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.

National Records of Scotland needs to up its game

This morning I set off to Edinburgh to achieve two things at the National Records of Scotland (www.nas.gov.uk). The first was to spend a couple of hours carrying out some research for a client. The second was to spend the rest of my time there doing some personal research - with so much happening on the Irish side of my family tree in the last year or so, my Scottish side has been somewhat neglected.

The original plan was to visit last Thursday, but an irritating cold prevented me from making the trip. In preparing for the journey (which is a 5 hour round trip to make from Largs), I had initially consulted the NRS catalogue a week ago, only to find it wasn't working. When I called the NRS, I was told it was offline and in need of a new part, but that it would be fixed within a couple of days. In fact, it was back up again a day later - great stuff. The documents I needed, however, were stored not at New Register House, but in an offsite storage facility on the other side of Edinburgh, and needed to be ordered in advance of my visit. When I had called to ask about the catalogue I was also advised that there had recently been problems with the online ordering system, so I was advised to call back through with any documents references I needed to order in advance, rather than do it online. A quirk of the ordering system is that you can only order up twelve items in advance. For my client's research - the priority - I had to order up ten items, leaving only two slots for me to order documents that might be of use for my own research - any more than that, and the "computer says no". I duly ordered twelve items then, expecting to view them all last Thursday, but of course, that had to be rearranged for today. Helpfully, the NRS staff member held the documents over for me, rather than returning them to Thomas Thomson House, the offsite storage facility.

The material I ordered for my client research thankfully came through, and I was able to successfully resolve an interesting situation using ultimus haeres records (a future blog post!). Another brief look up for a second client took just a few minutes, and then at about 11.30am, I had almost five hours left to play with two series of rental rolls I had ordered - except, when I got the two boxes ordered, it transpired one of them was the wrong box, the archivist having accidentally ordered the wrong accession number, which was out by a single digit. It was an unfortunate error, but I spoke to the archivist and joked it was just their attempts to get me back up on another day. These things happen, and although frustrating I laughed it off and got to work on the other box, which had a series of rentals from the 16th to the 18th centuries from a barony in Perthshire - enough for me to wade through and to keep me occupied for another hour and a half. And then at 1.00pm, I finished - with still three and half hours precious research time available to carry out work. So far, so good, and at this point, I was still a happy bunny.

Now you have to appreciate that I have been researching my Scottish ancestry for some 14 years, and that on most lines I am at least back to the mid 18th century and earlier. So I am not looking for the basics now when I go to the NRS, such as wills, censuses, parish records etc - I do keep going back to them, of course, but only as a result now from other finds made in other less accessible sources. The records that will push me back further are the things like rental rolls, court records and other more obscure, and largely unindexed collections - the fun records written in Klingon (secretary hand, in Scots) that make your hands go filthy black just by opening them. So with three and half hours to go, I took a quick look at my website on which I have recorded all my progress made so far, and decided to try and order up some records for certain situations that have long been awaiting answers.

And here then, was the problem. In consulting the catalogue, nothing I wanted to see was available. Estate papers I was interested in - stored off site. Sheriff court records of interest - stored off site. Exchequer records for certain escheated estates after the Jacobite rebellions - stored off site. At one point I took a quick look at a volume for the indexes to the Services of Heirs (records concerning inheritance of heritable property) that I have regularly consulted in General Register House in the past - the indexes of interest were there, but when I went to order the original volume, I couldn't believe it - they are now also stored off site.

After an hour of trying to come up with options to help me fill my remaining time, not a single thing I wished to consult could be ordered - everything of any possible interest was stored off site. Even if I had prepared a list of what I wanted to see before turning up today, I would not have been able to view anything - the stuff I'm interested in is stored off site, and I can only order 12 items at a time - a day in advance. Unlike the National Library of Scotland, which ferries records from its off site facility during the day, NRS does not do that. In the past, NRS had a second search room facility operational at West Register House, on the other end of Princes Street, which used to hold all the sheriff court records and other useful materials, but it was closed a few years back. When it was shut, a lot of material went to Thomas Thomson House - stored off site - and only some records made it to the main search room at General Register House.

Thoroughly irritated now, I resorted to my usual default - I decided to have a look (again) at the sasines database to pass time, to see if I had missed anything from previous searches - it's called the RAC Search Tool, and was designed by computer programmers in 55BC, not long before the birth of baby Jesus - but when I tried to perform a search it would not work. I called the archivist on duty over who told me that it was apparently working, but that "since the computers had been upgraded you can no longer see progress being indicated". So, assured it actually was working, I watched a screen do literally nothing for several minutes, before deciding that enough was enough - at which point I asked for my readers ticket back, and left, thoroughly pissed off.

