Friday, November 27, 2015

Was your ancestor a Freemason?

As of Monday 23 November, the records of over two million practising Freemasons dating back to the 18th century have been uploaded to  Spanning 1751-1921, the larger of the two datasets names men that belonged to the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), which still acts as the governing body for Freemasonry in England, Wales and several countries overseas.  The second collection covers 1733-1923 and provides details of Freemasons belonging to masonic lodges across the 32 historic counties of Ireland, including those that were attached to British Army Regiments in the country.

The UGLE is the governing body for Freemasonry in England, Wales and some countries overseas. Each Masonic lodge anually returns to the Grand Lodge a list of its members which are used to compile the membership registers, described as Contribution Books, which are reproduced in this collection. While the majority of the registers available theough Ancestry are from lodges in England, registers are also available from lodges in Wales, Northern Ireland, and several countries overseas such as Canada, Australia, India and South Africa.

There are three degrees in Craft Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. A man will normally pass through these three degrees, known as initiation, passing and raising, and the date that he passes each degree is recorded in the register. It is worth noting that man was not confined to membership of one lodge and thus may appear on several registers. When he passed the three degrees and became a Master Mason, he could join as many lodges as he wished. The date that he joined a new lodge is recorded by his name in the register. The registers also record when membership ceased, and sometimes a reason is given. The majority of the entries also record the age, profession and brief address of a man when he became a Freemason.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Victorian Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates

Hate waiting for BMD certificates you have ordered to make their slow way to you in the post?  Wait no more.  Did you know that the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria allows you to download certificates from their Historical Indexes on the spot?  A Historical Image is a scanned image of the original registration record which cannot be used for official purposes. Download purchased images to your computer at a cost of $24 per image.  Historical Death Certificates, which are a certified copy of the original registration record and can be used for official purposes, can still be purchased in hard copy form to be posted to you at a cost of $31 per certificate.

The Historical index has entries relating to:
  • births in Victoria from 1853 to 1914
  • marriages in Victoria from 1853 to 1942
  • deaths in Victoria from 1853 to 1988
  • church baptisms, marriages and burials in Victoria from 1836 to 1853
Each entry includes the:
  • name of the person or people the entry relates to
  • type of event (such as birth, marriage or death)
  • registration year
  • registration number
  • other information relevant to the type of event.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories

Do you have Scottish ancestors?  If so, you will probably be interested in the latest database Ancestry has added to their already considerable holdings.
The new database includes an index and images to the Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories filed in Scotland for the years 1876–1936. Ancestry's website tells us that "In Scotland, probate records are called confirmations and they include a testament and an inventory of the estate. The testament is the court record ordering distribution of the deceased’s estate. Some included wills (testament testamentar) and some did not (testament dative), the latter being more common."
As with probate records everywhere, not everyone filed testaments for a variety of reasons, especially if they had little to leave. The wealthy were more likely to have filed a Confirmation, simply because they had more money, resources and property to distribute. Regardless of your ancestor’s wealth and social standing however, checking the Confirmations way be well worth your time.
The calendar, which began publication in 1876, is separated into a different volume for each year with the entries in each volume are then alphabetised by surname. Information varies across different entries, but each typically includes:
  • testament date
  • full name of the deceased
  • death date and place
  • name of an executor (often a relative, but sometimes a creditor)
  • where and when the testament was recorded

Friday, November 13, 2015

17th Century London animation

Ever wondered what London looked like centuries ago?  Six students from De Montfort University have created a 3D representation of 17th century London, as it existed before The Great Fire of 1666. The three-minute animation portrays Tudor London, and particularly a section called Pudding Lane, which is where the fire started. As judges noted, “Although most of the buildings are conjectural, the students used a realistic street pattern and even included the hanging signs of genuine inns and businesses.” The signs portrayed have been mentioned in diaries from the period, and the street patterns taken from historical maps of the time.
Their animation saw the De Montfort team was awarded first prize in the Off the Map contest, a competition run by The British Library and video game developers GameCity and Crytek.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembrance Day

Each year the Department of Veterans’ Affairs produces a Remembrance Day poster with a commemorative focus.  This 2009 poster features an image of the Flanders poppies and is overlaid with the text of the poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, In Flanders Fields, and was downloaded from their website.  I have always loved this poem and can remember my father reciting it in the past.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Find My Past

For those of you with subscriptions to Find My Past, there have been some exciting new additions to their website over the past few weeks.  I know what I'll be doing this weekend!

Firstly, Find My Past has put online electoral registers from England and Wales that span the years from 1832 to 1932. In total, this collection consists of some 5.4 million images containing 220 million names. These records can be searched by first name, last name, year, county, constituency and polling district. I love Electoral rolls as they can serve as a valuable supplement to 10-year census records and can be used to trace the address of someone who moved frequently. They can also help to estimate the year of birth and the year of death of an ancestor, as once an individual reached voting age, they tended to stay on the voting list until they died. To estimate the year of birth, simply determine the first time a person appears on the electoral roll. Counting backwards from this year by the minimum voting age provides a reasonable estimate of the year of birth.

Secondly, FindMyPast launched the UK 1939 National Identity Register on Monday 2 November.  Basically, the 1939 National Identity Register, although not a census, did have some similar information to a census, and it was taken on the night of Friday 29 September 1939 just after 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, in case of mass evacuation of the general population and in case rationing was required (which was introduced just a few months later in January 1940). The details recorded in the 1939 National Identity Register include name, address, sex, specific date of birth (not just their age), marital status, occupation and whether the person was a member of the armed forces or reserves. 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. One thing to note is that due to privacy issues, information listed on individuals still alive today will not be included in the database.