Newsletter - 11th September 2016
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There was great news this week for researchers with Irish ancestry - the historic birth, marriage, and death registers for Ireland were made available online at IrishGenealogy.ie - the official government site - and, best of all, they're absolutely free to view.
However, there are two snags at the moment - one is that when I attempted to search the records on Friday the relevant part of the site was unavailable, possibly because it couldn't handle the level of traffic (it came back online a few hours later). The other is that at this stage not all of the historic registers are currently online - here's what is available now:
BIRTHS: 1864 to 1915
MARRIAGES: 1882 to 1940
DEATHS: 1891 to 1965
The General Register Office are currently working on updating records of Marriages dating back to 1845 and Deaths dating back to 1864 - these will be added at a later date. Universal civil registration began in 1864, but non-Catholic marriages were recorded from 1845 onwards. The registers that are online cover the whole of Ireland for the period up to 1921, but exclude the six counties of Northern Ireland after that date, and according to Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy News there are a total of 12.5 million entries online.
Meanwhile, in England & Wales discussions are continuing between our General Register Office and user representatives - but whilst I was at a meeting last Friday I can't tell you what was discussed because, like other attendees, I signed a Confidentiality Agreement. Nevertheless, I would hope that simply knowing that something is happening is reassuring!
Note: if you follow this link you can find out what was discussed at the previous meetings (in December 2015).
I reported recently that the ScotlandsPeople site would be closing for a few days from 7th September - however there was a change in schedule and I'm currently waiting for the new dates to be confirmed (if you're registered with the site you should receive an email direct from them).
The Cynefin project of the National Library of Wales aims to repair and digitise around 1,200 tithe maps and transcribe over 30,000 pages of index documents by March 2017 with the help of a small army of diligent volunteers (951 of them at the last count). The most detailed maps of their period, the tithe maps were produced between 1838-50 and cover 95% of Wales - whilst the accompanying indexes list the names of landowners, occupiers, and even the names of individual fields.
Censuses often don't give the precise names or locations of the properties where our ancestors were living, particularly the earlier censuses - and in rural areas even the later censuses can seem very imprecise. Sometimes you can untangle the mystery by a careful reading of the description of the enumeration district, which you can easily find at Ancestry by navigating to the precise census (eg 1851 England Census rather than 1851 UK Census Collection) and choosing the Browse option.
But more often than not the only way you can be certain where your ancestor lived is to find them on the tithe map, as I did when I was trying to pin down where my great-great grandmother lived. Tithe maps and tithe records for most counties in England can be found at The Genealogist.
Tip: if your ancestor has a common name, try searching for someone with a more unusual name who is shown as a near neighbour on the 1841 or 1851 census.
On the census my ancestor was living in Moor Lane (there was no name or number), but on the tithe map I can see precisely where she was living - and I hope that by cross-referencing the tithe maps with Google Earth and Street View I'll soon be able to find out whether the cottage is still standing (and if so, it will be added to my long list of places to visit).
According to the tithe records my ancestor's landlord was the Marquis of Westminster, Robert Grosvenor, an ancestor of the current Duke of Westminster (who succeeded to the title only a month ago, on the death of his father Gerald Grosvenor). But looking further I discovered that in 1831 his son - also Robert Grosvenor - bought Moor Park, the great estate to the north west of London on which my great-great grandmother was working in 1851 (she's shown on the census as a 'Servant in Moor Park Gardens').
The mansion at Moor Park was originally built in 1678-79 for the Duke of Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of King Charles II (by his mistress Lucy Walter), but he can't have had much opportunity to enjoy it as he went into exile in September 1679 and was beheaded in 1685 following his attempt to seize the Crown, in what we now refer to as the Monmouth Rebellion. The current occupiers, Moor Park Golf Club, confusingly state on their website that the Grade I listed building was "Originally built in the late 17th Century for the Third Earl of Bedford", which can't be true because the 3rd Earl died in 1627 (though he did indeed die at Moor Park).
But what I found most fascinating as I researched the history of the building was the role it played in World War 2 - as the headquarters of the 1st Airborne Division it was where Operation Market Garden was planned. The ultimately unsuccessful attempt to capture the bridges of the Lower Rhine will be known to many of you from the epic 1977 film A Bridge Too Far although the lesser-known 1946 film Theirs Is the Glory not only features footage shot during the actual battles but uses as actors over 200 veterans of the battle as well as newspaper reporters and Dutch civilians who were involved.
