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Familyrelatives.com celebrate their fifth birthday with a special offer

22 May

To celebrate their fifth birthday Familyrelatives.com have announced a special subscription offer, until the 31st May 2011 you can get 20% off an annual subscription. This means you will be paying £25 ($42 or €29) for a year’s access to the website.

Familyrelatives.com is not a name that comes up often on this blog or in the genealogy news and they obviously don’t have the same sort of budget as the big name data providers, and their collections are not as extensive but they do deserve a closer look.

What I really like about their website is that they have all their English collections listed and linked on one page along with links across the top of that page to collections for other countries.

There is quite a cross-section of records on the site. They have the GRO BMD Indexes (partially indexed), a selection army and navy records, a large selection of directories, school records and medical registers, as well as a selection of parish registers for a variety of places.

If you are not interested in a subscription there is a pay-per-view option for some of the records and they even have some free to view records (details here and here). If you are interested then don’t hang about, you don’t have long to take advantage of this special offer.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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Deceased Online is expanding again

19 May

The burials and cremations website Deceased Online keeps on growing, yet despite their being somewhere in the region of 1.5 million records on the site I have still only been able to find one relative in their collections.*

Having ancestors who weren’t particularly mobile can equally be a blessing and a curse. Every new announcement from Deceased Online is eagerly examined, hoping that this time there will be a cemetery full of relations waiting for me. My resulting disappointment is tempered by the knowledge that somewhere in the world a researcher is leaping up and down with excitement and brick walls are tumbling down.

This time it was the turn of those family historians with relatives in the counties of Wiltshire and Devon, in particular (taken from their website):

  • Bradford-on-Avon Cemetery, Holt Road, Bradford-Upon-Avon, Wiltshire.
  • Hilperton Cemetery, The Knap, Hilperton, Wiltshire.
  • Holt Cemetery, Gaston, Holt, Wiltshire.
  • Melksham Cemetery, Western Way, Melksham, Wiltshire.
  • Trowbridge Cemetery, The Down, Trowbridge, Wiltshire (currently being worked on and will be uploaded shortly).
  • Warminster Cemetery (also known as Pine Lawns), Folly Lane, Warminster, Wiltshire.
  • Westbury Cemetery, Bratton Road, Westbury, Wiltshire.
  • Cullompton Cemetery, Devon

To be honest it is difficult to keep up with all the new releases, but one day it will be my turn to get excited.

*I probably need to spend some more time searching (which can be done for free) just to make sure I haven’t missed anyone, after all you never know where your dead relatives might turn up.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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BBC Domesday Reloaded: Was this where it all started?

13 May

I was delighted to read the announcement from The National Archives about the relaunch of the BBC Domesday Project. This was an ambitious project to compile a modern Domesday Book in 1986 and although completed it was pretty much destined to immediate obscurity due to the technology involved.

The resurrection of the project is a fascinating story and a useful lesson on the obsolescence of data storage formats. A lot of effort went into rescuing the data in this project, could you afford the same effort to rescue your genealogy data?

The real reason for my delight was that it was around the time that this project was being compiled that I started to get involved in local history, I don’t think it was actually this project that got me started, it was probably a year or two before that.

I seem to remember it was talked about at school, as we were going one of the groups involved in supplying some of the data. I think however when it came down to it my class had moved on to secondary school and it was left to our successors to actually complete the project.

I think my interest in local history was spurred on by another project, I am not sure what that project was, but I seem to remember an exhibition was going to be put on somewhere, but again we left before it was completed.

I remember viewing the original project at the Science Museum in London on a couple of occasions, and I think the last time I saw it, probably ten to fifteen years ago, it wasn’t actually working anymore. Whether the hardware had failed or whether they had turned it off to try to prolong it’s life I don’t know. In more recent years I have viewed a re-mastered version of the project in the library at The National Archives.

I spent some time last night exploring the project, looking at some places that I remember from my childhood, and was surprised how things have moved on in the last twenty-five years. For genealogical purposes there could be some useful information contained among the data, such as the following entry, submitted by an eleven year old John Gasson (not this John Gasson I hasten to add):

My name is John Gasson.I am 11 years
old.I wake each day at 7.15am.I dress
in my school uniform of grey trousers,
white shirt,green and yellow tie and
green jumper.My mother,father,brother
and I have breakfast together.At 8.30
my father leaves.He works at Banstead
as a structural engineer.My brother
and I leave next.My favourite subjects
are Geography,History,Maths,Games and
Swimming.I am Captain of the School
Football Team and I have played for
Surrey County Football Team.
Two weeks ago Mrs.Morgan took Year4 to
a hotel in Seahuses,Northumbria.We
visited the Farne Islands,Lindisfarne,
Hadrian’s Wall,Vindolanda,Carvoran and
Bowes Museum.It was a very successful
week.We worked hard and learned a lot.
My grandfather has traced our family
as far back as 1461:right back to my
fourteen-times grandfather Buckler.

As you can see the original formatting has been retained, every character counted in those days as they tried to cram in as much data as possible. The good news about this latest incarnation is that you can search the content as well as by place. This was how I came up with the above example, over the next few days I will try some more ancestral places and surnames and see what other delights I can discover.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

400 year old John Speed maps of Great Britain digitised by Cambridge University Library

26 Apr

Cambridge University Library have digitised one of five surviving sets of proof maps created by John Speed for his publication Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, and made them available to view online or alternatively printed copies can be purchased.

