Monday, 3 August 2015

Possible strike action may force early closure of National Archives at Kew

The National Archives at Kew, England, has announced that a possible London Underground strike may occur on Thursday 6th August. If this happens, the facility will be closing early on that day at 5pm.

For further details visit


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Recently catalogued collections by National Monuments Record of Wales

The latest monthly edition of the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW) Archives and Library Bulletin, which lists all newly catalogued materials by the body, is available online at

For previous months' editions going back to December 2013, please visit


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

My next Scottish Research Online course starts September 2nd

An early notice of my next Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd course, Scottish Research Online, which commences on September 2nd for a 5 week run, and which is priced at £49.99. Here are the details:

Scottish Research Online (102)

Scotland was first to have major records digitized and offer indexes and images online. It has also been a leader in placing resource information on the World Wide Web. This course describes the major sites, the types of information and data that they offer, the forms in which databases are presented and how to analyze results. You will learn to lay the foundations for searching a family, how to select best resources and what to do next either online or in libraries and archives.

Instructor: Chris Paton
  • Scotlands People, Family Search, Ancestry, FreeCen: content, comparison, assessment
  • Essential Maps and Gazetteers
  • Civil Registration and Census Research Online
  • Searching in Church of Scotland Registers Online
  • Scottish Wills and Inventories Online
  • Take It From Here

Note: it is recommended but not required that students in this course sign up for the basic search option, 30 units/seven days, at ScotlandsPeople (cost is seven pounds).

Each lesson includes exercises and activities; a minimum of 1 one-hour chat (See our How the Courses Work guide at

STUDENTS SAID: "I particularly liked the fact that the course didn't just focus on the well-known BMD resources available, but on a much wider range of websites, including many which give extremely useful background information on the geography and history of the localities where our ancestors lived." "a very knowledgeable Instructor"

To sign up for the courses, please visit

COMMENT: Please note that the course starts on Wednesday September 2nd, and will likely be followed by the first online chat session the following Tuesday evening, but this will depend on the numbers doing the course, and where they may be based. If there are significant numbers I may run two chat sessions in different times, but again, that will depend on the numbers subscribing. If you cannot make a chat session, a transcript of the conversation will be made available shortly after, so you won't miss out, and there is a dedicated forum available throughout for questions you may have throughout the five week block, which I'll be more than happy to answer!

I look forward to hopefully seeing a few of you there!


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Toronto OGS call for presentations

From the Ontario Genealogical Society (

This is a quick reminder that the deadline for submitting proposals for presentations at the Ontario Genealogical Society's Conference 2016 is Friday August 14, just a couple of weeks away.

The Conference will take place on June 3-5, 2016 at Toronto's International Plaza Hotel and will be hosted by the Toronto Branch of OGS. The theme of Conference 2016 is “Genealogy on the Cutting Edge”.

The Call for Presentations can be found on the OGS Conference website at To submit proposals or ask questions, please contact the Conference 2016 Program Committee at:


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

South Antrim Living Memories Exhibition at PRONI

News of a current exhibition I wish I could get over to see at PRONI ( I have many connections to Doagh and the area around Whiteahed (Carrick and Islandmagee!). Here's the blurb:

South Antrim Living Memories Exhibition 20th July to 28th August 2015.

The Living Memories Project was a community-driven project that brought together enthusiastic and committed volunteers and local people who were willing to share their memories and so paint a clearer picture of life in their respective communities in the earlyand middle decades of the twentieth century.

Professional assistance was provided by the Ulster Historical Foundation, RodgersThompson Partnership and Storyhouse Films.

The project involved the communities of Doagh, Toome and Whitehead and the areas immediately surrounding these three settlements. It has provided an invaluable resource for those wishing to learn more about the social and economic conditions of life within their communities during the early and mid twentieth century.

The outputs from the project included an exhibition, book, website and three short films. You can find out more about the project and those involved in it at:

(With thanks to PRONI)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Norfolk parish records to join TheGenealogist

From TheGenealogist (

Norfolk parish records to go online

TheGenealogist and the Norfolk Record Office announce that they have signed an agreement to make Norfolk parish and other historical records available online for the first time. The registers of baptisms, marriages, burials and banns of marriage feature the majority of the parishes in Norfolk.

