Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Genealogy Do-Over: Reset this blog?

Thomas MacEntee's proposal of a Genealogy Do-Over starting 2 January 2015 and continuing for 13 weeks is one which has captured the imagination of nearly 1,000 people (probably more since writing).  I am one of those 1,000.  I relish the idea of doing a virtual reset on my research.  I'm tired of sitting dully in front of my monitor and wondering which ancestor to pick (again), only to find out that he/she is the brickwall I looked at last time.  I want to make sure my methodology is sure, but most of all I want to get my motivation back.

And then I looked at this blog.  I remember, when I started it back in 2010, how excited I was.  My first post was:

"This blog is intended to be an extension to my ancestor-spotting records at home of names, dates and places.  It is going to be the place where I put my family history.  Anecdotes, snippets of information, quotes, pictures - and even some chapters of book(s) I am writing on the surnames that appear in my family tree."

And, at first, I loved this blog.  It made me reduce my scattergun approach, since I was writing about one ancestor at a time.  It revived personal memories of parents and grandparents that I thought I had forgotten.  There was the joy of exploration as I delved into daily and weekly memes, like Sorting Saturday, Maritime Monday and Way Back Wednesday.  I loved Challenges such as Fearless Females, the A-Z Challenge, and the Family History Writing Challenge. In fact, it gave my genealogical research a 'reset', something like Thomas MacEntee is suggesting.

But soon I came to realise that, despite the courageous goals of my first post, I didn't have many anecdotes.  I didn't have many pictures to share.  And slowly the appeal of having a genealogy blog lessened until the gaps between posts could be measured in weeks rather than days.  I felt I couldn't give up because of all my followers, the thousands of views of my blog, and the few special friends I have made through blogging (you know who you are).  I still love this blog, but the excitement has dimmed somewhat.

So this Do-Over is going to give me 13 weeks of serious contemplation about what I want for this blog.  What is its future?  Does it even have a future? (There.  I've said it.)

Please let me know what you think.  I need input on this one.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Getting ready for the Genealogy Do-Over

I have been 'doing genealogy' for 35+ years (and it shows).  I love organising and making lists (and lists of lists, and so on).  So the idea of a 'Genealogy Do-Over', as proposed by Thomas MacEntee, filled my ecstatic little OCD mind with visions of checklists and office supplies (and more office supplies) and folders and sub-folders and sub-sub-folders on my hard drive.  I salivated at the concept.  Then I put some thought into it, and began my prep (most of which was already done, anyway, and I just had to create a virtual/cardboard box.

  • located all my vital records certificates and put them away in acid-free pockets in binders
  • separated out the digital versions into their own folders
  • created surname folders
  • made sure there were no digital photos named 'img1024.jpg' or similar
  • redeemed my coupon for three months' free Evernote Premium
  • thoroughly researched different softwares

Ha ha! Fooled you!

Now let's talk reality here.  Here are my responses to the above checklist:
  • where did I put that binder? did I remember to order the acid-free pockets...I'm sure I did...
  • wow...look at that...they were both 18 when they married...now where's my link to Google Earth and I can look at the actual church...
  • create surname folders...this one's easy...[phone rings...and again]...now I've ended up with three folders for the same surname...how did that happen?
  • 'img4073.jpg'? you mean I have to go through 4073 photos and rename each one?
  • the deadline hasn't gone past yet...phew...whaddya mean, it has?
  • researched different softwares: check.  But I think I'll stay with the one I know, then I can afford to keep playing games on social media...
I'm not in a mess.  I'm not in a mess.  [I have to keep repeating that, to try and convince myself.]  But my motivation has disappeared, and my methodology seems to be along the lines of "let's see how fast we can get this done...[distracted by another website] ooh, SHINY..."

So my Do-Over mantra is going to be: SLOW DOWN and see what you missed along the way.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2014: The Meaning of Christmas

This one always amuses me.  People who firmly deny any sort of religion in their lives still sing happily about a Saviour being born in Bethlehem.  They completely refuse to believe in Christ, yet large supermarket chains sell nativity scenes made of wood or china (and they have rapidly found that, if you put the word 'Christmas' in front of something ordinary, like 'pudding', 'biscuits', 'TV', or ''CD', you can charge almost what you like for it).

I love the tinsel and baubles and music.  I love the food which you can't get at any other time of year.  I love the bargains, deals, and sales (who doesn't?).  I love poinsettias and Christmas cacti.  But, most of all, I love my Saviour.

I love that He could have stayed where He was, in glory - but He didn't.  He came to experience Earth life so He could relate.  I love that He gave His life for me - because He loves me.

The meaning of Christmas?  Jesus was born.

That single fact is more important than all the tinsel and baubles in the world.  It's more important than getting that last-minute present for Aunty Mary, or paying the electricity bill so you can have all those tree lights. It's more important than remembering to put the sprouts on.  Those things aren't wrong - they're just accessories to the most important thing - Jesus was born.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.     

Monday, 15 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2014: Christmas Tree Decorations

The only tree decoration I remember from my childhood was not a very Christmassy symbol.  It was a small metal purple, silver and blue bird like a peacock (and I don't think there were peacocks worshipping at the manger!), and it had a 'real' fibre tail - like the sort of bristles used on a pastry brush, or in fibre-optics nowadays.
Now the years have come and gone, so have the various tree decorations, but none has stayed, only the memory of that peacock (well, I thought it was a peacock, but then I was tiny).  Nowadays, I prefer the minimalist look anyway.  I'm not a fan of covering a tree's natural beauty with baubles and tinsel.  My own tree has a grand total of 4 glass baubles, 25 tiny coloured lights, and no tinsel whatsoever.  I like to see green!  Gives me more hope that the future will come again, rather than the sparkles and shiny things covering up the ghastly past.

