, but not Bridget. I thus checked the death indexes for Bridget and have ordered those certificates. Currently on the same line as the relevant search result you can choose to order a certificate or pdf.

GRO - Genearal Register Office Search Results showing spelling variations on Callaghan surname for sisters

GRO – Genearal Register Office Search Results showing spelling variations on Callaghan surname for sisters

Selecting either one prefills the order template. Scroll down the screen and ensure that you are ordering the less expensive pdf by email and not the standard certificate (unless you want to). Further down the screen you can also select the number of copies and you can add a personal reference number.

Illegitimate Births – To find an illegitimate birth, father unknown, you put the child’s surname which will be the mother’s surname in the surname at birth field (a required field) and leave the mother’s maiden name blank. I tested this with a couple of certificates I already had in my files and it found them.

Death Indexes

Here the age of death is a real bonus but you still might have to get creative with your searches and watch for some errors. Again you have to provide a surname, gender and a year to search. In this example I was searching for a Mary Ann Callaghan born in the June Quarter of 1879 in Gateshead district but was not found in the household in the 1881 census. So I searched on Callaghan – similar sounding variations, first forename Mary, female 1880 +/- 1 year to catch all between 1879 and 1881. There were 111 Mary Callaghan’s. Since Mary was born in Gateshead district I assumed she might have died there, so I limited the search district to Gateshead. There was only one result for a Mary Ann Callaghan in the March Quarter of 1880 aged 11 years. I still think this is mine and I have ordered the certificate but it highlights another potential problem. Evidence is appearing online that in some case if a child dies at age 11 hours or 11 days or 11 weeks or 11 months they may get indexed as 11 years rather than a 0. Obviously this can happen for any infant so be careful and you may have to order additional records to confirm.

District Geography Issues – On the search screen there is a good listing of all registration districts by name and when they were used by time period. For many people outside of England or Wales you may not be familiar enough with local district names to know if a name is close or far from where you expect to find an event. If you are not familiar with the district names and the places within the districts look to the Registration Districts in England and Wales page on Genuki created by Brett Langston. You can see here the names of the districts within each pre and post 1974 county. You can also download a pdf Place Name Index from the same page.

On the GRO website you are limited to searching in one district. You cannot select multiple districts or counties as you can with FreeBMD so sometimes it may be better to search on other sites first. There is a workaround for this limitation to pick up a wider geographic area. For any given time period the registration districts are combined into volumes. So for example in my 1880 death search Gateshead is in Volume 10A. I can omit anything in the district field but put 10A in the Volume field and it will pick up, in this case, all entries from County Durham, giving me 4 options. District 10B would be for Northumberland. The volume numbers vary by time period so you can use the List of Registration Districts provided on this site to find the relevant numbers for the time period of interest. Note that for numbers less than 10 add a 0. So Kent which is district 2A, on this site you search on 02A

Marriages – Nothing has changed here. Marriages were not indexed or digitized as part of the DoVE project before they ran out of money. You therefore have to use the existing images and order full paper certificates.

The Future – Unfortunately we don’t know what will happen at the end of this 3 week trial period. The results will be evaluated, but that does not mean the government will act on it.

The Opportunity right now is to have access to great indexes (likely to stay) but also to be able to get lower priced digital certificates. This is a golden opportunity to find those missing children and dead ancestors that you have not been able to locate yet. Take advantage of it.

Comments Off on NEWS: New GRO Birth and Death Indexes and Digitized Certificates for reduced price – short time only

Filed under Callaghan, England, GRO - General Register Office, News, Websites

GB1900 – Online Project – Great for Genealogists

GB1900.org Opening Screen - Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900

GB1900.org Opening Screen – Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900

Online Project to Save Great Britain’s Place Names – Great for Genealogists

Come join the project to identify all the place names in Great Britain. First I will explain what the project is, how it works and then why it is a great way for you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestor lived.

The new online project – GB1900 – is calling for volunteers to help make sure local place names can live on and not be lost forever. GB1900 aims to create a complete list of the estimated three million place-names on early Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). It will be a free, public resource, of great value to local historians and genealogists. I will come back to this later.

The project partners include the University of Portsmouth (Great Britain Historical GIS Project: A Vision of Britain through Time); National Library of Scotland; National Library of Wales; University of Wales; The People’s Collection of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

On their new GB1900 web site, www.gb1900.org, volunteers work on digital images of all the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey County Series maps of the whole of Great Britain, at six inch to one mile scale. These maps show not just every town and village but every farm, hill and wood – and include names for most of them. The site’s software enables contributors to mark each name by clicking next to it, and then to type in the name itself. To ensure correctness each name needs to be identically transcribed by two different volunteers.