On release the searchable transcripts will be linked to original images of baptism, marriage and burial records from the parish registers of this East Anglian county
  • Some of the surviving records are from the early 1500s
  • These vital records will allow family history researchers from all over the world to search for their Norfolk ancestors online for the first time

Famous people that can be found in these records include:
  • Samuel Lincoln, the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America
  • Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who lost his life at the Battle of Trafalgar. 

In addition to those from the Diocese of Norwich the coverage also includes some Suffolk parishes in and near Lowestoft that fall into the deanery of Lothingland and also, various parishes from the deanery of Fincham and Feltwell, that part of the Diocese of Ely that covers south-west Norfolk.

Nigel Bayley, Managing Director of TheGenealogist said: “With this collection you will be able to easily search Norfolk records online for the first time. From the results a click will allow you to view high quality digital images of the original documents. Joining our already extensive Parish Record collection on TheGenealogist, this release will be eagerly anticipated by family and local historians with links to Norfolk”

Gary Tuson, County Archivist at The Norfolk Record Office said: “The Norfolk Record Office is pleased to be working with TheGenealogist, a commercial company helping to make these important records available to a worldwide audience.”

(With thanks to Nick Thorne)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Friday, 31 July 2015

Deceased Online adds Camberwell Old and Camberwell New Cemeteries

From Deceased Online (

Explore records from Camberwell Old and Camberwell New Cemeteries, South East London

Servicing a large area of South East London for the last 160 years the Camberwell Cemeteries in the London Borough of Southwark, are now available to search through Deceased Online.

For a long time there was extensive poverty in this area and as a result there are large numbers of common or paupers graves in the cemeteries. These graves are largely unmarked and this is your opportunity to find those hundreds of thousands of missing relatives.

The council area covers Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Borough, Walworth, Peckham, Camberwell, Peckham Rye, Nunhead and Dulwich.

Camberwell Old Cemetery opened in 1856 originally as a burial ground for St Giles Camberwell and was expanded in 1874 to help Nunhead Cemetery cater for the demand for burial space for the whole area. It is still an active cemetery part of which is a nature reserve.

Located a short distance away is Camberwell New Cemetery which was opened in 1927 to again cater for the huge demand for burial space. All the records are now available to search online.

There are over 300,000 people buried in Camberwell Old and Camberwell New cemeteries and a total of 700,000 for Southwark.

Find a relative, discover who else is buried in the grave, get a scanned copy of the original register entry and view a vital map giving the square where the grave is located. To search all of Southwark click here.

Honor Oak cremations will be added for Southwark Council in the coming weeks. See full details click here.

(With thanks to Deceased Online)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Dublin's Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932 on FindmyPast

FindmyPast ( has released an important military record set for those with ancestors who were children born to soldiers within the British Army, but there are some deficiencies in the offering. As part of the new British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932 collection, it includes records for the Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932.

First, the announcement from FindmyPast:

British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932
Containing over 27,000 records, British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932 list the details of students and staff members at the Royal Military Asylum (RMA) in Chelsea and the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS) in Dublin. Both schools were founded by Royal Warrant during the Napoleonic wars to educate the orphans of British servicemen in the regular army. Upon reaching the age of 14, students, both male and female, were meant to leave the institution. Boys who chose not to enlist in the army and female students were placed in indentured apprenticeship programs. Not all apprenticeship appointments were local and several pupils were sent as far as Barbados and India.

The collection covers several individual record sets and each entry consists of a transcript of the original source material. RHMS records include information about students outside the normal admission details, such as whether they went on to enlist, what trade they were taught, and the name of their fathers’ regiments. A staff list from 1864 is also available to search. RMA records include apprentice ledgers covering 1803 to 1840 and enrolment ledgers of Army Schoolmasters covering 1847 to 1876. The RMA also kept ledgers of the offences and the corresponding punishments that were doled out to misbehaving students. Punishment Ledgers for 1847 are also available to search.

Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932
Containing nearly 10,000 records, Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932 is a subset of British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932. The records pertain specifically to students enrolled at the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin, Ireland. The School was opened at the end of the Seven Years War in 1769 by the philanthropic Hibernian Society with 90 boys and 50 girls in attendance. It was established in order to educate the orphaned children of members of the British armed forces in IrelandThe RHMS merged with the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in 1924.

Many of the school’s records were stored in London and destroyed during the London blitz in 1940. Surviving admissions registers are now in The National Archives and have been transcribed by Peter Goble. Each record consists of a transcript of the original source material. Admissions Include information about students outside of normal admission details, such as whether they went on to enlist, what trade they were taught, and the name of their fathers’ regiments. There are also names of various pupils captured from the 1911 Irish census and a staff list taken in 1864.

