Friday, March 28, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 11 - Newspapers

In Australia Trove is a fantastic source of free online newspapers as well as a range of other resources. It is simply a matter of doing a keyword search on a person’s name and narrowing the results by using any combination of the available filters.  It is important to remember that not all newspapers have been digitised yet and placed online - new papers or expanded year ranges of existing papers are becoming available all the time, so you need to remember to redo your searches from time to time.
It is due to Trove that I discovered one of my great-uncles, Norman Clark, was killed by a shark off Middle Brighton beach in 1930.  He was the first swimmer taken by a shark in Victorian waters for a number of years, and the attack occurred during a boating regatta in full view of hundreds of horrified spectators, including his fiancee and 12 year old brother.  His body was never recovered and several sharks found too close to swimming areas were subsequently killed, and the incident made the news around the country.  It was even reported in New Zealand - Papers Past is the New Zealand equivalent of Trove.  When I asked my mother if she knew about the attack she never knew what had happened, ony that Norman had died young.  Trove even produced an article with a grainy photo of Norman, the only image of him I have ever seen.
I regularly visit Trove and am always rewarded with some snippet of information about my family, and also find Trove a great way of finding out about community events they quite likely were involved in.
Visit Shaun's blog on Newspapers to read her full entry on this topic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 9 - Inquest Records

An inquest is held when someone dies in an accident, or has not been seen by a doctor for some time or if they have died in an institution such as an asylum or prison. This is the topic Shauna Hicks has chosen for Week 9 of her 52 Weeks of Genealogy.
As Shauna discussed, most inquests are reported in the newspaper and this is where a search of Trove can be useful in finding information on accidental or sudden deaths in the family. Once the date and place of death is known it is easy to then go to the relevant State Archives and look for an inquest file or register.  Witnesses statements usually give an account of a person’s last moments as well as giving personal and biographical information that may not be found elsewhere.
 Most State Archives have online guides to inquest records and some may even have online indexes so these should be consulted in the first instance. Also Trove may be useful in determining a date and place of death or inquest but also follow up with the archival record as well.
This is not an area where I have done much research with my own family, and it is a timely reminder of the peril of bypassing any potential sources of information - you may well be missing a goldmine of family details.  Hopefully I will be able to use inquests to find out more about an ancestor's death and, through that, his life.  Thanks Shauna.
Visit Shaun's blog on Inquest Records to read her full entry on this topic.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Red Cross Records coming online soon

The records of over 24,000 volunteers who served in the British Red Cross during WW1 are expected to become available online soon, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Index cards for Voluntary Aid Detachment workers (VADs) are being digitised and are expected to be online - free to access - by August.

Their website contains the following statement :
Did your relatives volunteer during the First World War?
To mark the upcoming centenary, the British Red Cross is digitising the records of all those who volunteered during the Great War – that’s almost a quarter of a million people.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the information will be made available to the public for the first time.
Work will soon begin to digitise thousands of index cards stored at the Red Cross’ London headquarters. The first batch of index cards will be online in time for the start of the centenary in August, and new material will be uploaded on a monthly basis.
Selfless volunteers
So just who were these volunteers? Leading up to the First World War, many voluntary aid detachments were formed. These comprised volunteers from the British Red Cross, Order of St. John and Friends Ambulance Association.
These brave and selfless volunteers (known affectionately as VADs) went on to help thousands of casualties, often putting their own lives at risk.
Fittingly, the Red Cross now plans to recruit another 100 volunteers to help with the £80,000 digitisation project. 
Famous names
The index card list also has some very interesting names tucked away. Famous former volunteers include author Agatha Christie, novelist and poet Naomi Mitchison, and writer and feminist Vera Brittain.
Phil Talbot, director of communications, said: “All these volunteers – whether they worked in auxiliary hospitals, convalescent homes or drove ambulances – played a vital role during the Great War.”
He added: "The index cards are a unique source of historical information. As we approach the centenary, we believe this is a fitting way to pay tribute to those who gave their time in non-military service.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 10 - Occupations

I have decided to try to participate in Shauna Hicks's 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014, although I do lack a little confidence in my ability to do full justice to each topic, as I seem to be rather time-poor lately.  I have a bit of catching up to do also,  as I am coming in at Week 10.  Better late than never.
Shauna launched this blog challenge to "stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focussing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world."  What a great idea!

Week 10 focuses on Occupation Records.  Within my own famiy history many ancestors were tied to the land (Ag Labs abound), although some professions do seem to appear quite regularly in some lines.  6 generations of Millers appear in my father's mother's family, 4 generations of plasterers run in my mother's paternal line.  Census records give me the professions of a few generations, with Ancestry (I use the Library Edition) as my main source of records.  Several old directories have been very handy too, including the Historical Directories of England and Wales.  Sometimes marriage or death certificates have given me information, and Trove has been another useful source.

