4.2 million British World War 1 service records released online in most comprehensive collection ever

This just came through to me from the boys and girls at Findmypast

Findmypast logo 600,000 new names added for the first time

Records contain physical descriptions, details of postings and remarks on conduct and character

Today findmypast released as part of their 100in100 campaign to release 100 record sets in 100 days the largest and most comprehensive collection of British World War 1 service records online, giving family historians a greater chance than ever before of finding their World War 1 ancestors. The newly re-indexed records contain details of millions of the men who fought for their country in one of the largest conflicts in history. As well as a more thorough transcription process which involved an individual examination of over 35 million pages of documentation, findmypast has also identified and indexed lists of names that were tucked away in individual service papers.

The record sets (WO363 and WO64, also colloquially known as the “burnt records”) are all that remain of records caught up in a fire caused by a German incendiary bomb during World War. As only around 40% of the original records survive, the addition of these 600,000 new names taken from extra lists and pages previously not indexed are a real boon to family historians with British military ancestors, as well as to military historians in general.

The records can be searched at http://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/british-army-service-records-1914-1920 and are available on all international findmypast sites as part of a world subscription.

 

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used in this post.

Send to Kindle

My Ancestor’s Polite Advertisement From

I was researching one Thomas Westlake, an ancestor of mine from Plymouth in the mid 1800s.

I’d found this enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder, on the 1861 census. He employed one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City at this time and so I guess I would find him listed in the trades section.

This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory!

Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time. My ancestor, Thomas Westlake paid for a half page advertisement in the 1852 edition of the Plymouth directory, whose full title was:

“A Directory of Plymouth, Stonehouse, Devonport, Stoke, and Moricetown, compiled from actual survey.”

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

 

Thomas Westlake,

Brass Founder, & Manufacturer of Gas Fittings, Beer Engines, Water Closets, Lift Pumps, etc…

 

Begs respectfully to acquaint his Friends and the Public generally that he has, in his Establishment, men of experience in the above branches, from London and Birmingham; and assures them that all orders entrusted to his care, will be executed in first rate style, under his immediate superintendence, and on moderate terms.

 

Now who could resist an advertisement like that, but what would we think of it today?

 

I have also had some luck with other ancestors finding their advertisements in the newspapers of the day. It is worth a look at the British Library Newspapers collection.

Click the ad box below to go to The British Newspaper Archive.


 

The British Newspaper Archive is a joint venture with brightsolid, the company behind findmypast.co.uk and recent developments there are that they have just published millions of pages of local newspapers on their site for the period 1710-1950. More than 200 titles are included and they say they will be adding more all the time.

ÂDisclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk or The British Newspaper Archive should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

 

Send to Kindle

Tracing my Great-Grandfather in Trade Directories

Directories1869 at TheGenealogist.co.uk

I’ve used trade directories before, when I was tracing my tradesmen ancestors down in Plymouth. At that time I’d found one enterprising forebear, of mine, who had been a Victualler and Brass founder on the 1861 census employing  one woman, six men and some boys in this Devon City. This had lead me on to use the University of Leicester’s site, Historical Directories at www.historicaldirectories.org to find him and his advertisement in a Plymouth Trade Directory. Its great fun to see how polite were the requests of a Victorian era businessman, asking for trade, in an advertisement from this time.

This week I had turned my attention to my maternal great-grandfather. In a book, complied on the family, that I was lucky enough to have found on the shelves of the Society of Genealogists, in Goswell Road, London, my ancestor was given a brief mention in between his more illustrious brother’s, cousin’s and forefather’s. What I was able to glean, from this book, was that Edward Massy Hay had been a merchant in London for a period in the 1860’s, after a short spell in the army.

The book had been complied by his Father, Charles Crosland Hay and completed by his cousin on the death of the former. It gave me a clue that all was not well in the business world of Edward, as a line simply said: “Partner in the firm of Stevens & Hay, Merchants in London; on its failure he became a tea-planter in Ceylon.”

My first reaction was to see if the business went bankrupt and was mentioned in the London Gazette. I checked the website at www.london-gazette.co.uk, where it is possible to search back through the archives for free, but I found nothing on the business. I’d read a tip that it was always worth checking the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, in case the bankruptcy had been hidden in one of these publications. The results came back negative and so it looks as if the business was wound up without going bankrupt.

Recently, on taking a look around TheGenealogist.co.uk‘s data sets, I came across the 1869 Kelly’s Post Office Directory for London on their site. By entering “Stevens and Hay” I was eventually able to locate their business to an office at 65 Fenchurch Street, London. EC3

Moving on, to a Kelly’s Directory for 1880 London, I found my great-grandfather listed as living in Princes Square, Bayswater, London. Also at that address was his sister, Mrs Mary Ann Webster, whose husband was in the Madras Civil Service. But I had already begun investigating the move to Ceylon (today known as Sri Lanka), by my ancestor. By 1880 he was appearing in a directory for that island, as well as at Bayswater!

From a website, dedicated to the history of Ceylon Tea (www.historyofceylontea.com), I found there are links to many years of the Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory. In 1880 Edward M. Hay was an Assistant for R.Books & Co of London, in the British Colony. He appears in several of the directories, one of which has him as Chairman of his local area’s planters association and in 1905 he was listed as the owner of a tea estate called Denmark in Dolosbage, Ceylon.

This little peep into my great-grandfather’s life was made possible by the use of various trade directories and the fact that they have been scanned and uploaded to websites on the internet. But before I turned off my computer, on a whim I decided to enter the address that he had shared with his sister in London into Google street view. I was rewarded with the Georgian fronts of Princes Square and easily found the house where he lived. It is now a small hotel and so its address is on the internet.

A search for 65 Fenchurch Street, and the offices, shows that they have been replaced by a modern vista. Lastly, I did a Google search for the Denmark Tea Estate in Sri Lanka and by chance it still exists! Using Google Earth I was able to use the satellite view to see, from the air, the hillside estate that once was where my great-grandfather cultivated tea.

It seems to me to be well worth using some of these alternative tools, available to us, when doing family history research. They may add just a little bit of flesh to the bones of facts gained from the census data or the birth, marriage and death records for our ancestors.

Send to Kindle

Researching family in Jersey, part 8: Military Records

Being rather close to the continent as it is, Jersey has had more than its fair share of unwelcome visitors. The French invaded in 1781 and the brave Major Pierson beat them back but died before the end of the battle: the artist John Singleton Copley painted the scene (some years after the event) and the resulting picture is one of Jersey’s iconic images.

 

The years that followed this were uncertain ones, and the uncertainty became worse after the French Revolution. There was a real concern that the French would try again. But at the start of the 1800s, General George Don was appointed as Jersey’s Governor-General.

 

General Don put in place a massive programme of fortification works and new roads, and alongside that he carried out two censuses in 1806 and 1815 to track where the able bodied fighting men were. In addition to this, the censuses recorded the sizes of the households and the number of women, girls and under-aged boys.

 

Transcripts of both censuses are kept at the Archive. They were originally transcribed in the original format, names by parish and vingtaine, but there is also a single combined list of names for the 1815 Census. It gives an indication of the position of the listed man of the household and whether he was an ordinary soldier, or a drummer, or providing a horse.

 

Alongside the local militia forces, the British army maintained a significant garrison in Jersey right up to the Second World War. Its main sites were at Elizabeth Castle and Fort Regent, and regiments rotated in and out regularly. The Army doesn’t maintain a single definitive list of which regiments served when in the Jersey garrison, but there are partial lists compiled by CIFHS members in the Archive. There are also a small number of baptism, marriage and burial records which were kept specifically by the garrison rather than the parish of St Helier – and these may be worth a look.

 

Nearly at the end. The next post looks at what you can get from books, newspapers and photographs – until then,  à bientôt!

 

Guest blog by James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society

 

Send to Kindle

Ancestry.co.uk publishes prison ‘hulks’ records online.

A first for Ancestry.co.uk (Link is a compensated affiliate link) is their newly published “Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849″  This record set contains the incarceration records of nearly 200,000 people locked up in giant floating jails known as prison hulks.

The convicts’ records that are physically stored away in The National Archives in Kew, provide us with a fascinating insight into the Victorian criminal underworld and conditions aboard the Dickensian ships, which were created to ease overcrowded prisons.

Prison Hulks became an all to common place means to intern criminals during the 18th century. This was a time when many warships, previously used in naval conflicts were being decommissioned and then converted into huge floating prisons. Some of the ships that feature in this fascinating collection include HMS Bellerophon that saw action during the Napoleonic Wars, HMS Retribution, from the American Revolutionary War and HMS Captivity, a veteran of the French Revolutionary Wars.

The records Ancestry have put online, can show you who were imprisoned on these hulks and detail each inmate’s name, year of birth, age, year and place of conviction, offence committed, name of the hulk and, somewhat fascinatingly, character reports written by the ‘gaoler’ that provides an intriguing insight into the personality of each convict.

A an example, the entry for one Thomas Bones recalls that he was ‘a bold daring fellow, not fit to be at large in this country’, while the record for George Boardman explains ‘this youth has been neglected by his parents and been connected with bad company’. William Barton’s record simply reads ‘very bad, three times convicted’.

As well as featuring murderers, thieves and bigamists, the records also reveal examples of rough justice. Several eight-year-old boys were imprisoned on the hulks, as was 84-year-old William Davies, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for sheep stealing and later died on board the hulk HMS Justitia.

Ancestry.co.uk for prison hulks records

Click this image to go to ancestry.co.uk. -Â Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate Link.

Send to Kindle