Quite frankly, I am beginning to lose the rag with the National Records of Scotland. The staff are by and large helpful and friendly (as with your barber, never argue with your archivist!), but the system and the set up in operation there just does not work. It is antiquated, not fit for purpose, and if it was not for the fact that there are some computers in the Historic Search Room, I would call it jurassic (or at least 19th century). By contrast, I regularly use PRONI in Belfast (www.proni.gov.uk), and have on several occasions in recent years travelled to London to use the National Archives based at Kew (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk). Both institutions - one serving a population much, much bigger than NRS, the other a population a third the size of Scotland's - have purpose built facilities with their collections stored on site, with many innovations, a willingness to engage with their user base and to understand their needs.

I attended an archive conference in Dundee in April 2013, and gave a talk to a room filled with archivists about how professional genealogists, and those doing genealogy for a hobby, use archives to further their work. I discussed some of the great innovations that many archives in Scotland and across the British Isles have been adopting to move with the times, ranging from social media engagement with the user base and initiatives such as talks programmes, user forums, purpose built facilities, digitisation and online access to records (with commercial partnerships etc), wifi access at search rooms, and so, so much more. On just about every one of the criteria I mentioned, NRS fell flat on its face. Fifteen months later, it is still flat on its face. And that is a real tragedy - because it was here in Scotland that we basically kick started the online genealogy provision of records in the UK. ScotlandsPeople, and its precessor, Scots Origins, were ground-breaking upon creation, as indeed was the ScotlandsPeople Centre, itself a modern face to the previous access available at the GRO search room in Edinburgh's New Register House.

But in the newly merged National Records of Scotland - a body in which the General Register Office and the National Archives of Scotland still maintain separate websites years after the event (as if each is standing permanently startled on either side of a room after a shotgun wedding in which they suddenly found themselves as the protagonists), there is certainly no sense of energy at least on the archive side, no sense of willingness to move ahead with the times. ScotlandsPeople is moving slowly, but it is moving forwards. By contrast, with each visit I make to the Historical Search Room, I get the feeling that the opposite is happening - things are going backwards. And it is just not on in the 21st century.

Quite frankly, we need a new national archive facility in Scotland. It will be heresy to some, but I'd be quite happy to see General Register House knocked down to build something more adequate. But it isn't just the building. We need a new facility, new practices, new opening hours and a new attitude with the powers that be to help us to access our personal heritage. Wooden panelled walls in a search room with a wooden panelled bureaucracy just will not cut it any more in today's day and age.

In a separate post tomorrow I will compare and contrast the provisions for genealogists of the three national archives in the UK at present, located at Belfast, Kew and Edinburgh. (UPDATE: Now accessible at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/comparing-uks-three-national-archives.html)

Shiny, fit for purpose TNA at Kew

Shiny, fit for purpose PRONI

NRS. And the Duke of Wellington.

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.

RIP: GRO Ireland's credibility (2014-2014)

There's a great phrase often used in life, when a spectacular failure that could be entirely foreseen just wasn't, and all credit is subsequently given for the failure to the organiser.

"He couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery."

To clarify... this is a great piss up, the example being the night before my brother's wedding in Portsmouth last year:


And this, then, would be your average brewery:


With enough beer, participants, and permission to be allowed in the said brewery, it would indeed be entirely possible to organise such an event very easily. You just have to ask the right questions, find some thirsty folk, and then let rip until daybreak... anyone could do it!

Unless you happen to be the General Register Office of Ireland.

For almost a year the GRO from the Republic of Ireland has been promising enhanced indexes online for state issued certificates for births, marriages and deaths from 1845 to the present day, all with added and enhanced information, designed to bring Irish genealogy resources well and truly into the 21st century. Surely not, many cried, such an act would be like finding and then hiring Moses to part the Red Sea again - a tad tricky? And yet, a couple of weeks back, they delivered, and on Irish Genealogy (www.irishgenealogy.ie) the indexes arrived. A grateful nation wept tears of joy.

Except... the GRO forgot to ask if it was OK to put the information online.