The final list of place names will be not just the most detailed gazetteer ever created for Britain, it will be the world’s largest ever historical gazetteer. It will be released under a Creative Commons license, making it usable by everyone without charge.

How the GB1900 Project Works

Go to www.gb1900.org. The first time you will need to register – name, email address and password. In the future when you return to login you will provide your email address and password. As of this morning there are 590 volunteers who have transcribed 440,789 places, and confirmed 42,766 places. What this means is that many more individual places have been tagged by individuals that have been confirmed by a second transcriber. Every place is being identified by two transcribers.

The first time into the system read the brief tutorial. It is easy to understand, but read it carefully. The mistake I made by not reading the tutorial carefully enough is that I was placing the marker on the map at the location of the feature, e.g. farm, mill, etc. This was wrong. The marker needs to go under the first letter of the text for that feature. Having tagged enough places now on the maps I can see the validity of this, especially in the crowded urban areas. Unfortunately, if you put a marker in the wrong place you can’t undo it.

You will see three types of markers. Brown – these are the places you have tagged; Green – these are places someone else has tagged; Purple – these are places tagged by someone and tagged again correctly by a second transcriber. When registered, you place the cursor under the first letter of a place name and hit enter. An entry box appears. Type in the name of the feature and confirm. The marker appears on screen, but you can’t see how it is labelled. If you are confirming a green marker and type in what the other person typed it changes to a purple marker, if you type in something different you get a brown marker. As you do more data entry menus will start to appear on your data entry box as you start typing. This is especially useful if you have common features in your area of interest, e.g. quarries, old mine shafts, foot paths, foot bridges, etc.

Common mistakes that I have made include – apostrophes in the wrong place, or missed; expanding an abbreviation, e.g. street when its only st on the map, which is easy to do especially when the entry box covers up the information on the map; or being too quick and ending up with a marker being placed where there is no feature. Unfortunately, if you make a typing error and immediately spot it, or put a marker in the wrong place there is no way to correct it.

Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)

Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)

If you log out and then come back into the system, then click on your name you will be told how many entries you have transcribed and how many entries you have confirmed. There is a ranking table for transcribers, and the number selected is the lower of your two numbers. So as of this morning I am number 10 on the top ten user list with 2,021, having transcribed 2,021 names, while I have confirmed 2113 places first marked by others.

As a Genealogist you should get involved.

You should get involved because looking at these detailed 6 inch to the mile maps helps you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestors lived. Doing the transcription reinforces in your mind the places names – streets, farms, mills, rivers, woods, all of which are named. But also you will learn about the: wells, parish boundary markers; public houses, foot paths and foot bridges.

The gazetteer on the opening pages seems to use the underlying modern Open Street Map index, so it will not find all locations on the map. It can be used to find a village or town that you want to explore. A slider in the upper right corner of the map can show you how the area has changed between the old 1900 maps and present. For my readers outside Great Britain the find my location button will not work.

For those with Welsh ancestors this project grew out of the Cymru1900wales.org project, so there are more place names already identified in Wales than other places in Great Britain.

For those with Irish connections, the old maps are not part of this project (yet?). However, the modern interactive map of Ireland is available on the opening screen, move the slider in the upper right to the left to see the modern underlying map.

This is a fun way to get to know the area in which your ancestor lived, be involved in a worthwhile project, and most importantly you don’t have to worry about old handwriting issues that you may have with other transcription projects. Come join this fun project, help yourself and your fellow researchers. Learn your ancestral neighborhood.

Comments Off on GB1900 – Online Project – Great for Genealogists

Filed under England, Maps, News, Scotland, Websites

Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records by Stuart A. Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors' Parish Records A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records: A Guide for Family and Local Historians. By Stuart A. Raymond. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £12.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. In Australia from www.gould.com.au. $30.25.  2015. 148 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This is a subject I know something about having written two recent books on English parish registers and the Parish Chest records. Yet, this book was a delight to read adding details and expanding upon what I already knew about the subject.

For many family historians it is the baptism, marriage and burials registers that are first and often only records used to identify an ancestor and put them into a specific time and place. These registers are covered in this book, but in one short chapter in the middle of the book. It is the other records created by the parish that will make our ancestors come alive. Their level in society is irrelevant as they will either be conducting the business of the parish, working for the parish in one of many capacities, or receiving assistance from the parish and its officers. In other words everyone can and should be found in these records, assuming they have survived for your parish of interest.

