Friday, September 22, 2017

Victorian Mourning Customs

By the 19th century, mourning behaviour in England had developed into a complex set of rules, particularly among the upper classes. For women, the customs involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe. The entire ensemble was colloquially known as "widow's weeds" (from the Old English waed, meaning "garment").  Special caps and bonnets, usually in black or other dark colours, went with these ensembles. 

Widows were expected to wear special clothes to indicate that they were in mourning for at least two years after the death, although a widow could choose to wear such attire for the rest of her life. To change the costume earlier was considered disrespectful to the deceased and, if the widow was still young and attractive, suggestive of potential sexual promiscuity. Those subject to the rules were slowly allowed to re-introduce conventional clothing at specific times; such stages were known by such terms as "full mourning", "half mourning", and similar descriptions. For half mourning, muted colours such as lilac, grey and lavender could be introduced.  There was also mourning jewelry, often made of jet. The wealthy would wear cameos or lockets designed to hold a lock of the deceased's hair or some similar relic.

Mourning became quite an industry, with special warehouses offering specially made mourning wear.  As it was considered unlucky to have mourning clothes on hand these clothes were generally discarded after the period of mourning ended, then new clothes would have to be quickly purchased when needed again. Friends, acquaintances, and employees wore mourning to a greater or lesser degree depending on their relationship to the deceased. Mourning was worn for six months for a sibling. Parents would wear mourning for a child for "as long as they feel so disposed".  No lady or gentleman in mourning was supposed to attend social events while in deep mourning.  In general, men were expected to wear mourning suits of black coats with matching trousers and waistcoats.
The black dyes used for mourning clothes were often unstable and could not be worn next to the skin as perspiration and natural body oils would cause the colour to blotch and run. It was this reason white shirts were worn but trimmed with purple or black lace, ribbon, or piping.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tracing POWs

Were any of your relatives prisoners of war of the Japanese during World War 2?  They may have filled out a Prisoner of War Card, many of which are available online.  A number of these are available through subscription website Find My Past, and for Australian POWs the cards are available free through the National Archives of Australia.
Australian POW card from the NAA
A new find for me is a wonderful Dutch website which translates many of the Japanese symbols used on the cards, helping you trace where your relative was imprisoned.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Location, Location, Location

The importance of location is drilled into us from the beginning of our genealogy research. We need to know where our ancestors lived. Census records and electoral rolls are based on location. Land records are very much based on location. Sometimes, however, we need to forget which side of the county, shire or state line our ancestor lived on.

Consider two towns only a few miles from one another but in different counties of England. There’s flat land between them - no major rivers, no mountains, so it’s easy to get from one to the other.
One ancestor of mine who lived in Fordham, Essex, clearly had contact with nearby Bures, Suffolk.  It’s in another county, but is less than 4 miles distant. Maybe he sold his grain at Bures, or went to market there or attended meetings – somehow he got to know the people there.  It is where his wife was born.
We need to know where our ancestors lived. But we also need to take a look around and see if there are other places where he or she could have interacted with others — places where he or she could have created more records. Our ancestors didn’t necessarily stay within the lines for all of their activities.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Traces - a new Australian History magazine

Melbourne company Executive Media is set to launch a new magazine focused on Australian history, called Traces, which is scheduled to launch this December.

Traces magazine is for anyone interested in Australia’s history, from ancient Indigenous culture to convict settlers, local history, antiques and family history. It will contain content across a range of historical topics, including family history and genealogy, insights on historic events and people, Australian destinations, artefacts and antiques, and feature the latest historical research, news, and heritage projects taking place around Australia.

Traces will be issued quarterly, so keep an eye out for it in your local newsagent this December

Friday, September 8, 2017

Misspeld Knames — A Commun Probblem for Reeserchors

During the classes held at Campaspe Regional Library during Family History Month, a common comment from those attending concerned the spelling of names, and how inconsistent they are.  This lead to quite a discussion about spelling variations and how they can complicate our research.  From church records to birth, marriage and death registrations, census records to electoral rolls and passenger lists to immigration and naturalization records, many of our favorite sources for family information have captured a variety of spellings, handwritings, and abbreviations.  As those historical collections have been digitized and transcribed, modern day technicians have struggled to correctly interpret and preserve an entry from long ago, and subsequently we as researchers have struggled to find them.

