Monday, 28 July 2014

TNA podcast - Courtroom reality in medieval England

The latest podcast from the National Archives at Kew (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) is entitled Annual lecture of the Pipe Roll Society (2014): Formal record and courtroom reality in 13th and 14th century England, a 50 minute talk by Prof. Paul Bland.

The podcast can be heard for free at http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/annual-lecture-pipe-roll-society-2014/ or downloaded from iTunes.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And please consider purchasing the great new version of Caledonia by The Libations at 79p via www.caledonia2014.com - all profits go to help fund Scottish foodbanks

Several new releases on Ancestry

Ancestry's been a bit busy - the following may be of use for your ancestors in Norfolk, or in various countries across the world:
  • U.S., Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949
  • Jamaica, Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1879
  • England, Norfolk Non-conformist Records, 1613-1901
  • Canada, South African War Land Grants, 1908-1910
  • New South Wales, Australia, Passengers Arriving at Port Phillip

Full details via http://www.ancestry.co.uk/cs/reccol/default

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And please consider purchasing the great new version of Caledonia by The Libations at 79p via www.caledonia2014.com - all profits go to help fund Scottish foodbanks

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Try ScotlandsPeople out in Glasgow at the Games

The ScotlandsPeople team will be in Glasgow next week offering free demos of the website (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk) - here's the detail from their latest newsletter:

The ScotlandsPeople Team at Commonwealth House, Glasgow

If you're in Glasgow while the Games are taking place, you might like to visit Commonwealth House at 32 Albion Street (G1 1LH) and have a free trial search on ScotlandsPeople. There will be access from Monday 28th July to Sunday 3rd August, with staff on hand to offer free tips and advice for people who are looking to trace their Scottish ancestors.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And please consider purchasing the great new version of Caledonia by The Libations at 79p via www.caledonia2014.com - all profits go to help fund Scottish foodbanks

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Who Do You Think You Are returns August 7th

The new UK series of Who Do You Think You Are comes to our screens on Thursday 7th August, BBC1, with the first episode featuring actress Julie Walters. Her story is traced back to County Mayo in Ireland, and the formation of the Land League.

Further details via the Radio Times at http://www.radiotimes.com/episode/czt28p/who-do-you-think-you-are--series-11---1-julie-walters

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And please consider purchasing the great new version of Caledonia by The Libations at 79p via www.caledonia2014.com - all profits go to help fund Scottish foodbanks

Competition - win tickets to Who Do You Think You Are Live in Glasgow

Don't say I'm not good to ye...! The good folks from Immediate Media Company, the people behind the forthcoming Who Do You Think You Are Live event in Glasgow from Friday 29th-Sunday 31st August 2014, have given me two complimentary tickets to give away in a competition. Each ticket is valid for one day's entry.

Evil Chris says the competition question should be something really tricky and selfish, such as "where exactly is the baptism record for my 2 x great grandfather John Brownlie MacFarlane of Glasgow, born sometime in the 1830s?" The man has been winding me up for 14 years...

However, Nice Chris says there's a load of competition happening now already here in Glasgow, and it's too warm to check a pile of emails for correct answers. So here's the deal - it's Commonwealth Games time just here right now, and clearly all British GENES readers want Scotland to win the Games, because this is where God's holiday home is. So all you need to do is just send me an email with the heading COME ON SCOTLAND! and include your name and the county where you live (not full address yet please), and I'll pick a winner, who will get both tickets. Deadline is next Saturday August 2nd at 12pm (midday). Email address is christopherpaton @ tiscali.co.uk

This competition is open to UK applicants only, I'm afraid, that way I can guarantee you get them in time by registered post. I'll notify the winner next weekend, at which point I'll ask for a full address to post them to.

Good luck!

NB: Don't forget that you can purchase tickets from WDYTYA Live via a promotion I've secured with them also - 2 tickets for £24. For the promotion code, visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/british-genes-wdytya-live-tickets-offer.html

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Free weekend access to Ancestry

I'm still in Belfast on a two day research trip, but just picked up on the following from Ancestry's Facebook page:

We are providing open access to all U.K records from midnight tonight through to midnight Sunday. If you have a UK Essentials subscription or guest access you will be able to search U.K collections not currently available to you. We hope you enjoy this opportunity to advance your research.

