Friday, January 31, 2014

Children's Essays of WW1 Zeppelin Attacks on Britain

The British Library have made newly digitised material from World War I available online, including some of the collection’s eye-opening essays written by children about Zeppelin attacks in 1915. 
The boys of Princeton Street Elementary School, London, were aged between 5 and 14 when the Zeppelin attacks took place. Some of the boys recorded their recollections of the airship raids.
Their accounts reveal how unexpected the raids were and how unprepared Britain was to deal with the new threat. Most of the boys were getting ready for bed or playing out on the street when the Zeppelins arrived - Londoners had no prior warning of either of the attacks on 8 September or 13 October 1915.
These boys express both excitement and fear during the airship raids, and satisfied their curiosity by going out to inspect the damage once the raids were over.
Read the transcripts from this unique collection of essays, revealing the terror of a German Zeppelin attack through a child’s eyes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First World War Military Service Tribunals

The National Archives has launched a rare collection of First World War military service tribunals. These are 11,000 case files from Middlesex, where people applied to the local tribunal for exemption from compulsory military service (which was introduced in 1916, some two years after the start of the war). Most of the applications for exemptions fall into four categories: moral (conscientious objectors); medical (disability); family (looking after dependents) and economic (preserving a business).
As the First War dragged on, fatalities and casualties climbed far beyond anyone’s expectations. News about the horrible conditions on the front line slowly filtered back home. Much of it contradicted the official propaganda. This created a significant amount of tension on the home front. Still, only an estimated 10% of the applications for exemptions were based on moral grounds.
Only a very small number of these military tribunal papers survive. After the war, the UK government issued explicit instructions to local tribunals to destroy all these types of records due to their sensitive nature and the risk to the government.

The Middlesex collection was specifically held back from destruction and retained to be used as a possible benchmark in case military conscription was ever required in the future. The collection can be searched by name, occupation and location. Access is free.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

World War 1

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
From 2014 to 2018, across the world, nations, communities and individuals of all ages will come together to mark, commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.
IWM (Imperial War Museums) is leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of local, regional, national and international cultural and educational organisations.
The website provides useful information on upcoming events and website launches. It also has a very useful guide for genealogists wanting to research soldiers from WWI. Access is free.

Monday, January 20, 2014 has added a collection of pre-1858 wills. The collection contains about 1 million records. The wills in this collection were managed by the ecclesiastical courts of the Church of England (wills prior to 12 January 1858 were managed by the church). Wills provide a good means of understanding family members and family relationships. A typical will lists spouses, children, and sometimes even parents.
Most early English and Welsh wills from this period were written by people who had to transfer land and significant property. This collection will likely appeal to people who had wealthy ancestors. There are a couple of other things to note before looking at this collection. First, married women were not allowed to own property, so there are few women in the collection. Second, wills were sometimes recorded in the courts years after the person died, so search a wide range of dates after the expected year of death.
I have included as an example the will of my ancestor John Green of Fordham Hall in Essex.  Now all I have to do is decipher the handwriting!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise

I am really looking forward to the Unlock the Past 4th Genealogy Cruise which starts 4th February.  I'll be reporting on the cruise in this blog and am really impressed by the program that has been put together.  This is the first time I will have made it to one of these cruises but I certainly hope it will not be the last.  The cruise is a southern Australian ports cruise out of Sydney visiting Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart with a varied program planned with leading Australian, New Zealand and overseas presenters – around 60-70 topics in all, some as parallel electives.  To all those who are booked on the cruise, I look forward to meeting you and sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm for genealogy.

Monday, January 13, 2014


FamilySearch has created a massive new collection of indexes for births, marriages and deaths that cover England and Wales from 1837 to 1920. In total, there are 65.6 million births listed, 35.1 million marriages, and 40.6 million deaths. Note these are indexes and not complete records. These indexes will, however, point you to the exact location of the record. Access is free.  Either search the full FamilySearch site or access each index individually - UK Birth Index, UK Marriage Index and UK Death Index.  Other new FamilySearch collections include the Catholic Church records from the district of SantarĂ©m, Portugal. The collection now consists of some 650,000 images of baptism, marriage and death records spanning the years from 1544 to 1911. The images can be searched by municipality, parish, type of record and year.  Another recent addition is approximately 100,000 civil marriages from Denmark that span the years from 1851 to 1961. These records can be searched by first and last name. The records cover the small percentage of people who did not get married in the state church.

Friday, January 10, 2014

London's Pulse

The Wellcome Library has unveiled London's Pulse, a free website which allows you to search more than 5500 Medical Officer of Health (MOH) reports from the Greater London area.  The era of the Medical Officer Health saw the emergence of new ways of thinking about the connections between poverty, health and government.  The reports provided statistical data about births, deaths and diseases, but they also allowed the authors to express the diversity of their local communities and their own personal interests.  Many of the daily concerns and shifting preoccupations of Londoners can be seen through the eyes of their Medical Officers of Health.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Gazette

There is now easier access to the digitised editions of the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes as The Gazette launches its new website.  Fully searchable, the site offers access to millions of articles dating back to the 17th century, ranging from Royal announcements to insolvency notices.  A free resource, users can set up a personal account and save clippings, as well as share favourite finds through social media.  Search and browse all notices including the Queen’s Honours and Awards, Military, State, Transport and Planning notices, or choose a specific option to search Wills and Probate, Insolvency, or Awards and Accreditation. Wills allow you to search and browse Section 27 Trustee Act notices or read the guides and checklists for managing probate yourself.  Insolvency allows you to search and browse corporate insolvency and personal bankruptcy notices.  In Awards and Accreditation you can search and browse military and civilian awards.