These maps may not be as accurate or detailed as the Ordnance Survey maps that followed them a couple of hundred years, but the quality and craftmanship really comes through in these digital images. I have seen copies of these maps before (in particular the Sussex one), but I don’t think I have seen them in such high quality and in such vibrant colour.

English and Welsh counties are well covered, but Scotland and Ireland less so. Each map contains local coats of arms and a plan of the county town as well as other details. It is wonderful to see that the waters surrounding Great Britain were inhabited by sea monsters 400 years ago (this probably explains why none of my ancestors seem to have become fishermen).

So go ahead and lose yourself in 400 year old map, you never know what you might discover? Be sure to come back and tell us what you find.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Free accesss to Ancestry.co.uk census indexes on the 27th March 2011

22 Mar

To mark the fact that Sunday 27th March 2011 is census day in the UK, Ancestry.co.uk will be allowing free access to their UK census indexes for the whole day.

After checking the census indexes however you will need a membership subscription, to sign up for a free 14-day trial or to use pay-as-you-go credits to view the actual images of the original pages (except for the Scottish ones that Ancestry aren’t allowed to display).

According to the post by Kelly Godfrey on the Ancestry.co.uk blog “census records are the perfect first step. They list everybody in each household all over the country, together with crucial details such as their ages and birthplaces. So, you can quickly and easily collect names and dates for several generations.”

Just don’t get too carried away and forget that you are also supposed to be filling in the 2011 census on the same day.

Electoral registers making the news

10 Mar

Electoral registers have featured in recent announcements from the UK’s two main genealogy websites. Findmypast.co.uk are working with the British Library to digitize historical registers whilst Ancestry.co.uk have teamed up with Peopletracer to provide a Living Relative search.

I haven’t been able to find a decent description of UK electoral registers online (if you know of one let me know), but they were established after the Reform Act of 1832 and listed those entitled to vote, initially very few people were listed but numbers grew after subsequent Acts of Parliament until they essentially became a list of almost every household in the UK.

After 2002 voters were able to opt-out of having their names in the edited version of the register (which is available to everyone) although they still remained in the full version (which is available to certain agencies). This means that after 2002 there are fewer people on the edited (public) register but it can still be a useful tool but it can still be a useful tool when it comes to tracing living relatives.

The announcement from Findmypast means that historical registers will become a lot more accessible, and I mean a lot more accessible. You really have to have a pretty good idea of where someone was living before you can find them, otherwise you have a mammoth task ahead of you. digitization and indexing will make these records a lot more accessible and useful.

The new Living Relative Search on Ancestry.co.uk enables members ten searches per day with a free preview of the basic results. Credits can be purchased to get access to more detailed results although from what I have seen the basic results are pretty detailed already. Information is drawn from edited electoral registers from 2003 to 2011, telephone directory records and land registry records. It should be added that this service is not unique, there are several other organisations offering similar services (including one available through Findmypast).

Finding Mary MITCHELL in the 1861 census: a lesson learned

3 Mar

I have previously struggled to find my 4x great-grandmother Mary MITCHELL (née SMITH) in the 1861 census. I didn’t really expect to find anything unusual in the entry, but with a surname like SMITH you need to check every record just in case there are any clues to help me find her parents.

I had found Mary in every census from 1841 to 1891 (she died in Q3 1891) except 1861 and was fairly certain that her son William would be living with her. I also knew from other census returns that she was born around 1808 in Cuckfield, Sussex and that she would be a widow in 1861.

I had previously had no luck with Ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.co.uk but having seen TheGenealogist.co.uk presentation at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 last weekend and having been impressed by their search facilities I decided it would be a good idea to try searching their indexes.

I had hoped to try out their Family Forename Search, but with the only two names being William and Mary I didn’t fancy my chances (and I wasn’t even sure that William would be with his mother) of finding them easily. A straight-forward search didn’t bring up any entries for Mary MITCHELL, but I did have more luck with William. William MITCHELL was living with his mother and his brother Alfred in Slaugham, Sussex.

Although I had found the entry and could have just left it at that, I wanted to learn why I had struggled to find the family. I felt sure there were valuable lessons to be learned for the future.

Of course I already knew that transcriptions and indexes are not always perfect but in my experience they are usually good enough to find the person you are looking for with a bit of ingenuity and persistence.

In this case one look at the census image was enough to identify the problem, in fairness to the Ancestry and Findmypast transcribers the M at the beginning of the surname does look like a lot like a W to me. Sure enough this is how they had it indexed.

So it looks like TheGenealogist has the best transcription, but not quite. They got the hard bit right (her surname) but got Mary’s first name completely wrong!

Also I am not sure that the address is correct, there is nothing to suggest that the name “Old Pack Farm” should have been carried on to subsequent entries. Then looking at Ancestry’s results it appears that William was born in Balmaclellan, Sussex (I don’t think so).

I wondered if anyone had transcribed the record correctly and remembered that FreeCEN had completed transcribing the 1861 census for Sussex, I wondered what their transcribers had made of it?

Turns out they knew exactly what they were doing, even down to the note on the birth place of William. I was surprised, not that the FreeCEN transcribers got it right, but that they were the only ones that got it right. Of course they don’t have the images for free so I would still have needed to check against one of the other websites.

The lesson for me is that paid for results are not always better than free results (and of course that an M can sometimes look like a W). I have been using FreeBMD for years but totally neglecting FreeCEN (and FreeREG for that matter).

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