So what is here? The English parish was an integral part of English life for at least a thousand years, certainly up through the early twentieth century. Order within the country was maintained through the parish its officers and institutions, including: clergy; guilds; vestry; churchwardens; overseers; constables; highway surveyors; parish and vestry clerks; beadsmen; beadles; organists and singers; dog-whippers; and sidesmen all of whom are put into context and all of whom generated records and accounts. The parish itself is governed by the vestry so it is the vestry minutes and account books of the different officers that are often the most voluminous and detailed records within the parish, and unfortunately the least indexed or published. Until the mid-nineteenth century the parish was responsible for the poor and the book explains how and what shape that care took, how it changed over time, and what records were generated along the way. Care needs to be taken of the church buildings and its contents so we find: inventories of church goods; bede rolls; glebe terriers; Easter books; faculties; seating plans; magazines; sermons; registers of services and preachers. The church and its members were often involved in litigation as witnesses, petitioners, or as accused in the church courts, all leaving records. To put ancestors physically on the ground and understand their worth within the hierarchy of the parish look for the tithe records; the enclosure awards and maps; or the details on the parish charities.

Throughout the book the emphasis is on understanding the history of the records, their context and what they provide or tell a researcher. The researcher is pointed towards more in depth resources through annotated recommendations often history books that have used a specific record set to describe a specific place or time period. These histories are extremely valuable in putting ancestors and the places in which they live into a correct detailed historical context, for no parish is an island unto itself. The contents of specific document types are often extracts from published sources, only a few original documents are illustrated or extracted. The reader needs to look at both the citation endnotes and the recommended reading lists within each chapter for rarely will a source be in both lists.

I agree with the descriptive text on the cover, at least for English researchers, that this “is a book that all family and local historians should have on their shelves.” You will not be disappointed as this is a big subject and this book will start you off well.

Side note – my books Discover English Parish Registers and Buried Treasures: what’s in the English parish chest by Unlock The Past focus more on how to find, use and interpret the records,, and provide lots of practical advice. The above book adds more context and history.

Comments Off on Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records by Stuart A. Raymond

Filed under Book Reviews, England, Religious Research

Book Review: A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923 by Chris Paton

A Decade of Centenaries - Researching Ireland 1912-1923 by Chris Paton

A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923 by Chris Paton

A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923. By Chris Paton. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.gould.com.au/Unlock-the-Past-guides-s/2576.htm. AUS $15.00.  Available as an e-book from http://www.gen-ebooks.com, AUS $9.95. Available in North America from www.globalgenealogy.com CAN$17.00. Available in the UK from www.myhistory.co.uk. £7.50. 2016. 52 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

If there is the remotest chance that you know of, or suspect you have, 20th century family connections in Ireland this book is going to be a must buy for it is the only book dealing specifically with this complicated period from a genealogical perspective.

The book begins with an overview of the genealogical landscape, highlighting the commonly used resources for 20th century Irish research. It covers: vital records; burials; census, probate; newspapers; archives and libraries; family and local history societies; plus online record vendors all of which is information you can find in any good research guide.

It is the following chapters that are unique addressing the many different events that are being remembered in the “Decade of Centenaries” (2012 to 2023). There are separate chapters for: Home Rule, women’s suffrage, worker’s rights; the First World War; the Easter Rising; and towards independence.  In each chapter the key players, often with similar sounding names, are clearly explained in terms of what they wanted to accomplish, what they did accomplish, and on what side of the issue they were on.  So for example in the chapter on Women’s Suffrage we learn about the key leaders and the differences between the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association (IWSLGA); Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU); Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL); Irish Women’s Suffrage Society (IWSS); Irish Women’s Suffrage Foundation (IWSF). We learn about how their campaign escalates over time but comes to a close with the declaration of War in 1914, with the women being encouraged to support the war effort. The chapter continues highlighting online resources that provide context but also enables researchers to find their ancestors who were involved. Looking at the Easter Rising we learn to understand the differences between the: Irish Volunteers; Irish Citizen Army; Cumann na mBan; Fianna Éireann (Na Fianna hÉireann); Hibernian Rifles all of whom fought against the British.

Throughout the book mini-case studies and resources highlight the Irish who were on both sides of the issues either against the British or against each other. Mr. Paton does an excellent job of simplifying the complex history of Ireland in this time period and pointing you toward the records, many of which are already online or are coming online, and of course indicating where the originals are for those not yet online. This book is highly recommended for anyone with 20th Century Irish research even if you think, like the author did, that your ancestors were not involved in the troubles or movements in any way.

