Irish Family History Research Just Got Easier!

Ireland-Genealogy on the webIt’s a well known fact, in family tree research, that Irish family history is more difficult to do, than that of Ireland’s near neighbours, because of a lack of information and the deficiency of census records pre 1901. But this week I couldn’t help but notice several press releases about how three different websites were going to be able to ease that problem for family historians.

Back in March I spotted that Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) had, for St Patrick’s day, updated its Irish Collection. This Ancestry said at the time was “the definitive online collection of 19th century historical Irish records.” It would, they said, make it easier for the nearly one in five Brits of Irish descent to explore their heritage.

In total, there are now more than 35 million historical Irish records on Ancestry.co.uk, including two million comprehensive new and upgraded records from the critical periods prior to and following the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852), the single most significant event to drive 19th century global Irish Diaspora.

Next, I came across the news about a smaller enterprise called Ireland Genealogy (http://www.ireland-genealogy.com), this being a fascinating new web site for anyone doing Irish family tree investigation. It has its own database of Irish Pension Record applications, that enables you to lookup information extracted from the missing Irish Census and claims that this will help a researcher save both cash and time.

Their research workers have spent twenty years copying all these written pension applications (green coloured forms) and so giving us access to critical data from the 1841 and 1851 census records for all of Ireland. These pension public records are kept in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (in Belfast) and The National Archives, where they are available on microfilm, but this means that they could be quite tricky to understand as they are in no specific order. What is more, the records data held by P.R.O.N.I. are not indexed, adding to the difficulty of doing your research.

Ireland Genealogy claims that their database, of those pension applications, enables you to now look up this information with ease.

The third Press Release, that caught my eye, was from Brightsolid about the launch of their new website www.findmypast.ie on to the web. With online access, from the start, to over 4 million Irish records dating from 1400 to 1920s and the promise of over 50 million records to be available in the first year to eighteen months, this is a welcome addition to the findmypast family.

There are approximately 80 million people worldwide, who claim to have Irish ancestry, with just over half of this number (41 million) being Americans, the limited resources previously availble to them, to connect with their past, may at last be being redressed.

Findmypast.ie claims that they will carry “…the most comprehensive set of Irish records ever seen in one place, going back to 1400 right up until the 1920s, including the Landed Estates Court Records, the complete Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland and the Directories collection.” They will be offering high quality images of records on this site.

With the addition of these three resources, online, it would seem that Irish family research just got a bit easier.

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Society of Genealogist Put More Online For Members.

Society of Genealogists

I’ve recently received my copy of the Society of Genealogists’ magazine Vol 30 No 5 and read in the Library Update section that in 2010 they added a total of 1,800 new items. Now for anyone that knows the building at 14 Charterhouse Buildings in the City of London, you probably wonder how they manage to keep on fitting it all in.

In the past quarter the SoG has  acquired, for those members with North American ancestors, the latest supplement to the Passenger & Immigration Lists Index. If you have forebears from Cheltenham, then you will probably be pleased to consult the Court Books of the Manor of Cheltenham, that covers from 1692-1803. While the parish of Burnley in Lancashire’s registers have been purchased with sponsorship from The Halsted Trust and a quantity of Somerset registers have also been added to the shelves.

When ever I am in London I really look forward to a visit to EC1 to do a bit of research at the SoG among the books, manuscripts, collections and microfiche readers. But belonging to the Society also allows members to have access to some of the data from within a special Members Area of the SoG website. Recently this section has been renamed SoG Data Online and newly uploaded are the Vicar-General and Faculty Office marriage licence indexes, the PCC will index for 1750 to 1800, the Shoreditch St Leonard burials and the St Andrew Holborn marriages.

More records are promised online, including those data collections that were previously hosted by the British Origins websites and have now become available on FindMyPast.com website in a new deal with this operator who, it would seem are sponsoring the SoG as it celebrates its Centenary year.

I can not recommend more highly this organisation and wish it a happy hundredth!



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Researching family in Jersey, part 5: Nailing down dates without certificates

Jersey Archive
Jersey Archive

As I mentioned last time, there are occasions where you find something in the BMD indexes and you can’t get to Royal Square in time to see the certificates. But there are two sets of data in the Archive that can help you to nail dates of marriages and deaths down.

The first is what is referred to as the “third copy” of the marriage registers. Individual parishes maintain their own registers and then send copies of the certificates to the Superintendent Registrar to compile the full volumes. However, in between the two the Superintendent Registrar maintains draft registers – and it is this that the Archive now possesses.

To access the draft registers, you need to use the Reference search facility on the OPAC. The collection reference you need is D/E: this will get you to the top of the collection. Reference D/E/B covers the third copy, and you will find that it’s divided into individual collections from specific Church of England churches and general collections of nonconformist and civil marriages from 7 parishes. It’s not quite a complete set, but the vast majority of material is there and you will find that most of the time there is at least some degree of correlation between the indexes and the draft registers.

As far as recording deaths goes, the simple answer is that there will almost always be a burial shortly afterwards. There are two ways that you can attack this problem: one is to look at the records kept by the cemeteries, and the other is to check the funeral directors. Cemetery records exist for two of St Helier’s major burial grounds – Almorah and Mont à l’Abbé – between about 1860 and 1950, and there are also records for some of the other burial grounds around the island including Macpéla, the non-conformist cemetery at Sion Village. These are all in folders in the reading room. One cautionary word: women are indexed by their maiden name only (although the married name is given).

The Archive also received a major deposit from a local funeral director the other year, containing records of seven of their predecessor companies, some of which go back to about 1820. Again, you’ll need to use the OPAC’s Reference Search, and this time the collection reference is L/A/41. Be aware that for any given period you may have to look at two or three different companies’ books – but feel free to enlist the help of the volunteer from the Channel Islands Family History Society if you need advice. These records are fascinating, because they will tell you not only who was buried when, but how – the relative spends on funerals vary from parsimonious to lavish – and also who paid for it.

Death is one of the great certainties in life: taxation is the other, and we’ll take a look at that next time. Until then – À bétôt!

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

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Researching Family in Jersey, Part 3: Jersey Parish Records

Jersey Archive
Jersey Archive

Most people will have at least some research to do which involves vital records – births, marriages and deaths. As in England, there are two categories of records. There are those kept by the state authorities – which record birth, marriage and death – and there are those kept by churches and record baptism, marriage and  burial. Jersey began civil registration in August 1842, but in this blog we’ll be looking at the parish records.

Parish records are available at the Jersey Archive. You won’t get to see the original registers, but instead there are copy transcripts made by the CIFHS. These go back to at least the late 17th century, and in some cases right back to the middle of the 16th century. Most of the transcripts end at 1842, but there are some more recent records available for the parishes of St Helier, St Martin and St John.

A typical entry in the baptism register might look like this:

17.02.1833 Mary fille de M. Philippe Du Feu et Mse. Elizabeth Amy

Notice the way that record is made. First of all, it’s in French – Jersey was very largely French- or Jerriais-speaking until the middle of the 19th century, and a lot of legal records long after that were kept in French.

More importantly, you will spot the fact that the mother’s maiden name is used. There were good reasons for this. In most parishes there were a relatively small number of surnames and forenames: as we observed last time there might be  several Philippe Du Feus living in one parish at the same time, and this helped to clarify who was who.

There are a couple of potential pitfalls to watch out for. Firstly, people were not always consistent about how they spelled their names – but the CIFHS transcripts usually gather the different spellings (for example Romerill, Romerill, Romrill, Rumerill) under a single heading. Secondly, it is always worth carrying out a check both of the married and the maiden name if the person you are looking for is female.

If your ancestor wasn’t a member of the Church of England, you might be less fortunate. There are records from two of the big Roman Catholic churches in St Helier (there were two because one was French-speaking and one was English-speaking), and there are a few records from non-conformist churches, but they are rather patchy.

One more thing to add on the parish records: work is in progress to digitise them and make them available online, hopefully towards the end of 2011. Next time we’ll look at the civil records – until then, À bétôt!

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

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Starting Your Family Tree – Collecting Personal Data

The favored rule of genealogy is to begin with yourself.  Work from the known to the unknown, gathering evidence each step of the way.

Next, gather information from your immediate family . The elders do not live indefinitely regardless of health or age and it is important to record everything that they can remember.

Whenever possible, conduct a one-on-one interview.  Let people know that you are coming , as well as the type of information in which you are interested .  With permission, use recording equipment.  Take accurate and clear notes .  Prepare for your interview by making a checklist of questions to remind you to ask the three key  questions:  who, where, and when . These questions will increase your genealogy know how and family tree research .

However, be prepared to follow leads from the person you are interviewing .  There are sure to be challenges in the process ; beflexible with your interview style and be open to the discussion and the stories that follow . When it is inconvenient to interview a relative personally , write a letter that is personal and conversational in nature .  If the communication goes unanswered, a telephone call may be necessary .  Writing may be difficult for an elderly person who might be interested in sharing information.  If this is the reason , a phone call might be more productive.

It is important to recognize that not everyone will be as interested or excited about family history and genealogy .
Use photos as a aid .  Often pictures refresh the memory, and unlock bits and pieces of family information long forgotten.  

Assure your relatives that you will be careful of the material loaned to you .  Respect the information they give to you.  Often relatives are reluctant to lend a family heirloom , so be prepared to photograph items whenever they cannot be removed from the premises .

Offer to share your research .  Keep your word .  After entering compiling data on  a family history sheet and pedigree chart , send  a copy to the person who has kindly given you   the facts .

Be  certain to ask if there is bible in the family and find out where it is situated .  Family bibles may contain facts  about   marriages, births and deaths carefully recorded on pages within.

enquire if others in your family has researched genealogy . If so, determine how you can obtain a copy

Family heirlooms often contains useful information :

  • Names and places are printed on the backs of old pictures .
  • Written messages on the inside of a book commemorating a birthday or a vacation .
  • Family scrapbooks that contain historic newspaper obituaries and articles , concert programs , plays,  and graduations .
  • Engraved silver.

There are an endless variety of family artifacts :

  • Certificates and other family records – birth baptism, confirmation , marriage record ,  death and burial , wills, lawsuits . 
  • Adoption records
  • Diaries
  • Funeral cards
  • School Report  

Develop a method to organize your research . Organizing all of this material is difficult if you don’t have a method .  You will want to create a filing system using both electronic and traditional techniques.  Use binders or folders with the surname as the label, keeping items relating to that surname together. When you have time , peruse each folder or binder carefuly, extracting relevant information.

Make sure to compare your electronic files to your paper files .

Don’t forget to backup your material in another location .  Many priceless family memorabilia have been destroyed by natural disasters , as well as by the apathy of others who did not know they were handling did not know the value of the irreplacable family artifacts . 

 

 

 

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Your Family History Answers Maybe Off-line

Sometimes we just need to accept that not every answer to your family history questions will be on-line. I’ve discovered this with my research into my British Family Tree, but it can be the same where ever it is in the world that you are looking for ancestors. You’ve searched for an ancestor using the various on-line tools and failed to find any trace of them?

The temptation is to believe that, because they don’t appear where we think that they should, that we are simply not going to find them. Well, what I need to remind myself  when I am on the trail of my UK forebears, is that not every record for Britain is on the web and even for those that are mistakes have been made and omissions may have occurred.

Anyone with a British Family tree is well catered for by the availability of paid and free look up websites.

Taking, for example, my family tree in England. My 4 times great grandparents, John and Sarah Thorn for whom I had obtained their names from the baptism information that I had got from a search of the International Genealogical Index at familysearch.org for their son, also called John, my 3x great-grandfather.

Baptismal font St. Saviours, Dartmouth, Devon, UK.
Baptismal font St. Saviours, Dartmouth, Devon, UK.

Remembering what the family history professionals teach, that you should always use information that has been transcribed as a finding aid only – using it to seek out the original record, I visited the Devon County Record Office in person and looked up the microfiche copy of the baptism of John Brampton Thorn in St.Saviours church, Dartmouth on the 28th September 1794.

Having verified that their names were correct, on the IGI, I had then searched for the marriage of John and Sarah. I knew that a number of their children were baptised in the same church and that there was only one other possible child christened earlier than my great-great-great-grandfather in St Saviours in 1790, however it was not certain if this individual was of the same family of Thorns. I was hunting for a marriage around 1794. Frustratingly, there were no likely candidates in that particular church.

Searching the IGI around the area came up with nothing and so I expanded it outwards. With my “possible parish” list I  searched on-line for the marriage and came up with some in Exeter for 1793. Were the Thorns from Exeter? Well the answer turns out to be no!

Visiting, in person, the Devon Family History Society in Exeter I explained about my brick wall and the staff looked at their data for marriages 1754 to 1812 for a John Thorn marrying a bride called Sarah. At this point I had no maiden name for Sarah. After a few minutes, for the bargain price of only 15 pence I was handed a list of seven marriages. The very first of which was a John Thorn and Sarah Branton married on the 12 January 1794. The bride’s surname was to become the second name of their child and my 3x great-grandfather. The parish was not Exeter, nor anywhere from around Dartmouth, but Plymouth Charles!

Having obtained this information off-line I then went back to the internet just to check if I could have found it there. On the IGI there was no record and various other websites I went to all returned no matches either.

The lessons I learnt here, is that not every record is accessible on-line. Remember this in your family history research.

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Distant Cousins Help to Populate My Family Tree

As my family tree research has moved along, I have been very lucky in receiving a helping hand by several distant “cousins” who have been nice enough to share with me information on mutual ancestors. Like me, they were independently researching the same, or sometimes collateral lines of  our shared family. The input these kind folk have given me has often boosted my research and propelled me so much further forward in the quest to build my tree. There is some pleasure to open my email program and find the subject line includes a last name, from one of the various family branches I’m researching. You may be wondering how you could start to get your own fellow researchers to contact you?

1.Enter your ancestors into a family tree on-line. I have used the facility at websites such as GenesReunited and Ancestry (Disclosure: these links are compensated affiliate links) to upload some of my ancestors into the family tree facilities provided by these sites. A benefit here is that you don’t have to give out your email if you don’t want to, as you get messages via the website that allows you to decide to contact the person or not.

Ancestry

2. Set up a simple website. This has been my most effective way of receiving contacts. Initially I signed up for a free website hosting and simply purchased the domain name for a few pounds/dollars a year. I then got a free website builder that didn’t need me to know any HTML code as it worked in a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get manner. I posted a page with a few facts and some photographs on each branch and added a picture of my very minimal, at least that time, tree. As I grew more proficient I split the lines into several pages, one for each branch. When I went visiting the areas, where my ancestors had lived, I took photographs of houses that they had lived in, work places, schools that they had attended and so on. Next I published some pages in a short narrative about the trip. I then posted links to my site on a few websites that allowed me to do this, for example some forums will if it is not a commercial post.Eventually the Google search engine found my website and so now it has become easier for surfers to find it when looking for Thorne, or Stephens or Hay families. So what about the threat of spam to any email address that is published on the Internet? In order to prevent my main email becoming bogged down with spam I set up a separate email on my website domain, e.g name @ mydomain. com and then added a new identity in outlook express. I now have two email addresses so keeping my private one away from the spammers.
3. Get blogging. I chose to set up a WordPress blog on my existing website as an add on, but Blogger is an alternative that I have seen used. You may decide that, instead of adding a blog to a website that you go down the route of a blog on its own. To many this is the simplest way to get a web presence. You are able to host it on the blog provider’s platform. Better still, as you retain the copyright for anything you publish, register a domain name of your choice and get some web-hosting. Now all you need to do is set up the blog on your own hosted website. You don’t need to have other pages on the site if you don’t want to.
4. Join social networking sites like Arcalife, or We’re Related, or Ancestral Maps.
Arcalife combines the ability to share family trees with connectivity. It is heralded as a facebook for family historians. It is still under development but looks like it is going in the right direction.
We’re Related is an application that is not meant to be a full featured family tree software package, though it has got several features of that kind included. The idea behind it is for you to be able to share basic family information with anybody you choose.This should allow you to find your relatives on Facebook, keep up with your family, build your family tree and share news and photos with your family. They hope that in the future the application will allow us to share memories about ancestors with our family, compare our family tree with our friends on Facebook and so to see if we are related.
Ancestral Maps is an exciting new website that allows family historians to plot events and locations relating to your ancestors’ lives on maps. The idea is to then share these with others who are members of the website. It sounds like it could grow into a most useful site as it attracts new users.
So if you want to speed up your research and make contacts with distant cousins then I can’t recommend enough these strategies. The bottom line is that the world wide web has made it much easier for us to make connections with fellow researchers but to do this you need to set up a means for them to find and contact you.
A word of warning: Never take what is shared and publish it without asking. If someone has put in 20 years research on their family and shares with you the benefit of their work, for you to go and add it to your website without their permission is a recipe for ill-feeling and perhaps legal proceedings.
So a distant cousin’s research may well propel you along to find ancestors more quickly than if you were plodding along yourself, but remember that a good family researcher will check the primary source of any information given and will not take it as gospel until they have tracked down the births, marriages and death or census records themselves and then cited them properly in their tree.
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Your Family Tree Magazine is a favourite of mine

Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.
Your Family Tree is considered, by many family historians, to be one of the most respected genealogy magazines around. I love the way that they not only feature articles on the various traditional means of researching our family trees but also give advice on using personal computers or Apple Macs to do ancestor research. Their aim is “to make tracing family history accessible and rewarding for everyone” according to their website. Your Family Tree offers practical advice, written by experts, on all areas of family history research and is known as Your Family History outside of the UK. The content, however, is the same in both magazines so don’t feel you will lose out if you are based abroad. The Editor, Russell James, is quoted as saying this: “Each issue covers an array of old documents, answers readers questions, and puts family historians in touch with one another. You’ll also receive a covermounted CD-ROM for Mac and PC containing an array of genealogy resources, as well as a pull-out region research card (contacts, map, plus key local resources and historical facts) and four collectable surname index cards every issue.” I personally can’t wait each month for my copy to arrive. I used to buy it from the newsstand until I realised the convienince and the special price that is offered when taking out a subscription. Take a look at whats on offer by clicking one of the banners on this page and you will be able to try before you buy by looking inside a magazine. Recently I’ve enjoyed reading articles such as these below. Want to join me? 100 vital websites – Bumper online special How To guides including: Research Scottish clans, find old maps online, date wedding photos and organise your records Pass down your family’s story – Make sure your findings are never forgotten Migration records – Discover the best websites to help you trace your ancestors’ movement Royal Mail workers – The stories of your postal ancestors Now I know this looks like I am simply acting as a salesman for them; but I really do read this magazine and I have personally got a lot out of my subscription and so I do not apologise for recommending them! A good genealogist never stops learning. We are all somewhere between Beginner and Advanced Beginner! Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.

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