Saturday, December 28, 2019

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2020

Over the past few years I have participated in a few 52 Ancestors challenges, so this year I have decided to set my own weekly topics and write about them.  Some will be repeat topics from earlier challenges, and some will be my own creations, but I am hoping to keep up with my weekly topics throughout the year.

I have greatly enjoyed the challenges I have done in past years.  The various topics have made me think, prompted me to revisit different areas of my research and dig through old documents and photographs in search of a particular detail to include in a post.

So as 2019 draws to a close I have made up a list of 52 topics to post about each week in 2020.  If anyone out there would like to take part and send their own posts on my topics,  please feel free.  Your own interpretation of each topic is entirely up to you.

For January, the topic prompts will be :

  • Week 1 (Jan 1-7): Beginning
  • Week 2 (Jan 8-14): First and Last
  • Week 3 (Jan 15-21): Unusual Name
  • Week 4 (Jan 22-28): In the Paper
  • Week 5 (Jan 29-Feb 4): DNA

Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is almost upon us once more (where HAS the year gone??).  The tree is up, the cat has been extracted from the tree (several times), gifts have been wrapped, cards written and sent, decorations placed around the house and a CD of carols plays in the background.  Toys have been donated to the local toy drive and I have had a marvellous afternoon being a helper at a Sensitive Santa for special needs children.  The festive season is upon me.

So now it is time for a rummage in the DVD cupboard for one of my family's favorite Christmas traditions - on Christmas Eve we will watch 'The Muppet's Christmas Carol'.

It is a tradition that we have had since I was a child and we watched it one Christmas on TV.  Much searching from my mother produced a video of the Carol and a tradition was born.  My sister and I soon knew the entire movie off by heart, but even as teenagers the tradition of watching "The Muppet's Christmas Carol' on Christmas Eve prevailed.  It continued as we became adults and spent Christmas with our parents, was tolerated by baffled partners and friends, and after our parents passed was continued by my sister and I.

When the original video wore out and DVDs became the norm, another search was undertaken and a copy located on DVD.  Two years ago I came across it again on disc while on holiday and promptly purchased it as a backup, much to the amusement of several fellow travellers who were promptly filled in on the importance of this simple movie.  That night, even though it was April, seven adults sat around a hotel TV and watched 'The Muppet's Christmas Carol'.

Every family has their own way of celebrating special occasions, and this one is ours.  So as many other families settle down to watch Christmas Carols on TV on Christmas Eve, my sister and I will be happily ensconced in my living room, with drinks and mince pies on hand, once again watching "The Muppet's Christmas Carol'.  We will both enjoy it to the hilt.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Hidden treasures at the PROV

It is remarkable what you can find when you look around and don't follow your normal lines of research, as I discovered this week.

While looking for something completely different I discovered that the Public Records Office of Victoria, a website I visit regularly, contained a hidden treasure.  Normally when I go to the PROV website, I proceed straight to their Online Collections page to explore records which have been digitised.  It is only when I am planning a visit to the PROV Reading Rooms (for me a 200+ km trip each way, so I don't get there very often) that I go further afield to order records to have available to view when I visit.

It was while exploring these undigitised records that I discovered that the PROV has been quietly working on digitising their collection of Coroner's Inquests into Deaths.  While the entire collection is not yet available online, considerable progress has been made and more years are added to the online database as the work is done.  As the project is not yet complete there is nothing listed on the PROV's Online Collections page yet.

An inquest is a legal inquiry held to establish the exact medical cause of death of an individual in certain circumstances. Where the inquest found a death was the result of a crime, it could also commit an accused for trial.  The inquest records relate to deaths that occurred when a person died suddenly, was killed, died whilst in prison, drowned, died whilst a patient in an asylum, or was an infant ward of the state and died under suspicious circumstances, among other circumstances.  The PROV holds inquest records up until 2003 with records up until 1985 on open access. From 1986 onwards the records are closed to the public and to access these records you will need to make a request to the Coroners Court.

Currently the years between 1840 and 1961, and between 1972 and 1985 are available online, with work still progressing on the 1962 to 1971 records.  So I spent an exciting hour or so putting in names to see what came out.  I am now wading through the results of no less that 8 Coroner's Inquests into the deaths of various family members, from Edward Beseler who died in the Ararat Lunatic Asylum  in 1918 of senility and heart failure to Mary Gray Pummeroy who died at the Alfred Hospital in 1886 as a child from burns accidentally received.

When next I have a spare hour or so I will have a good rummage around on the PROV website to see what other treasures I have been missing because I don't explore the website thoroughly - and I'll be having a closer look at other websites where I normally proceed straight to a certain point and don't pay enough attention to new additions and developments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

GEDmatch in the News Again

For those of you who have been following the ongoing issues of Genealogical DNA testing, access and law enforcement, there is a new development you should be aware of.  On December 9 it was announced that GEDmatch had been acquired by San Diego based forensics genomics company Verogen.

I have been following this issue for some months now, through the media and the posts of Judy Russell, who blogs as the Legal Genealogist.  To read Judy's latest post on the acquisition of GEDmatch, click here.

While the original founders of GEDmatch and the new owners Verogen have both stressed that it will be business as usual for the GEDmatch database, as well as highlighting the advantages of the buyout for users, the fact remains that Verogen's core business is serving law enforcement.  As a for-profit company, there is no point in purchasing a (formerly not-for-profit) company unless that purchase serves their needs.

As Judy points out, we will now have to wait and see just how much GEDmatch continues to serve its original genealogical purpose, or whether it becomes more of an entry point for law enforcement to access user data for criminal investigations.  There will be a number of people, however, who choose to withdraw their data from the GEDmatch database now it is owned by Verogen.

In addition to the buyout itself, GEDmatch users had no advance notice that an acquisition was in the winds, and were not notified about it by email. The buy-out came to light only when users trying to log in to the site were presented with a new set of terms and conditions, and given the option of either accepting those new T&Cs or deleting their GEDmatch registration and removing all data from the GEDmatch servers.

There is also the wider fallout to consider, as the negative publicity generated by GEDmatch flows on to the whole concept of genealogical DNA testing.  Will people hear about these issues and be put off doing ANY testing, even with completely separate companies like Ancestry or 23 and Me?  I will certainly be keeping a close eye on any changes to the terms and conditions of any DNA testing company that holds my data.  Not to mention keeping a close eye on the news.

Monday, December 9, 2019

New English and Welsh Death Records Online

The General Register Office (GRO) has updated its online index to cover all deaths registered in England and Wales from 1984 to 2019.
The minimum information required for searching the index is the deceased’s surname, gender and year of death within two years. The free indexed entries give their full name, year of birth, registration district and GRO reference number. You can then order a full certificate online at a standard cost of £11.

Previously the GRO’s death index only covered the years 1837 to 1957. The new addition will still leave a gap of 27 years in the index, although deaths up to 2007 can be searched on other family history websites.