Monday, November 20, 2017

Change at FamilySearch

For anyone who uses the FamilySearch database, you may have noticed a major change is coming - we are soon going to have to sign in to use the site.
Many of us who use the site regularly are already signing in - to use some of the extra features or create an online tree signing in has been necessary for a while now.  For others this is a new development.  It is worth noting that sign in requirements are minimal - name, username, a password you select, an email address or phone number in case you lose your password and need to get back into your account, a little bit of demographic data (male or female, country of residence, birthdate and whether you’re a Church member, since Church members have different needs from the website), a security captcha code to make sure you’re not a robot and your agreement to the terms and conditions and privacy policies of the website, and you’re in.  There is the facility to remember your login details on your PC or device, so overall it is a very quick process.
So why does FamilySearch require logins now?  Firstly, FamilySearch needs to be accountable to its records partners — the towns, counties/states and other repositories that made the records available for filming in the first place. Many of those records partners want to know that the data is being offered in a safe and secure online environment.  The second reason is because there’s more that can be made available on a personalized basis if you use some of the other features of the website and log in first.  You can now built a free online family tree and link in all the records you find, much as you can on Ancestry and other subscription databases.  It is worth remembering that all the wonderful content of the FamilySearch site is still free.
So take a look at all the FamilySearch site has to offer, and don't be put off by the new sign-in requirement.  They have put in a massive amount of effort in creating the site and is has a great deal to offer those if us researching our families.  And did I mention the word FREE!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Welsh tithe maps go online

Do you have Welsh ancestry?  The National Library of Wales has completed a project to make tithe maps of Wales searchable online.
The new Places of Wales website is in beta and welcomes feedback from visitors.  It makes over 300,000 records searchable online, along with accompanying apportionment documents.
Tithes were payments charged on land users. Originally, payments were made using commodities like crops, wool, milk and stock. Tithe maps were produced between 1838 and 1850 to ensure that all tithes were paid with money rather than produce.
These are the most detailed maps of their period and they cover more than 95% of Wales. The apportionments accompanying each map list the payable tithes, the names of the landowners and land occupiers, the land use, and in most cases (75%) the field names.
An almost complete set of the tithe maps for Wales is held in the National Library of Wales as part of the diocesan records of the Church in Wales, who kindly consented to them being digitised as part of the Cynefin project.  A complete set of accompanying tithe apportionments was supplied in digital form by The National Archives in London, who had digitised these documents before the start of the project.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November WDYTYA Magazine

The November issue of BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine is out now.  Now available in digital form free to Campaspe Regional Library patrons via RB Digital.
Inside this month's issue
  • How to track down your Army ancestors
    Phil Tomaselli surveys the records available on Britain's fighting units, from the 14th century to the 1950s
  • Explore your archive
    Don't miss our guide to the wealth of information stored in the UK's 600-plus local archives
  • Reader story
    The pupils of Wycliffe Preparatory School in Gloucestershire uncover the lives of Old Boys who died in the First World War
  • Queens of industry
    John McGoldrick tells the story of the 20th-century 'industry queens' who became national celebrities
  • Postal ancestors
    Susannah Coster of the Postal Museum explains how to investigate relatives who worked for the Post Office
  • Plus...
    The best websites for military medals and awards; the lives of ancestors who worked as railway navvies; exploring churchwardens' accounts; and more...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

South Australia Immigration Records on FamilySearch

Over 200,000 records of those who emigrated to South Australia are available in a new collection on free family history website FamilySearch.
The new collection of immigrants ship papers, dating from 1849 to 1940, contains records of the names and ages of 201,371 immigrants, many of whom were British, Irish or German, and the ships they sailed on. The collection also includes over 6,000 digital images of the papers,  allowing researchers to view more details about the immigrants, including their profession and county of origin.
Immigration record of my Beseler ancestors
Information on images varies but may include ship's name, master's name, tonnage, where bound, date, port of embarkation, names of passengers, ages, occupation, nationality, and port at which passengers have contracted to land. Original records are located in the State Records of South Australia, Adelaide.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What "I Didn't Find Anything" Really Means

When you’re researching in any resource — a book, database, microfilm or whatever — remember that “I didn’t find anything” really means “I didn’t find what I was looking for in this resource.” It doesn’t mean that your person isn’t there, it just means you didn’t find them in that particular resource with the search strategy you were using.
It is entirely possible, of course, that your person really isn’t in those records. But before you write them off completely, ask yourself if there’s something else you should be considering or another way of searching for the records you are after.
Consider the source you’re using.  Was it a database or an index? Not finding someone in an index is different than not finding them in the records themselves.  Look at the source – is it complete, or are there gaps, missing pages or years that could cover the record you are looking for.  Some records haven’t survived in complete form.  Is it transcribed?  Could there be spelling errors in the transcription – or in the original records themselves?
For those times when the record you’re looking for doesn’t exist — either your ancestor isn’t in the record or the record was destroyed — think about other records that could give you the same information.
If you’re in a database, will it search variations in spelling or do you need to do multiple searches to find both “Smith” and “Smythe”? What about Mc and Mac?
Did you put too much into your search? Some databases will try to match everything that you enter, and if you search for William Ramsey, born 1870 in Kyabram, it won’t return a record that has William Ramsey, born 1869 in Kyabram. Play with your search terms – sometimes less is more.
Consider not searching at all.  Stop searching and start browsing. You never know what you might find hidden by a spelling error or some other small difference when you browse through a set of records.

Friday, October 27, 2017

What's in a Name?

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 favourite 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 or incorrectly recorded.  Remember that 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!

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.  Consider how old handwriting may be misinterpreted - both by you and by earlier transcribers or indexers. 

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 locate an elusive record.  Remember to be creative and keep digging - you never know what you might find - or how it may be spelled!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Researching others

Our ancestors did not live in a vacuum. They had extended family members, neighbours, business contacts, colleagues, friends and aquaintances. This has implications for us in two ways:
  • People tend to do things in groups.
  • People tend to follow predictable patterns of who they associate with.
Both of these can benefit our research. In genealogy, researching one member of a group can lead to answers about another member of the group. We can piggyback onto these “other” people to find the ones we’re really looking for.
Look at the people mentioned in wills – who were the executors and administrators of the estate?  Who were the guardians of any minors?  Remember guardians were not necessarily appointed to take care of the children – their role was to protect their legal interests. Who were the beneficiaries?  Wills do not just list surviving children, they often also give the married names of adult daughters and other information. Who witnessed a will?  All these important roles were generally not given to strangers.  How does each person fit in?
Look at godparents at a christening or baptism, not just for your direct ancestor, but for all their siblings as well.  Each child may have different godparents – again, it is not a role given to strangers.  Who are they, and why were they chosen for the role?
Unless they eloped, look at the witnesses to a marriage.  Remember to look at both the civil and church marriage records if applicable, and if a person married more than once, check both - or all - marriages.
The same applies for informants on a death certificate, even the neighbours in a census or electoral roll.  Often families lived close to one another.
What about immigration?  Many of us have a tale of migration in our family. (“Great-great-grandad came to Australia from Italy”) but great-great-grandad probably didn’t do so in isolation. Chances are he either came here with a group of people and/or he was moving to an area where he already knew people.
This doesn’t just apply to moving to a new country. Our ancestors’ migration within a country (or even within a state or county) is often part of a group migration (people moving together all at once) or a chain migration (a few people go out ahead and other people follow later). We can use this to our advantage.
In shipping records, look at where others on the same ship came from.  Look at others already settled in the place your family settled.  People from the same area may have migrated in a group or followed earlier settlers.