If there is one thing I have learnt in my years of researching my family, it is that NO surname, however simple, will EVER be recorded with the same spelling all the time.  When researching, always consider how a name may have been misspelled.  Your family may have always spelled their name a certain way, but you can bet that those who actually recorded their names - the census takers, clerks, tax collectors and so on - didn't.  The clerk creating the record spelled the name the way he felt like spelling it - how it sounded to him at the time.  And frequently he got it wrong.  Sometimes he got it spectacularly wrong!

For every surname in my family tree, there are at least 3 spelling variations that I have come across during my research, and the more exotic the surname, the more spelling variations I have encountered.  There really isn't that much you can do with Green (Greene, Greyne) or Clark (Clarke, Clerk) but my mother's maiden mane is Pummeroy.  Spellings - Pummeroy, Pumeroy, Pumroy, Pomeroy, Pomroy, Pomrey, Pumfrey, Pomfrey.

Try researching a German name like Beseler.  It can have one s, two s, change the s to z, one l, two l, drop the middle e, change any e into a, it changes into Sezler with all the variations as well.  Several family members also changed their Christian names around the time they emigrated to Australia as well, so Friedrich became Frederick, Johann = John, Susette =Susan, Elizabetha = Elizabeth, Margaretha = Margaret or Mary, and so on.  They certainly made my research challenging.

Abbreviations can also complicate research - William was often abbreviated as Wm, Thomas as Thos or Tom, Patrick as Pat or Patk or Patr, Daniel as Dan or Danl or Danny, Margaret as Maggie, Elizabeth as Beth or Eliza.  When searching for an ancestor, be mindful that an exact search for a given name may unintentionally hide an ancestor from view if the original record or transcription used an abbreviation.

In addition to alternate spellings and abbreviations, another source of name variations comes from errors made during the transcription process.  As people transcribe family history records, they seek to preserve content exactly as it appears in the historical original.  Despite best efforts, errors do occur and names can be unintentionally altered. 

Some databases are quite flexible in regards to spelling variations when searching, but they will never cover every possible error and sometimes several searches are necessary to localte an elusive record.  Remember to be creative and keep digging - you never know what you might find - or how it may be spelled!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Who Do You Think You Are magazine online

Did you know that Campaspe Library subscribes to Who Do You Think You Are magazine via RB Digital - formerly Zinio online magazines.  We also subscribe to Inside History magazine and a few special issues such as Your Family Tree's Military Family History, and All About History's Book of the First World War and Book of World War 2.  We also subscribe to a range of other non-genealogy magazines.
These online magazines can be borrowed free by all members of Campaspe Regional Library.  You download them onto your PC, laptop or other device and read them at your leisure, and new issues of all the magazines we subscribe to are available as soon as the paper copy is published.  This means that the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are is available online at the same time as it is published in England.
The September issue of Who Do You Think You Are is out now.  Why not download it today?

Inside this month's issue

  • Expert tips
    17 of the UK's leading genealogists share their top tips
  • A family under siege
    Roy and Leslie Adkins trace a family caught up in the siege of Gibraltar
  • Build a specialist website
    Learn how to set up a website for your specialist topic with Denise Bates
  • Home sewing
    Sewing was an essential skill for our female ancestors, says Jayne Shrimpton
  • Prisoners of war
    Find out more about your Second World War POW ancestors with Phil Tomaselli
  • Plus...
    The best websites for researching 17th century kin; the lives of ancestors who worked as glassmakers; how to use Legacy 9.0 and more...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Family History Month Wrap-up

Family History Month is just about over, and what a huge month it has been.  Browsing around on the FHM homepage and looking at the number of events, talks, tours, webinars and activities, the month has clearly been a success around the country. Just looking at all the range of topics offered is mind-boggling.
Campaspe Regional Library has offered a number of Family History talks during the month at all our library branches, as well as one-on-one sessions at Echuca, Kyabram and Rochester.  All classes have been well attended and the one-on-one sessions booked out, even after I opened up more days at Echuca to meet the demand. 
If you were meaning to come to any of the Famiy History Month talks at Campaspe Library but didn't make it, the slideshow presentation for each talk is available in pdf on the Library's website under Genealogy Classes.  Check them out to see what is available - they cover :
  •  Ancestry
  •  Convicts
  •  Familysearch
  •  German History and Research
  •  Introduction to Online Research
  •  Irish History and Research
  •  Military Records Online
  •  National Archives of Australia
  •  Organising your Research
  •  Public Records Office of Victoria
  •  Trove and the National Library
  •  Workhouses
Finally, a big thank-you to everyone who attended any of the events.  Your enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, questions and positive feedback has made our Famiy History Month a success.