That's the end - for now - of my voyage of discovery, which all began with a simple hand-drawn tithe map. Isn't it amazing how one thing leads to another?
Findmypast have made available British Army casualty lists 1939-1945, which record the details of officers, nurses, and other ranks who were reported as killed in action, dead as a result of illness or accident, missing, or taken as a prisoner of war - there are over 1.1 million records in the collection.
Three collections of nursing records recently went online at Ancestry.co.uk which between them contain over 1.6 million records:
Findmypast have introduced a new low cost Starter subscription in the US, which means that the price of their lowest-cost subscription is slashed from $114.50 to a mere $34.95 - which, according to my calculator, represents a reduction of almost 70%!
The new subscription offers virtually unlimited access to over 2.9 million historic records and newspaper articles, and unusually it includes records from the UK and Ireland as well as from the US (which means it could be of interest to researchers on both sides of the Atlantic - the subscription would cost around £27 for someone in the UK, little more than 50p a week).
These are the key collections that are included:
You also get access to Findmypast's free records, which include:
Not all North American records are included - for example, as noted above their new US Marriage collection is only accessible to researchers with a Premium subscription (which also includes the rest of Findmypast's worldwide collection - at a premium price). But you can always purchase credits to view records that aren't included in the Starter subscription.
Tempted? Then follow this link!
Tip: even if this new subscription isn't right for you, I bet there's someone you know who would jump at the chance to get so much for so little…..
This week was the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, which razed to the ground the mediaeval city and allowed the building of a new city that so many of us know and love. This week BBC Radio 4 has been broadcasting short programmes based on the remembrances of diarist Samuel Pepys - they'll be available here on iPlayer until the beginning of October.
But also in the news this week was confirmation that the Great Plague of 1665 was caused by bubonic plague - DNA testing of the teeth of victims exhumed during the building of Crossrail showed definite traces of the Yersinia pestis bacterium. You can read more about the project here, on the BBC News site.
BBC News picked up this story of a man in Indonesia who believes that he was born in December 1870 - which would make him 145 years old. I have to say I'm very sceptical, but how wonderful if it's true!
A temporary export ban has been placed on a sapphire and diamond coronet that belonged to Queen Victoria, preventing it from being sold abroad - however, the coronet, designed by Prince Albert for their wedding in 1840, could still end up being exported if no UK buyer is able to match the £5m asking price.
You might wonder how such an important piece of jewellery could have fallen into private hands - it seems that is was given by King George V and Queen Mary to their daughter, Princess Mary, when she married Viscount Lascelles in 1922 and subsequently ended up in the possession of an antiques dealer, who sold it to an overseas buyer.
Note: you may recall that last September, after I wrote about the online database of servants who worked at Harewood House, I was contacted by Leslie, who worked at Harewood House in the late 1950s, and met Princess Mary on a number of occasions.
LostCousins member Celia Heritage was recently interviewed for BBC TV's The One Show regarding the introduction of surnames into England at the time of the Norman Conquest - it's well worth reading her blog article on this topic, as there is a lot of scope for confusion!
The Office for National Statistics is not my favourite organisation - they're responsible for deciding which questions will (and won't) be in 2021 Census - but one of the useful things they do is track the popularity of children's names, using birth registrations in the previous year. Earlier this month they reported that Amelia and Oliver held onto their top positions in 2015, but that Noah had made the Top 10 for the first name. You can find out more in this BBC article.
Coincidentally - or perhaps not - a few days earlier a survey by Mumsnet was published which suggested that nearly a fifth of parents regret the names they chose for their babies.
Best friends David Tait and Leon Swanson were both born in the same Manitoba Hospital in 1975 - and this is the second case to be revealed in the past year. You can read how DNA testing revealed the error in this Daily Mail article.
The Daily Mail recently reported the discovery of a letter written years ago by a dying mother to her young daughter - it had been found by the owner of a second-hand bookshop as he sorted through his stock. Included with the letter was a photograph of mother and daughter, so there was a chance of tracing the daughter - and indeed, a few days later BBC News reported that Bethany, now 21, had been found - you'll find the article here.
How are you going to ensure that the documents and photographs that are important to you aren't lost?
Edited by Margaret Llewllyn Davies, whose Life as We Have Known It I reviewed last month, Maternity - Letters from Working Women was first published in 1915: one hundred and sixty letters from mothers describe their experiences and their struggles to provide, to feed, to care, and to survive (usually on little more than £1 a week, and sometimes on even less).
It's not as compelling a read as the later book, but if - like me, and most other readers of this newsletter - you have working class roots you have to admire how those poor women coped. Margaret Llewellyn Davis was urged to publish the letters by her friend Virginia Woolf, but Woolf wasn't her only literary connection - it was her nephews, the sons of her brother Arthur, who inspired J M Barrie's Peter Pan.
Although this book isn't directly connected to family history, how we think and how we make decisions are such key parts of 'being human' that they touch every part of our lives - whether we're the ones making the decisions, or the ones who have decisions thrust upon them.
When it comes to decision-making I'm sure that none of us would dispute that we have biases, but what might well surprise you as you read Daniel Kahneman's book is how our decisions can be biased by factors outside of our control, and how this can happen without us even knowing - which is more than a bit worrying if the decision you're making is potentially life-changing!
I've had an interest in economics, statistics, and psychology for the best part of half a century so Thinking, Fast and Slow is my sort of book - it won't suit everyone. But whilst it's written by a Nobel Prize Winner it isn't an academic book, so if you have an interest in any one of those topics you'll probably enjoy reading it as much as I did (when I last checked 431 out of 667 reviewers at Amazon had given it 5 stars, the maximum possible rating).
On Thursday a book was published that is very relevant to family history - because it's about DNA. I don't normally buy a book on the day of publication, nor splash out on a hardback copy, but this book came highly recommended - not just by Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, and the other luminaries whose quotes appear on the cover, but also by DNA expert and LostCousins member Debbie Kennett.
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, by Adam Rutherford, runs to over 400 pages, so I can't guarantee that I'll finish it in time to get a review in the next newsletter, but I've found it so compelling that I wouldn't be at all surprised if I did!
LostCousins member Muriel wrote to tell me that her great niece Gemma Collis will be competing in the Wheelchair Fencing Épée Class on Tuesday September 13th - so I hope you'll all be cheering her on. Gemma nearly didn't make the trip - she fell one point short at the qualification stage, but following the banning of the Russian team she was offered a place with only 2 weeks' notice.
Every year LostCousins member John D Reid, himself one of the brightest stars in genealogy's firmament, asks researchers like you and me to vote for their favourite personalities in the world of family history. Drawn from across the English-speaking world, the British names on the list include Nick Barrett (who supported LostCousins from the very start), Turi King (who led the project to identify King Richard III), Debbie Kennett (my favourite genetic genealogist), Else Churchill (who has helped so many researchers), Geoff Swinfield, Rebecca Probert, and many other famous names - plus some not so famous (if you look hard enough you might even find my name, and as my conscience wouldn't allow me to vote for myself, hopefully someone else will!).
I was delighted to see that LostCousins members Judy Webster (Australia) and Katherine Borges (USA) were also on the list - Katherine is the person who convinced me that DNA testing really was worth considering, so you may consider that she has a lot to answer for!
If you want to cast your vote - you can vote for as many people as you wish, by the way - just follow this link to John Reid's blog (Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections) and click 'Vote here'.
As you might have suspected, the publication of this newsletter has been delayed by my efforts in the kitchen - not just making use of the seasonal produce, but also finalising the details of our kitchen refurbishment which we hope will be completed by the end of next month. At long last!
I've already made Sloe Vodka and Shepherd's Bullace Gin, both of which should be ready to drink before Christmas but will continue to improve if we can resist the temptation - I still have a bottle of Elderflower Vodka from a few years ago, so it can be done! I'm also going to make some more Sloe Whisky this year, as it was a surprise success last year, and I'm planning to experiment with Haw Brandy since our hedges are mostly hawthorn and currently covered in bright red haws.
For the first time we've got a reasonable crop of Bramley cooking apples - and whereas I cooked up the windfalls with blackberries for breakfast, I'm baking the apples we pick from the tree with raisins, sultanas, and brown sugar to make one of my all-time favourite desserts.
Going back to the kitchen refurbishment, why is it that makers of cooker hoods assume that everyone has high ceilings - do they all live in Georgian mansions? I really didn't expect it to be the most difficult part of refurbishment - in our existing kitchen we have the type that fits into a cabinet, but I was hoping to find something a little more stylish (and wider than the standard 60cm).
This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
That's all for now - but I'll be back soon with more news from the wonderful world of family history.
© Copyright 2016 Peter Calver
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