Have fun at www.ancestry.co.uk

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

More on the UK's archives - international comparison

Yesterday I wrote a blog post comparing the provisions of the three national archives of the United Kingdom (as presently constituted) - the National Archives at Kew, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast, and the National Records of Scotland at Edinburgh. The blog post, available at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/comparing-uks-three-national-archives.html, was designed to flag up how far behind the National Records of Scotland is falling in terms of providing an acceptable user service, in comparison to its sister sites. Several people have responded with their own experiences - thanks to those who have, and please do keep them coming!

John Reid of the Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections blog, has now taken the same criteria that I used in my comparison to reflect on Canada's national archive provision in Ottawa, at the Library and Archives Canada facility. It's an interesting read, available at http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/how-does-lac-rate.html. I amended my post this morning to add one final category - is it enjoyable to visit? - which is not included in John's assessment, though I think I can guess the result! Canada's facility, which I visited a couple of years ago, has been under quite an assault of its own in recent times, and at the archive conference hosted by CAIS in Dundee that I attended in April 2013 there was much solidarity shown between British archivists and that from the Canadian archive sector.

I'd be interested to know how national archives elsewhere in the world compare - New Zealand, Australia, the Republic of Ireland, Europe, the United States? What makes for best practice from a genealogical user's point of view, what really doesn't work, and what innovations can be made that you think might improve the picture at your national archive, whether here in the UK or elsewhere around the world?

Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa

Search room at LAC


(With thanks to John)

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mexican records on Ancestry

This will likely not affect many of us in the British Isles, but there will always be one person for whom it might be a godsend! Mexican civil registration records have been added to Ancestry's world subscription, for many registration districts. The records are in Spanish - a full list of what's available is at http://www.ancestry.co.uk/cs/reccol/default.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Comparing the UK's three national archives

This is something I have considered doing for a while, but after a trip to the NRS in Edinburgh yesterday that just about did my head in (see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/national-records-of-scotland-needs-to.html), here it comes at last. The following is my take on comparing the provisions of the UK's three leading national archives providers - the National Archives at Kew (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk), the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (www.proni.gov.uk), and the archive facility at the National Records of Scotland (www.nas.gov.uk). It should be noted that the NRS is a recently merged body comprised of the General Register Office for Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland - I am deliberately not including the GROS/ScotlandsPeople side of things in this regard, as TNA and PRONI have no similar provision, only the NRS archive service (i.e. the NAS). In my view there are some positives for the NRS, but just as many, if not more, negatives when compared to its sister institutions in England and Northern Ireland. Here goes:

Coverage/responsibility?
TNA: Officially the United Kingdom, but predominantly the national archive for England and Wales, with some British collections involving all four nations (and from the former British Empire), and some Irish and Scottish holdings. Recently tasked with providing a strategic lead for the English and Welsh archive sector.
PRONI: Northern Ireland, with some pre-Partition southern Irish holdings also. Northern Ireland does not operate county archive centres as in Britain and the Republic of Ireland, so PRONI is a curious mixture of being both the local archive for the province and its national archive.
NRS: Scotland only. Has no strategic role in leading the Scottish archive sector in the way TNA does down south.

Centralised location?
TNA: No. About as central in London as I am in the west of Scotland! Underground stop is a few minutes walk from the archive, but long trip from central London. On site parking.
PRONI: Nearly. Buses to Titanic Quarter, but an easy 5-10 minute walk from the city centre, basically on the other side of the river. No on site parking, but large car park directly across the road, facing Odyssey.
NRS: Very. On Prince's Street in Edinburgh, hop off the train and be there in a minute. Parking in nearby St James Shopping Centre car park, few minutes walk away, and regular trams and buses in city centre.

Convenient opening hours?
TNA: Yes. TNA recently redesigned its hours so that it is now closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday to Saturdays 9am-5pm, with two late evening sessions to 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturdays best option for those working Mon-Fri 9-5
PRONI: Yes. Mondays to Wednesdays and Fridays 9am-4.45pm, Thursday 10am-8.45pm for those working a regular Mon-Fri 9-5. Last production orders 30 mins before closing. Occasional weekend opening of search rooms if PRONI is hosting an event.
NRS: Not really. Mondays to Fridays 9.00am-4.30pm, inconvenient for those working Mon-Fri 9-5. No evening opening; no weekend opening. Latest document ordering 3.45pm.

Wifi access?
TNA: Yes, freely available throughout the building.
PRONI: Yes, freely available throughout the building.
NRS: Why-fi? Some limited access to a pre-arranged list of vetted websites on NRS computers only. 3G tablets should pick up a signal in the search room.

Cafe facilities?
TNA: Yes, on site, ground floor.
PRONI: Yes, on site, ground floor.
NRS: Not in General Register House (which houses the archive search room), but a basic cafe facility is located in a separate building, New Register House (also part of NRS), located next door. Shopping centre across road has a food court.

Ordering documents:
TNA: Several search rooms available on site on a few floors. Once in a search room, a range of computers are available to allow you to order up documents using the internal catalogue. Panels can be consulted to see if your production is available to view, allowing you to go off for a coffee, or check emails etc, whilst keeping an eye on progress. Microfilm is now an endangered species at Kew.
PRONI: There are two main search rooms, one has a dedicated collection of computers that can be used to order documents, though worth bearing in mind the on site based catalogue is different in construction to that available online (the on site one is far superior). As with TNA, it is also possible to keep an eye on screens to see when productions are available to consult. There is a also a dedicated microfilm area with several readers available, including two printers.
NRS: Only one main public search room (a separate legal search room is on the same floor, with some microfilm access) with a series of computers at one end hosting digital resources, which although they host the on site catalogue, can not be used to order documents. To order documents, you have to go to the other end of the room to use one of two other computers to make the order - but you are not allowed to use the catalogue on those! Completely ridiculous set up. There are no screens providing progress on order deliveries, you have to just wait, though usually not for long. Unfortunately a substantial and seemingly growing amount of material is held off site on the other side of Edinburgh at Thomas Thomson House – there is no public search room access there or at West Register House (which used to offer such a provision). Only 12 items stored off site can be ordered in advance for a day's visit. Once you've gone through those, it's tough luck.

Digitisation programme?
TNA: Almost messianic in its zeal. Some content digitised and made for sale through TNA website on pay-per-view basis. Some digitised as part of digital microfilms initiative, and made accessible for free. Umpteen number of projects with licensed partners such as Ancestry, FindmyPast and The Genealogist.
PRONI: Yes – as a small archive it tends to try for one 'big' release a year involving its own records, though other smaller releases or enhancements do go online from time to time. All records freely accessible through its own site. Has worked with FamilySearch on recent Valuation Revisions Books project, and its index to post-1858 wills calendars and wills collection is partially available through Ancestry as a free third party web linked database (search via Ancestry, but redirect to PRONI for results).
NRS: Fairly substantial digitisation programme, though access to the collections is available predominantly in its Edinburgh based search room only through its Virtual Volumes facility. Some records content is digitised for provision through its ScotlandsPlaces portal (in partnership with NLS and RCAHMS), a subscription site, at £18 for 3 months access (inc VAT). Has recently successfully adopted a limited crowdsourcing indexing programme. Wills and a few valuation rolls accessible via ScotlandsPeople.

Cataloguing?
TNA: Online access via Discovery, its relatively new Borg technology based catalogue which will seemingly soon assimilate all known catalogues that have ever been hosted on the TNA website (inc NRA, A2A etc). Takes a bit of getting used to, but does work.
PRONI: There are actually two catalogue systems for the public – the one available online (eCATNI), which is good, but nowhere near as useful as the on site version. Cataloguing is ongoing, though a current historic abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland means some staff resources are currently being redirected into that, and for the foreseeable future.
NRS: Very effective, by far the biggest success I would attribute to NRS. It has its quirks, but usually provides a good level of detail for that which has been catalogued. May be showing its age a bit though, has had a few reported problems last couple of months from online users.

Can you take photos?
TNA: Yes. Go for it! No charge. Rostrum stands available, but usually good results at your desk also, well lit search room.
PRONI: No, not with your own camera. There is a space-age scanner available that can be used, which costs 30p per image, and which saves to USB stick only. Watermarks images with PRONI logo across middle of the page, however, though usually possible to position small documents on either side of area where that would appear, as image base is A3 in size, so lots of room to play with.
NRS: Yes. No charge. Restrictions on copying some material, however, such as most Gifts and Deposits (privately deposited material indexed with GD). Not a bright search room though, so either use the rostrum stand if available, or ask for a table near the window, where you'll get more daylight, which should help with image quality.

Social media use?
TNA: Again, almost messianic in its zeal. Official blogs, Twitter account, podcasts, regular newsletters. TNA has a message that it is an archive that will help you, and it gets that message out, very effectively. Some staff tweet in a personal capacity, and Audrey Collins' unofficial blog The Family Recorder (http://thefamilyrecorder.blogspot.co.uk), although not updated in a while, is a real treat.
PRONI: Very ambitious. Regular news stories on its main site, plus a recently introduced weekly newsletter called the PRONI Express. A keen advocate of using FLICKR to share photographic resources and to gather info on the images interactively from the public, whilst PRONI's YouTube channel is a real success story for those who cannot get to Belfast to attend talks. Document of the month feature on main site. No Twitter account, though some staff tweet unofficially in a personal capacity.
NRS: Very limited use of Twitter. The occasional archive based news story every month or every other month on its own NAS website. No dedicated archive newsletter (there is a ScotlandsPeople newsletter that occasionally mentions archive events). You rarely get to hear about anything happening in the NRS archive. Almost a closed shop.

User base engagement?
TNA: There is a regular stakeholder group, which includes family historians and others, that meets at the archive. Volunteer opportunities with some programmes are also available, for example with the current war diaries project, whilst a Friends of the National Archives group raises funds to help make TNA collections accessible, as well as involved in indexing collections. Heavy use of social media to communicate archive strategy. There is an active talks and conference based programme at the facility. Disappeared from WDYTYA Live for a few years, but back in the game again. Actively beta tests online developments with users.
PRONI: A stakeholder group meets every three months to hear about developments and discuss progress on key objectives. As with TNA, the archive is almost messianic in providing a strong talks programme on site and across the province, with occasional forays to Britain (mainly WDYTYA Live). No Friends based support group.
NRS: Although there is ScotlandsPeople user group that rarely meets now, if there is a dedicated user group for the archive, I've never heard of it – and if it exists, I have absolutely no idea what it talks about. As with PRONI, there is also no Friends based support group. NRS makes little, if any, attempt to inform its user base about on site developments. It attends WDYTYA Live each year on a joint platform with ScotlandsPeople, and occasional shows in Scotland. The recent crowd sourcing project on ScotlandsPlaces is the only non-show based project I can think of where NRS has attempted to interact with its user base.

If the archive had a motto, what might it be?
TNA: “We may not be amused, but we can certainly help!”
PRONI: “We're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland! Search room's just through the door love...”
NRS: “Gonnae no dae that. Just... gonnae no.”

Enjoyable to visit?
TNA: The National Archives at Kew is a huge facility, and so on any visit I rarely get a chance to know any staff or talk to them, it's more a huge machine that just happens to work brilliantly for the most part. So I never come away having enjoyed or not enjoyed a day there (unless, for example, I've been at a conference), but I do tend to come away on most occasions with a sense of satisfaction after a good day's work. And that's fine, because that's exactly what I want - it's not a tourist attraction after all!
PRONI: My favourite archive in the UK. Don't get me wrong, at times there are frustrations, some of the online help guides, for example, could do with being a bit more specific. But when you go there and have a good craic with any of the staff, including the security personnel, and achieve what you want, yes, by a long shot it is an enjoyable facility. Like TNA, PRONI knows that to flourish, it needs to deliver what is asked of it.
NRS: In short? No. There is rarely a visit I make these days where something doesn't go wrong, or some bit of insane bureaucratic rule rears its head to tell you off, or when a productive day is cut short by inadequate facilities. NRS just doesn't get it, and is by a long shot my least favourite archive in Scotland, despite having some of the country's best resources. The staff are by and large friendly and informative - but the system itself oppresses everything that can possibly help to achieve a user friendly experience. It's like spending a day out at a civil service department.

Conclusion: As I stated yesterday, I think NRS has some work to do...

Copier at PRONI. If I don't use it, I stand and admire it...

Main documents consultation room at PRONI

Main search room at PRONI - dedicated microfilm area also at far end

Census conference I attended at TNA, organised by Friends of TNA in 2013

TNA - a 21st century institution fit for purpose

NRS General Register House - and that's either Wellington or the daily dispatch rider to Thomas Thomson House...

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Monday, 21 July 2014

First World War lectures in Belfast - PRONI and Falls Library

From PRONI (www.proni.gov.uk), news of a First World War themed series of lectures to be held at the archive, and also PRONI contributed talks to be held at Falls Library in Belfast:

Lecture Series: The Road to War

National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) invite you to ‘The Road to War’ - a joint lecture series exploring the impact and legacy of the First World War in Ireland.

The Outbreak of the First World War by Dr William Mulligan, University College Dublin
Thursday 7 August 2014, Ulster Museum Lecture Theatre, 7pm
William Mulligan is a Senior Lecturer at University College Dublin and a EURIAS Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2013/4. His most recent book is The Great War for Peace, published in 2014 by Yale University Press.

Ireland’s Entry Into War, 1914: Acceptance or Refusal?, Dr Catriona Pennell, University of Exeter
Thursday 25 September, 2014, Ulster Museum Lecture Theatre, 7pm
Dr Catriona Pennell is Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter. Her first book, A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press , 2012) was nominated for the RHS Whitfield Prize 2012 and the Economic History Society First Monograph Prize 2013.

Militarism in Ireland, 1912–18, Professor David Fitzpatrick, Trinity College, Dublin
Thursday 9 October 2014, PRONI, 7pm
David Fitzpatrick is Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin. His works include Politics and Irish Life, 1913–1921 (1977, 1998), Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia (1994), The Two Irelands, 1912–1939 (1998), Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution (2003), ‘Solitary and Wild: Frederick MacNeice and the Salvation of Ireland (2012), and, as editor, Terror in Ireland, 1916–1923 (2012). Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories since 1795 will be published later this year by Cambridge University Press.

'If the nation is to be saved women must help in the saving’: Women and War in Ireland, 1914-18, Dr Senia Paseta, University of Oxford
Thursday 23 October 2014, PRONI, 7pm
Dr Senia Paseta is a historian of modern Ireland with a particular interest in the history of education, religious identity formation, political movements, and ideas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her current research is in the history of women and political activism in Britain and Ireland. Her new book, Irish Nationalist Women, 1900-1918 (Cambridge, 2013), examines how politically active women worked within broader nationalist and feminist contexts during a volatile period of Irish history.

WHERE: Lectures will take place at PRONI and the Ulster Museum as stated above.
WHEN: All talks will start at 7pm
HOW MUCH: Admission is FREE but booking is essential. Please contact PRONI to secure your place: E: proni@dcalni.gov.uk T: (+44) 028 90534800


Also:

PRONI will be participating in a series of lectures on the First World War taking place at Falls Library from the 4th to the 8th August. Each lecture will be preceded by a ten minute talk from a member of PRONI on individual experiences of soldiers and civilians during the First World War. Each talk will cover one individual, including men and women at both the Home Front and overseas and will showcase some of the archival resources from PRONI.

Remembering, Forgetting and Commemorating Ireland's Great War: Issues for Belfast by Professor Richard S Grayson
Monday 4 August at 7pm

“The Soul of the Nation”: Irish republicans, war and rebellion by Dr Fearghal McGarry
Tuesday 5 August at 1pm

The Great War and Unionist Memory by Philip Orr
Wednesday 6 August at 1pm

Belfast Women and the Great War by Dr Margaret Ward and Lynda Walker
Thursday 7 August at 1pm

The formation and history of the Three Irish Divisions by Jimmy McDermott
Friday 8th August at 1pm

All lectures will take place at Falls Library. For more information about these events, please visit http://www.librariesni.org.uk/Libraries/Pages/Falls-Road-Library.aspx.

(With thanks to the latest edition of PRONI's weekly newsletter, PRONI Express)

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.