Comments Off on Book Review: A Decade of Centenaries – Researching Ireland 1912-1923 by Chris Paton

Filed under Book Reviews, Ireland

Remembering those who died on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme – 1 July 1916

Private John Finnigan, Private John Finnegan buried 10 July 1916 in Elswick Cemetery Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Private John Finnigan [Finnegan] of the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers wounded 1 July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.

100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Today I want to remember two of my great-uncles Corporal Robert Finnegan and Private John Finnegan. Robert Finnegan died 100 years ago today on 1 July 1916, during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, the largest of such memorials on the Western Front, with over 72,000 names. His brother John Finnegan was wounded on 1 July 1916 and died on the hospital ship returning to England and was buried on 10 July 1916 in Elswick Cemetery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

For readers who know little about the first day of the Battle of the Somme, it is regarded as the worst day in British military history.  At the end of one day the British Army suffered nearly 57,000 casualties, with nearly 20,000 killed, the rest were wounded or captured.

The British were attacking along an eighteen mile front stretching south from Gommecourt, where sections of the Third Army were to make a diversionary attack, south to Maricourt where the British joined the French army. The main effort was made by the Fourth Army under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. At 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 100,000 soldiers went over the top to be followed shortly afterwards by a second wave of men.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing built by Edwin Lutyens.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the largest of such memorials with over 72,000 names of British soldiers dead and missing

Both Finnegan brothers were in the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. They were part of the second wave, coming out of the trenches following the 9th and 10th Battalion’s Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. By then the Germans knew the attack was underway and the machine guns were working hard. The result was very high casualty rates which included the Finnegan brothers.

The image with this blog is a newspaper photograph of John Finnegan from the Illustrated Chronicle, a newspaper from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  I am still searching for a photograph of Robert Finnegan.

There is a lot of material online, in print and in film about the Battle of the Somme. If you would like information about some good documentary films and original footage from the Battle have a look at Genealogy a la carte for June 29, 2016 for an excellent blog posting by Gail Dever, a Montreal based researcher.

Comments Off on Remembering those who died on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme – 1 July 1916

Filed under Family Research, Finnigan, Military, WWI

English Research Course and Upcoming Institutes

2016 IGHR Course 6 - English Research students with Paul Milner

2016 IGHR Course 6 – English Research students with instructor Paul Milner

English Research Course

20 Students gathered during the week of June 13-17 for the English research course, one of ten courses, at Samford University in Birmingham Alabama for the 51st gathering of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. There was 25 hours of learning both in the classroom and computer labs. What a great group of adult learners with a very wide range of experience both in genealogy and in English research specifically. All were challenged with their knowledge base expanding during the week; with the majority leaving feeling they could do this research for their family lines. Some made progress on their research during the week itself.

Next year’s Institute moves date and location. The Institute moves to the week of July 23-28, 2017 to be held at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. I will be teaching a track on Scottish research, which will be one of at least 10 intense learning opportunities. You will in the near future be able to find more information at http://ighr.gagensociety.org though the site is currently under construction.

For those who regret missing the English research track you have the opportunity to attend a modified version of the course entitled English Research: The Fundamentals and Beyond at the British Institute October 10-14, 2016 hosted by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History (ISBGFH), meeting in Salt Lake City. Early registration for this event ends 14 September 2016. More information can be found at the ISBGFH website.

Come join us at one of these events and improve your English or Scottish research skills.

Comments Off on English Research Course and Upcoming Institutes

Filed under News, Where is Paul?

Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors through Local History Records by Jonathan Oates

Review of Tracing Your Ancestors through Local History Records by Jonathan Oates

Tracing Your Ancestors Through Local History Records: A Guide for Family Historians by Jonathan Oates

Tracing Your Ancestors through Local History Records: A Guide for Family Historians.  By Jonathan Oates. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2016. xv, 148 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This book is not for the beginner who is looking for ideas on how to trace their ancestors. Rather it is the for the individual who has already been researching their ancestors, possibly for years, and has names, dates and places, but does not know a lot about their ancestors. This book is for those wanting to flesh out their ancestors, learning more about their lives and times by exploring local history, not just family history. The book encourages and guides the individual to study the history of the locality; whether that is a county, city, town or parish. All of our ancestors were influenced by the immediate society in which they lived, worked, played, traveled and worshipped and by the friends and neighbors who surrounded and supported them. This book is designed to guide you to learning more about the lives of our ancestors and the society in which they lived.

