Book Review: How Our Ancestors Died-A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills

How our Ancestors Died: A guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills

How Our Ancestors Died: 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. £14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2013. 214 pp. Softcover. Illustrations, index.

Mr. Wills, is a genealogist, journalist and regular contributor to genealogy magazines. Professionally he works as an information specialist, writer and advisor to the National Health Service and healthcare organizations. That experience in the healthcare industry clearly shows in this excellent guide to how our ancestors died.

The book is divided into 27 chapters with the opening chapters addressing the causes, diagnosis and treatment of illness and how that has evolved over time. For the family historian the places where a cause of death might be found is helpful to get one thinking of where to look – death certificates; registers of deaths abroad and at sea; obituaries; coroner’s inquests and legal proceedings; registers of parish burials; memorials and gravestones; newspapers; hospitals, workhouses and asylums; military records; employment records; specific medical problems; and epidemic statistics. Attention is given to records of accidents and disasters.

The remaining chapters in the book examine, in alphabetical order, major causes of death, such as: alcoholism; cancer; chest conditions; cholera; dysentery and bowel infections; execution and murder; influenza; plague; pregnancy and childbirth; scurvy; smallpox; tuberculosis; typhoid; venereal diseases; and more. For each of the medical problems there is a description of the symptoms, and how it was treated over time, bloodletting and purgatives being common for all sorts of ailments.  The true cause of a medical problem might take years to discover, or it may be discovered and the medical profession because of vested interests or disbelief may ignore the cure (e.g scurvy, cholera).

When appropriate if there are specific locations or time periods when deaths occurred in significant numbers these are noted, so we learn about famines, plagues, and epidemics. This is helpful if you want to know, for example, if your ancestor’s cholera death was an isolated incident or part of a larger outbreak. The book also helpfully highlights some geographical specific medical issues such as: Devonshire colic resulting from drinking cider made in lead containers – died out by the end of the eighteenth century; or “Derbyshire Neck” from a lack of iodine in the soil, with a lack of iodine stopping the human thyroid gland from working resulting in a large swelling under the chin (goiter) – resulting in adults often being slow in movement and thought.

This is an excellent resource for putting your ancestor’s ailments into perspective, understanding the symptoms, how it was treated, whether it was contagious creating fear in the family and community, and when and how the ailment was eventually treatable or cured through modern medicines. This is a guide you will use, rather than doing online searches which give you all the modern treatments for an ancestor’s ailment.

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Book Review: A Dictionary of Family History: The Genealogists’ ABC by Jonathan Scott

A Dictionary of Family History: The Genealogists’ ABC by Jonathan Scott

A Dictionary of Family History: The Genealogists’ ABC. 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 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. 2017. 247 pp. Softcover.

Who would have thought it would be so delightful to read a dictionary? But this one is fun to read and is a great learning experience.

This book has thousands of A-Z entries, that are definitions, timelines and terminologies, providing details on archives and websites along with advice on research methodology and problem subjects. The book is a mixture between an encyclopedia, dictionary and almanac. The book is valuable for English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh research.

The book contains the expected descriptions for the major genealogical records, national and county archives with links to their catalogues and research guides. But there are also definitions for: obscure terms; old occupations; important government acts; cultural events; museums and much more. Scattered throughout the book are addresses for familiar and obscure but well-developed websites.

In the age of the internet why have a dictionary? In this case, it’s because the author has done the work explaining terms, defining topic making them all relevant to the family historian. He has separated the wheat from the chaff for you saving you time and effort. In the process he provides guidance on where to go for the best websites and believe me he has found some great obscure sites as well as the familiar.

As I was reading this book I was marking the margins for entries and websites to follow up with for personal research but also to include in lectures. This is a reference book that is now within arm’s reach of my computer, joining my other favorite reference books. It will be used in the future I am sure.

