Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Transcription Tuesday

Every year, the people at Who Do You Think You Are Magazine hold Transcription Tuesday, where they ask readers to join in indexing and transcribing thousands of unique records throughout the day, helping to make them more widely accessible to researchers across the globe.  This year Transcription Tuesday falls on 4 February.

Whether you can spare a few minutes or a few hours, it's the perfect opportunity to delve into some fascinating documents and give something back to the family history community.
No matter where in the world you live, all you need is a computer, an internet connection and a passion for genealogy.

This year, WDYTYA is partnering with two of the world’s biggest family history websites – FamilySearch and Ancestry, via their free World Archives Project.  They are also working with two smaller projects opening up records of the First World War – the Internment Research Centre and Royal Navy First World War Lives at Sea.

On the magazine’s homepage they have a post with details of Transcription Tuesday and links to the coordinators of all four projects about why they matter and how you can help.

So whether you can spare a few minutes, hours or the whole day, consider taking part in this year’s Transcription Tuesday and help make more records freely available online to researchers everywhere.  You never know what you might find!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 4 - In the news

Newspapers have always been a magnificent resource for filling in the details of our ancestors lives.  Even if you are not fortunate enough to find articles naming your ancestors, newspapers provide the details of life and the events that our ancestors witnessed and perhaps took part in.  Details of city, town and village life are coloured and fleshed out by newspapers.  What shops, services, industry and commerce were located nearby?  What sort of events were held locally that our ancestors may have attended - things like dances and entertainments, church events, hunts, sports and so on.  Newspapers don't just report the huge events that impacted everyone - smaller local newspapers especially gave details of the daily lives and local events our ancestors took part in.

If you are especially lucky, there will be stories and articles that name our ancestors and give details of things that they actually did and events they attended.  Maybe one of our ancestors even wrote to the editor of a paper about a topic or issue they were passionate about.

I have always enjoyed searching through newspapers for articles about my ancestors and over the years an enormous number of old papers have become available online, often for free.

The variety of articles concerning family is amazing.  From trade notices to estate clearances, sporting results to court proceedings, they provide fascinating glimpses into everyday life.  Below are a few examples.

From the Ipswich Journal on Saturday 10 July 1784, my ancestor Christopher Prentice advertised to keep his elected position of Water Bailiff, a post he had held for 6 years.

William Hart, an innkeeper, advertised his new venture in the Ipswich Journal on Saturday 2 January 1796.

Isaac Green served as a judge for the local ploughing matches, reported in the Essex Standard on Friday 13 October 1837.

Estate and probate notices were common, either advertising to resolve claims and demands on the estate or giving details of the sale of assets.  Here Susannah, the widow of Mr John Noble, advertises in the Essex Standard on Friday 4 October 1850 to resolve her husband's estate.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Goodbye to the Rootsweb Mailing Lists

Those of you who have been researching your family history for a while will probably remember the Rootsweb Mailing Lists fondly.  A decade of more ago they were extremely popular - a great place to ask questions, seek help and make contact with others researching your family.  There were thousands of lists - covering countries, states and counties, specific topics and local areas.  Over the years I have used many of them.

More recently the lists have faded somewhat, replaced by Facebook groups, and as a result many of the Rootsweb Mailing Lists have become inactive.  Finally Ancestry, who have owned Rootsweb since June 2000, have made the decision to close the lists down.

The following is an annoucement from RootsWeb 
"Beginning March 2nd, 2020 the Mailing Lists functionality on RootsWeb will be discontinued. Users will no longer be able to send outgoing emails or accept incoming emails.  Additionally, administration tools will no longer be available to list administrators and mailing lists will be put into an archival state.
Administrators may save the email addresses in their list prior to March 2nd. After that, mailing list archives will remain available and searchable on RootsWeb.
As an alternative to RootsWeb Mailing Lists, Ancestry message boards are a great option to network with others in the genealogy community. Message boards are available for free with an Ancestry registered account.
Thank you for being part of the RootsWeb family and contributing to this community.
Sincerely, The RootsWeb team."
The discontinuation of the mailing lists is the end of an era, and highlights how much the way we research changes over time.  As the Ancestry Message Boards and various Facebook Groups and Google Hangouts take over, the old Mailing Lists have dropped in usage and popularity to the point where the owners have decided their day is past.  Over a number of years they have served good purpose, however, and I for one will miss them.  To all those people I have contact on the Lists over the years, to all the administrators who kept the lists running smoothly and for free, thank you for your time, your help and you enthusiasm.

