Newsletter - 28 November 2012

 

 

 

Warwickshire Quarter Sessions Records online

Masterclass: follow-up

Make the most of the IGI

Shirley it's a mistake?

Life and death of a servant girl

Newspaper issues resolved

Book review: Welsh Genealogy

Irish Army Census of 1922

British Columbia BMDs online

Ancestry's new Privacy Policy

Stairway to Heaven?

Peter's Tips

Stop Press

 

The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 18 November 2012) please click here; for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here.

 

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To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's free, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!

 

 

Warwickshire Quarter Sessions Records online

Ancestry have made available over 280,000 Quarter Sessions records for Warwickshire, including Jurors' Lists, Hearth Tax Returns, and lists of Freemasons, Boatowners, Gamekeepers, and Hair Powder Certificates. For more details follow this link.

 

Masterclass: follow-up

There was a very positive reaction to my Masterclass article Tracking down pre-1837 baptisms and marriage in the last issue - Guy wrote from Texas to say "your masterclass article in your most recent newsletter gives me new hope; it is the most useful thing I have ever read on pre-1837 UK research".

 

There were one or two things that, in retrospect, I wish I'd included - but since that one article was already 5 pages long, it's possibly just as well that I didn't! I certainly should have emphasised how important it is to identify the family history societies that cover the areas where your ancestors lived - many have transcriptions of parish registers, usually on CD ROM or microfiche, and some offer a low-cost look-up service for members.

 

There are also some commercial websites that have indexed transcriptions covering specific areas, such as the Joiner Marriage Index (2.3 million marriages from 3438 parishes in 28 English counties), and Durham Records Online (over 3.7 million register entries, mainly from Durham but including a few from adjoining counties).

 

And the fact that I didn't explicitly mention non-conformists is most regrettable (particularly since I was brought up as one!) - so I shall give them an article of their own in the near future. In the meantime I'd suggest reading the Research Guide at the National Archives website; it's also worth knowing that The Genealogist has images and transcriptions covering most of the relevant record sets in the TNA collection (click here to see full details of the coverage).

 

Last, but not least, Elizabeth in the US pointed out that FamilySearch have an extensive online library of digitised books, including parish registers, which you can find here.

 

Make the most of the IGI

For years I've relied on the Batch Number site created by Hugh Wallis to tell me which parish records are (or aren't) included in the International Genealogical Index.

 

But recently Steve Archer (who produced the Surname Atlas CD ROM for the 1881 Census) has created a new site with - it would appear - a more comprehensive listing of British and Irish records. There are also added features: you can now see how many entries there are in each batch, and for batches which cover more than one parish there's a breakdown by parish.

 

I've only recently discovered this new site (thanks to Barry and Andy) so haven't had much time to try it out, but from what I've seen so far it is a worthy successor to Hugh Wallis's site. Please note, however, that the new site only covers Britain and Ireland (and the Irish section is not yet complete).

 

Shirley it's a mistake?

You may recall that last month I wrote about a baptism where the names of the parents were recorded as James and Henry - I hazarded a guess that 'Henry' might have been a mistranscription of 'Mary'.

 

Tip: remember that vicars typically didn't write up the baptism register at the time of the baptism - it would be a little too risky when there was water flying around - so they usually made notes and wrote them up later, though others relied on their memory, which sometimes turned out not to be that reliable (I'm sure that like me you've seen examples of register entries where the vicar has left a blank for name he couldn't remember).

 

Subsequently I had a number of emails from members who had examples in their trees of female ancestors who had names that nowadays we would commonly regard as exclusively male. For example, Andrea wrote from New Zealand to tell me about her female ancestor named Philip - and how frustrating she found it when well-meaning people unfamiliar with the family corrected it to Philipa or Philippa.

 

Andrea drew my attention to the comments by Pauline Litton in her book Pitfalls and Possibilities in Family History Research where she wrote "in the past names like Anne, Florence, Lucy, Marie, Shirley, and Wendy were used - particularly among the aristocracy - for men".

 

She continues "Florence Nightingale, Charlotte Bronte's Shirley and J M Barrie's Wendy are widely regarded as being the first use of these names for women. On the other hand, Christian, Douglas, Julian, Matthew and Philip were used as girls' names, as occasionally was Montague." As a contemporary example she reminds us that the real name of the wrestler Big Daddy was Shirley Crabtree - she might also have mentioned John Wayne, who was really Marion Morrison.