COMMENT: The RHMS records are a record source that I have previously examined at the National Archives in England (, as my three times great uncle Alexander William Halliday studied there from 1878. The institution was based in Dublin as a sister body to the English equivalent, the Duke of York's Royal Military School.

Alexander was born on August 16th 1866 on the island of Bermuda in the West Indies, the son of Corporal William Halliday, and his mother Teresa Mooney, but his early years remain something of a mystery just now. His father, a member of the 2nd battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Foot, passed away on Bermuda in January 1866, seven months before he was born. It seems that his mother returned to Ireland shortly after his birth and remarried to another corporal within the same battalion of the regiment, William John Burns, in a ceremony in Nenagh, Tipperary. After this the family seems to have moved to Dublin by 1871, then briefly to Belfast by 1873-1874, before a return to Dublin.

Aged just eleven years and eleven months Alexander William Halliday was admitted to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin on August 1st 1878. The enrolment record is held at the National Archives (TNA: WO 143/22) and states his date of birth as August 16th 1866, his height as 4 foot 4 inches, his weight as 4 stone 8 pounds, his chest as 24.5 inches, and his religion as Established Church (Church of Ireland). By the time he left he had gained one mark for good conduct, and no trade had been learned by him. This is the information gleaned at the National Archives, from the original register. (Aged just 13 years and 11 months upon leaving the school, Alexander then officially joined the 48th Brigade on August 17th 1880, before later becoming a 14 year old private in the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Foot, the Queen's Royals.)

The transcribed dataset, however, omits any information on his religious denomination, his good conduct mark or any useful trade learned. But this is the frustrating part - there is also no useful source information given for the original register, it is merely given as Royal Hibernian Military Schools admissions 1847-1932, with transcriptions by Peter Goble, whilst the email announcement mentions they were accessed at TNA, but with no references. Would it really hurt to ask Peter Goble for the relevant TNA references, or for the company to source them itself?

This is not meant as a criticism of Peter Goble, who I have never met - it's a great effort to have transcribed so much - it is a criticism of company that wants to be seen as one of the big players in the British genealogy scene, and yet cannot seem able to understand one of the very basics of genealogical research, which is for genealogists to understand where materially has originally been sourced from. If the transcripts are incomplete (and there may well be very valid reasons why that is the case), or indeed erroneous, it is imperative to be able to know where the original source is so that it can be further consulted. Rant over...

Also released from FindmyPast:

Norfolk parish registers browse
The ability to browse through more than 300 years of parish registers has just been added to our collection of Norfolk parish records. Containing more than 5,300 pages of baptism, marriage, bans, and burial records from Church of England parishes, the Norfolk registers date back to 1538 and pre date civil registration.

Most of the records are handwritten so you may find incorrect spellings or find them hard to read. Some registers have suffered damage over the centuries so some pages may be water or heat damaged – or even nibbled by mice. The information recorded has varied over the years, but parish records can provide more information than simply confirmation of the event. Information also varies according to which event is being recorded.

UPDATE: The new Norfolk set is a browsable database of original images.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 12-14: Copenhagen and homeward bound

The final three days of our adventure on the Unlock the Past Baltic cruise ( saw a visit to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, and then a final two day conference at sea as we made our way back to Portsmouth.

There's been quite a lot of discussion about Scandinavian politics in Scotland over the last two years, with groups such as Nordic Horizons promoting links between the two regions - indeed, until the 15th century a part of Caithness, Orkney and Shetland in Scotland were in fact under the rule of Norway, so there is a long established link. I have absolutely no idea why, but Copenhagen was somewhere in particular that I have long wanted to visit, so this was going to be a real treat. My first glimpse was a bit tenuous, but at 1.30am in the morning we sailed under the bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden, and so I went on deck to take a few pics in the dark, being the immense optimist that I am. I managed to actually get something, but with only a few metres clearance between the bridge and our boat it was a hairy experience, and we were travelling at a rate of knots! Having docked in the city just after 6am, my original intention for the day was to do a hop on hop off bus trip around the city, but on learning of a military fort close to the boat, I changed my mind and decided to go in on foot instead.


