Family History Books for Kindle

So this week, in the British Isles, saw Waterstones Booksellers launch the Kindle readers in their shops across the country. In my branch in St Helier, Jersey there is a great new display point and I was drawn immediately towards the Kindle Fire HD. I love the way it looks and the way it works! So much so that I got my debit card out and bought one there and then.

With these devices making more of an inroad into the way that people shop for books and read them I thought that it was timely for me to take a look at what family history titles are available from the Amazon Kindle store.

First off  I found that Peter Christian’s The Genealogist’s Internet is available. I’d seen it reviewed in Your Family Tree magazine in only the last month with a recommend that every family historian should have a copy either in Kindle form or in physical book.

It is a practical guide which that  is great for both beginners and more experienced researchers to use as it explores the most useful online sources and aids its readers to navigate each one. The Genealogist’s Internet features fully updated URLs and all of the recent developments in online genealogy.

This is the fully updated fifth edition and it carries the endorsed by the National Archives. Covering

·Online census records and wills, including the 1911 Census

·Civil registration indexes

·Information on occupations and professions

·DNA matching

·New genealogy websites and search engines

·Surname studies

·Passenger lists and migration records

·Information on digitised historical maps and photographs

Peter Christian’s book also includes the impact of blogging, podcasting and social networking on family history research, that allows the family historian to seek out others with similar research interests and so to share their results. Whether you want to put your family tree online, find distant relatives or access the numerous online genealogical forums, discussion groups and mailing lists, this book is a must-have.

For a selection of other Kindle books, including my own, head over to amazon.co.uk and take a look at these: Must Have Family History Books for your Kindle.

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Irish Family History Forum Launcehd by findmypast.ie



Findmypast.ie has announced that they have launched one of the first online forums that is solely dedicated to those people researching their Irish family history. This new forum is an online community for all those Irish diaspora who are looking for a place to discuss everything from researching Irish family history and Irish geography, to success stories and what it means to be Irish and its free to all registered users.

This is the findmypast family of websites first foray into community based chat and it seems that they recognised the inherent difficulties involved in looking for Irish ancestors was one of the reasons for setting it up. The forum will enable amateur and professional family historians alike to ask their family history questions to like-minded researchers across the world. The hope is that it will enable members to benefit from the wealth of experience gained from those who have previously hit brick walls in their research and then overcome them.

Brian Donovan of findmypast Ireland and long-time member of the Irish genealogy community commented: “The findmypast.ie forum is another indication of findmypast’s dedication to providing the world’s best platform for researching your Irish family history. I wish there had been an option like this available to me when I first started in genealogy”

The forums are separated into half a dozen different message boards, and once you are a registered user you will be able to start a new discussion on any of the six boards. Users will be able to add responses to topics which have already been posted by others as is normal in a forum. The six message board topics are to include General Discussion, Using the Records, Tracing Specific Ancestors, Places and Geography in Ireland, Your Finds and Success Stories and What Does it Mean to be Irish?

Anything that helps people to break down brick walls, in Ireland, is to be welcomed.


Disclosure: Links in this post are Compensated Affiliate links to findmypast.ie

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Tracing Ancestors With a Common Surname

Online-Old-Parish-RecordsThe problem of tracing an ancestor, with a common surname, is one of those brick walls that many of us come up against in our family tree research. When it occurs after the introduction of state run vital indexes, in 1837 for England & Wales and eighteen years later, in 1855, when Scotland adopted the idea, it can be difficult to find the exact person that is our forebear, but at least we have a central index to search. The Crown Dependencies followed suit at different times again, so you will see civil registration introduced into Guernsey in 1840, Jersey in 1842, Alderney in 1850 and Sark in 1915. The Isle of Man beginning compulsory civil registration of births and deaths in 1878 and then marriages in 1884.

But what about searching for a Smith or Jones in the years pre-civil indexes? If you are expecting an easy answer I’m afraid I am going to disappoint, as common surnames do present us family historians with great difficulties to overcome. Having said that, however, all may not be lost.

If the ancestor in question has an unusual first, or middle name, then this may help you enormously to single your likely candidate out from the others. In my own research it was not the actual man I was trying to track down who had the unusual middle name, but his son. I had already made the connection to John Branton Thorn via the prime sources and knew him to be my ancestor. I was now on the trail of five or six John and Sarahs who were candidates for his parents, according to his baptismal details. So which of the various John Thorns who married a woman whose first name was Sarah in various parts of Devon jumped out as a strong possibility? It was the one where the bride’s surname was Branton.

The advice I have been given is to try to tie the person with the common name to one with a less than common one. It could be their wife, a brother or sister and so on and perhaps it is an unusual first name, middle name, or maiden name you can use.

If you are not able to find your ancestor for certain in the church registers, then always remember that the Bishop’s Transcripts may possibly harbour more information than the register did. It is not a certainty that it will, but it is worth a look.

Try using Wills and Admons to see if you can find the possible parents (or a brother, sister or other relation) naming your ancestor as a beneficiary.

Another point to be aware of is that even with a less common surname there can be many problems to overcome in family history research. As spelling of surnames varied so much, until the mid 19th century or later when they became more fixed, and with many of our ancestors not being literate, the clergy often recorded the name as they thought they heard it and so a regional accent is probably responsible for one line of my ancestors being recorded as Sysal, Sissell, Sissill and Sizzall in the church records from 1780 to 1798.

If the person you are researching was born in the years just before civil registration began, but was likely to have died after the death registers began, how about looking for them in these records. You can also use the church burial records, if you know the parish they died in. What about trying the National Burial Index? If you just have a first name and a common surname I grant you that this is not going to be much help to you but if you know the place that they lived then you may be able to narrow down you likely forebears.

On the subject of places, some names can be very common in one area, for example Thorn/Thorne in Devon, but a common name may not be so common in another place.

Advice that I have seen given on other blogs and forums say that you should:

  • Learn as much identifying information as you can about the ancestor you are researching.

So look for family bibles, they can list the names of children. Think about whether there are any other records for the district where your ancestor lived that they may have been recorded within? Taxes, land records, muster rolls, etc.

  • Make a chronology of the ancestor’s life if you can; where did they live for the various events in their lives? Can you identify the street, the town or hamlet for the significant moments in their time-line? If you can then you have a framework to work with.

Common surnames are certainly a problem for family history researchers trying to populate their family tree and sometimes there will be no easy answer. Persevere, however, as more and more records become available there is always a chance that your ancestor may be within one of them.

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Jersey Family History Forum at WDYTYA? Live

Jersey Family History Forum at the WDYTYA? Live show 2011
Jersey Family History Forum at the WDYTYA? Live show 2011

I had to be up, showered and breakfasted for 6 am, in order to make my way to Jersey airport and the 7 am “red-eye” to London Gatwick. The fact that I, not in any way a morning person, was prepared to do this stems from the timetable of workshops that I had seen for the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show at Olympia.

First on, in the Society of Genealogist’s Regional theatre was “Researching Your Family History in Jersey” given by Sue Payn and James McLaren and I really wanted to be there for the workshop. My bus to the airport, the flight to London and the coach transfer to central London all ran reasonably to schedule and so I was in the building by 10.15. and taking a seat in time for the presentation.

James’ began by clearing up the perennial misunderstanding by people from outside of the island, regarding Jersey’s constitutional position. As a Jersey born and educated person, myself, I have spent most of my life making similar statements to his and so a smile warmed my face as the familiar words rang out.

I am often heard saying that we are not part of England and Wales, nor are we part of Great Britain, nor the United Kingdom and we are not in the EU, but are British Islands.

As James said: “We are a Crown Dependency: we owe allegiance to the British crown, but in most other respects we are self-governing. We have our own legal system, large parts of which are quite different from English law. In this respect we are similar to Guernsey, but please understand that we are not the same! It’s like the difference between a Mercedes-Benz and an Austin Allegro – the principle is the same, a vehicle that gets you from A to B, but the detailed implementation is rather different.”

This brought another smile to my lips as the old rivalry, with our sister Bailiwick of Guernsey, was introduced to the good folk in the workshop. Both Bailiwicks trace a Norman heritage and when in 1204 King John lost his French possessions, the Channel Islands kept allegiance to the British Crown.

One of the first things you are going to find, if you are researching your ancestors from Jersey is that the records are invariably going to be in French, as this was the official language of this island until very recently when English has become dominant. James pointed out that Jersey was very largely French or Jerriais-speaking until the middle of the 19th century, and so a lot of legal records long after that were kept in French. The deeds to my house, for example.

I have often heard people in the island refer to these documents being written in “proper French” to distinguish the language used from Jerriais, the name given to the Jersey French patois spoken in the island, which even comes with variations in pronunciation across the 45 square miles of the island!

Jersey people have always travelled far from their island; some to settle away in places such as Canada, Australia and of course to the United Kingdom. Some stay and some return. As James said the reason Jersey folk travelled was “– partly because of our rules on inheritance, partly because there was money to be made in trade, partly to serve Queen and country in the armed forces, and more recently because the only way to get higher education was to go to the big island to the north of us. Consequently there are numerous people in the UK who have Jersey ancestry somewhere in their past.”

I shall be returning to the subject of Jersey Ancestors and have more from James McLaren from the Channel Islands Family History Society in another post on this site shortly.

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NoseyGenealogist.com/blog interviews Your Family Tree Magazine’s Editor

Here is the first of my From the show video reports..
http://www.noseygenealogist.com/blog/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-2011
In which I get to talk to Mr Tom Dennis, the editor of the popular family history publication: Your Family Tree Magazine. It was at the 2011 “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” show in London that I caught up with Tom on his magazine’s stand and got to hear the plans for some of the family history articles and features that we can look forward to in his magazine over the next few months. We also get an insight into what resources we should look out for on the cover CD and hear how the on-line forum for family historians is developing.

Your Family Tree Magazine Editor talks to The Nosey Genealogist
Your Family Tree Magazine Editor talks to The Nosey Genealogist
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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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