What is the future for finding the past online?

I’ve been reading a business tip today. It was all about what big company may wish to gobble up the likes of Ancestry.com in the future.

It began from the premise that family history was big business, with the more of us turning to online resources such as the subscription sites run by Ancestry who have grown their revenue every quarter since they went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

I have always thought of Ancestry as being one of the big players in the genealogical market. But this article, by The Mottley Fool, talks about the possible threat of a larger company than them entering the market. The likes of Facebook, Google, or Microsoft being their assumed predators.

All three of these organisations could take advantage of the massive amounts of information that they have acquired, plus the technological skills of the programmers that they employ to build a more streamlined search website than what is already on offer in the market.

As The Motley Fool points out Facebook has its Timeline feature, which is an indication that they have noticed the potential of our hobby. There is Google, a big player in organising information, to consider as well. Meanwhile, Microsoft have something called Project Greenwich which allows its users to collect together their photos, links, scanned objects, and potentially more information to create chronological timelines about specific events, people, places, or things. It would not take much for them to turn this into an interactive timeline of our family history.

It is suggested that by providing such a timeline that this would encourage people to remain as members of sites like Ancestry for longer and thus defend them against the problem of membership churn. The article  concludes that perhaps these firms will go down the partnership route, or that Microsoft licenses its technology to the likes of Ancestry.

But who knows what will be on offer to us in the future in researching the past online?

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Medieval Genealogy Difficulties

If we are to go back before the start of Parish Records being kept, in England that would be the year 1538, then no official records will have been complied on who was born, married or died in the country. It may have been the case that the priest in charge of a parish kept notes of what was happening in his church, but there was no official or standard form that they would have been kept in.

Records for the landowning members of society are much more likely to have been compiled than for the poorer classes of England. That said, however, records of people from the time do exist in the form of documents complied for other purposes rather than to detail the life events of a particular person.

Many of the records that have survived were produced for the Exchequer, Chancery and the law courts, or they relate to the land laws of the country.

A problem, for us in the twenty first century looking back, is that these records from medieval time are most often written in Latin and an abbreviated form at that.  English began to be used from the late fifteenth century in more informal documents, but even so we are then faced with the old handwriting of the era and so it is not such an easy task.

The National Archives website has some useful tools in the form of online in-depth learning guides. These can also help you learn basic Latin skills useful for tackling the documents that you may come across. See the Beginners’ Latin and Palaeography guides.

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Brick Walls in Family History – Incorrect Information.

I have been doing some family history research this week to try and find a burial plot for someone that had been killed in action in World War II.

The information that I had passed on to me, identified a particular cemetery and came with a plot number. This seemed to circumnavigate a great deal of time for me searching out the details myself. On visiting that burial ground, however, the gave in the particular plot belonged to a completely different named family and was not that of the fallen soldier that I was looking for. The details had come to me via a member of the family and had been given to them by an archivist for one of the British Army’s Regiments. Somehow the cemetery that the soldier was buried in had become mixed up with another one in the same town and supplied in error.

On realising that the details that I had were wrong, I went back to basics and did a search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Here I was able to find the correct burial ground to go and visit and locate the grave in question.

The actual grave itself also cleared up some other queries that I had, as it was shared with members of the man’s maternal family as well as his father. What it revealed was that the  maternal surname was spelt differently from that which we had previously been given to understand and that his grandmother’s first name was not Daisy but was actually Minnie.

The lesson that I took away, yet again, is that information passed down a family can become clouded. Perhaps Minnie was always known as Daisy and her nick name had been remembered, while her given name had been forgotten, or it was just a simple mistake in recalling the name.

Surnames can be spelt differently. An example is that mine is Thorne with an “e”. But go back four generations and my ancestor spelt it without an “e” for part of his life and with one for the latter part. His father spelt it without.

The best rule of Family History is to always check details of ancestors in primary sources and to beware of transcription errors, those mistakes made in family folklore and second-hand information in general.

 

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New – Marriage Finder Tool from TheGenealogist.co.uk

I was reading about how TheGenealogist.co.uk seemingly transcribes more fields on the census records it offers than any other subscription/pay-as-you-go site. On the back of this it allows them to offer some unique search tools, such as the Keyword Master Search.

 

As the 1911 census was the first to record how many years a couple had been married, TheGenealogist have included this information in their transcripts and gone on to create a great new tool that links together the 1911 census with their Marriage Transcripts.

 

To use it join TheGenealogist.co.uk or pay for some credits. Then, from the Family View or Household View, look for the Marriage Finder icon which can be seen next to the View Original Image icon. alternatively, the links under ‘Marriage Status’ and ‘Years Married’ will also activate the Marriage Finder Tool.

Thanks to all the people at TheGenealogist.co.uk

 

 Disclosure: Compensated affiliate.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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