Tag Archives: the national archives

What’s in it for me: Merchant Navy seamen records on Findmypast.co.uk

6 Sep

Findmypast.co.uk have recently released another new record collection, the Merchant Navy seamen 1918-1941 records which contains image of index cards from The National Archives series BT348, BT349 and BT350. According to The National Archives the cards were part of the CR2 Central Indexed Register kept by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman and “each card typically gives the following information: discharge A number; certificate of company number; name of seaman; year and place of birth; rank or rating; name and official number of ship and date of engagement of service. Frequently, on the reverse of the card, can be found a list of the vessels on which the crewman served.”

According to the Findmypast.co.uk news release,

It is possible to find a photograph of your ancestor within these records. These rarely seen photos of the mariners mean you can see what your seafaring ancestor looked like for the first time – a real achievement for any family historian.

You can find out more about researching merchant seaman in The National Archives research guide on the subject.

So what’s in it for me…

The short answer is nothing or at least nothing yet. As far as I can remember there are only two people in my family tree who made their living from the sea, if you don’t count those who served during the two World Wars, and they were serving with the Royal Navy.

After a few preliminary searches I have been unable to identify anyone in the collection who might be a relative, but I am sure eventually someone will come out of the woodwork who might be in this collection.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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TNA Podcast – Time travel: a journey through the timetables of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway 1860-1901

22 Aug

You might have guessed from the title that the latest podcast from The National Archives would catch my attention. To many “a journey through the timetables of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway will probably sound incredibly dull, but do give it a chance.

I know I am somewhat biased, because as I mentioned last week the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway was my local railway company, and the talk mainly focuses on stations within Sussex and on routes with which I am familiar. Whilst the location is not particularly critical to the theme of the talk, it was a help because I was able to visualise the routes he was talking about, which is just as well because none of the visual presentation appears to be available on the TNA website.

After an introduction to the history of the railway timetable Dr Wakeford illustrated some of the ways in which data from these historic timetables can be used. I do have several historic railway (and bus) timetables in my collection, but have never carried out any serious study of their contents in the way that Dr Wakeford has.

He used various examples to show how many aspects of rail travel changed over time. From drastically reducing the time taken to travel from A to B and increasing the range of opportunities, to showing how increasing railway traffic would affect those working on the railway.

Of course I couldn’t listen to it without wondering what impact the railway had on my ancestors. It is something I have wondered about many times before, but never really explored. Take for example the TROWER family of Henfield, Sussex. Did the arrival of the railway (the Horsham to Shoreham line briefly mentioned in the podcast) in 1861 increase the mobility of the family? Did the children spread their wings further when it came time to leave home? Did the family seek employment further afield?

It would be interesting to take a closer look at the mobility of successive generations of TROWERs, but that is an awful lot of data to process, fortunately I do have a lot of that data already available, but it would still be a lot of work. Maybe I will add it to my list of things to do.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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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.

A is for Access to Archives

27 Oct

Each week in the A to Z of English Genealogy I will focus on one particular aspect of English genealogy, starting this week with the letter A which stands for Access to Archives or A2A.

Access to Archives was originally a standalone website, but it is now integrated into The National Archives website, and can now be found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/default.aspx.

Essentially A2A is a search engine for the catalogues of respositories in both England and Wales. According to the website the index contains “contains 10.3 million records relating to 9.45 million items held in 418 record offices and other repositories”. This is a great tool for locating archives that contain information about particular people and places, but it does have it’s limitations.

The index was last updated in April 2008 and no new records are going to be added to the site (although there was supposed to be the facility for the existing records to be updated). Despite being effectively frozen in time, it is still a useful tool because it is said to “contain about 30 per cent of catalogues of archival collections in England and Wales.”

Searching is pretty straightforward, and you are probably better off heading straight for the advanced search page (shown below), rather than the quick search because of the ability to apply various restrictions on the search.

The amount of information contained in each catalogue entry varies widely, sometimes very little information is returned, but sometimes it is almost as good as viewing the actual record itself. Take for example the entry below which mentions so many of my TROWER relations.

Many respositories now have their own catalogues online, so it is always worth visiting their website and carrying out a search, but A2A is a great way of getting an overview of where the records might be found in the first place, and of course provides a single straight-forward interface for accessing many different catalogues.

Try out the latest tools in The National Archives Labs

17 Jun

The National Archives (in the UK) have announced a new way to try out some new tools for "sharing, re-using and accessing" their data in the form of The National Archives Labs.

The purpose of The National Archives Labs is to give users a chance to try out some new tools and applications that are in development, and to get feedback about their good and bad points. The idea of "labs" is nothing new these days, many genealogists will no doubt be familiar with FamilySearch Labs.

The hope is that users will play around with these tools and leave some feedback about your experiences. There are currently three tools available in The National Archives Labs:

  1. Valuation Office Map Finder
  2. Person Search
  3. UK history photo finder

The Valuation Office Map Finder looks like it is going to be a very useful tool, removing the need to consult the master maps and try to pinpoint the relevant map (and find the correct catalogue reference) for the property you are searching for, not an easy process on a small scale map.

The Person Search for me doesn’t really provide much more functionality than the normal catalogue search, so I am not sure that it is really needed, but I will have to play with that one further before I leave any feedback.

The technology behind the UK history photo finder doesn’t seem to be that new, searching for photos using a map, but it is a new way of accessing the image collections of The National Archives, which might not be seen otherwise. Although you can view the images for free, I would like to see some information on how the images can be used.

So put on your white coat and safety goggles and pay a visit to the labs, and let them know what you think of their new tools.

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