Interestingly, the book begins in a great place with a brief overview of English history, noting especially how the relationships between the crown, government, church, society and industry were changing over time. It is a good framework on which to add your own increasing knowledge about the locality on which you choose to focus. The next four chapters focus through broad categories on some of the types of record that will be encountered: books and journals; photographs and illustrations; maps and plans; and newspapers. These records are covered in broad strokes, but it is enough to get the reader thinking about where to look and what to be looking for in their locality. The next two chapters address where to be looking for these records – local archives and libraries, plus national and regional repositories. Here a researcher will find the expected suggestions, but it the less than obvious that adds value here, such as the records of the town clerks; parish vestries; parish councils; quarter sessions; county councils; committee minutes; civil defense; school records; clubs; businesses; property records; parliament; ecclesiastical organizations; and many more.

Not all local history can be found in books, libraries or archives. The researcher is encouraged to visit the area and see the place for one’s self. However, it is better to have gotten some of the guidebooks first so that you know what you are looking for and at when one finds the things that make the place unique or the same as other places. The following two chapters highlight the value of other sources such as oral history and ephemera, plus outline what may be found in museums, local and thematic.

The book concludes with an overview of the origins and development of local history, highlighting the movers and shakers over the centuries that have shaped this fascinating field.

The book does not deal with any group or type of record in depth, but does get you thinking about what might exist for your locality and provides guidance about how and where to go looking for the records. If you want more depth on a specific aspect of local history that resource is likely to be included in the good but select bibliography. This book does a good job of thinking how and where to go next, to get beyond the names, dates and places of family history.

Comments Off on Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors through Local History Records by Jonathan Oates

Filed under Archives and Museums, Book Reviews

Book Review: Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills.

Review of Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors

Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills

Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Simon Wills. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. 2012. x, 180 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover $29.95

Pen & Sword continues its excellent Family History book series with this guide to researching your Merchant Navy ancestors, a common occupation for many British ancestors, yet they can be difficult to trace. This guide book puts your ancestors into social context and provides guidance on where to find specifics on the men, and the ships on which they sailed.

The book is divided into nine chapters: Britain’s Merchant Fleet; life in the Merchant Service; finding and following a ship; tracing seamen and non-officers; captains and other officers; disaster and bravery; Merchant Navy in wartime; places to visit; case histories.

The book is full of fascinating helpful facts that put your ancestors and the research issues into context. For example, in 1899 there are 10,998 British-registered steam and sailing ships over 100 tons, dwarfing the closest rival the USA which had only 2,739 seagoing ships, while other countries went down from there. The ships are also not necessarily where you might expect them to be for in 1835 a list of the top ten ports where ships are registered includes, not surprisingly in the number one position London with 2,663 ships, Newcastle in number two with 987 ships, but how about Whitehaven, Cumbria in the number 7 slot with 496 ships, and Southampton a well- known port does not make the list.

One of the keys to Merchant Navy research is understanding where and when your ancestor was likely to have been as sea. The records, and thus where and how to search vary greatly by time period. In additional many of the record collections have been broken up and disseminated to archives scatted around the British Isles, with a large collection to the Maritime History Archive at the University of Newfoundland. Luckily the book does provide suggestions on when the records are centrally located, plus where and how to search when they are not.

The book is not just for those who served as ships masters, mates and seamen, but also includes all the other occupations you may find at sea such as carpenters, cooks, donkeymen, engineers, firemen, greasers, gunners, medical officers, pursers, stewards, storekeepers, telegraphers, and trimmers. The role of women is also highlighted.

Each chapter has numerous illustrations of ships, crew and the documents they used or those created by officials. There are numerous finding aids, and references suggested and where you may also find material online the web addresses are provided. I was actually surprised at how much may now be online, making the search process from outside the British Isles a little easier.

If you have Merchant Navy ancestors you will certainly want to have a look at this up to date research guide.

 

Comments Off on Book Review: Tracing Your Merchant Navy Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills.

Filed under Book Reviews, England, Navy

Book Review: The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Websites You Can’t Do Without by Jonathan Scott

The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Sites You Can't Do Without by Jonathan Scott

The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Sites You Can’t Do Without by Jonathan Scott

The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Websites You Can’t Do Without.  By Jonathan Scott. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. ₤14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. 2015. viii, 245 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover $24.95

Mr. Scott comes to the task as a freelance writer, former deputy editor of Family History Monthly, and writer, since 2007 of the ‘Best websites’ column for the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. He is therefore used to finding and evaluating genealogy websites with the depth and breadth of experience clearly showing.

