I have seen elsewhere on the internet today that the comedian Al Murray is not happy with a claim that he is related to David Cameron!
This was just some of the publicity that has surrounded the launch today of 2.5 million records from British India records that provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the Indian subcontinent
Family history website findmypast.co.uk has, in partnership with the British Library,Â added 2.5 million records covering over 200 years of history of the British in India and published them online for the first time today.
These records covering 1698-1947 give real insight into the heart warming and heart breaking stories of British citizens living in India during the tenure of the East India Company and the British Raj.
Debra Chatfield, Brand Manager at findmypast.co.uk said of the release: â€œThe new British in India records at findmypast are a great opportunity to find ancestors that previously were considered missing, as so many of our relatives sought their fortune on the subcontinent. Whether your relatives were clergy, aristocracy, tradespeople, merchants, civil servants or soldiers, the lowest and the landed all have stories to be told with these records.â€
I’ve been looking back at an ancestor’s will this week. These family history records are fascinating. Seems that one of my two times great grandfathers left a little money and his house to his wife. In his life he had changed occupations from being a Hatter in Tavistock to being a grocer in Plymouth and it makes me wonder about the economic and social forces at work which made him chose this path.
Another ancestor, on my mother’s family side, seems to have cut his eldest son out of the will, everything being inherited by the children who were next in line! What was the story there, I wonder?
These wills, however, are from the start of the records created by the Probate Registry, which took control of proving wills and administrations in 1858. Before this, four different types of ecclesiastical (church) courts dealt with these cases.
Ancestry.co.uk has recently published online over a million probate records, featuring the last will and testament of some of histories most famous names including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Sir Francis Drake.
Ancestry bill this as being “the most comprehensive UK collection of its kind available to view online”. Certainly I have found that other providers give access to these records on their own sites, for example The National ArchivesÂ on Documents OnlineÂ and TheGenealogist.co.uk has a substantialÂ collection of Wills and Will indexes available online, including the index of the Court of York and full Wills for the Court of Canterbury.
The England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills 1384-1858 covers nearly five centuries worth of history and details how much people owned and who they left it to.
Up until January 1858, the church and other courts proved wills in England and Wales. The PCC was the most important of these courts and was responsible for the probate of wills where the value of assets was greater than five pounds, equivalent to Â£526 today.
Searchable by name, probate date, residence and estimated death year, each record contains information about the final assets of the deceased. Additional notes on their occupation, property and overall standard of living may also be included.
Many famous names can be discovered in the records including world famous playwright William Shakespeare. Dated 25th March 1616, Shakespeareâ€™s will details how he left a sum of one hundred and fifty pounds to both his daughters (over Â£380,000 today) as well as his wife the pleasure of his â€˜second best bedâ€™.
Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen also appears in collection. Upon her death on 18th July 1817, she possessed assets totalling around Â£800 (Â£60,000 today). The majority of this was given to her sister Cassandra aside from Â£50 to her brother Henry and a further Â£50 to a Madame Bigoen â€“ who had previously acted as a nurse to her family.
The records also reveal that the privateer and explorer Sir Francis Drake was somewhat of a real life Robin Hood. Having plundered many Spanish naval vessels and earned a fortune during his adventures in the Americas, Drake left forty pounds to the ‘poore people’Â of the town and Parish of Plymouth in 1596 – the equivalent of Â£150,000 today.
The original records are held at The National Archives and some of the earliest records in the collection cover males as young as 14 and girls as young as 12. This changed in 1837, when it was decided by the court that both genders must be over the age of 21 to have a will proved.
On top of monetary matters, these records tell us more about the private lives of some very public figures and will help historians discover more about the dynamics of their personal and familial relationships.
The majority of records in the collection also pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizensâ€™ lives in documents such as censuses. As such, the collection is a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the mid-19th century.
Ancestry.co.uk Content Manager Miriam SilvermanÂ comments: â€œThese probate records provide fascinating insight into the final fortunes of some of our nations most famous names, right down to who should get their bed.â€
â€œThey are an incredibly valuable family history resource, covering a period in history from which few official documents remain.â€
Disclosure: Some links are compensated affiliate links.
This week I have been rather distracted from the enjoyable pass time of looking at my own family history by the needs of my business. Even then, I had to explain to someone in a bank just exactly what it is we do when we set out to research our family tree, in between sorting out some details of my banking with the branch.
I have also spent some time, talking with various contacts about how I take my family history course offer forward in 2014, and receiving advice from some of them looking afresh at my plans.
It is always good to keep moving ahead and so it was with some interest that I heard from the team at TheGenealogist about how they have introduced new technical changes to their business.
Subscribers can now use both TheGenealogist.co.uk and TheGenealogist.com to access their family history research!
With the ever increasing popularity of family history and as a number of their subscribers grow at a healthy pace, TheGenealogist have invested in a number of new core product features to ensure users of their family history website continue to enjoy the maximum reliability they expect.
TheGenealogist – an international brand
Firstly, with increases in sales all over the world, it was felt by the company that it was important to make it as easy as possible to access TheGenealogist and not just through a .co.uk address. The international .com web address will now equally represent TheGenealogist too. Secondly, as the unique search tools and major record set additions over the past few years have really pushed TheGenealogist forward internationally, the background technology has been further developed to continue the reliability of service that is associated with a subscription to TheGenealogist.
