Tag Archives: ancestry.co.uk

If it ain’t broke…

31 Mar

Despite my general lack of interest in the latest technology I do try to keep my software up to date, especially when it doesn’t cost me any money. It made sense to upgrade my web browser to Firefox 4, it was supposed to be quicker and more secure after all.

The upgrade was straight-forward, it took a while to get used to the slightly different appearance and I can’t say that I noticed any increase in speed and take their word for it that it is more secure.

Disaster (OK, perhaps that I a bit too strong a word for it) came a couple of days ago when I tried to use the Enhanced Image Viewer on Ancestry.co.uk. Everything looked fine to start with (the scroll bars still didn’t work but I am used to that) but the problems started when I tried to save an image.

The first image saved fine, but when I tried another the browser started playing up. When the dialog box opened up and I tried to type in a filename the browser would freeze for a minute or so and I couldn’t type anything or it would let me type a few characters before locking up. Eventually the page disappeared and I was left to try again.

The only workaround appeared to be to close the browser down after saving an image and then opening it up again and moving on to the next image, not really a practical solution for a family historian short on time. I probably could have viewed the images without the Enhanced Image Viewer, but I do quite like the functionality it provides, so I have downgraded to Firefox 3.6 for now.

I was trying to keep up to date, but in this case technology has let me down. I don’t know who is to blame, presumably Mozilla have updated something and Ancestry need to update their viewer to take that into account.

Still, it is rather frustrating and I wasted too much of my time trying to get it to work and then having to roll-back to Firefox 3.6, so please get it fixed Ancestry or tell me how I can make it work properly.

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).

NEWS: New Zealand records on Ancestry.co.uk

9 Feb

Ancestry.co.uk have just released 20 million records from New Zealand. The collection is known as the Anne Bromell Collection (after the woman who collated them) and covers a cross-section of records from 1842 to 1981.

I don’t know much about New Zealand family history research, but I do know that I am going to be doing some exploring of these records, especially he electoral rolls. Very few of my relations ever left England, but there is one relative in my family tree (a first cousin twice removed) by the name of James William GASSON who emigrated to Australia in 1928, but ultimately ended up in New Zealand.

The electoral rolls will be a great asset in trying to fill in some of the basic details of his life in New Zealand, as there seem precious few other records online.

NEWS: 1911 Census summary books on Ancestry.co.uk

9 Dec

You never know what you are going to find when you go poking about the Ancestry.co.uk, especially their Genealogy Databases Posted or Updated Recently page. Last night at the top of the list were entries for the 1911 Census summary books (Channel Islands, Isle of Man, England and Wales). Hopefully this marks the beginning of the promised release of the 1911 census on Ancestry.co.uk and The Genealogist.

I expect we will hear more about them in the next few days when they are officially announced. From what I have seen though they are nice crisp colour images of the pages, looking very similar to the Findmypast ones.

You might wonder why this is such good news, after all Findmypast.co.uk have had the images (both the household schedules and summary books) available for some time. For starters you never can have enough different indexes, just in case one of them is wrong, but more importantly (to me anyway) Ancestry.co.uk have made the summary books searchable for the first time (I think?).

Being able to search the summary books for the head of household has helped locate one of my “missing” families. Within about 10 minutes I had been able to locate the ANSCOMBE family in Cuckfield, Sussex, something which I had failed to do on using Findmypast alone, despite many previous attempts.

It wasn’t a straight-forward process, on Ancestry I searched for the surname ANSCOMBE in Cuckfield and found several likely households. After getting the schedule number from the summary book image and finding their neighbours on Findmypast, I was able to work out what the census reference should be for their household.

Searching on Findmypast using the census reference brought up a transcription without my ANSCOMBEs anywhere to be seen. I viewed the image and it all became clear, the cause of my inability to find them revealed.

The household schedule began with three individuals (a tutor and presumably two pupils), all described as boarders. Beneath them was a gap of two lines and then the six members of the ANSCOMBE family I had been looking for. For some reason they had not been indexed, just those first three unrelated individuals, no wonder I couldn’t find them.

I now need to find out how to report them missing to Findmypast, but this just goes to show the value of looking in multiple indexes. I am sure that once the household schedules are available on Ancestry that there will be similar examples of missing individuals, it is inevitable with any index of this size that there will be errors.

Sometimes all that is need is a little bit of teamwork (thank you Ancestry and Findmypast) and some creative thinking to get around a problem.

Ancestry.co.uk marking Remembrance Week with three new databases

9 Nov

Not content with allowing free access to three of their WW1 collections (British Army WW1 Service Records, British Army WW1 Pension Records and British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards) up to Sunday 14th November 2010, they have also released three new collections for tracing military ancestors and relatives, however these are not free to view.

All three collections relate to medals and awards:

Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949

These records list more than 2.3 million soldiers who were granted medals and awards in non-WWI or WWII campaigns, between 1793 and 1949.

Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972

The Naval medal rolls list more than 1.5 million officers, enlisted personnel and other individuals who served in the Royal Navy or Royal Marines between 1793 and 1972. They cover a range of conflicts, including World War Two.

Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medals, 1914-1920

These records cover the Great War and feature almost 25,000 citations for recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) – Britain’s second highest military honour for non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.

Find out more about these collections and the other military resources at the Ancestry.co.uk British Military Collection page.

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