At least, that's how I feel.  At work, I prefer as much sparkle and tinsel as possible to cover up the plainness; but at home, I prefer greenery - and lots of it.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.    

Friday, 12 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2014: Fruitcake - Friend or Foe?

by James Petts via Wikimedia Commons
The Christmas cake I ate as a small child was dark and rich - too rich - so one year my mum found a recipe for Boiled Cake which we used afterwards - it was still a fruitcake, but much lighter. Incidentally, you didn't boil the cake, just the ingredients beforehand... Here is the recipe (makes a big cake for about 12):

Boiled Cake
250ml (8 fl oz) water
900g (2 lb) dried mixed fruit
225g (8 oz) caster sugar (or light muscavado sugar)
170g (6 oz) butter
230g (8 oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten

Boil the water, dried fruit, sugar and butter for about 10 minutes.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and mixed spice into a large bowl.
Pour on the boiled mixture and stir well.
Mix in the eggs.
Pour into a lined loaf tin
Bake for 90 minutes at 150 C or Gas Mark 2
Let stand for 10 minutes

It tastes better about 24 hours after you have baked it! Some cooks like to add elderflower cordial to the water, some use cold tea instead of the water, some add treacle.

[This post originally appeared in 2012 (link here]

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.    

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2014: Christmas Traditions

Traditions, to me, often seem to be either a family thing, or something you share with at least one other person.  I find it quite difficult to start up traditions of my own, since I am on my own.  A tradition isn't a tradition when you are on your own; it's merely a quirk.  Would you agree?

Anyway, here are some of my 'quirks' - or 'traditions':

# I start my Christmas in October!  I love all the sparkle and glitter and just-plain-pretty that accompanies the wonderful spirit.  So I start in October (and often forget to take my tree down until the following April, but that's just because I'm too busy to actually do anything ho ho).  I am only supposed to start decorating at work on 1 December, but I try to sneak in a few unobserved decorations, and I always put my small Nativity scene on my computer, where I can see it.

# I refuse to go into town on the Saturdays in December.  The place is simply heaving.

# I buy myself a present.  I am still wondering about filling a stocking, too.

# I carefully select my Christmas viewing (of DVDs).  This year (2014) I will be watching some I have seen before (White Christmas, the 1st season of The Waltons, A Christmas Carol with Sir Patrick Stewart) and some completely new to me (Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Frozen).

# And, most important of all, I read my scriptures, listen to carols, and do lots and lots of family history.

Can you add to my list? Please?

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.    

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2014: Christmas Crafts

This combines really with yesterday's (non)post about Christmas Shopping.

One year, when we were really hard up, only the ladies in the family got presents, because my mother and I could make those.  A really neat idea! and I was only small, so it didn't seem tawdry.  We got jamjars (the fat little sort), washed them out, then filled them with different coloured cotton-wool balls for removing make-up.  At that time, it was very fashionable to have bobbles on everything, so we stuck small pieces of coloured lace on the lids and put a strip of bobbles around it.


Does that count as craft?

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.    

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2014: Christmas TV and Movies

My memories of Christmas TV and movies when I was a child - I don't have them.  One of the strongest traditions in our family was that the TV stayed switched off on Christmas Day.  When my cousin got older, he was allowed to watch Christmas Top of the Pops (it was a teenage thing).

As I have grown older myself, have moved out, and spent (unfortunately too) many Christmases on my own, I have looked forward to Christmas TV as my main source of entertainment.  Older still, and family history is now my main form of entertainment - so the TV stays switched off again.

The only 'Christmas' movie which I will watch at any time of the year is "A Christmas Carol" - the version with Sir Patrick Stewart as Scrooge.  I admit, I first watched it because I am a Star Trek fan - and he played Captain Picard - but I continue to watch it because he is such a splendid actor.  And he's British!

* This post originally appeared in 2013.  The link to that post is here

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.   

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Father Christmas (not Santa Claus)

I have been looking forward to today's ACCM post, because last year I found an absolutely wonderful picture (thanks, Facebook!), which to me sums up the way we should view Christmas:

It shows us the Baby in the manger being adored by Father Christmas, who is humbly kneeling.  This is how it should be.  Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against the trees and the decorations (in fact, I love them so much, I started in October!).  But what I love the most is the spirit of kindness and generosity - and why is it that this feeling often only seems to come into people's hearts 'but once a year'?  Father Christmas seems to embody the bringing of that feeling - but the source of it is the Saviour, Jesus Christ, and we have been entrusted with the moral agency to continue feeling (and acting) that way.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com

Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: The Christmas Tree

I grew up with artificial trees, so it was natural when I left home and set up my own flat to have an artificial tree myself (and all of my flats have been far too small to cope with anything over a foot tall!). Over the years, artificial trees have improved considerably, so what used to be a rather obviously-plastic one now looks almost real. You often have to touch the needles to check!

"Happy Christmas" by Viggo Johanson
The Christmas tree has not always been with us. Or has it? Check this out from Wikipedia:

"While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originates in Renaissance and early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Martin Luther. Alternatively, it is identified with the "tree of paradise" of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls."

And this from Encyclop├Ždia Britannica: "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."

And from religioustolerance.org: "Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."