Major investment in IT Infrastructure
TheGenealogist say that thier website can now be accessed from both TheGenealogist.co.uk and TheGenealogist.com, held at multiple, geographically separate data centres on super-efficient servers that easily cover the needs of our subscriber base.
They have also ensured that subscribers will continue to get fast and reliable searching facilities from the background IT infrastructure. Something that users, such as myself, are pleased to find is a priority as who likes to hang around waiting for your search to be returned for more than a small amount of time?
Over Christmas, it seems, the new service was given its first major test and coped well with the large increase in workload that resulted in people using the holiday period to log in and do some research.
“The large increase in workload was easily handled by our new multiple data centers and new hardware” said TheGenealogist.
It is easy for a family history website to rest on its laurels and overload systems with large amounts of data and functionality and not anticipate reliability issues. However, TheGenealogist has in place a rigid IT framework ensuring it is well covered for many years to come. A high quality, efficient service will be maintained long into the future.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: â€œWe constantly strive to improve our service for all our customers. Our increase in user base, services and now free content such as the image archive, has given us the opportunity to redesign our service to be much more resilient to increases in magnitude of users. We have further extended our ability to offer large amounts of records for people to view in a secure and ultra-reliable framework. â€œ
So while they forge ahead I too shall be making some changes to my FamilyHistoryResearcher.com course and to the information available at NoseyGenealogist,com, but maybe not on the investment scale as TheGenealogist has!
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate Links are used in this post.
Who Do You Think You Are? Live: the world’s largest family history show is only a few weeks away!
It is back! The annual genealogy event, sponsored by Ancestry.co.uk, returns to London’s Olympia on 20-22 February, 2014.
I’m getting ready for my first ever time exhibiting there and as the weeks roll on I’m getting more and more excited about it. Come and see me at Table 56 where I shall be promoting my Family History Researcher course in English and Welsh Family History.
Piecing together your family history is a deeply rewarding experience. Nothing can beat the excitement of making new discoveries and identifying lost relatives. However, if you’ve recently hit a brick wall with your research, or you are daunted by all the options available for those starting their family tree, then help is at hand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.
Every year, hundreds of genealogy experts from the major subscription sites, museums, archives and family history societies descend on Olympia for the world’s largest family history show. If you need a helping hand to uncover your family secrets, there’s no better place to go.
They’ll be new features at the 2014 show including commemorating the centenary of WWI and a new celebrity line-up to add to the usual popular features. You can:
Attend over 100 workshops in the Society of Genealogists’ Workshop Programme
Investigate family photographs with their experts
Spend one-to-one time with an expert in a subject of your choice,
Learn how DNA can help with research
Visit family history societies from all over the UK
Hear how celebrities from the television show felt about their discoveries, starting with Natasha Kaplinsky on the Thursday.
Explore over 120 exhibitors all specialising in family history
Don’t miss your chance to extend your research and share in the passion and enthusiasm of thousands of fellow family historians!
This holiday period I was catching up with my copies of Your Family Tree Magazine (January 2014 Issue 137). On page 44 I began reading an article all about how one of their readers found the troop ship that took her father to war by doing a bit of detective work with the few pieces of the puzzle that she had.
The reader, Jackie Dinnis who blogs about her family history at www.jackiedinnis.wordpress.com, had a few photographs and his medals to go on and, crucially, a letter written by her father from the unnamed troopship.
In the note, to his mother, he tells of being entertained by an orchestra conducted by a popular British dance band-leader called Geraldo. By doing some research online Jackie found that Geraldo and his Orchestra had been going to the Middle East and North Africa in 1943 to entertain the troops. It required several other bits of information to name the troopship. Facts, that tied the dates of departure up with the detail that this band were on board, eventually named the troopship as the Dominion Monarch.
Now this is where her father’s story overlaps with my father’s story.
As I have written elsewhere in this blog about obtaining my dad’s merchant navy records he was a young purser’s clerk on board the former liner and wartime troopship the Dominion Monarch.
As I read this at Christmas, while staying with him, I asked if he remembered the concert by Geraldo. Sadly he didn’t, though I can confirm that he was on board for that voyage from a look at his MN papers, but he had other story’s to tell of life on board the ship and its convoy passages across the oceans.
Then we fast-forward to Christmas day and one of those games that get played at the dinner table when the family are gathered together. My sister’s mother-in-law picked a card that asked “What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your life?” In turn we all gave our answers and then it was my father’s turn.
“To have survived,” was his answer. And when asked what he meant, he elaborated a little: “being at sea in the war.”
Then, this week, I was able to watch with him the programme on PQ17 the disastrous Arctic convoy. It was not a route that he sailed, though he was empathising with the crews that were so sorely deserted by the Admiralty’s decision to withdraw Naval protection and issue the Scatter signal.
And finally, this week, I was checking in at Facebook to find that some of my younger first-cousins-once-removed, had been looking at their grandfather’s Merchant Navy ID card and receiving a history lesson from their parents over the New Year. The awe with which they were learning about young men (both my Uncle and Father served in the Shaw Savill Line) who had gone to sea at a time when a torpedo from a U-boat may have prematurely ended their lives, was fitting.
So this Christmas and New Year has, unintentionally, taken on a Merchant Navy theme for me. Family history is great!
Your Family Tree Magazine is one of my favourite magazines: