Wednesday, March 11, 2020

WDYTYA Magazine

The latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are magazine is now available free online for Campaspe Library members via our subscription to RB Digital eMagazines.

Inside this month's issue

  • Family history on a budget
    Chris Paton reveals his top money-saving tips
  • Dating early photographs
    National Trust curator Catherine Troiano shares some beautiful country house photographs and explains how you can date pre-WW1 snaps
  • Taxing times
    The controversial introduction of 18th century income tax
  • Reader story
    How Gordon Fraser discovered that eight of his wife's ancestors were Everton footballers
  • House history
    Gill Blanchard reveals the records that will show you who lived in your house
  • Plus...
    Understanding census records; the best hospital and asylum websites; tracing ancestors who served as missionaries, and much more...
Around Britain
  • Cambridgeshire
    The best resources for finding family in Britain's powerhouse of learning

Sunday, March 8, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 10 - Family Photo

Over the years I have been quite fortunate in accumulating old family photographs from a variety of sources.  Many are copies of photos held by family members, while others have come from libraries and archives, local history societies, distant relatives and heritage projects.  While the bulk of my collection are good digital scans I also have a number of original photos that I have inherited.  All my originals have been scanned for future preservation and happily shared with fellow family members.  I have also detailed who, where and when in as much detail as I can for each one - my pet hate is the anonymous photo of nobody-knows-who included in an album of family members.

One of my favourite family photos is the one above of my father Peter with his siblings and their father, Frank Walter Green.  Dad was one of 10 children and to the best of my knowledge it is the only photo of all 10 siblings together, which makes the scanned image I have even more precious.  And yes, one of the brothers does have a beer bottle balanced on his head!  That would be Ernest, known to all as Squib, the second eldest of the Green siblings.  If there are any relatives out there who have another photo of all 10 siblings together, I would love to hear from you and am happy to share copies!

Other favourite family photos include a few very old portrait photos from my fathers family back in England.  Again, I only have digital copies that I have printed out, but a good digital copy is still very worth having.
Isobelle Mary Green (nee Argent)

Sarah Jane Pike (nee Hart)
From my mother's family, too, I have a few favourites.  Below is a scan of a mock gambling scene featuring my great grandfather James Nicholas Clark, the original given to me by my grandmother many years ago.
James Nicholas Clark
Having a photo of relatives, especially those who died before I was born, helps bring them to life for me and I will always consider myself fortunate to have the photos and scans that I have collected over the years.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Church Heritage Record Announces New Project

It has just been announced that all Church of England burial ground records will be available to search within five years under an ambitious new laser-scanning survey scheme.  Records of the burial grounds for two West Yorkshire churches – All Hallows’ Church in Kirkburton and Emmanuel Church in Shelley – are now available online, and the Church plans to survey all 15,000 burial grounds by 2025.

Nick Edmonds, the Church of England’s senior media officer, said: “It’s a system that has potential for enormous growth and future usage.  It can help people with their family history and accessing burial grounds that they didn’t know about before."  Each burial record will include the name of the deceased, their burial date, their age at death and a photograph of the grave.

The databases will be available via the Church Heritage Record.  Currently the Church Heritage Record website contains over 16,000 entries on church buildings in England covering a wide variety of topics including architectural history, archaeology, art history and the surrounding natural environment. The website is still currently a work in progress and is by no means complete.

The Church will provide £250,000 towards the project and has received the same amount from Historic England, which has also provided spatial data records to support the project.  The scanning also has ecological benefits, by measuring the growth of trees and plants in the graveyards.  It will also help church authorities identify where empty space is available for new burials.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 9 - I'd Like to Meet

There are so many ancestors I would just love to meet – preferably with a notebook and pencil, or recording device in hand!  I'd like the chance to chat with (read - interrogate) just about every ancestor, especially ones with blank spaces in their details in my tree, along with every one I've heard an interesting story about (mainly for some verification).   If I could choose just a couple of individuals, they would be the ones who I have found most elusive, the ones who disappeared from the family and turned up in unexpected places – or who didn’t turn up again at all.

I would start with my great grandfather, James Nicholas Clark, and his parents, John and Ann (nee McGoverin).   James Nicholas Clark was born in Bristol, England in 1856, just before the family emigrated to Australia.  James’s sister Annie Amelia Clark was born 31 March 1857 in Port Sorrell, Tasmania, where the family lived for at least 12 years before they crossed Bass Strait and settled in Victoria.  I would love to be able to question them about why they decided to leave England, why they chose Tasmania to settle, and then what prompted them to pack up and start all over again in Victoria.  Such moves would not have been undertaken lightly, and travel with a growing brood of young children back in the mid to late 1800’s would not have been easy.  I would have more questions for James’s mother Ann, whose marriage records indicate she was born in Scotland around 1830, as she have for several years been one of my brick walls.  Getting some dates, places and details from this family would be just so exciting.

Another ancestor I would like to meet, for fairly similar reasons, would be Carl Friedrich Beseler.  Known in Australia as Frederick, he was born around 1810 in Hanover, Germany.  He was a shoemaker in Germany and a farmer in Australia, arriving in Adelaide on 1 April 1848 on the ship Pauline from Bremen, Germany.  Passengers listed were Frederick Beseler, Shoemaker, Mrs Beseler and 5 children.  The family lived in South Australia for 7 years before travelling overland to Victoria, where they settled near Ercildown.  Several members of the family are buried in Learmonth Cemetery.  Again, I would like to know what prompted this family, with young children in tow, to pack up and move halfway around the world, settle in one state of Australia, then pack up and move again several years later.

Finally, I would like a chance to talk to my paternal grandfather, Frank Walter Noble Green.  Frank died when I was just 4 years old, and I have few memories of him, but I would love to know more about his life in England before he and his wife Rosa May moved to Australia (there seems to be a theme here – why did you move across the globe?).  According to family stories Frank spent two years in America prior to emigrating to Australia – what did he do in the United States and why did he then move his family to Australia instead of returning to the States?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 8 - At the Cemetery

Headstones and cemetery records can be incredibly useful records to find.  The information found on headstones can be remarkably varied in content, with anything from a simple name to the details of parents, spouse, children and dates and places of birth and death.  Sometimes finding one relative in a cemetery leads to the discovery of several more, with whole generations of family all buried in the same location.  Over the years I have had some great finds in cemeteries that have helped me overcome brick walls and the loss of other records.

As digitization of cemetery records and photographing of headstones becomes increasingly common, we are able to access from home even more records.  While nothing can replace actually visiting an ancestor’s grave in person, finding records I cannot visit myself available online is a definite bonus.  I have found online the cemetery records of a number of relatives who lived overseas, whose graves I am unlikely to be able to visit for some time, if ever.  Like so many other researchers, I owe a debt to those who have given their time to photograph headstones and transcribe cemetery records.

I have been lucky enough to acquire photographs of the headstones of many family members, some during personal visits and others sent by relatives or located online through sites like Find-A-Grave or BillionGraves.  The quality and amount of information on them varies a lot, as does the legibility and the state of preservation of the headstone.  It is worth noting that not all tombstones actually date from the time the gravesite was actually used - the stones themselves could be installed at a much later date by relatives, or be replacements for older stones which have been damaged or destroyed.

One particular headstone I have photographed was in extremely good condition, and commemorated several family members from a couple of generations.  The stone probably dates from the time of death of the last person included - was there an older tombstone in place at some time that has now been replaced, or is this a more 'general' tombstone that commemorates several family members buried in the area over time??  Who erected this stone, and where did they obtain the information they have included on it?  I need to delve into the cemetery records for this particular tombstone to find out more, and confirm the accuracy of the records, especially the older names and dates.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Sins of a Genealogist

We are all guilty of the occasional genealogical sin (after all, we are none of us perfect).  Below are a few of the more common and damaging genealogical sins - how many have you been guilty of?

Sin 1: Assuming everything online is correct
The most common mistake around it to take everything published online as being true and correct.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  From transcription errors to uncorroborated trees to typos, there are mistakes aplenty online.
So never just “cut and paste” information into your tree. You need to confirm the information yourself, via various sources, before you include it in your research.  Never assume that everyone else out there has proper research skills and has made the effort to verify their data.  For many, near enough is good enough and if most of the names and dates match they will take the information as correct.  And pass it on to others.

Sin 2: Not noting every search
Keeping some kind of research log is essential.  Know where you have been, where you found each piece of information, and just as importantly, know where you failed to find anything.  Knowing where you searched and what search terms you used can help you avoid reworking your research and help develop your methodology.
If you have good research logs it is much easier when you return to a search several months or even years later as you have a clear understanding of what you have searched for, where you have looked and whether you have any uncorroborated leads to follow up. Without this, you can waste so much valuable time duplicating failed searches.

Sin 3: Not going beyond birth, marriage and death records
Family history isn't restricted only to lists of births, marriages and deaths – it is so much more. Enrich your tree by looking at the various ways in which you can go beyond the bare facts, using information such as newspaper archives, your ancestor’s career, where they lived, local maps etc. Look for the stories, the details, the minutae of the daily lives of ancestors.  Then look wider as well.  What local events in their suburb, town or village might they have attended?  What historical events did they live through?  It all helps built the greater picture of their lives.

Sin 4: Trying to do everything yourself
Don’t try to fly solo – you don’t have to do it all on your own. Do you have relatives out there who are also doing research?  Make contact and share – you may each have parts of the overall puzzle that the other lacks, and pooling your resources makes sense (just remember Sin 1 – trust but verify).  Consider joining a local family history society in the area that your ancestors lived – especially if it is somewhere distant you would have trouble visiting yourself.  Researching an area on the other side of the world can be especially difficult if you cannot travel there – local family history societies can allow you to tap into the local expertise of society members. Most family historians are extremely helpful, especially to a newcomer, and are only too pleased to help. So don’t be shy. If you need some help, ask for it!

Sin 5: Adopting the scattergun approach
Having a goal and sticking to a plan is the key to maintaining focus. Many people, when they first start to trace their family tree, dive in and cast their net far and wide, in the hope of catching as much information and finding as many ancestors as they can as quickly as possible. This might be tempting, but it can lead to you being swamped and overloaded with information, looking at a disorganised pile of papers and notes and wondering how it all fits together.  Being organised right from the start is so much easier and helps you keep order to your research.  The scattergun approach also leads to the cardinal sin number 1, taking things at face value.  Before you know it, you are several generations back on completely the wrong tree and have wasted hours of valuable research time. So have a key set of goals before you fire up the laptop and make sure you make notes on where you searched, what you found – and what you couldn’t find.

Sin 6: Not checking your previous work
As you become a more accomplished genealogist and your family history grows, make sure you go back over your previous work to check for errors and more importantly, to find out whether new information has become available since your original search. More and more documents are becoming available online, so keep going back and reusing those searches, to see if anything new has materialised. We often get caught in the trap of thinking that once we have searched somewhere it is a waste of time to go back – but this can lead to us missing important new information that has just been uncovered, digitised, or in some way made available to researchers.

Sin 7: Thinking you can find everything online
You can’t “do” your family tree solely from the comfort of your home. As wonderful as the internet has become for family historians, we can make the mistake of thinking that everything we need can be accessed from our living room via our laptop. What is available online is still only a drop in the ocean of records and information out there in repositories, archives, libraries and other places.  So get out there and explore!
Plan and organise trip to a local archive office or library. Remember to do your homework before you go, there are lots of great guides available online to help you plan a visit and maximise your research time. 

Sin 8: Inflexibility on names
What’s in a name? I have at least a couple of variations of every surname in my tree (who knew you could spell ‘Clark’ so many ways?) so think outside the box with names and spellings. Make use of the wildcard searches on the various websites and again look for alternatives ways in which you can corroborate what you find. Remember that often it was not our actual ancestors that recorded their name – it was the clerk, secretary, census taker, registrar, etc. and often they simply wrote the name how they heard it.