I wonder how many of my ancestors had a Christmas tree?

* This post originally appeared in 2012, and again in 2013.  The link to that post is here

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Roll of Honour

 This is a wonderful idea - and makes me all choked whenever I hear of it.

It is an event happening during September, October, and November 2014 to mark 100 years since the beginning of World War One.  Every evening, the Last Post will be played at the Tower of London, and the names of soldiers who died in the War will be read out.  (You write in and nominate names.)

Today I submitted the names of Livingstone MURCH, Angus MURCH (his brother), Eli BALL, and Walter Harold BALL (his brother).  The MURCHes were my 1st cousins 4 times removed on my father's side of the family, and the BALL brothers were my great-uncles on my mother's side.

The moat itself is being filled with 888,246 red ceramic poppies (one for every death in the British forces), and, even at the start was impressive:

UPDATE: The four names were read out on 23 September 2014 at sunset.
Reader: Yeoman Warder Rob Fuller
Last Post: Drummer McKenna

Then came the verse from the poem by Laurence Binyon 'For the Fallen':
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Then the Last Post was played.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Worldwide Indexing Event - Not A Challenge

Yes, I admit it: I haven't done any indexing for over a year.  So this Event was definitely more of a Challenge for me.  What is/was it?

For 24 hours on 20-21 July 2014 (depending on your timezone), indexers around the world were asked to submit a batch.  That was it.  No huge numbers of batches or indexing-for-the-whole-24 (unless, of course, you happened to be our Stake Indexing Director, who is marvellous).  Just one batch, at some point during the 24 hours (whenever was most convenient). 

My batch was taken from the 1866 baptism register for an area of Manchester.  Eight entries. Yes, only eight!, handwritten in clear writing which only made me stop once and have to work out what one letter was.  Took me all of 10 minutes.  And that was it! Date, baby's name, gender, father's name, mother's name.  Of course, there are more difficult ones to do - but only if you want to do them.  And, after doing easy-peasy ones, most people relish the thought of something that takes a few more brain cells.

Now, every time I see an announcement that FamilySearch has released billions more records, I can pat myself on the back and feel a part of it.  But indexing is so much more than my very own pat.  Think of all the deceased persons who now stand a better chance of their records being found.  Think of all the living persons who now stand a better chance of knocking down those genealogical brick walls (you know the ones: where you have been searching for an ancestor for thirty years, and can't find him anywhere).  Now, instead of patting my own back, I really feel as though I am putting my arm around other people's shoulders.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

One month a GOON

Today marks my one-month 'anniversary' of being a GOON.  The dictionary describes a goon as 'a stupid or deliberately foolish person'.  Yes, some would say that describes me perfectly!  But I am a particular kind of goon.  I now belong to the Guild of One-Name Studies; the surname I have elected to study is MURCH.

Indeed, I am already beginning to think I was a 'stupid or deliberately foolish person' to take this one-name study on.  But this is overshadowed by the excitement I feel; the anticipation of great things to come.

[x-posted from murch.org]

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Murch One-Name Study

[Most of this is reposted from my new blog murch.org]

I've done it!  I've taken the first step - or can it be called a giant leap?  I have been researching my own family tree for 37 years, and now I am moving to another level.

Today I became a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies and registered the surname MURCH as the one I am going to research - possibly for the next 37 years.  Oh, that doesn't mean I am going to ignore the names in my own ancestry, but this is branching out in a different way.

A One-Name Study studies - well, one name.  Not a given name like John or Elizabeth, but a surname.  And it doesn't limit itself to one place, either, such as all the John MURCHes in a tiny village in a corner of one county in one country. No, I will be looking for MURCHes everywhere - and I mean everywhere.  As in 'worldwide' everywhere.

*hops from foot to foot in excitement*

Monday, 5 May 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: Reflections on the Challenge


I found this year's A-Z Challenge (2014) to be the most enjoyable.  Not just because of the theme I chose, but because I adopted a different strategy to the other 2 years I have been involved.  It had been suggested to me before - but, this time, I did it!

The strategy:  Although we had Sundays 'off', I chose to use Sunday afternoons to write all the posts for the coming week and schedule them ahead of time.  They were short posts, and I found that, although pictures are pretty, they tend to make the post look horrendously long and you give up reading after one scroll-down.  So mine were short and sweet text-only - and I don't think that any readers were put off because there were no pictures!

Scheduling posts ahead of time meant that I could use the time each day to go and visit other people's blogs.  This is something I failed at miserably in years gone past.  But this time, I managed to visit and leave comments and read comments on my own blog and reply to those comments.  I really felt as though I was participating, rather than 'oh-gosh-I've-got-to-find-the-time-to-write-yet-ANOTHER-post' and 'thank-goodness-it's-over' on April 30.  In fact, on April 30 2014, I felt energised!

The only thing I would say that I found to be awkward was reading people's comments on my own blog, then going to visit them.  There was VERY often no link, so either I clicked on their name, on their profile, on their 'My Blogs' - or went back to the A-Z Challenge site, found them in the linky list, clicked on them -aaargh! So many clicks! So little time!  So little patience!  It should be a rule that everybody makes their own hyperlinked signature, such as
My blog is at <a href=http://genwestuk.blogspot.co.uk/>GenWestUK</a>

It's easy enough to do, and encourages bloggers to go and visit, as all they have to do is click once, and they're there. 

Otherwise: I loved the A-Z Challenge, and look forward to 2015!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: Z is for Zealous

My pocket Thesaurus has these words for zealous:

Dedicated, determined, devoted, enthusiastic, fervent, passionate, vehement.

That's you, isn't it?

And I just want to take a little blog-space to thank all of you who have stuck with me in this year's A-Z Challenge.  Your comments have been a delight to read, and I am very happy to know that you have found my posts so useful.

Now, let's get out there and be zealous about our genealogy! :o)

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: Y is for Ye

We've all heard of this one, haven't we? 'Ye Olde Tea Shoppe' and so on.  But here's a piece of trivia you may not have heard of. (It may not be too 'basic', but I couldn't resist.)  There is no such thing as ye said-with-a-y. 

Have you ever heard of the letter thorn? Because that's what that is.  It's th as in the word thick, and was used in Old English and on into Middle English.  But in about the 14th century, it got replaced with th.  Why the change?  Printing.  Thomas Caxton pioneered the printing press, and the fonts that were brought in from Germany and Italy contained the letter y, but not the letter thorn.  But even when it looked like a Y in writing, it was never pronounced as yuh.  In the first printing of the King James bible in 1611, they had to put Ye in places, but actually meant The.  There were even instances of Yt (which was actually That).  Later printings had the and that.  When people say Ye Olde with a y sound, it's really as a bit of a joke.  And you can now feel so superior, because you know all this trivia!

And the only modern language which still possesses thorn? Icelandic...

Monday, 28 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: X is for eXpert

Yes, that's right, I said eXpert.  Because that's what you are becoming. Because that's what you are.  Don't believe anyone who seems to know it all.  There's always something else to learn.  Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com calls himself a 'genealogy ninja'... (don't you just love that?) It's like the people who say they have traced their ancestry back to Adam and Eve. Yeah, riiiiiight.

So don't be put off and think you are a hopeless case, and you don't know anything.  Everyone starts with a blank piece of paper.  And, since you have been following my posts this month, now you know more than the next guy, don't you?  You know what it means to be half-baptised.  You're starting to save your pennies so you can go to Rootstech next year.  In the meantime, you will be attending webinars, talking to elderly relatives, trying your hand at indexing, formatting your queries - and so on.  Friends and acquaintances will look at you in awe at your new-found knowledge (well, I think it's awe LOL).

And, of course, you will be backing up your data - or syncing it - or both.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: W is for Webinar

Have you heard of webinars?  They are definitely something you will want to look into in your journey of learning more about genealogy.  A webinar is like a seminar - only it's on the internet.  You sit in front of your monitor and watch as a guest presenter talks about a topic while you look at his/her powerpoint presentation. I'm going to take a Legacy webinar as my example, because the word 'free' occurs in many places...

You register for the webinar here.  Legacy's usually take place on a Wednesday, and because of the different time zones, although they hold them during the North American afternoon, that translates into 7pm for me.  They send you a special link, which you click on at the start time, and a webinar usually lasts about 1 1/2 hours.  It is in their (free) archive on the web and can be watched again and again as many times as you like FOR A WEEK.  Then it goes into their paid archive and you have to be a member of their special site at familytreewebinars.com.

Here are some of the topics in April:
7 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists
by Thomas MacEntee. 4/2

Get Organized Using the FamilyRoots Organizer Color Coding System
by Mary Hill. 4/9

Using Probate Records to Solve Genealogical Problems
by Linda Geiger. 4/11

Genealogy Evidence and Online Family Trees
by Karen Clifford. 4/16

The Homestead Act of 1862
by Thomas MacEntee. 4/23

Google Glass and Family History
by Devin Ashby. 4/30

The ones in May:

50 Year View — What I’ve Learned Climbing My Family Tree
by Tom Kemp. 5/7

Photo Apps for Android, iPhones or iPads
by Maureen Taylor. 5/14

I Had My DNA Tested — Now What?
By Ugo Perego. 5/21

Using Tax Lists to Solve Genealogical Problems
by Linda Geiger. 5/28

and a link to a PDF which you can download which tells you all the Legacy webinars during the year: HERE

Friday, 25 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: V is for Vital Statistics

Nowadays, the most common use of the phrase 'vital statisics' is when referring to your waist measurement!  You have also probably heard "check his vitals" when you watch some medically-based TV shows.  But as a genealogist, 'vital statistics' mean something quite different.

'Vital statistics' are births, marriages and deaths.  You may also hear "vital records" or "BMDs" and they are often kept by civil registration.  Civil registration began in this country (UK) in 1837 and still continues (Sweden began theirs in 1631). This is what provides birth, marriage and death certificates. I wrote about certificates in my A-Z Challenge 2012 post here,    Back then in 2012, FreeBMD had transcribed over 214 million records (of references you need to order a certificate).  Two years later, and it is over 302 million. 

In 1837, some people were wary of registering vital events in their lives, in case they were going to be taxed (well, that's not such a stupid idea; there had already been weird things like hair powder tax, window tax, and dice tax).  In fact, it was not until 1875 that it became compulsory to register, and unfortunately some errors have crept into the registers over the years, which is why you may find some difficulty occasionally when searching.

And it's the searching where this years 'back to genealogy basics' comes in.  When you are looking for an ancestor, don't expect to find the exact village in civil registration indexes.  Villages, towns and cities were organised into registration districts, so for instance the village of South Pool is in the Kingsbridge Registration District.  My ancestor wasn't born in Kingsbridge!  Don't let that lead you down the wrong path.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: U is for Uncle

Uncle.  Everybody knows what an uncle is, right?  A male relative, who is the brother of your direct ancestor.  But did you know that 'uncle' was used much more extensively in the last century?

I remember (when I was small) having an 'Uncle George'.  When I got older, and began researching my family history, I wasted precious months trying to find a 'George' in my mother or father's family who would qualify as my uncle.  It turned out that he was no blood relation at all - he was a family friend, and my parents always considered it polite for small children to address male family friends as 'Uncle'.  (I had an 'Aunty Joyce' as well...)

This confusion can extend to earlier times, as well.  Say you are looking at a census, and there is a four-year-old son-in-law.  ?  Well, the term 'son-in-law' was often used in place of where today we would say 'stepson'.  So, keep alert, and 'never say never'...

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: T is for Transcript

You know when you search on a website and it offers you the choice: original image or transcript?  Of course, you will always go for the original image - but don't ignore the transcript.  Transcripts are word-for-word written out (or typed out) versions of the original image.  So when you merrily click on "original image" and find that the handwriting is just too spiky or flowery for you to read - breathe thanks for a transcript.

A "bishop's transcript" is a copy of the original parish register.  From 1598, each parish had to make a yearly copy of all the entries and forward this to the bishop.  Sometimes these can be useful if the parish register was accidentally destroyed or too difficult to read.  You are more likely to find these "bishop's transcripts" earlier rather than later, since the practice tended to fizzle out during the 19th century.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: S is for Sources

Right from the word 'go', always quote your source.  What is a source?

Well, briefly put, it is where you found the information.  You note it down so that someone else can go to the place you mentioned, see what you found, and match it with their own documentation.  You note it down so that, later, you can see several seemingly-conflicting pieces of information and make a judgment call as to which is more likely to be real/true.  For example:

Example A: John Smith is baptised on 1 January 1795, source - a book somebody wrote in 1995 about the SMITH name, mentioning John in passing  

Example B: John Smith is baptised on 2 February 1790, source - church baptismal register of 1790

Now, which would be more confidence-inspiring to you?  The book, written two hundred years after the fact, which only mentions him in passing? Or the official baptismal register, written at the time, probably by the man who actually got his fingers wet at the font and had to sharpen his quill in order to write?  The very worst thing that could happen is that you look at your computer program, where it just says 'John SMITH, bap 3 June 1797' (with no source given) - and you wonder where on earth you found THAT information.  (And, of course, you don't throw away the reference to the book.  You put it in your notes, in case you want to refer to the book later.  You just don't necessarily use it as the one-and-only source.)

And, believe me, it is so much easier to cite your sources right from the word 'go', rather than realising when you have been researching for ten years that you now have to remember what you were doing ten years ago and write several thousand sources...

Monday, 21 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: R is for Rootstech

Rootstech is a family history conference (one of the biggest there is).  It is held in North America (usually in Salt Lake, Utah) during February.  Some of the sessions are streamed live AND FREE over the Internet - I am so glad, because there is no way I could afford the plane fare and the entrance fee!  As its name suggests, it's all about genealogy/family history and technology; what's out there now, and what we can expect to come.  Even if you do not consider yourself very techno-savvy, it's worth either attending or viewing Rootstech.  Here are some of the stats for Rootstech 2013, taken from its site:
  • Over 6,700 registered attendees from 49 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, and 23 additional countries.
  • 13,600+ views of live-streaming sessions on RootsTech.org.
  • 100+ bloggers from Australia, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It caters for every level of genealogist.  Even if you are just starting out, there is a set of 30 beginner classes where the fee is $19 (about 11 GBP).  Some of the streamed-live-free sessions in 2014 included:
Top 10 Things I Learned About My Family from My Couch by Tammy Hepps
FamilySearch Family Tree: What's New and What's Next by Ron Tanner
Intro to DNA for Genealogists by James Rader
Genealogy in the Cloud by Randy Hoffman
Sharing Your Family with Multimedia by Michael LeClerc
Storytelling Super Powers: How to Come Off as Your Family's Genealogy Hero by David Adelman
Tweets, Links, Pins, and Posts: Break Down Genealogical Brick Walls with Social Media by Lisa Alzo
Getting the Most Out of Ancestry.com by Crista Cowen
Finding Family and Ancestors Outside the USA with New Technologies by Daniel Horowitz
Do It Yourself Photo Restoration by Ancestry Insider
Become an iPad Power User by Lisa Louise Cooke
Information Overload: Managing Online Searches and Their Results by D. Josh Taylor
A Beginner’s Guide to Going Paperless by Randy Whited
How to Interview Yourself for a Personal History by Tom Taylor
Five Ways to Do Genealogy in Your Sleep by Deborah Gamble
[info from the familiysearch.org website]

and, of course, plenty of classes, seminars, and an expo hall to wander around for those who were fortunate enough to get there in person.  See what I mean?  Something for everybody.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: Q is for Queries

Queries.  Something else we all have (as well as the 'kith and kin' I posted about a while back).  But what is the best way of getting someone to answer them?

These are guidelines (some lists make them into hard-and-fast rules).  Say you belong to a mailing list.  I belong to the devon-l @ rootsweb.com list.  They even have an item within their FAQ which gives you some guidance on how to frame the sort of query which will get looked at.  It all starts with the subject line.  Whatever you do, don't have a subject line which only says something like 'help' or 'my brickwall ancestor'.  The reason is that there are several very Kind Souls who are only to happy to help if they can, but they belong to several mailing lists and need to be able to pick out the ones where they might be able to help, while deleting the ones with the ghastly subject lines above.  After all, the one which says merely 'help' could be asking 'what type of lawn mower should I buy?', couldn't it.  So you would put in the ancestor's name (surname in CAPITALS), dates, place: like

John DOE, b 1785 Alphington, Devon

And in the body of the message, Devon-L recommends " Incidentally, it is always a good idea to include with any query to the DEVON mailing list a brief indication of what searches of online and conventional sources you have already made. This is in order to avoid your receiving, and other respondents wasting effort providing, information that you are already familiar with."

Friday, 18 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: P is for Parish Registers

You have traced your ancestors back using birth, marriage, and death certificates - which go back to 1837. 
You have followed them through the censuses - the ones useful to the genealogist are 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911 (bearing in mind any privacy rules).

So, where do you go next?  The answer is today's letter: P is for Parish Registers.  These were records of baptism, marriage, and burial.  There MIGHT (I repeat 'might') be birthdates in there.  There MIGHT be other tidbits of information in there.  But your main expectations should be the church rites: baptism, marriage, and burial.

You will (hopefully) have got an idea of which parish to look at from your earlier searches in the civil records and the censuses.  Now download a small freeware program called Parish Locator which will show you lists per county and parishes within a radius of another parish.  If you are fortunate enough to have relatives in Devon or Cornwall, there is a thriving OPC community (Online Parish Clerks, whose objective is to collect genealogical records and may have what you are seeking; a link to Devon is here, and Cornwall is here).  Or, if you are REALLY fortunate, you may have relatives in South Devon and can go here - the South Hams Resources pages, which contain transcriptions of many parish registers.  Happy hunting!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: O is for ONS

Here come those pesky abbreviations again! ONS can mean Office of National Statistics or (Guild of) One-Name Studies - and probably other things.  But I'm going to talk about the Office of National Statistics - because this is really basic.

This is where those certificates come from.  Birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates.  And don't believe the hype of the big paid-for family history websites, who offer to get them for you.  They are charging three times as much as it costs to get them yourself.

First: go to FreeBMD.  You are looking for the reference number for the certificate you want (and it's free, as the name suggests).  It will look something like this: March quarter 1960, Hackney 5b 240.  I wrote a more detailed post on certificates back in the A-Z Challenge for 2012 here. If you don't have this reference number, you can still order the certificate, but things might take longer.

Then you can order the certificate online here.  Easier, online, and cheaper!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: N is for Nonconformists

You've looked everywhere for that elusive brickwall ancestor.  Sudden thought: was he/she a nonconformist?  Didn't want to 'conform' to the Church of England, so - you little rebel, you! Became a Protestant, a Puritan, a Dissenter  - and later inclusions were Presbyterians, Congregationalists (also known as Independents), Baptists, Methodists, Plymouth Brethren, Quakers, Moravians and more. At first, Nonconformists were banned from holding military office, going to university, or holding civil office (like becoming an MP).

But I'm sure our ancestors were grateful for the 1689 Act of Toleration, which (among other things) meant they didn't have to pay a fine for not having attended Church-of-England church on Sunday!

So where can you find records of baptisms, marriages and burials when your ancestor was a Nonconformist?  Try going here: BMDRegisters.co.uk - at least, for the UK.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: M is for Monumental Inscription

I wrote about these in 2012 (see post here), but as they are so fundamental, they are one of the "genealogy basics" I am covering in the 2014 A-Z Challenge.

Monumental inscriptions (or MIs - there's another abbreviation for you!) are the writings you find on a gravestone.  They can often be more revealing and informative than a death certificate.  Why? Because a death certificate usually gives information about one deceased person only (and any other information is what you pick and glean from it).  But a monumental inscription, especially those from way back when, may actually be a tombstone of a whole family.  At least, their names and dates are recorded there.  Say the stone is recording the death/burial of John Smith.  (It may also include his age and/or birthdate.)  Plus "his beloved wife Anna".  Plus his daughter Jane.  Plus his son James.

If there is enough room, there might also be a quote from the Bible, or a quip such as "I told you I was ill"...

Monday, 14 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: L is for Legacy

You have a computer.  Well, you at least have access to one - that's how you are reading this!  So do you keep all your genealogical information on sticky notes or pieces of paper, scattered around the room?  Do you have a binder, with archival-quality plastic pockets?  Well, the second one may be OK when you only have a few names and dates - and the first one is often, I'm afraid, how most genealogists end up.

But to really organise things you need a computer - and a computer standalone program.  When I say 'standalone', I mean a program which sits on your computer at home and keeps your records, independent of online family trees.  They may be great for 'cousin bait', but I would not put my tree 'up there' and keep it as my only record.  What happens when there is an electrical storm and the Internet is down?

So which program do you choose?  It is down to personal preference.  Try before you buy - most of the genealogy software sites have a free trial copy for you to experiment with. Some people swear by RootsMagic Essentials (free).  Some like Ancestral Quest Basics (also free; Personal Ancestral File or PAF was developed from this one).  But my favourite is LEGACY.  You can download it - and it's another free one - and keep your records in it.  If you want the DeLuxe version, you can spend money on upgrading later on.  I prefer it to the other two I have mentioned because AQ looks a little flat and isn't so colourful, and RM doesn't show stepchildren in one family group (and for me, there was a noticeable learning curve).  Legacy is colourful, shows stepchildren, and does so much more, it is delightful. 

I would thoroughly recommend Legacy (and I'm not getting paid to recommend them, either.  At least, not at the time of writing, I'm not).  And once you have downloaded it, check out their free webinars as well!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: K is for Kith and Kin

Kith and Kin.  We've all got 'em - friends and relatives.  But sometimes you look at the names on your piece of paper/in your genealogy program and wonder - how am I related to that particular person?  For that, you need a relationship calculator.  That's all right if you are using a genealogy program on your computer, because most of them have the necessary calculator.  But what if you are using paper and pencil?  It's probably best if you start off by learning how which person is related to you.

Here is a relationship chart.  This particular one was designed originally by Alice J Ramsay in 1987,and I was able to copy it because it falls under the Creative Commons Attribution - NoDerivs 2.5 licence.

Friday, 11 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: J is for Jargon

I could just as easily have put this post under "W is for Weird Words"... Genealogy has a language all its own, just like most occupations, pursuits, or leisure activities.  I'm not talking a foreign language here
(although Latin does play a significant part).  I'm talking about specialist words and abbreviations.

Words (and acronyms) tend to be ones you learn along the way, and make for interesting discoveries.
  • LDS = Latter Day Saints or Mormons, who provide FamilySearch, indexing, and Family History Centres. 
  • BTs = Bishop's Transcripts = a copy of the vicar's registers, which can be very useful if the originals have been destroyed by accident. 
  • OPC = Online Parish Clerk = a person who has volunteered to collect as much genealogical data as they can about a certain parish (and their help is free, too).  Learn more about them here.
  • TIA = Thanks In Advance = don't forget to say thank you to the OPC!
Abbreviations are the ones which trip you up, not because they are difficult to remember, but because you need to remember NOT to use them in certain situations.  Why?  Because different abbreviations mean different things in different countries.  My favourite is one which a friend and I found on one of the larger paid-for websites.  It was a set of census records, where the enumerator had written the birthplace as "Taunton, Som."  Now, to a UK person, that means "Taunton, Somerset" (town, county).  But the transcription had been provided by someone in another country; and the transcription?

"Taunton, Somalia" (town, another country)...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: I is for Indexing - Changing all the time

In last year's A-Z Challenge (2013), I wrote about I is for Indexing.  This year (2014) I am going to revisit this topic, because indexing has changed and will be changing even more later in the year.  Oh, there are still the same reasons for doing it:
  • You don't have to be a computer wizard
  • You don't have to be a genealogy guru
  • You just watched half an hour's worth of cartoons on the TV.  That's all the time you need to index
  • It's free
and (most importantly) you will be helping someone else enormously because you will be providing an online index to records which will eventually be available on FamilySearch.org (and they will be free).

So, how has it changed?  Well, at the moment, the changes are still just updating the look of the current program.  But, later in the year, there are BIG changes afoot.  Read about them here - changes such as 'bringing indexing to your browser, enabling indexing on tablet devices, and much more' [FamilySearch blog]

So why don't you give it a try?  Read up about it here.  Like they say, 'there's no time commitment'. You don't have to provide a credit card number.  And your ancestors are jumping for joy at your enthusiasm!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: H is for Half-Baptised

This is definitely 'back to basics' - it has to do with when people were born!  Sometimes genealogists will be confused because they see that a baby was christened (with a note of 'half-baptised' next to the entry), but then appears with a different date in the baptismal registers, accompanied by 'received into the church' or 'privately baptised' in the margin next to the entry.

Here is why:  if a baby was so sickly it was thought that it would die, the midwife was given permission to baptise the child there and then.  If the baby did actually survive, then later it might be recorded in the registers as being 'received into the church'.  It was important to certain faiths that a child be baptised so that its immortal soul could be saved (and it could be buried in consecrated ground).

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: G is for GenUKI

A visit to GenUKI is a must for every serious researcher of UK-based locations.  It is a massive database of information and links relating to places, names, school records, court records, church records, civil records, directories, probate records - oh, so much!  It calls itself a 'virtual reference library' and, indeed, you can find references to just about anything genealogical at this site.  Contained within its pages are transcribed indexes - and more; pointers to external sites - and more; names of books written about a particular subject - and more.

Whenever someone emails me and asks "where do I start?" I always point them first, to GenUKI, and second, to FamilySearch (which I mentioned yesterday).  Or, first, to FamilySearch, and second, to GenUKI.  The two go hand-in-hand in my opinion.

With GenUKI , you can drill down from country level, to county, to town and even parish.  And it's FREE!

Monday, 7 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: F is for FamilySearch

F is for FamilySearch.  F is also for my favourite word: Free.  FamilySearch.org is a site everybody should use.  It says it has the 'largest collection of genealogical and historical records in the world' - and I have to agree. 

Current stats include that it covers 3 billion (yes, that's billion) names worldwide.  There are parish records, census records, images of the original record - it just goes on and on.   There is also a place where you can record your own Family Tree; it is the home of indexing (more about that in the letter 'I' blog post later this week); it's a place for photos and family stories; there are interactive fan charts and live help...

If you have ever looked at the paid-for sites and wistfully realised you just can't afford their prices, or even if you can afford them - use FamilySearch as a jumping-off point for your research, and as a place you come back to again and again.  Bookmark it - you're going to want to visit and revisit!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: E is for Elderly Relatives

Gosh, this is one I wish I had heard about before I started researching my family tree.  It just never occurred to me to 'interview' my elderly relatives - because I thought I could get all the information I needed/wanted from documents.  That's all well and good, but how about the clues you need in order to find the documents in the first place?

Also, once you have done a bit of names-dates-places research, you find yourself wanting to know about the setting.  Not just the stuff  you can get out of history books, but what it was actually like when Grandma was a young woman, what it was actually like when Grandpa was a naive young soldier in World War I.

"Were they made to go to Church?  Did your grandma have to wear a corset for her family photo - and hated it, making her look as though she is crying in the picture?  My father told how the village policeman took one look at him and hauled him off (by the ear) to his mother, just in case he was 'up to no good'.  My father was only 10 years old.  On a national level - was your great-grandfather a Democrat or a Republican?  Did your grandfather always stand up, wherever he was, when the National Anthem was played?" [SFA manual COG202, p6]

Friday, 4 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: D is for Death Certificate

Death certificates are often overlooked in favour of birth and marriage certificates.  After all, both these last two will give you clues to the next generation, whereas death certificates just record the end of a life, don't they?  But death certificates can also provide a wealth of information.

Later, more modern, death certificates provide the date of birth as well (although this needs to be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt, because the informant may have been too upset to remember properly).  You may find a cause of death which may give you further clues (was it phthisis? was he a miner?).  A date of
www.a-to-zchallenge.comdeath may lead you to a Will, which in turn may lead you to other ancestors in the bequests.  Or maybe an inquest, if the death was sudden or suspicious - and it may have been reported in the local newspaper.  A place of death may lead you to a census where the deceased/their family were living, to a census, or to a parish with its registers.

So, although a death certificate may seem like just a record of the end of your ancestor's life, it can in fact be a starting point for a lot more research.
*rubs hands with glee at the prospect*

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: C is for Census

In this country (UK) the census was taken every 10 years from 1801 (some earlier censuses do exist, but they are rare).

The census is an excellent genealogical tool for tracking your ancestors as well as tracing them.  Far from being the names-dates-places you find in the births, marriages, and death civil registers, it gives you a
snapshot of the entire family.  How many children were there? Where were they born? Where was the family living at the time of the census? Who were the neighbours? and so on.

You can find out what sort of person they were.  Was your ancestor a wealthy farmer with 400 acres of land and many employees?  Or was he a pauper in the local workhouse?  Was Great-Grandma one of many servants in an aristocrat's large house, or was she a washerwoman living in the main street of a rural village?

Suddenly, they leap out of the page at you.  No longer are they just an entry in your home genealogy program.  No longer are they just a set of letters and numbers.  These were real people.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: B is for Backup

At the moment, backup and sync are two different things.  It's all about access!  If you do a backup you are putting your genealogical data safely away (in the cloud, on an external hard drive, on a thumb drive, wherever), but it is rare that you can then access it from anywhere else.  If you sync your data, it is available wherever you are - but, then again, it's sort of a backup, too.

www.a-to-zchallenge.comImagine you have a precious photo of Grandma which you have digitised.

If you back it up, a copy will sit wherever you have placed it 'just in case' something dreadful happens and your computer goes into meltdown.  You will feel so relieved!

If you sync Grandma's picture from home, then go to the office, you can look at it from (gasp!) your office computer (as long as the boss doesn't mind), the tablet computer you brought with you, your best friend's laptop... Then, if you draw a pair of spectacles on Grandma and a moustache, that will be available to view on all your devices as well.

But whatever you do - back it up or sync it, locally or online, and I hope you do all of this - then do it frequently.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A-Z Challenge 2014: A is for A-Z Challenge


April is upon us again, and for me that means the excitement of the A-Z Challenge.  Created by Arlee Bird of the Tossing It Out blog, it involves taking one letter of the alphabet each day (with Sundays off).

Since this is a genealogy blog, although I will still be taking one-letter-a-day, my posts will have a genealogical flavour to them.  Last year (2013) I noticed many posts had mediaeval tones to them, although the favourites were more eclectic: 'F is for Farthing' was way out front, with twice as many views as 'W is for Wessex and Wyverns'.  This was closely followed by 'S is for Secretary Hand' and 'Z is for Zachariah Hellier'; the rest were only slightly behind.

This year, I will be following a theme of 'Back to Genealogy Basics'.  Even if you have been researching your tree for over 30 years, it is still good to remind yourself of the basics you started out with.  And there are some I wished someone had told me earlier, so that I didn't fall down and have to get up again quite so often!

The timetable is as follows:

Week One:
April 01, Monday - Letter "A"
April 02, Tuesday - Letter "B"
April 03, Wednesday - Letter "C"
April 04, Thursday - Letter "D"
April 05, Friday - Letter "E"
April 06, Saturday - Letter "F"

Week Two:
April 07, Sunday - BREAK
April 08, Monday - Letter "G"
April 09, Tuesday - Letter "H"
April 10, Wednesday - Letter "I"
April 11, Thursday - Letter "J"
April 12, Friday - Letter "K"
April 13, Saturday - Letter "L"

Week Three:
April 14, Sunday - BREAK
April 15, Monday - Letter "M"
April 16, Tuesday - Letter "N"
April 17, Wednesday - Letter "O"
April 18, Thursday - Letter "P"
April 19, Friday - Letter "Q"
April 20, Saturday - Letter "R"

Week Four:
April 21, Sunday - BREAK
April 22, Monday - Letter "S"
April 23, Tuesday - Letter "T"
April 24, Wednesday - Letter "U"
April 25, Thursday - Letter "V"
April 26, Friday - Letter "W"
April 27, Saturday - Letter "X"

Week Five:
April 28, Sunday - BREAK
April 29, Monday - Letter "Y"
April 30, Tuesday - Letter "Z"


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