 

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Book Review: Manorial Records for Family Historians by Geoffrey Barber

Manorial Records for Family Historians by Geoffrey Barber

Manorial Records for family historians. By Geoffrey Barber. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.unlockthepast.com.au/unlock-past-publications. AUS $15.31. Available as an e-book from http://www.gen-ebooks.com, AUS$9.95. 2017. 80 pp. Index. Softcover.

The manorial system introduced into England and Wales by the Normans, following their conquest in 1066, lasted until 1926. For family historians the primary period of interest will be the 16th through the 18th centuries, with coverage before and after depending upon the what records have survived and how long the manor and its courts continued to function. These records when combined with all the church records, including those in the parish chest, can bring the lives of our ancestors to life.

The book begins with how to use the Manorial Documents Register to identify which manorial records have survived for a given location. These are, now online for most counties, with the remainder expected soon. The example used, Rotherfield in East Sussex, highlights that multiple manors, in this case six, can exist within one parish. The following three chapters provide: an overview of the manor; a description of the social structure (free and unfree tenants); and explanations of  how the manor is administered identifying the officials and their roles that are likely to be found running the manor.

The manorial system is the origin of the present land system in England and Wales. It is at the heart of manorial studies, and of great relevance to family historians. Mr. Barber thus explains the differences between: demesne land; copyhold or customary tenure; freehold land; and leasehold land, identifying how each can be recognized in the records and what it meant for the people themselves.

The most voluminous records of the manor are likely to be the those of the Court Baron and Court Leet, with the other courts being mentioned briefly. These court records give us “details on changes in property ownership, lists of people attending court, appointments to community positions, names of people fined for minor infringements and in some cases even deaths and details of oral wills witnessed by manorial officials (p.46).”

The addition of three case studies showing how to use manorial records to physically locate properties on the ground enhances the value of this book. All examples are from Rotherfield in East Sussex. The first is a straightforward copyhold example showing a widow taking possession in 1691, following the ownership succession until it leaves the family in 1801, and locating the property using the tithe maps of the 1840s. The second example is a named and described piece of freehold property, owned by the family from before 1580 until 1781, located through a manorial survey, though the property name was still being used in 1911 census. The third more complicated example involves a specific copyhold house in the village of Rotherfield, occupied by the family between 1530 and 1650, and being eventually sold in 1677, yet its description was used to identify its location on the tithe maps from the 1840s.

The book concludes with a helpful glossary and bibliography.

This can be a complicated subject, but Mr. Barber has succeeded in explaining the operations of the manor succinctly. Few of these records will have been digitized, some have been published, and some have been transcribed and translated from the original Latin, but the examples and case studies highlight their value for family historians.

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Paul Milner is UGA’s Newest Fellow

Awarded 26 January 2018

Paul Milner receives the 2018 Fellow Award from the Utah Genealogical Association from Kelly Summers current president

The UGA Fellow Award is given in recognition of those living individuals whose distinguished contributions and on-going commitment to the field of genealogy are of national or international scope. This may be evidenced by any combination of publications, teaching and speaking, or leadership of major genealogical organizations over a significant period of time.

Paul Milner was the latest recipient of the UGA Fellow Award. Paul is a native of northern England. After the death of his father in 1980, he started researching his family history and turned professional in 1993. Part of his business plan was to be speaking nationally within five years. This goal was accomplished in 1996 when he spoke at his first FGS conference in Rochester, NY. He has spoken at one or both national conferences ever since as well as speaking widely at societies across the United States.

Additionally, he has spoken internationally at conferences in England, Canada and Australia and is returning to Australia to speak again in March. He has spoken on Genealogy Cruises to Alaska, the Baltic, the Western Caribbean  and the South Pacific.

The first institute he attended as a student was SLIG in 1999 with a course coordinated by Dean Hunter, another UGA Fellow. He took additional courses from Dean and Burt Rawlings. The first institute he taught at was in 2002 at the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America. He has subsequently taught English and Scottish tracks at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, the British Institute, and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.

2018 Fellow of UGA award presented Jan 2018

Paul has served in numerous capacities on the boards of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Association of Professional Genealogists, the Genealogical Speakers Guild, as well as his local society – the British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois.

Paul has written six how-to books on English and Scottish research as well as nearly 1,000 book reviews for the FGS Forum. He was the newsletter editor of his local society newsletter – BIGWILL for ten years and has written reviews on British Isles-related resources for 25 years.

Paul continues to develop new presentations to grow and to pass his wisdom and experience along to his enthusiastic students.

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Review: How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills.

How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide For Family Historians by Simon WIlls

How Our Ancestors Died: 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. £14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2013. 214 pp. Softcover. Illustrations, index.

Mr. Wills, is a genealogist, journalist and regular contributor to genealogy magazines. Professionally he works as an information specialist, writer and advisor to the National Health Service and healthcare organizations. That experience in the healthcare industry clearly shows in this excellent guide to how our ancestors died.

The book is divided into 27 chapters with the opening chapters addressing the causes, diagnosis and treatment of illness and how that has evolved over time. For the family historian the places where a cause of death might be found is helpful to get one thinking of where to look – death certificates; registers of deaths abroad and at sea; obituaries; coroner’s inquests and legal proceedings; registers of parish burials; memorials and gravestones; newspapers; hospitals, workhouses and asylums; military records; employment records; specific medical problems; and epidemic statistics. Attention is given to records of accidents and disasters.

The remaining chapters in the book examine, in alphabetical order, major causes of death, such as: alcoholism; cancer; chest conditions; cholera; dysentery and bowel infections; execution and murder; influenza; plague; pregnancy and childbirth; scurvy; smallpox; tuberculosis; typhoid; venereal diseases; and more. For each of the medical problems there is a description of the symptoms, and how it was treated over time, bloodletting and purgatives being common for all sorts of ailments.  The true cause of a medical problem might take years to discover, or it may be discovered and the medical profession because of vested interests or disbelief may ignore the cure (e.g scurvy, cholera).

When appropriate if there are specific locations or time periods when deaths occurred in significant numbers these are noted, so we learn about famines, plagues, and epidemics. This is helpful if you want to know, for example, if your ancestor’s cholera death was an isolated incident or part of a larger outbreak. The book also helpfully highlights some geographical specific medical issues such as: Devonshire colic resulting from drinking cider made in lead containers – died out by the end of the eighteenth century; or “Derbyshire Neck” from a lack of iodine in the soil, with a lack of iodine stopping the human thyroid gland from working resulting in a large swelling under the chin (goiter) – resulting in adults often being slow in movement and thought.

This is an excellent resource for putting your ancestor’s ailments into perspective, understanding the symptoms, how it was treated, whether it was contagious creating fear in the family and community, and when and how the ailment was eventually treatable or cured through modern medicines. This is a guide you will use, rather than doing online searches which give you all the modern treatments for an ancestor’s ailment.

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Book Review: Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians by John Wintrip

Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians by John Wintrip

Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians. By John Wintrip. 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 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. 2017. x + 214 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This book caught me by surprise for it looks like all the other books in the series and has a similar title. However, the subtle change in the subtitle is important. Usually it is a “guide for family historians” while here it is a “guide to research methods for family historian.” Usually these guides focus on the records and the contextual history. Here the author focusses on the methodology for doing research, thus the book is a well written complement to all the other books in the series.

Mr. Wintrip, a professional genealogist, started his career as a research science librarian in universities so understands research methodology. He points out that these days it is generally easy to get your English ancestral research back to the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign because of the large national online indexes (census, civil registration, church and cemetery burial records). But more care is needed in earlier research because the content of the records often doesn’t provide the information needed to prove the links between individuals and generations. He rightfully states that “this book is not intended for complete beginners but for researchers who already have some experience of genealogical research, so comprehensive descriptions of sources are not included, but specific aspects of sources that affect the outcome of research are discussed” (p.ix).