Friday, January 17, 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

  • Transcription Tuesday
    How you can be a family history hero on 4 February
  • Death record success
    Transform your family tree with 10 expert tips from WDYTYA? researcher Laura Berry
  • Mayflower 400th anniversary
    Uncover your links to the pilgrims who settled the USA
  • Reader story
    John Porter discovered a high-society scandal in his family tree
  • Harsh winters
    How our ancestors coped with the cold
  • Plus...
    The best websites for tracing clergyman ancestors; understanding Charles Booth's London poverty maps; the lives of dockers, and much more...
Around Britain
  • Kent
    The best resources for finding family in the south-east of England

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 3 - Unusual Name

In today's climate of unusual names and odd spelling, I sometimes look back through my family records and see an endless stream of the same names - David, Peter, Robert, Arthur, John and William for the men and Susannah, Mary, Isabelle, Anne and Elizabeth for the women.  Even the majority of the surnames in my family are fairly common - Green, Clark, Pike, Argent and so on.

Such 'common' names create their own brand of problems when I am researching.  When there are 3 'David Mulholland's arriving in Australia within a year or so of each other, I have to dig deeper to determine which one is mine.  When two of those David Mulhollands marry women named Eliza, things stay complicated.  When I have 4 generations in a row of direct ancestors named John Argent (all of whom were millers), keeping each one straight can be difficult.

Unusual names can be simpler to trace because it is less likely there will be multiple people with the name to sort through.  My mother's maiden name is Pummeroy.  When her 3xGreat grandfather arrived in Australia in the 1840's he started spelling the name this way (instead of the more usual Pomeroy) the family were the only ones with this particular spelling - so whenever I see that spelling I am pretty confident the person will fit into my tree somewhere.  Beseler is another fairly unusual name in Australia - a German family I am descended from arriving in the country in the mid 1800s.

The problem with such unusual names is that they tend to be more frequently misspelled.  If you want to be creative in how you spell Green, there really isn't too much you can do.  Beseler allows much greater scope.  One 's' or two, one 'l' or two, one or two 'z' instead of the 's', miss the middle 'e' - on my grandfather's death certificate his mother, Eliza Beseler is listed as Eliza Sezler!  While search engines today can be quite flexible with spelling variations these days (I always make sure any option for exact spelling only is not active) there are limits to what they will pick up.  For my more unusual names especially, multiple searches may be necessary to locate what I am looking so.

Sometime I find saying the name out loud helps, especially if I try it with a bit of an accent (be careful where you do this).  Keeping a record of all the spelling variations you have already come across can also be helpful, and may give you hints of how other names in your family may have been incorrectly recorded.

Also keep in mind the possibilities with nicknames, abbreviations and  aliases.  Some people in your family may have changed their names to fit better when they moved to a new country - my German "Lizabetta" became Elizabeth, her sister Susetta became Susan.  Another ancestor Elizabeth May was better known as Betsy, and it is as Betsy Green (after her marriage) that she appears in census records and on her death certificate.  Carl Friedrich Beseler, born in 1810 in Germany, soon becomes Frederick Beseler after he emigrates to Australia - dropping his first name and Anglicizing his middle name.

Finally, it can be the more unusual names that we remember most clearly - the ones who stand out from the 'James Clark's and 'Henry Pike's that turn up, generation after generation, filling the many branches in my family tree.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 2 - First and Last

First and last could be so many things - oldest and youngest child, first and last marriage, first and last day at school or work, first and last holiday, and more.

Taking a somewhat different slant on the topic, I have been reflecting on my first and last (or perhaps most recent) visit to the Public Records Office of Victoria for research.  Those two visits, roughly 30 years apart (suddenly I feel old), could not have been more different.

My first visit to the PROV occurred back in 1989, during my first year at University.  I had been researching my family history on a fairly casual level for a few years already, although while still in high school and living some 200km from the city actual research was less a priority.  I had written and spoken to several relatives about their knowledge of names and dates, and had a notebook full of family stories.  Facts and dates were recorded in another notebook, all jumbled in no particular order, written down as they were related to me by various relatives.  I had yet to discover things like family group sheets and research logs, and had very little methodology to my research. 

I was having a great deal of fun, however, and found the many family stories I was hearing absolutely fascinating.  Often when I heard a story from one member of the family I would immediately go to someone else involved in the same incident and ask for their view - and then I would have to reconcile the two different accounts.  Often there would be discrepancies in accounts - different dates and sequences of events, and I would have to dig deeper to resolve them.

That first visit to the PROV was eye opening in many ways.  A very patient lady introduced me to the basics of proper record keeping and filing, showed me how to use a microfishe reader, and introduced me to a variety of records held by the PROV.  I think my (relatively) young age and enthusiasm for family history influenced her to be far more tolerant of my lack of organisation that she would otherwise have been - and I was hooked.  Over the next few years as I undertook my degree in secondary teaching and librarianship, I haunted the PROV Reading Room and started to compile several folders of records.  Long before many records were available online, living in Melbourne and having access to the PROV, the State Library and other archives made a huge difference to my research.