The preserved five pointed fort, dating from 1626 and still in use today as a military base, was the Kastellet (Citadellet Frederikshavn), located about a five minute walk from the boat, and surrounded by a moat. It was involved in the Napoleonic Wars Battle of Copenhagen against the British in 1807, with the British attacking it to try to neutralise the Danish fleet, and reminded me immensely of a fort in Holland that I visited when a student some twenty years ago (at Naarden), though much larger in size. It was later captured by the Germans in 1940. Amongst the buildings in the fort were a windmill, barracks for soldiers, and a war memorial, although I spent most of my time there walking around the ramparts and taking in the views. Another impressive war memorial to the memory of those who fell in Danish and Allied service guarded the exit on the far side of the fort as I departed.

I made my way past the Geifion Fountain, depicting the Norse goddess Gefjun driving four bulls ahead of her. These were her four sons who had been turned into bulls to allow her to plough as much land in a single night as she could, with the land ploughed falling into the Danish sea to create several islands (which were then granted to her), with the hole left in the ground becoming a huge lake. The Danes have their own version of Fionn MacCumhaill, who, as everyone knows, created the Isle of Man after scooping out soil from what later became Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland! Located behind the fountain was an Anglican church, St Alban's, providing a dramatic backdrop.

Unfortunately, the one museum I really wanted to visit, The Museum of Danish Resistance, was an impossibility to see, it having burned down in 2013, though thankfully the artefacts inside were saved. The museum is to be rebuilt in due course, with more on that at It was interesting to note a street named after Churchill in the area, but with nothing else to view I found myself wandering towards yet another royal palace. Europe loves its royals. Upon arrival, I discovered that the changing of the guard was about to happen, so stood and watched a bit more troop trooping. After it was complete I stood outside the museum and leeched onto the free wifi for a bit, at which point I was shouted at by a soldier! He shouted at me in English "Hey, you, get away from the wall". Weighing up the options, I decided that because he had a huge rifle and I had only a measly iPad, he was likely to win if I stood up to him, so I duly got away from the wall and avoided a minor diplomatic incident.

This was followed by a visit into the large Frederiks Kirke just up the street, which was yet another impressive domed church structure, but I was rather beginning to get a bit churched out on the trip by this point, so I left after a few minutes, and briefly bumped into several Unlock the Past team members who were enjoying the day via a hop on hop off boat ride. After a quick coffee, I made my way to the Kongens Have (King's Garden), Copenhagen's oldest national palace garden, established in the reign of Christian IV. I then made my way to a large canal and started to backtrack towards the area where the boat was docked.

The find of the day was undoubtedly a quiet wee kirkyard called Holmens Kirkegard. The genie in me couldn't help himself, and so in I went for a wander. Wow! One thing the Danes certainly know how to do is to look after their dead with respect. The cemetery was absolutely meticulous, landscaped, clean, tranquil and respectful. There seems to be a tradition that many grave-owners follow of maintaining a small low cut hedge around the boundaries of their plots, and the effect was just stunning. The following are some of the views of the graves I encountered.

With time running out I had two key things still to do, now back in tourist mode. The first was to visit the Little Mermaid statue, because that's what tourists do in Copenhagen, whilst the second was to have a beer, to complete my tally of lagers and beers tasted in foreign ports.

The statue, surrounded by tourists, commemorates the fairytale story by Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1837, and is one of the most iconic symbols of modern day Copenhagen. After snapping the requisite pics and buying the requisite fridge-magnet (my mind goes beyond the taste barrier), I then had my lager, drinking - what else - but a pint (OK, the boring EU equivalent) of Carlsberg. It was an amazing drink - probably the finest lager in the world - but as I was unsure, and as it was very, VERY hot, I had a second for scientific purposes. In chatting to one of the waiters he told me that Copenhagen was a great place to live, but very expensive compared to the rest of Denmark, even more expensive than life in London. Crikey, there's somewhere on Earth more expensive than London? Travel certainly does broaden the mind...!

Back on board, I had some dinner and then attended Paul Milner's excellent talk on occupations and guild records, providing an overview on how to locate records of our ancestors' employment, and then turned in for the night after a nightcap.

On day 13 we were once again back to full blown conference mode, with Paul up bright and early to do the first session, on First World War military records. Although I was familiar with all of the resources he discussed, he did provide some very useful steers on the basics behind decoding medal index cards. For the rest of the morning I attended talks by Janet Few on migration from the UK, and another by Paul on English census records. Lunch was followed by Cyndi Ingle discussing the advice to lower expectations on the internet to raise research potential, followed by another research help zone, and another packed line up awaiting advice on Irish and Scottish brick wall issues! I then attended a further writing session with Carol Baxter looking at genealogical truth, including an interesting case where she had to get the lawyers in over a book she had written, when her research overturned 'conventional wisdom' about the descendants of some of the First Fleet settlers in Australia, based on older research which simply didn't stack up. Some people do get proprietorial about their research and their conclusions, but it doesn't necessarily make them right if they simply shout louder and stamp their feet on the ground in the absence of documented proof!