Mr. Wintrip describes his required competencies for genealogical research as: (1) knowledge of sources; (2) searching skills; (3) analytical and problem-solving skills; (4) external knowledge. A fifth skill involving the recording of information, citation of sources and good record keeping is acknowledged but is not covered in this book. Chapter 2 outlines these 4 competencies, giving a excellent case study of how external knowledge (general and specific) solved a problem of how apparently geographically unrelated events were actually for the same family members.

As researchers would expect, there is rightfully an emphasis on knowledge of the sources, thus the many books that address sources. But here in chapter 3 we get a framework for understanding the sources themselves in terms of how and why the sources are created, what an individual record is within a source, and how to analyze derivative sources, copies, transcripts, authored works, etc. In addition, there is a discussion on methods to find what records have survived and where they might be located now.

Following chapters discuss information used to uniquely identify individuals being researched. These include: names; social status, religion, occupation and how these may be made more complicated by relocation. These topics need to be addressed in any family research but are particularly important and need to be understood in an English context.

The final seven chapters in the book cover: searching for information; archives and libraries; evidence and proof; family reconstruction; missing ancestors; mistaken identity; and help from others. Mr. Wintrip is current with American methodological ideas found in the Genealogical Proof Standard, and works by Elizabeth Shown Mills and Robert Anderson. He puts these ideas into an English context, expanding and explaining through English examples.

Throughout the book, short examples and case studies illustrate well-research problems that do occur and how to overcome them through expansion of one’s knowledge of the records themselves, their history, and external knowledge that puts the results into context. Success also requires a careful research process that can be followed, and this is well illustrated through decision (Venn) diagrams.

This book is highly recommended, especially for researchers wanting a thorough framework by which to do their English research, or those North American researchers wanting to better understand how English research processes are different.

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Book Review: Tracing Your Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Adele Emm

Tracing Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Adele Emm

Tracing Your Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Adele Emm

Tracing Your Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Adele Emm. 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. 2015. 214 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Our ancestral trees may abound with common laborers but we will also have tradesmen – such as the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. This book puts these tradesmen and craftsmen into historical context and shows how they can be traced.

The first three chapters explain how an individual would have become a tradesman or craftsman, and why. The medieval guilds, common in many localities, controlled who could ply their trade within their area, the most familiar and most important being the London guilds. In 1515, the forty-eight London livery companies were placed in order of precedence based on power and financial status, creating what has become known as the great twelve, mostly merchant guilds. These twelve are listed in order along with the date of their original charter, not necessarily from when records survive and their website. Later a list is provided of the remaining London companies up to 100, giving name and website. Some of these are 20th century creations, and some you may not even know what the occupation is, such as fletchers, broderers, horners, paviors, and loriners.  Importantly, a chapter discusses: the training and apprenticeship to become a freeman of a guild; indentures and deeds of apprenticeship; pay; school leaving age; working hours; holidays; pensions; health and safety; trade unions and friendly societies, all of which is good contextual information.

The remaining chapters address specific groups of occupations including: merchants and mercers; shopkeepers; builders and the building trades; smiths and metal workers; cordwainers and shoemakers; clothing and allied traders; and a miscellaneous group under other trades. Expanding upon the builders and building trade chapter as an example, this includes details on: auctioneers and house agents; bricklayers; brickmakers; carpenters, joiners, turners and sawyers; road builders and menders; painters; stone masons; and thatchers. As you might anticipate not every occupation is included, as I was hoping for plumbers and glaziers. But there are enough clues in these chapters to provide ideas of where to look for information on any desired missing occupation. For those that are included you get a description of the occupation (often for different periods), examples of records or possible places to find records (e.g. guild or union records), and museums that may focus or illustrate well the occupation. The book has good illustrations of the large variety of records that mention our ancestors plus places and tools associated with the occupation. The printed resources mentioned within the text are generally not included in the select bibliography at the end of the book arranged by chapter and topic, so both places need to be checked for potential leads.

This is an excellent guide to get you researching the trade of your ancestors, pointing you to published and online resources, plus how to put them into a correct social context. For the trades included you are well on your way to learning about your ancestors. For those not included you will have ideas of where to look.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Book Reviews, England, Religious Research