My last visit to the PROV could not have been more different. It was conducted only a few days ago, from the comfort of my living room, via computer.  Without even having to leave home I accessed wills, inquests into deaths, shipping indexes and more.  I downloaded digitised records and made notes of records to request prior to my next visit to the PROV Reading Rooms.  It truely brought home to me just how much the way we research has changed over the years, and how many records are now available at our fingertips.  Even when the records are not yet available online, the internet has still made visiting the PROV in person so much easier.  There are explanations of records online and the ability to order in the items I want to view, cutting down on waiting time and maximising valuable research hours.

So my first and last visits to the Public Records Office of Victoria were totally different, not just in how I accessed records but also in how I viewed them, how I approached them and how I recorded them.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Irish Lives Remembered

The latest edition of Irish Lives Remembered, a free online magazine about Irish Genealogy, is now available.


  • Dame Barbara Windsor’s Irish Ancestry: The Collins Family from Cork City by Fiona Fitzsimons;
  • The Broderick Surname in Ireland by Paul MacCotter;
  • Who Needs Genetic Cousins Anyway? by Maurice Gleeson;
  • Defenders of the Sun: The “Divine Twins” in Ancient Irish Mythology by Eamonn "Ned" Kelly;
  • Money, Mountain Dew, and Murder: Illicit Poitín Distillation in Ireland During the 1920s. PART 4. "Begad, We Have the Wrong Man Got” by Stephen Peirce;
  • Excerpt of True to Ireland: Éire’s ‘conscientious objectors’ in New Zealand in World War II (2019, The Cuba Press) by Peter Burke. 

Regular columns: 

  • Dear Genie (Our Genealogists help you with your research block)
  • Photodetective (Jayne Shrimpton analyses one of your family photos)
  • Patrick's Page (Patrick Roycroft deals with a client at the Irish Family History Centre)
  • FMP Roundup (Niall Cullen lets us know of the new Irish genealogy records that have been added to Findmypast)

Saturday, January 4, 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
  • 50 websites to watch
    Our annual look at the exciting year ahead for family historians
  • Getting the most from professional researchers
    What you need to know before paying for genealogy services
  • The Victorian roots of vegetarianism
    Thinking of going veggie for January? We trace the diet back to social reformers of the 19th century
  • Reader story
    'Richard III was buried in my ancestor's back garden!' says Mandy Webb
  • Eureka moment
    How Steve Cogging used genealogy to claim Irish citizenship
  • Plus...
    The best websites for taking your family tree back to the 18th century; understanding Scottish Poor Law records; the lives of furriers, and much more...
Around Britain
  • County Durham
    The best resources for finding family in the historic mining county

Thursday, January 2, 2020

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 1 - Beginning

We all begin our research at various times in our lives and for various reasons.  For me, family history research began quite early, when I was just 16.  History was my favourite subject at school, and when I picked up a book on genealogy in my local library, I was hooked immediately and started asking my parents loads of questions, the bulk of which they couldn't answer.

I am still surprised by how little my parents knew about their families and even their parents, especially my father.  He didn't know much, and both his parents had passed away, his mother before I was born and his father when I was very young.  What was his mother's maiden name?  No idea.  "Never came up", he said.  His grandparents names?  Dates and places?  He knew very little other that that his parents had married in England before moving to Australia, and his father came from Essex.  So Dad's elder siblings were my best source of information, and I wrote numerous letters over the next few years.  Looking back I realise how much easier it is today, with the internet, online records and email providing fast - sometimes immediate - answers.  Beginning my research back in the 1980's was a much slower process, especially as with Dad's side of the family I was researching overseas immediately.

My mother's side of the family was both harder and easier.  My maternal grandmother was still alive when I started my research and she was a wonderful source of information, although again her knowledge of details was rather hit and miss.  She came from another big family, one of a dozen children with a couple of half siblings as well.  Having that extra generation to question made starting my research much easier, as well as the fact that my maternal ancestors had been in Victoria, Australia for a few generations.  It was when I went back further that life got harder - my paternal ancestors are all English, but on the maternal side I have Irish, Scottish and German as well, and I quickly discovered these could be harder to trace.  My one year of high school German was not much help at all with deciphering old handwritten German records.

Looking back, I can also see the many mistakes and research errors I made during those early years.  I was still in High School, I had done no training in Genealogical research methods, and basically made it all up as I went along, recording details as I uncovered them haphazardly in a series of notebooks.  I accepted family stories and legends as completely correct, I didn't record where I found a number of documents, and a couple of times I incorrectly assumed a family relationship based on data that fit 'well enough' and spent months chasing a family that wasn't actually related.  Much of the work I did back then had to be redone years later and started researching with a bit more methodology.

It wasn't all wasted effort, however, and I found myself with copies of photographs that have since disappeared, and with notebooks full of stories and memories of family members who have since passed away.  In several cases VERIFYING those stories exposed inaccuracies or added details, but had I not made such an early beginning in family history I would have missed out on those stories completely.