Tag Archives: bbc

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.

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“Tracing Your Roots” is back for another series

23 Sep

The genealogy radio programme Tracing Your Roots is back for another series on BBC Radio 4, in fact it started last week but I am only just catching up with the news. This is series five and there are five episodes in the series.

Each week presenter Sally Magnusson and genealogist Nick Barratt look at a different aspect of genealogy, mainly focused on investigating particularly tricky or unusual stories around a particular theme. For example the first episode of this series was based around tracing ancestors who vanished without trace.

The programme usually focuses of four or five stories, and features interviews with those carrying out the research and then Nick Barratt will discuss possible avenues of research or the results of his investigations. Unlike the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? this programme features ordinary people not celebrities and each story is quite brief.

Nick Barratt is probably the UKs best known genealogist, so the programme it is a great place to pick up hints and tips to help in your research and to discover new sources and where to find them and how to use them.

One of the best things about the series is that it is available as a podcast, which is great for people like me who can’t be listening to the radio at 4pm on Tuesdays when the programme is broadcast. The other good thing (for listeners in the UK at least) is that you can currently listen to all the episodes from series four online at the BBC website.

BBC buzz likes me

22 Sep

I don’t worry a great deal about the number of visitors my blog gets, I don’t go out of my way to market the blog, but I do keep an eye on my stats, just to make sure that people are still reading my blog and I am not wasting my time.

Last year I encountered an increase in visitors when Who Do You Think You Are? was being broadcast on BBC One last year, and this year was much the same. When I wrote about each episode my number of visitors jumped. I haven’t done the maths, but I would say the number of visitors probably doubled, which for my little blog is not a huge number, but still quite pleasing.

I certainly wasn’t expecting what happened yesterday, which turned out to be the best day ever for the number of visitors to my blog. I knew something was up when I checked my stats in the morning and saw that the number of visitors before about 7.30am was more than the usual pre-WDYTYA? daily totals. The numbers continued to rise throughout they day, and as you can see from the graph below the total ended around four or five times the average.

Stats graph

The reason for this was BBC buzz, which had automatically found my blog posts about WDYTYA? and was displaying links to them alongside the programme information on the BBC website. It appears to be a new feature, and it apparently likes my blog posts.

If I was a professional blogger I would have done something to take advantage of all this new traffic, and I might have done if I wasn’t at work, but it has been a real eye-opener, and makes me think about what I could achieve in terms of visitors if I really put my mind to it.

Victorian Pharmacy: a look back

13 Aug

Last night saw the final episode of the BBC television series Victorian Pharmacy. Over the last four weeks (actually five because they missed a week) I have found the series both enjoyable and informative. The only difficulty has been trying to relate it to the lives of my "chemist and druggist" ancestors.

It has provided a good general overview of an interesting period of development. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth, perhaps doubling the number of episodes, but having ancestors "in the trade" would make me say that wouldn’t it.

I must admit I was rather sad to see them leaving the shop and driving off in a horse and cart, I hope we see more of the Victorian Pharmacy in the future, perhaps a Christmas special like the one they did for Victorian Farm last year.

Another good thing about the series is that it has lead to more information on the subject becoming available. For example, there is a book accompanying the series, which has some great pictures and recipes (which are clearly marked so you don’t end up trying something harmful).

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has a new page about the series including a link to a pdf of articles about the series from their journal Pharmacy Professional.

The other good news is that there does appear to be a DVD of the series in the pipeline, according to the BBC Shop the release date is the 11th October, so plenty of time for it to be added to my Christmas list.

It seems like there never has been a better time for someone interested in the life and work of chemists and druggists!

Not enough time for TV

15 Jul

I don’t watch much television at the best of times, but starting a new job has really limited the amount of spare time I have to waste watching television.

I still haven’t watched the latest US episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (Susan Sarandon, last Monday), tonight sees the start of the new series Victorian Pharmacy and the latest UK series of Who Do You Think You Are? starts next Monday.

To top it all I have just bought the DVD of the fifth UK series, I am beginning to wonder when I am going to get chance to watch that or any of the other four series that I already have on DVD. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I am just thankful that the latest programmes are all being broadcast on the BBC, so I will be able to catch them later on the BBC iPlayer.

It is really annoying that for months, when I was out of work and didn’t have to get up early in the morning, that there was nothing that I considered to be worth watching or staying up late for. Now when I don’t have the time, all the interesting stuff starts. Just typical!

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