The introduction to the book explains the filing system at work in the book. “Each chapter lists websites broadly in order of importance, interest and usefulness. The idea being that for those just starting their research into a particular branch or topic, this will lead them quickly to the best of most interesting resources. Then in the index at the back all the websites appear again, often more than once, but listed this time alphabetically by title, content or subject.” (p.vii)

The book is divided into five sections. The first section identifies websites for getting started in genealogy addressing the fundamentals such as civil registration, census and parish registers. The second and longest section, entitled digging deeper, takes you into all sorts of record groups: burial records and monumental inscriptions; probate and wills; taxation; election records; crime and punishment; court records; coroner’s inquest; poor law and workhouses; schools; directories; newspapers; migration; overseas research; Wales; Ireland; Scotland; hospitals and medicine; catholic records; Jewish records; nonconformist records; photographs and films; Londoners; maps; estate records; seventeenth and eighteenth century sources; slavery; sports and pastimes. The third section examines websites for military and conflict, addressing each of the services, as well as examining specific conflicts and time periods. The fourth section addresses occupations with nineteen different categories with the last being a catch all for other occupations and apprentices. You will likely find multiple sites here for your occupation of interest. The final section covers miscellaneous sites identifying: resources by region; blogs and forums; house history; medieval ancestors; heraldry; nobility and gentry; sharing research; social networking; plus software and apps.

For each entry it provides a title; address and a brief description if warranted, and often one is needed, which just adds to the value of the listing.

While I was reading this book I found myself marking those sites that I had never heard of and wanted to go and check out, or ones that I had not visited in a while and I wanted to remind myself to have a fresh look. All the time I was thinking will this provide something new for my own research? The result was a book with a surprisingly large number of marks of sites I need to check out. I am working through the marks as time allows and finding all sorts of additional information.

Most people are unlikely to read this book from cover to cover. Rather it is a tool to aid you in your research. It is one to be dipped into to solve a problem or to specifically look for new websites. In that sense it is a goldmine of leads for British research. I can highly recommend it. Yes, some of the websites will become obsolete, so you can use the wayback machine at archive.org. You will also still need your favorite search engine as new websites will be created. In the meantime, get this book.

Comments Off on Book Review: The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Websites You Can’t Do Without by Jonathan Scott

Filed under Book Reviews, England, Websites

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 Webinars

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success - 4 webinars recorded at Fountaindale Public Library on 16 March 2016 with speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 webinars recorded at Fountaindale Public Library on 16 March 2016 with speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success is the title of 4 excellent webinars recorded on Wednesday March 16 at Fountaindale Public Library in Illinois. The speakers were Finlan Mullan and Gillian Hunt from the Ulster Historical Foundation who spoke with clear understandable Irish brogues. They were both a fountain of knowledge gained from practical experience and this came through clearly in the tightly packed presentations. The webinars did keep the speakers on schedule as there was a definite sense that they had more that they could have shared. I attended in person but I have looked at segments of the webinars again since getting home.

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success (4 Webinars)
• Introduction to Irish and Scots-Irish Family History Research parts 1 and 2
• Using Land Records: Griffith’s Valuation, Tithe and Estate Records
• Census Substitutes and other important sources for Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, plus records related to different churches in Ireland
• Sources for Finding Seventeenth Century Families in Ireland

The webinars can be accessed for 30 days from the date of recording. You can find the webinars in Fountaindale Genealogy Blog posting for February 24, 2016. The YouTube videos have been inserted into the blog posting. On the same page you will find a number of practical downloadable print resources provided by PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), NAI (National Archives of Ireland), NLI (National Library of Ireland) and the UHF (Ulster Historical Foundation). I especially liked the two timelines that are provided, but there are hundreds of pages of material here saving you the time and effort of searching for them.

There is material here for the beginner, but there also a lot here for the experienced researcher. I have been lecturing on Irish research for many years but there were still documents shown I had not seen before and the session on 17th century sources helped to clarify this complicated period in Irish history. It also showed the wealth of material that is actually available for the period. Now if only we could get all our Irish lines back that far.

Have a look at these excellent webinars with lots of valuable practical information, but remember they are only online for 30 days.

Comments Off on Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 Webinars

Filed under Events, Ireland, News