 

When I come across a name in my research I invariably make an assumption about whether that person was male or female, purely on the basis of the forename - clearly I need to be more open-minded!

 

Life and death of a servant girl

Did you see the recent BBC4 documentary series Servants - The True Story Of Life Below Stairs? I thought it was fascinating, even though they stretched two hours of material to make three one-hour programmes (I suspect the fact that I watched it alongside the 3rd series of Downton Abbey was a factor!).

 

The main surprise was that domestic servants as we know them (from watching programmes Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey) were primarily a Victorian invention - but the long hours and low wages were hardly a revelation. It was good to see Peter Higginbotham, creator of the Workhouses website, and probably the greatest living expert on the subject (he also showed up in another recent BBC series the name of which currently escapes me).

 

Searching the British newspaper collection at findmypast last week I came across the sad tale of a servant girl who took her own life at Christmas - not in Victorian times, but in 1928. Kathleen Brewster, aged just 16, took her own life on Christmas Eve, by putting her head in a gas oven. It's always distressing to hear of someone so young committing suicide, but when I saw that this happened in the next street to the one where my father and his family were living at the time, it made me shudder.

 

"She seemed quite happy" according to the newspaper reporter, who had presumably spoken to the householder, a Mr E Roberts. Sadly that seems to have been far from the truth....

 

Newspaper issues resolved

I'm delighted to report that findmypast.co.uk seem to have solved the Search problems mentioned in my last newsletter. For example, you can now search on forename and surname quite reliably, and when you add keywords it reduces the number of results as it should do.

 

I am still having problems downloading PDF images - but the solution suggested in my last newsletter is, in any case, probably a better option in the vast majority of cases.

 

Note: a few members have asked why I recommended using the Print Screen button in conjunction with the free Irfanview graphics program, rather than using the 'Snipping Tool' that's built into recent versions of Windows. By all means use the Snipping Tool if you prefer, but I'll continue recommending Irfanview because it allows you to undo errors, drag the borders of the rectangle, and easily change the brightness and contrast to improve readability and save on printer ink - all things that I frequently want to do.

 

Remember that the newspaper collection is only included in your findmypast.co.uk subscription if you have a British Full subscription or the new World subscription. Considering that a separate subscription to the British Newspaper Archive would cost £79.95 for 12 months you could be surprised how little findmypast are charging - click here to find out how much it would cost to subscribe or upgrade.

 

To search the British newspaper collection at findmypast click here.

 

Book review: Welsh Genealogy

As Dr Bruce Durie's Scottish Genealogy is now in its 3rd edition I was very interested to hear that he had written a new book entitled Welsh Genealogy - not least because my wife has Welsh ancestry.

 

Researching in Wales is particularly difficult, not just because of the preponderance of common surnames like Jones, Davies, and Williams but also because to English eyes the place names are very unfamiliar - the latter problem is compounded by the fact that spellings often varied. Dr Durie provides a good explanation of the problems and pitfalls relating to Welsh surnames, and for me this alone justifies the cost of the book.

 

Welsh Genealogy covers a lot of ground that most LostCousins members will be familiar with, whether or not they have Welsh ancestry, simply because there are a lot of common factors between researching in Wales and in England (or, to a lesser extent, Scotland). However I do get the impression that the author borrowed a little too much from his earlier book - one blatant giveaway being the title for Chapter 6, which is Statutory Registers of Birth, Marriage, and Death Post-1855 (it should, of course, be 1837; 1855 was the year when civil registration began in Scotland).

 

Similarly in Chapter 5 he writes of the 1911 Census "Bear in mind that for 1911 only the summary books (as shown in Chapter 5) exist." Leaving aside the recursive nature of the comment in brackets, it seems he's writing about the Scottish census, not the Welsh census.

 

For a book that's only just been published it's also quite out of date in rather too many respects, particularly when it comes to websites. For example, the author directs readers to the old FamilySearch website (which closed for good in the second half of June) and writes about findmypast.com (the British site has been findmypast.co.uk for about 3 years). He also suggests using The WayBack Machine at archive.org to access an archived copy of blacksheepindex.co.uk (an excellent site that, sadly, is no longer with us), but seems to be unaware that most of the information researchers will want to see is in PDF files which unfortunately haven't been archived.