Once you find the occupation it can be another challenge to work out exactly what the occupation involved.  Sites such as Old Occupation Names or Old Occupations in Scotland can be a great source of information (and amusement), especially for my favourite example, the ancestor who listed Hooker as her occupation on her marriage certificate in 1874.  For those who think this may be just too much information at such a time - here is the listing from Old Occupation Names :
1) 16c. Reaper 2) 19c. Textile mill worker operating machinery which laid out fabric in uniform folds to required length.  Yes, she worked in a textile mill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

5000 Poppies

As part of the 2015 Anzac Commemoration, the 5000 Poppies project will be “planting” a field of more than 5000 poppies in Federation Square Melbourne as a visual tribute to Australian servicemen and women for more than a century of service in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.  Over 9000 poppies have been collected to date.

Members of Campaspe Regional Library are asked to contribute to the project by dropping in their  home made poppies to any branch library.  Poppies can be knitted, crocheted, felted or sewn from any materials. Crafters are encouraged to dedicate their poppy to a member of their family who served in World War One.
Craft patterns and dedication forms can be found on the 5000 Poppies website.  Poppies will be collected and displayed together with their dedications in libraries for Remembrance Day  November 11 2014.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sands Directory of Sydney

The firm of John Sands Ltd (Printers and Stationers) published their directory each year from 1858-59 to 1932-33 (except for 1872, 1874, 1878 and 1881). The household and business information it contains has become a fundamental source for research into Sydney history, especially family history.
Until now the directory has usually been accessed through a microfiche edition made by WF Pascoe Ltd which is available at many public libraries.

The City of Sydney has now obtained a complete digital edition of the directory from WF Pascoe, scanned from the microfiche, and is making it available for public access through their website.  This is the first time a complete set of Sands Sydney, Suburban and Country Commercial Directory has been made available online.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Irish Wills database extended

PRONI has extended its wills calendar database to include entries up to 1965, with the data available online now at This is a great addition to the database, extending it beyond 1943 and filling in the gaps.

The collection is being formally launched today and part of their press release is copied below :

PRONI is pleased to announce details of a public event to formally launch the extension of our Wills Calendar Application. 170,000 additional Will index entries covering the period 1918 – 1921, 1944 – 1965 will be added to this unique resource. These wills were proved in the Armagh, Belfast and
Londonderry District Registries.

This comprehensive index will enable researchers to search over 400,000 Will index entries for the years 1858 – 1965, making this an invaluable genealogical resource.

What ELSE is new on Ancestry?

They are having a major upload of new records at Ancestry!

They have now added a major series of collections of Roman Catholic records from parishes across Ireland which include the following :

1) Ireland, Select Catholic Birth and Baptism Registers, 1763-1912.  Records sourced from 73 parishes
2) Ireland, Select Catholic Marriage Registers, 1775-1912.  Records sourced from 62 parishes
3) Ireland, Select Catholic Death and Burial Registers, 1767-1912.  Records sourced from 19 parishes
4) Ireland, Select Catholic Confirmation Registers, 1775-1912.  Records sourced from 12 parishes.

While these records clearly do not cover all parishes they are still a very welcome addition to Ancestry's range of records and access to Ancestry is free at all our library branches.  For those with Irish ancestry, happy hunting!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What's new on Ancestry?

There are a huge number of new records available on which can now be searched.  They include the following –

Index Title
Date Range
No of Records
Australian Marriage Index
Australian Death Index
Australian Birth Index
England Perogative Court of Canterbury Wills
British Army WW1 Service Records
England and Wales Birth Index
England and Wales Death Index
England and Wales Marriage Index

These are only a few of the many new datasets to become available on Ancestry over the past few months.  It should be noted that the wills are ONLY for the Perogative Court of Canterbury, and also that not everyone made a will, or had anything to leave behind them.  The poor especially did not leave wills.  It will, however, give you a copy of the original handwritten will if you are lucky enough to find any relevant to your family.  Your next problem is deciphering it, as old handwriting can be quite a challenge to understand.  Remember also that many older wills may have been written in Latin.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Irish Military Service Pensions

The Irish Department of Defense has launched a collection of military service pension records that span the years from 1916 to 1923. The first collection  contains some 10,000 files on members of the Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army, Hibernian Rifles, the Irish Republican Army, Cumann na mBan and the National Army. This collection is part of a wider program by the Irish Department of Defense to catalogue and eventually put online some 300,000 military service pension files. Most of the files are expected to be online by 1916. The collection is fairly diverse and includes everything from letters applying for a pension to various organizational and membership files to basic administration files. The pension files are particularly detailed and list the full name of the individual, address, date of birth, date of death, civilian occupations, military record, military awards, etc. The entire collection can be searched by keyword. The website has a detailed guide to the collection. Access is free.