Friday, April 18, 2014

FamilySearch has added an additional 3.7million indexed records of New Zealand passenger records to their existing collection. These passenger lists cover the years from 1839 to 1973. This collection includes both inbound and outbound passengers at various ports in New Zealand and covers the peak migration period of the 1870s. A form of identification was required by all passengers before they were allowed to embark on the ship so these records tend to be fairly accurate (notwithstanding the usual spelling errors and typos of the ship officers who were responsible for handwriting the names into the registers). These records can be searched by first and last name. Access is free.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 12 - Gazetteers

Shauna has chosen Gazeteers for week 12's topic.  So just what is a gazetteer? Shauna tells us that "a simple definition is that it is a publication which lists geographical places in alphabetical order plus giving some descriptive background information on the place. Not all that exciting as usually there is no detailed information on our ancestors but gazetteers can provide good background on where and how our ancestors lived and why they may have decided to move or emigrate to Australia."
Samuel Lewis published topographical dictionaries for Ireland in 1837, Scotland in 1846, England in 1848 and Wales in 1849, and these are simply gazetteers by another name.  Reading the relevant Gazeteers can help us to imagine what life was like for our ancestors living in those places at that time. Maps are useful to show where a place is but gazetteers give a much more descriptive look at places and can explain why our ancestors had certain occupations, how they lived and perhaps why they chose to leave and try their luck on the other side of the world.  Context is important in family history research and with so many gazetteers online there is no excuse for not checking them out and seeing what they can add to your research. Happy gazetteering!

Visit Shaun's blog on Gazeteers to read her full entry on this topic.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

52 weeks of Genealogy - Week 7 - Local Histories

According to Shauna, "Local history often goes hand in hand with family history as our ancestors were very much a part of the communities in which they lived. I have always looked for local histories for areas they lived in and this also includes any church or school histories or anniversary celebrations. Quite often there has been direct references to my families and if I am lucky, a relevant photo or two.  However like all resources, anything we find in a published history should still be checked for accuracy. Many older histories do not cite their sources and it can be very hard to trace where a particular story has come from."
My father's family comes from a small village called Fordham in Essex, England.  I have been lucky to find a quite active local history group who have published a couple of booklets about the history of the village and have been even luckier to be able to obtain copies.  They mention the family several times and even have a few photos, and the detail of village life during the time of ancestors I have never known certainly fills in the picture for me.  As Shauna noted, hoever, it is necessary to check the accuracy of such information, especially if the local history is unsourced, as they are often quite anecdotal in nature and people's memories and prespectives are subject to alter over time. 
Visit Shaun's blog on Local Histories to read her full entry on this topic.

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 8 - Diaries

There are all kinds of diaries, and some are more detailed than others. Shauna advises trying to "find personal accounts of areas where your families lived, and don't forget to look for military unit histories and diaries to supplement what you have found in army dossiers. If you have never thought of exploring these types of records before, why not try and find a shipboard diary for an ancestor’s voyage. You may be pleasantly surprised."  Finding a diary of and ancestor's voyage out to Australia or of their military unit's war experiences can give you a weath of information, even if the diary if not written by YOUR family member.  Reading the thoughts and reactions of another person experiencing the same thing can really make the history come alive.
Of course, finding the diaries of a family member is just a treasure!  I am lucky enough to have some of both my father's diaries and my maternal grandmother's diaries, and some of their handwriting is a challenge to decipher.  While I only have a few years worth for each of them, and neither exactly filled pages with the minutae of daily life, both are invaluable in filling in details of major family events and my own early life and I treasure them.
After my father's death my mother and I found some of his diaries hidden at the back of an old wardrobe, and I am so lucky to have them.  My father had Alzheimers and spent several months before he died 'cleaning up'.  Months later I was still realising things were just gone - including the entire contents of my family history filing cabinet!  His diaries date from my childhood and are patchy at best - some have weeks and even months with nothing recorded - but several give me exact dates for major family events and his (often surprising) reactions to them.
My grandmother's diaries are similar - they date from my childhood and are patchy in coverage - but these were given to me by my grandmother, who knew I was interested in family history and knew I would find them interesting, and those few little books contain her view on family events I remember dimly at best.
So whether the diary is actually written by your ancestor or by someone on their ship, in their military unit, or living up the road in the same village, diaries can offer you a wealth of detail that may not be available anywhere else.
Visit Shaun's blog on Diaries to read her full entry on this topic.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

1939 National Identity Register

FindMyPast and the National Archives have announced a joint project to put online the 1939 National Identity Register.
 This was basically a mini-census that was taken on the night of Friday 29 September 1939 (at the start of World War II). The British Government conducted the survey because it wanted updated statistics on the population so that identity cards could be issued. It was also required in case a draft was needed, in case of mobilisation and mass evacuation of the general population and in case rationing was required (which was introduced a few months later in January 1940). For genealogists, the 1939 National Identity Register makes up for the regularly-scheduled 1941 census, which did not take place due to the war.
The details recorded in the 1939 National Identity Register include name, residence, sex, date of birth, marital status, occupation and whether the person was a member of the armed forces or reserves. The process for the enumeration worked as follows. On the night of Friday 29 September 1939, some 65,000 enumerators delivered forms to each household. Each household was responsible for filling out their own form. Two days later on the Sunday and Monday, the enumerators returned to collect the forms. The enumerators checked the forms and (if there were no problems) issued a complete identity card on the spot to each member of the household.
There was a strong incentive for everyone to register correctly. Other than societal pressure given that war had just broken out, it was widely broadcast that anyone who “neglected” to register would not be eligible in the future for ration books. The 1939 register covers some 40 million individuals. Given the absence of a 1931 census (the records were destroyed in a fire in December 1942) and a 1941 census (never taken due to the war), this record set will be very valuable to family historians. No date has been given as to when the records will be available online.
If you want to be kept informed about the project, you can register at One thing to note is that due to privacy issues, information on individuals still alive today will not be included in the database. 
Thanks to Genealogy in Time for highlighting this news.