 

There's another blooper on p122 where a screenshot of FreeREG is confusingly captioned FreeCEN - and to compound the error the illustration clearly doesn't appear where the author intended it to. Incidentally, neither FreeCEN or FreeREG are in the index at the back - but there are entries for Scotland (64 page references) and Scottish (43 page references) which seems a little over the top for a book that's supposed to be about Welsh genealogy. The list of occupations in Chapter 13 also includes some specifically Scottish terms which also seem out of place.

 

The extensive chapter on Welsh emigration and immigration goes through a long list of places where Welsh relatives may have ended up, and will be of particular interest if you're trying to trace collateral lines that seem to disappear from the records. And whilst it won't be relevant to everyone, there's a long chapter on Welsh heraldry. There's even a chapter on the Welsh language which is bound to come in useful during your Welsh research.

 

If you have Welsh ancestry but don't already have a good book on British genealogy, such as Mark Herber's master work Ancestral Trails, then Welsh Genealogy will definitely prove useful - and I'd also recommend it for anyone who's struggling with their Welsh lines and needs to kickstart their research.

 

Irish Army Census of 1922

The one thing that most of us know about researching in Ireland is how few records have survived - and yet I'm continually amazed by previously unknown sources that turn up out of the blue. First it was the Prison Registers at findmypast.ie, then the Petty Sessions records at the same site.

 

Last week Carmel wrote to tell me about the Irish Army Census of 1922 which is available at the free Military Archives site. The census hasn't been transcribed, so you'll need to have some idea of where your relative might have been based in 1922, but Carmel managed to find several of her relatives - so you may too!

 

British Columbia BMDs online

If you have relatives who migrated to Canada you'll be interested to know that the Royal British Columbia Museum is in the process of putting images of birth. marriage, and death registrations online. You can search free here.

 

Ancestry's new Privacy Policy

Had it not been for the eagle eyes of a member who is also an Ancestry subscriber I wouldn't have realised that their Privacy Policy had been updated (for existing users of the site the new terms came into effect on 14th October this year).

 

The paragraph that Michael found worrying reads as follows:

 

"When you provide us with any personal information, that personal information may be transferred to and stored and processed in other countries which may provide a different level of protection for personal data than in your country of residence. By providing us with personal information, you specifically consent to the transfer, storage and processing of personal information."

 

In other words "if we transfer your personal information to a country that doesn't have any privacy laws we'll be able to do anything we like with it". Or am I being cynical?

 

Stairway to Heaven?

A letter in the latest edition of New Scientist magazine mentioned the Liverpool Care Pathway, something I'd never heard of before, and when I started searching for more information I found articles from the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph that were more than a little bit worrying.

 

As a result of all the press coverage and the complaints received the Care Minister, Norman Lamb, has launched an inquiry but it will be a long time before the inquiry reports, and even longer before its recommendations are put into effect. In the meantime - be wary!

 

Peter's Tips

A lot of members have bought copies of Family Tree Maker following my recent tips, in some cases saving as much as £63 on an Ancestry World subscription. I reckon that in total LostCousins members must have saved tens of thousands of pounds by following my advice!

 

However I possibly haven't always made it sufficiently clear that I am not recommending the software, only the free 6 month subscription that comes with it - which is why I generally suggest buying the 2011 version, which is typically much cheaper than the 2012 version.

 

Currently the 2012 Platinum edition is as cheap as I can remember it, at £26.79 including UK shipping, whilst the 2011 edition is £19.99 plus postage, a total of £23.28. This means that for around £50 you can save yourself the £109.40 that it would cost for a one-year Premium subscription! Don't leave it too long - the price of the World edition has nearly doubled since I tipped it at the beginning of the month.

 

That tip is primarily for members in the UK, as Amazon won't ship this product to most countries overseas. But if you're an Ancestry subscriber living outside the UK remember that subscribing through your local Ancestry site is likely to cost you a lot more than subscribing through the UK site. You'll find full details in this article from October.

 

As I mentioned in the last issue there are some amazing savings at Family Tree DNA right now - click here for more details. If you need to know more about how DNA testing works you'll find a compendium of my DNA articles in this special newsletter that I recently produced for members on my North American mailing list.

 

Finally, this is the absolutely the last call for entries for my 2012 jam competition!

 

Stop Press

This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.

 

I hope you've found this newsletter interesting. As usual, several of the articles were inspired by members, so do please keep writing in with your tips, comments, and questions!

 

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver

 

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