The Irish Genealogy site put a note up a few days ago to say that the database was currently unavailable. The Information Commissioner in Ireland, Billy Hawkes, has since been quoted in today's Irish Times as saying that “it will stay down until we sort out what exactly has gone wrong", for although "a lot of the stuff on the site is harmless – it’s about dead people", it's quite a different issue when putting info online about those still alive. His judgement is apparently that someone has “missed the plot” in doing so. The article is at http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/personal-details-removed-from-site-over-identity-theft-concerns-1.1872741, with a follow up at http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/genealogy-site-left-personal-data-open-to-identity-thieves-says-commissioner-1.1872664 discussing the fears of identity theft that the database would apparently be open to abuse for.

Such fears have prevented the ScotlandsPeople site (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk) from issuing detailed indexes for recent records that do not fall within certain closure periods (100 years for births, 75 for marriages, 50 for deaths) - it only provides basic indexes that have enough information to order the relevant certificate for those already in the know. The Northern Irish GENI site (https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk), launched recently, just does not provide any recent indexes at all, only records older than the same employed closure periods. The English and Welsh GRO however, does provide indexes up to 2005 online (via various third parties), but provides no further indexes online beyond that date for privacy reasons. All these bodies have at least considered what is acceptable online. Not GRO Ireland it seems...


In summary, the GRO in Ireland, and its government partners at Irish Genealogy, have screwed up in unbelievable proportions. As such, they should probably not be contacted to organise parties in establishments that produce booze - just in case you were thinking of asking them to do so.

(With thanks to Nicola Elsom and Colin Gronow via comments on my last story on this a few days back, but in particular to Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy News blog - see Claire's take on the situation at http://www.irishgenealogynews.com/2014/07/privacy-issues-close-civil-registration.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.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

FamilySearch redesigns international records collections access

FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org) has been tinkering again with the way that we locate the international records collections. Previously there was a list of defined regions within which the collections were grouped, e.g. "United Kingdom and Ireland", located on the Search page. Now that list has been replaced by an interactive map. Here's a quick walk through...

Visit the Search page at https://familysearch.org/search and scroll to the bottom - this is what you will now find:


Rolling the mouse across the map highlights each region in yellow as you pass over:



If I roll over the British Isles and select Ireland as one of the options in the menu on the left and then click, I now get a brief overview of the number of records held and the number of collections:



To be blunt, that's fairly useless, and I get bored with numbers fairly quickly! What I want to see are the collection titles, and to do this I have to click on the 'Start researching in Ireland' blue hyperlink in the box. Once I click on this I am then taken to a dedicated page listing only the Irish collections:



I suspect this has been necessary due to the number of collections being added - the UK and Ireland page holdings list was getting quite lengthy, and I suspect it was the same for some other regions. There is also the option of using the 'Browse All Published Collections' list beneath the map - but it a very long list...!

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.

Irish BMD indexes database currently unavailable

The recently launched civil births, marriages and deaths indexes database for the Republic of Ireland on Irish Genealogy (www.irishgenealogy.ie) have suddenly disappeared, with a message since 13.05 yesterday (Friday) now stating "Civil Records Search temporarily unavailable: Further update will be provided."

Rather oddly the category heading itself has disappeared from the menu at the top of the home page, but all other record sets remain accessible at present. Hopefully this is just some sort of blip that will be sorted imminently...

For Northern Irish research, remember that BMD records can be sourced from the new pay per view source from the GRO in Belfast at https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk, whilst for the Republic, BMD indexes from 1845-1958 are freely accessible on FamilySearch at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1408347.

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.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office records 1782-1982 workshop

The National Archives at Kew is running a workshop on Tuesday 22nd July entitled From mandarins to mandates, an overview of Foreign and Commonwealth Office records in The National Archives. The workshop "will look at records of the Foreign Office from when it was established in 1782, through to the merger with the Commonwealth Office in 1968 and up to the latest releases of records for 1982."

For further details visit http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/events/mandarins-to-mandates.htm.

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.

TNA podcast - Keeping it in the family

The latest podcast from the National Archives in England has a medieval Scottish link. Entitled Keeping it in the Family, it is a 42 minute talk from Dr Jessica Nelson - here's the blurb:

In a period where politics could not be separated from dynasty and the personal relationships between individuals were crucial to government, women often played a key role in diplomacy. This was certainly the case in relations between England and Scotland in the medieval period, with sisters, daughters and cousins of English kings regularly being dispatched north of the border to forge links through marriage with the Scottish kings. This talk draws on records at The National Archives and elsewhere to illuminate the roles that these women played and discuss what light they can shed on Anglo-Scottish relations.

The podcast is accessible at http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/keeping-family/ or can be downloaded for free 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 FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Durham Records Online additions

The following records ave been added to Durham Records Online (www.durhamrecordsonline.com)

Blaydon Cemetery burials 1906-1983 (unconsecrated section)
4,844 burials in the unconsecrated section of Blaydon Cemetery at Blaydon in Gateshead district, from 13 Dec 1906 to 10 Sep 1987.

Stranton All Saints marriages 1898-1927
2,495 marriages at Stranton All Saints in Hartlepool district, from Jan 1898 to early Oct 1927.

Ponteland records 1762-1812
At Ponteland St. Mary the Virgin, in the Castle Ward district of Northumberland, from a combination of the parish register and the Bishop's Transcript:

Heworth marriages 1837-1844 plus witnesses added 1813-1837
At Heworth St. Mary in Gateshead district:
274 marriages, filling a gap we had from 1 Jul 1837 through 17 Feb 1844. We now have a continuous block of marriages at Heworth from 1813 through 1908.
1,825 witnesses added to our existing 889 marriages at Heworth from 1 Jan 1813 to 1 July 1837. Now all of our Heworth marriages are complete with witnesses.


Coming Soon:
  • Hurworth baptisms, marriages, and burials 1770-1812
  • Trimdon marriages 1837-1852
  • Merrington marriages 1837-1863
  • Stockton St. Thomas burials 1859-1869
  • Egglescliffe baptisms & burials 1752-1851, marriages 1752-1812 and 1837-1851
  • St. John Lee baptisms & burials 1837-1858
  • In the queue: Hart Cemetery, Gateshead Wesleyan Methodists, Gosforth 1762-1846, several South Shields Presbyterian churches, Hartlepool St James, Easington pre-1798, Stockton Holy Trinity, Stockton Friends Burial Ground, Penshaw

(With thanks to Durham Records Online)

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.

LGBTI rights in the University of Glasgow's archive collections

The University of Glasgow hosted a one-day conference on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) Human Rights in the Commonwealth yesterday (Friday). To tie in with this the university's Archives and Special Collections took a look at documents concerning LGBTI rights in their collections - for a discussion on findings, visit the university library's blog at http://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/discovering-lgbti-rights-in-archives-and-special-collections/.

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, 18 July 2014

Balancing the Books - the finances of an agricultural labourer

Another short article from three years ago, which first appeared on my Walking in Eternity blog. This time it looks at a useful resource, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, and an entry found within them that sheds light on the finances of those with the humblest of occupations, the 'ag lab', or agricultural labourer...

Balancing the books

Ever wondered what our ancestors earned? The following is an example of an agricultural labourer's income and expenditure, as recorded in the First Statistical Account for Auchterarder in Perthshire, in the 1790s. The family consisted of a husband and wife, and seven children:

INCOME
Man - 1s. per day for 8 months, and 8d for remainder........£13 17 0

Mother and eldest girl by spinning, 1s 6d per week.............£3 18 0
Eldest boy herding cattle.......................................................£0 18 0
Produce of his acre of ground-
6 firlots of oats, at 13s 6d.....................................................£1 0 3
4 bolls of barley, at 14s.........................................................£2 16 0
6 bolls of potatoes, at 6s 6d..................................................£1 6 0
Sold a calf..............................................................................£0 7 0
TOTAL INCOME..................................................................£24 2s 3d

EXPENDITURE
Rent of house and land, seed & management....................£4 5 0
Cow's grass in summer, 10s; straw in winter 6s................£0 16 0
Fuel, £1 5s; 8 lbs soap, 4s 8d................................................£1 9 8
8 1/2 bolls of oatmeal............................................................£6 3 3
4 bolls of barley meal............................................................£1 17 4
Butcher meat, 18s; 4 pks salt 3s 4d....................................£1 1 4
3 pints lamp oil, 3s 6d; candles 2s 2d..................................£0 5 8
2 stones cheese (cow yielded milk and butter).....................£0 8 0
Molasses for beer, 4s 6d; groats & barley 7s.......................£0 11 6
Potatoes produced and consumed.......................................£1 6 0
Whisky, small beer, & wheaten bread at New Year.............£0 3 4
Needles, pins, and thread.....................................................£0 0 10
Expenses in sickness.............................................................£0 15 0
Father's clothes 10s; 2 shirts, 7s; shoes 10s......................£1 7 0
2 pairs stockings 4s 6d; wear of bonnet & kerchief..............£0 5 6
Mother's clothes 4s; 1 shift, 2s 6d; 2 aprons 2s 3d...............£0 8 9
Shoes and stockings 4s; kerchief, cap, etc 3s.....................£0 7 0
Pair of shoes to each of 7 children........................................£0 14 2
Clothes to 3 youngest, 9s; to 2 next 8s; to 2 eldest 10s......£1 7 0
Shirts to youngest 2s; to 2 next 2s 6d; to 2 eldest 3s 4d.....£0 7 10
TOTAL EXPENDITURE........................................................£24 0s 2d

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland from the 1790s and 1830s/40s provide all sorts of useful information on the environments where our ancestors lived, and can be viewed freely at http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sas.asp?action=public&passback=

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.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

1641 Depositions launch at PRONI on September 9th

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (www.proni.gov.uk) is hosting a book launch on September 9th to publicise the publication of the first three volumes of the 1641 Depositions by the Irish Manuscripts Commission Ltd. The speaker is Professor Raymond Gillespie of NUI Maynooth. Full details are available at http://www.proni.gov.uk/index/exhibitions_talks_and_events/talks_and_events/1641_depositions.htm.

The 1641 Depositions record the atrocities that were carried out in Ireland during the rebellion of that year by the Irish Catholic population against English and Scottish colonists. There are some 8000 depositions, some recorded shortly after the atrocities of 1641, and others a decade later during a further investigation during the Cromwellian occupation.

The original records have been available in a digitised format for some time on a dedicated website from Trinity College Dublin, located at http://1641.tcd.ie. Until recently, however, this was an early Irish collection for which I thought I would likely never have a use, it seemingly being virtually impossible to connect with family that far back - assuming anyone might be recorded or mentioned in them in the first place. However, with recent developments in online access of Irish records, and through subsequent research at PRONI, I have actually made some extraordinary progress on various lines, including several based in the County Antrim peninsula of Islandmagee - and as such, I have finally established a connection with this period.

I recently uncovered the fact that one line of my family, the Browns of Islandmagee, can trace its origins back to a Robert Brown of the townland of Ballypriorbeg, one of two brothers who arrived from Scotland in the early 1600s (the other is believed to have settled in Carnmoney). Robert had three sons, Hugh, James and Robert, who settled in three separate townlands on Islandmagee. Whilst the 1641 depositions mainly record Protestant witness statements about the horrors of late 1641, they do also record Catholic witness statements about some of the reprisals. One of the most well known stories of the time on this front was the slaughter of members of the Catholic Magee family, for whom Islandmagee was named. Propaganda at the time claimed some 3000 members of the family were driven over a cliff called the Gobbins at Islandmagee, but the truth was that some 50-70 members of the family were murdered in their houses on the peninsula by the Scots, and by troops at nearby Carrickfergus. When some of the Magees fled to seek shelter from the garrison at Carrickfergus Castle, they too were murdered in the town. Well it turns out that my lot were up to their eyes in it with the reprisal - both Robert senior and James Brown were arrested for having apparently been involved in the murder of one of the families in Islandmagee and in the subsequent incident at Carrick.

It's not a glorious story, but the records themselves are incredibly detailed, not only confirming the relationships between all the Browns on Islandmagee at the time, but in providing an image of life in the area in the 1640s and 1650s. The 1641 Depositions are a fascinating record of the time, with the published versions being launched soon, the first three volumes of a planned twelve, almost certain to provide an even greater academic commentary and context to that already available online.

(With thanks to Gavin McMahon at PRONI) 

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.

Victoria, Australia, Assisted & Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839–1923 on Ancestry

From Nicole Edwards, via the British GENES Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BritishGENES):

Digitised images of assisted and unassisted passengers lists for Victoria, Australia 1839 -1923 are now available on ancestry.com. Previously, a trip to the Public Record Office Victoria in Melbourne was required to view these on microfilm. There are some very happy family historians in Australia today! http://search.ancestry.com.au/search/db.aspx?dbid=1635

Access via Ancestry in the UK is at http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=1635 - the collection is entitled Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839–1923.

(With thanks to Nicole)

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.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

UK naturalisations, Kindertransport and Holocaust records on Ancestry

Several new sets of records available on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) that may be of interest.

UK, Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations, 1870-1912
http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=9156

These naturalisation records have been sourced from the National Archives of Kew Home Office series HO 334


And via the World Memory Project (part of the World Archives Project):

Great Britain, Holocaust Records From The Religious Society of Friends, 1933-1942 (USHMM)
http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=3814

UK, Selected Records Relating to Kindertransport, 1938-1939 (USHMM) (in German)
http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=3815

UK, Holocaust Records from the British Federation of University Women, 1938-1951 (USHMM)
http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=3801

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.

British GENES' WDYTYA Live tickets offer

Who Do You Think You Are? Live (www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com) is coming to Glasgow from August 29th-31st 2014, the first time that the show has left London since it was first established in 2006. Having been based in London for so long, it's quite possibly a show that many British GENES readers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England might have yet to visit - so what's the big deal?

The London based Who Do You Think You Are? Live event has been the world's largest family history event since its creation. Although branded around the television series of the same name, for most visitors at the event it is a chance to get some ideas of how to start their family history research, to get help with brick wall problems for those already under way, to meet some of the main genealogy records vendors, to engage with relevant family history societies for research and to attend a packed talks programme with some of the most knowledgeable speakers in their respective fields. To date I have attended all bar the very first event in London, and it it is because it is such a unique event that I repeatedly make the trip down south each year. Next month, however, I'm just down the road from the event, which will be held at the SECC in Glasgow!

To gain an idea of what to expect, my report from the London show this year in February is available at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/wdytyalive - and here's the video the organisers used to explain what to expect to those attending that event:




The SECC venue is a little smaller than the above, but the Who Do You Think You Are brand, combined with the forthcoming new series (I have a possible start date, but sworn to secrecy just now!), should make this an equally exciting event. I'll certainly be there, giving some talks, taking part in some panels and helping on a stall, but more on that in due course...

The organisers have kindly given me a unique code for British GENES readers to get discounted tickets - here's the deal:

We have a special offer: you can get two tickets for just £24 by quoting CP24* when booking on www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.co.uk or by phoning 0844 873 7330.

*£2.25 transaction fee applies. Offer ends 15 August 2014. Usual on door price is £18 each. (Calls cost 6p per minute from a BT landline plus network extras.)

Keep an eye out for some more news soon on the show - and on the new series itself!

And if you're desperate for some advice sooner than that, leave me a question for a live web chat on Who Do You Think You Are magazine's forum this Friday, from 1pm-2pm - see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/who-do-you-think-you-are-magazine-web.html

(With thanks to Mark Mulcahy and Sarah Williams)



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.

FamilySearch releases two apps

FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org) has released two new mobile apps, FamilySearch Tree and FamilySearch Memories.

FamilySearch Tree makes it easy to add photos, stories, and audio recordings to your ancestral tree on the main website, whilst FamilySearch Memories is more of a tool to help you as a genealogical hunter-gatherer in recording interviews, taking photos and more.

For further details visit https://familysearch.org/blog/en/familysearch-introduces-moble-apps/.

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, 15 July 2014

Europeana First World War roadshow to visit Yorkshire

Europeana's First World War roadshow returns to England in early August - the following is an abridged press release:

Yorkshire’s Forgotten WW1 Family Stories.
People across the region urged to contribute to unique online WW1 archive Europeana 1914-18

Europeana 1914-18 World War One Family History Roadshow
British Library, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorks, LS23 7BQ
Saturday, August 2, 2014 11.00am – 5.00pm

Do you have a box hidden deep in the attic or under the bed that holds your great grandfather’s diaries from 1914-1918? His army medals? Or a photo with a special story behind it? If so, it could be part of a unique European WW1 project, shared worldwide to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the war.

The British Library’s northern site at Boston Spa has joined forces with Europeana - Europe’s digital museum, library and archive. We will be working together to gather and tell people’s family stories from 1914-1918. These valuable stories will then be shared via Europeana’s online archive - the most important pan European online resource of original WW1 source material. http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en

And we need your help!

We need people to bring photographs, letters, diaries, film or audio recordings, together with the stories of whom they belonged to and why they are important to their families to the Europeana 1914-1918 Family History Roadshow at the British Library, Boston Spa on Saturday, August 2.

Historians and experts from the York Museums Trust, Lancaster University and local history societies will be on hand to talk about the significance of finds, while staff from the British Library will professionally digitise the objects which will be uploaded to the dedicated Europeana 1914-1918 website.

Visitors on the day will also have a chance to discover the British Library’s newly refurbished Boston Spa Reading Room, where you can consult the Library’s vast collection of research journals, books and periodicals, along with free access to more than 8 million pages of digitised historic newspapers. There will also be a range of WW1 themed activities, including local curator talks from experts at The Castle Museum, York, film screenings from the Yorkshire Film Archive and a WW1 brass band.

Europeana have been holding Family History Roadshows in more than 20 countries across Europe in the lead up to the WW1 Centenary. Each individual story - that otherwise might never be told outside of the family - is essential to creating a unique global archive and perspective of WW1. Through this archive, stories from countries across Europe will be shared online, accessed by others worldwide and saved for future generations. And now it’s the time for the people of Yorkshire to come forward with their stories.

The British Library have led the UK’s contribution to Europeana 1914-1918, as part of the First World War Centenary programme. They have created a brand new British Library First World War website with over 500 items from across Europe and articles by leading experts and teachers’ notes. www.bl.uk/world-war-one

The British Library has digitised 10,000 items (more than 350,000 images) of a wide range of materials related to the First World War from its print collections. Personal diaries, trench maps, printed books, WW1 poetry, literary manuscripts, photographs and music scores are among the broad selection of the Library’s contribution, which can be found at www.europeana1914-1918.eu

(With thanks to Wendy Archer)

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.

Who Do You Think You Are magazine web chat

This coming Friday July 18th 2014 I will be answering questions on any Scottish genealogy problems you may have on the Who Do You Think You Are Magazine web chat page at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/forum/topic10934.html, from 1pm-2pm (UK time). If you have a question or need a bit of advice, pop along and register your question and I will try to answer as best as I can in the time there.

I may not be able to solve everything, but hopefully I'll be able to provide a few useful steers!

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, 14 July 2014

Happy 10th birthday to Coflein

Welsh heritage body the National Monuments Record of Wales launched its online catalogue Coflein (www.coflein.gov.uk) 10 years ago today. So happy birthday Coflein!

For the full story, visit http://heritageofwalesnews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/happy-birthday-coflein-is-ten-years-old.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.

Dúchas website adds Irish schools folklore collection

The National Folklore Collection of Ireland's Dúchas website (www.duchas.ie) has added about 80% of its school records holdings from counties Dublin, Donegal, Mayo and Waterford, about 64,000 items in total, and comprising of a collection of folklore compiled by schoolchildren in Ireland in the 1930s.

It's a real gem, with some interesting holdings - one school child from Raphoe in County Donegal, for example, recalls how his granny used to describe the "stiffy lifting" or theft of corpses from graves in the local cemetery for medical students to experiment on.

To access the records, indexed by school and location, visit http://duchas.ie/en/cbes.

Don't forget to come up for air!


(NB: Note that some of the material presented is written in Irish)

(With thanks to Audrey Wyper)

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.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Lost Cousins newsletter: Genealogy in the Sunshine 2015

Peter Calver's latest Lost Cousins newsletter has some interesting discussion about whether English and Welsh BMD certificates are about to go up in price again - as well as news about a follow up to the Genealogy in the Sunshine conference event that took place earlier this year at Rocha Brave, Portugal (see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/genealogy-in-sunshine-day-1.html http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/genealogy-in-sunshine-days-2-and-3.html and http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/genealogy-in-sunshine-days-4-and-5.html for reports from this year's event). He has two potential dates in mind in 2015 (in March and April), and is seeking feedback and interest from readers before committing to one or the other.

The newsletter is accessible at www.lostcousins.com/newsletters/jul14news.htm

(With thanks to Peter)


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.

National Archives at Kew - annual report

The National Archives based at Kew (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) has released its annual report for 2013-2014. Within the 104 page document are some interesting developments and facts for those of us interested in genealogy.
  • 670,000 documents were produced for visitors in 2013-2014
  • 202 million documents were downloaded
  • 1.2 million catalogue descriptions were added to Discovery
  • 10 million new descriptions are being added to Discovery from materials catalogued on other platforms such as the National Register of Archives, Access to Archives and ARCHON (the final migration will be completed by July 31st).
  • 20 per cent of visits to the archive's main website were made from a smartphone or tablet
  • There have been 2 million podcast downloads
  • 1100 enquiries were answered by TNA staff at Who Do You Think You Are? Live
  • The digitisation of 1.5 million pages of First World War diaries continues, the archive's largest ever in-house digitisation project
  • A contract for digitisation of the English and Welsh 1939 National Identity register was awarded to FindmyPast on 14 FEB 2014

Some interesting data issues have also been reported - for example, on p.51 there's a report on how TNA discovered that around 10% of the records of BT 377/7 (Royal Naval Ratings’ Records of Service (1908-1958), available through Documents Online, concerned people less than 100 years old. This potentially affects some 3000 people who may well still be alive, and as such has been reported to the Information Commissioner - a response is still awaited. The inference here is that these records being online may be a breach of the Data Protection Act. As a precaution, however, TNA has now closed off access to the microform version of the records until 2039, and the affected online records falling into this category have been removed from Documents Online. 288 other records from other collections on Documents Online have also been removed (no further details on these have been given in the report).

There are also details on the archive's environmental performance, remuneration, and a few references to sustainability issues - that phrase now makes me laugh every time I read it, as I keep imagining that there must be a Head of Sustainability constantly arguing with a Head of Legacy, as in the comedy series Twenty Twelve (sorry, I'm easily amused!).

It's been a busy year, with many great developments, particularly with the First World War and cataloguing projects currently under way, for which the archive is to be commended. I would counter that there are also some developments that I would suggest have not been so great - sorry, but I am NOT a fan of what the archive has done with the Gazettes on the new website at www.thegazette.co.uk (you can read how to use this, as well as my criticisms of the new site, in my book British and Irish Newspapers, released earlier this year). Also, if 20% of visits to the TNA website are made by tablet and smartphone, that presumably leaves 80% accessing it by PC, which is not so much fun with the recent redesign that has been heavily weighted towards tablet use. Obviously that will change as we are forced via technological advancements to continue to go down the tablet route, whether we want to or not!

One observation I will make though in praise of TNA. I regularly attend PRONI's user forum in Belfast, and know what is happening through its lively social media interactions with its user base; similarly I have a fair idea of what is going on at TNA through this report and other regular announcements and platforms, as well as its Friends group, which regularly raises money for archive projects. But the National Records of Scotland continues to remain opaque, and could do with engaging more with its users, and in being equally transparent. The UK's other national archives provide great role models in this regard, in shiny new wifi enabled buildings with 21st century mentalities, whilst here in Scotland NRS still needs to catch up, with its wooden walled reading rooms and wooden walled 20th century practices.

Census conference at TNA

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.

Limerick's Life website

Thanks to James McLaren of the Channel Islands FHS for flagging up Sharon Slater's Limerick's Life website by email. Located at http://limerickslife.com it has some interesting record sets, for example a list of those who died in the Irish Civil War in Limerick in July 1922 - see http://limerickslife.com/civil-war-july-1922/. There's a few other collections such as headstone inscription and passenger lists. Well worth a look if you have Limerick connections.

(With thanks to James)

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.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

How many Scottish church denominations were there?

Another wee blast from the past, with an article I wrote on another of my blogs in Feb 2011, which might provide a bit of an eye opener if you are stuck before 1855 on ScotlandsPeople...

How many Scottish church denominations were there?

If you are having problems trying to find a pre-1855 birth in Scottish parish records, here's a wee eye opener as to why that might be. The ScotlandsPeople website only hosts the registers of the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic churches. But there were plenty more!

The following is a list of church denominations, and the number of premises they had, as returned for the Religious Worship Census of 1851, taken alongside the main decennial census on March 30th-31st.

Established Church 904
Reformed Presbyterian Church 37
Original Secession Church 30
Relief Church 2
United Presbyterian Church 427
Free Church 824

Episcopal Church 112
Independents or Congregationalists 168
Baptists 100
Society of Friends 6
Unitarians 5
United Brethren, or Moravians 1

Wesleyan Methodists:
* Original Connexion 61
* Primitive Methodists 10
* Independent Methodists 1
* Wesleyan Reformers 1

Glassites, or Sandemanians 6
New Church 5
Campbellites 1
Evangelical Union 27

Isolated Congregations:
* Various 8
* Common 2
* Unsectarian 1
* City Mission 7
* Christians 7
* Christian Disciples 14
* Christian Reformation 1
* Reformed Christians 1
* Free Christian Brethren 1
* Primitive Christians 2
* Protestants 4
* Reformation 1
* Reformed Protestants 1
* Separatists 1
* Christian Chartists 1
* Denomination not stated 6

Roman Catholics 104
Catholic and Apostolic Church 3
Latter Day Saints, or Mormons 20
Jews 1

(Extracted from Table A: Summary of the Whole of Scotland, p.2-3, from Histpop at http://tinyurl.com/4aj2uw7)

So just a few more denominations to think about!

For more information on how to find the registers of those other denominations I have written a book entitled Discover Scottish Church Records for Australian based genie venture Unlock the Past (www.unlockthepast.com.au). Available in paperback from www.gould.com.au/Discover-Scottish-Church-Records-p/utp0281.htm and in ebook format at www.gen-ebooks.com.

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.