After dinner I was then up, with my talk on Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, based on my recent book of the same title. In this I sought to demonstrate the range of records that were recorded in families' desperate times, covering everything from church records, courts and crime, bankruptcy, poor law records, medical records and more. Clearly I could not cover everything, but it did provide a flavour of what else might be out there beyond the vital records and censuses. Janet Few kindly took a few pics of me doing my talk but then told me I walked around so much that they were all blurred. I actually gave my first talk that night in the quantum range of dimensional reality, but happy to put it down to my incapable camera! :)

The final day then saw us get under way with another session by me, although clearly my journey into alternative quantum dimensions had upset my internal chronometer, or rather, that of my iPad. We had a clock change heading back to England, so I set my iPad back an hour, but unbeknownst to me, my iPad for some very bizarre reason had set it to an hour before in GMT, rather than British Summer Time, with the net effect that it actually set itself back by two hours, instead of one. Muggins dutifully woke up thinking I had an hour until I was due to give my talk, only to find the door being knocked and the information conveyed that a room full of people was awaiting me! I leapt down to the venue and got underway just ten minutes late, thankfully having remembered to get dressed first.

After breakfast I attended Caroline Gurney's useful session on manorial records and parochial records, which turned out to be a fantastic piece of scheduling, as it meant that my later talk on Irish land records could refer back to Caroline's session in discussing the same manorial set up that was established in Ireland. Before that however, I had lunch and then attended Janet Few's excellent session on coffers, clysters, comfrey and coifs: the lives of our 17th century ancestors, once again in her period guise of 'Mistress Agnes' and ably assisted by Master Christopher and a helpless volunteer/victim from the audience!

My Irish land records talk then went ahead, again, based on a new book written for Unlock the Past and delivered just a week before we set sail. I discussed boundaries (coincidentally paralleling what Caroline and Paul and had done in similar talks for England), and then discussed records of ownership, estate records, and valuation, as well as my current investigations into a particular brick wall problem in Islandmagee, County Antrim, for which land records have been a godsend. After this I attended two final talks by Paul Milner (British Isles maps and gazetteers) and Cyndi Ingle (building a digital research plan), and with that the conference programme was all but done.

With one exception! After dinner, Paul's wife Carol Becker offered a hilarious session by way of payback for years of suffering as the partner of a historical manic obsessive (i.e. a genealogist), entitled "So you are married to a genealogist?". This one was for the spouses...! Clearly partners of genealogists are under some kind of delusion that graveyards should not be attended, that offices should be permanently clean, that there are other programmes broadcast apart from Who Do You Think You Are, and that they should receive some kind of consideration when being dragged along to archives or museums. It's a strange world amongst the non-genealogist fraternity - I hope they can find inner peace soon!

And with that, it was a wrap! We said our goodbyes, took our requisite selfies, and then prepared for the early departures the following morning from Southampton. The conference was an incredible success, with a packed and vibrant itinerary, and an excellent vessel on which to hold it. We had a few issues along the way, as all cruises do, and occasional changes to programme, but we survived!


If you have read my blog posts this week and wish to learn more about the cruises organised by Unlock the Past, please visit, where you will find details of several forthcoming adventures around Australia and a river cruise in Europe amongst the highlights.

You may also be interested to read the recollections of other bloggers on board, including Alona Tester (, Helen Smith (, and Janet Few (

Happy cruising!

(With thanks to Alan Phillips, the Unlock the Past team, my fellow speakers, and all of my fellow conference delegates/cruisers, for a fun two weeks!)

Earlier Baltic cruise based blog posts:

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 1 to 3: From Southampton to Bruges

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 4 to 6: Germany and Estonia

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 7-8: Russia

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 9-11: Helsinki and Stockholm


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

TNA podcast - The women's First World War in the Middle East

A podcast released by the National Archives in England whilst I have been away is Big Ideas: The women’s war in the Middle East – women’s First World War service in Egypt, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

The talk is a 42 minute lecture by Nadia Atia, and and be freely accessed at or as a download on iTunes.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit