The loss of 1119 lives occurred on 7 May 1915 during the First World War, as Germany waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Recently I was approached by a client, whose family oral stories included one that claimed that several of his great-uncles had gone down in the ship. Understanding that family tales can get elaborated upon, he asked me to do some research to see if I could confirm or disprove the reports.
Luckily, for all family historians who think that they may have ancestors who sailed on the Lusitania, there is a great website which carries the passenger and crew lists for the fatal voyage on 7th May 1915 and it can be found here:
I have to say that when I read this month’s Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine that I was a bit taken aback with the review of the four major sites.
Ancestry.co.uk, Findmypast.co.uk, GenesReunited.co.uk and TheGenealogist.co.uk are tested by a panel for the magazine.
I am a regular user of three of the websites as there are times when data can be found on one that is not on the others. Also, when searching for a person who has been illegibly recorded in the original records, and so posing a headache for the transcribers, one site may better identify your ancestor than on the others.
Sometimes Ancestry’s interface can be a bit overwhelming, as I have found in showing new users how to find their ancestors using this platform. Drilling down with the Card Index helps greatly.
I was very surprised, however, that Findmypast got such a high rating in the magazine review, after all the problems it has had this year with its new interface. I completely understand that there are good reasons for the new platform, which enables them to continue to expand the records available. Yet we have all seen the reports of disgruntled customers who feel the customer service was not what they had expected when they voiced their concerns. So why wasn’t this reflected in the article? FMP actually comes out highly for Navigation and search in the piece.
As a blogger I continue to post news about FMP’s data set releases on my site, along with those of the other providers, only to then receive emails and comments from FMP users expressing their frustration with the site. And I am completely independent of FMP!
Returning to the review article, I was also disappointed to see several wrong statements made about The Genealogist website which I feel I have to mention in the cause of fairness.
Firstly, it has been possible for as long as I can remember to simply use the “?” icon on this website to report an error and yet the reviewer states bluntly that it “wasn’t possible to flag up transcription errors”. On the contrary!
I also can not agree with the reviewers, who indicate that this website “promises more than it delivers” and that it is “possible to form an inflated impression of the content contained based on the marketing”.
An example given by one reviewer is the number of newspapers and magazines on the site. The article erroneously makes out that the data is less than it really is. I have found that TheGenealogist site has a lot more than just the two newspapers that their reviewer was able to find. I make it 15!
One of the contributors reported that, when searching, you couldn’t group all the census years together and she says that you have to examine them year by year. Again this is just plain wrong as all you need to do is use the Master Search which will allow you to do this!
I have always enjoyed reading Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, but this article perplexes me in its bias. What is going on here?
These knowledgeable interviewees include practising professional genealogists, with years and years of experience to offer.
Yet others are from the very highest levels of the online data provider companies, like Ancestry and TheGenealogist.
Listen to the download and learn some plain tips that will simplify the often confusing business of researching English/Welsh ancestors. I am going to give you access to these eight professionals so that you can use their advice to break down several brick walls that you may have.
3. The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) Member. What would the advice be from a professional genealogist practitioner?
Well as many serious professional genealogists belong to this association, I headed over to the AGRA stand and asked a member for his research tips. Points he brought up included the information on documents being only as good as that given by the informant and what to do about conflicting data. There is more to hear in the full interview that you can download here .
4. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) Expert. In family history we often have to think a bit outside the box. Well have you considered that your missing ancestor had moved abroad? With 3 million Brits having gone out to India then if we have a missing forbear it could certainly pay us to take a look at the records from this part of the British Empire. Its not just soldiers, the list of people who went out to work there is long as we hear from this FIBIS expert.
5. Celia Heritage – Professional Genealogist, Author and Family History Teacher introduces us to an often under used set of resources in her piece: Death Records. She explains how to use these records to flesh out the bones of our ancestors lives.
Celia is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and you can just hear the passion that she has for her subject as she dispenses some gems of advice in the free downloadable audio presentation. Its not just death certificates that Celia brings to our attention in this part of the recording!
6. Dr Ian Galbraith – The National Wills Index explains about one of the best single major sources for family historians when I asked him to talk about Wills and Administrations for this audio.
Ian explains why wills can be an important resource with an average of 10 names per will and with half of them being different from that of the testator. Many people are surprised by the fact that all sorts of people left wills, but you won’t be when you have heard the full interview.
7. Brad Argent – Content Director for Ancestry advises family historians to drill down for the information in the online databases in his contribution to the recording. Brad suggests we use the card catalogue to seek out data sets and then use the advance search facility of “exact”, “soundex” and “wildcards” when we are on this large data provider’s site. His advice is compelling.
8. Mark Bayley – Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, a site that gives really fantastic value and a very wide range of data, introduces us to a great name-rich resource recently published by TheGenealogist, in association with The National Archives.
What is this important resource for England and Wales?
It is, of course, the Tithe collection.
I have been using this set recently to great effect with my own rural ancestors and so I have included a module in my Family History Researcher Guides about the tithes.
The beauty of this data is that it includes both sides of society, with landowners and tenants being recorded and giving names and addresses. As a pre-census data set it is hugely valuable to us! Listen to Mark explain about these exciting records in the free recording you can download now by clicking the link below.
Now you may be asking why I am doing this for free?
Its because I want to introduce you to a set of guides that I have put together. A series of pdf modules that takes the information I gleaned at Who Do You Think You Are? Live and incorporated it, along with much more content into a year’s worth of weekly written guides.
There are extra contributions from various other professional experts who have penned some of the reports, as well as those modules written from my own extensive experience.
I am guessing that, if you have read this far, you are interested in English/Welsh family history and that you have hit at least one of the inevitable brick walls. The solution is to understand more ways to find your ancestors.
So if you would like to dramatically increase your knowledge then I think you will enjoy being a member of my Family History Researcher Guides. This is a 52 weekly series of guides written in an easily accessible form and you can take a two week trial for just £1 by going here:
Sign up for a Diamond Annual Subscription for only £69.45 for the first year, with their cashback offer
When I took a look at my in-box this evening I discovered this generous offer from the team over at TheGenealogist.
As I know many of you are looking for alternative genealogical research sites, at the moment, then maybe now is the time to take advantage of this offer!
With the release of over 11 million Tithe Records, millions of parish records, the Image Archive, military records, occupational records and the International Headstone project, TheGenealogist is now offering family historians the opportunity to take a look at the useful resources now available on TheGenealogist at a special one-time reduced price.
With many genealogy sites in the UK struggling with implementing new features and layouts, TheGenealogist has maintained its popular user-friendly search tools that have helped enhance its growing reputation.
For those people that have never used TheGenealogist, the popular tools such as the keyword search, family forename search and address search are well worth taking a look at to help discover your ancestors. The new special offer gives you this opportunity with a £50 cashback when you purchase a Diamond subscription, making it just £69.45for a year!
This will give you unlimited access to unique record sets and powerful tools, to help you with your research. You’ll also get 12 free issues of Discover Your Ancestors Online Periodical worth £12!
Mark Bayley, Head of the Online Division comments: “There have been many reports recently in the news and social media, of users struggling with changes to genealogy websites. We’d like to reassure you that we are customer led. We listen, respond and react quickly to our users. Our site design is based on keeping things simple and developed through customer feedback.”
If you’re struggling with your current family history subscription, why not give TheGenealogist a try?
Get access to the widest range of records including unique resources, such as Tithe Records, Non-Conformist & Non-Parochial Records, Parish Records, Will Records with images, Military collections, and more by going for a Diamond subscription.
The cash back offer is open to all new customers, world wide.
Like many, I have been fascinated by the reports in the media lately regarding the finding of Richard III’s remains in the former Greyfriars Church in Leicester.
I was a student in Leicester in the early 1980’s. So it was that I walked past the rather nondescript area where King Richard III was buried on a daily basis on my way to and from lectures and never for one instance thinking of the historical importance of the church that had stood there before.
On my most recent visit to the city, back in January, I was aware of the excitement that was building around the find at Greyfriars car park and picked up some leaflets at the tourist office on the subject. Then this week the world’s media covered the announcement that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” the skeleton of the monarch.
From my point of view, as a family historian, one of the really interesting things was the use of DNA from a descendent of the dead king’s sister to reach this conclusion.
The team from Leicester University had turned to the historian and author John Ashdown-Hill. Back in 2004 he had been able to tracked down the late Joy Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richardâ€™s sister Anne of York and from her to the Canadian born Michael Ibsen, a cabinet maker in London.
Again, of interest to us family historians, is what John Ashdown-Hill said on the BBC’s Radio 4 “Today” programme
â€œAn enormous family tree grew on my computer. You have to trace every possible line of descent because you donâ€™t know which one will die out in 1745 and which one will carry on to the present day â€“ you have to trace them all.â€
On the Who Do You Think You Are Magazine’s website it is reported that the team did not rely on just the one line from Anne of York down to Joy Ibsen, as is the impression gained from some of the media reports this week.
Not only did the genealogists find documentary evidence for each â€˜linkâ€™ of the chain between Anne of York and the late Joy Ibsen, but they were able to make contact with a second maternal line descendant â€“ who wishes remain anonymous â€“ whose DNA was used to confirm a match between genetic material extracted from the skeleton and a swab provided by Joyâ€™s son, Michael.
â€œRight from the start of the project, we did not want to rely entirely on the DNA between Michael and the skeleton. We always wanted to triangulate that wherever possible,â€ explains Professor SchÃ¼rer. â€œWe set about trying to secure a second maternal line, and after several weeks of research we actually did discover this person. The documentary evidence again is there to support this.â€
In a couple of weeks the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show will be at Olympia and already they have moved the talk by Dr Turi King called “Discovering Richard III” from a smaller area to now be held in the Celebrity Theatre / SOG studio 1 on Saturday, 1.00pm â€“ 1.45pm.
It is billed as telling the story of the research project undertaken at the University of Leicester to discover the burial place of Richard III and the related work to scientifically identify the skeletal remains.
Personally I can’t wait for this year’s WDYTYA? LIVE as I missed last year due to fog disrupting my travel plans!
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Sometimes genealogy can be very frustrating! You can use all the correct procedures to find your ancestors in the data bases and yet they still stubbornly remain hidden from you. A vital document has been destroyed or lost sometime long ago and this vital link in the chain is broken and you are left floundering around wondering where to turn next.
This weekend, 24th to 26th February, I had hoped to be able to visit the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at Olympia and to report back to my readers on the latest in techniques for carrying forward our research, advice from some of the experts that I would have interviewed on video, new databases to search and news from the subscription sites. Regretfully I have been foiled by a bank of fog in the English Channel that has cancelled flights from my home in Jersey to London since Thursday!
A huge disappointment for me that my travel plans were scuppered, but this got me thinking about just how easy we modern travellers normally have it. So what if I have been hanging around for three fruitless days waiting for my half-an-hour flight to the capital, that never materialised? In the past our ancestors travel was often long, sometimes dangerous and undertaken with some trepidation. I am hugely impressed by some of my seafaring ancestors that braved storms, disease and long periods separated from home and family. What this does is bring into context the pitifully small inconvenience to me that I have lost the chance to do something that I had been so looking forward to. Yes I am fed up, but I believe that I am so lucky to be living today, with all the conveniences I have, even when sometimes they just don’t or can’t operate.
Having said that, however, this still doesn’t detract from the deep fascination that I have with my forebears and their past.
So what has been happening at the WDYTYA? LIVE show?
I noticed that Ancestry.co.uk has been streaming live from their theatre in the show this year. Unfortunately the download speed has given me some problems, so that I couldn’t watch the reports properly.
Findmypast.co.uk announced that we are now able to search 359,000 records of Merchant Navy Seamen for the period 1835-1857 on their site. These 19th century Merchant Navy records become available online for the first time with this brightsolid company’s work in association with The National Archives.
The background to the records is that from 1835, the central government started to monitor a potential reserve of sailors for the Royal Navy, which resulted in the creation of thousands of records that identify individual seamen. The information that these records hold about any of your potential ancestors will obviously vary. Normally, however, they include the name, age, place of birth, a physical description, the name of ship and dates of voyages that the mariner served on. This release adds to the 20th century Merchant Navy Seamen records, which were already published on findmypast.co.uk in September 2011. This means you can now search two centuries of records for your Merchant Navy Seamen ancestors, making it possible for you to trace their service over time.
Nigel Bayley Managing Director of The Genealogist.co.uk talking to me at WDYTYA?LIVE last year.
TheGenealogist.co.uk have now released full transcripts for the final eight counties in the 1911 census.
The release of these counties brings the total number of records to over 36 million on their site and completes the 1911 census project. These census records, only available to Diamond subscribers, have been integrated into their existing search tools, so that you are now able to access the transcripts using their very useful House and Street search tool, their Keyword Master search and also their Family Forename search. This can help enormously to track down ancestors in this set.
Take your family history further by considering a subscription to these websites:
Disclosure: 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 Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.
My family tree research has thrown up the occasional brick wall when I have excluded the possibility of spelling an ancestor’s name in a different way from what was to be expected.
Just this week I was helping a contact find the death record for one of their forebears and the official death records had listed the deceased using an alternative spelling of the person’s middle name and so throwing some doubt on whether we had got our man or not. In the event the decease’s home address matched the information known about the family home and so it could be confirmed that this was the correct death certificate for my correspondent’s ancestor.
In my own tree I have come up against stumbling blocks provided, on the one hand, by poor transcription and, on the other, by variable spelling in newspaper reports that I had been investigating. One of my ancestors had a reasonably common first and second name, for his time, but he had been given the middle name of Crosland that enabled me to distinguish him from his same named contemporaries. Sometimes, however, he would appear as Crossland with two ‘s’s and other times with just the one. Similarly, one of his sons had been baptised with a middle name of Massy but this could be found in records written as Massey or Massy so adding to the chance of missing him.
Other problems, found using the search facilities of the main look up sites, were with transcriptions. It needs to be remembered that, when searching for an entry in a census, we are actually making use of the transcription provided by the website and not of the actual data written in the census. This would be impossible to use as it was completed in handwriting and so not open to search engines to interpret.
Using the census collections I have had difficulty finding my grandfather, a Hubert Thorne, as he had been transcribed as Herbert. Going back one generation and his father was Sydney, not Sidney and this doesn’t even consider the problems created by the enumerator shortening names such as Thomas to Thos, Elizabeth to Eliza and William to Wm.
Other difficulties arise, in my own family tree, when persons are baptised with a first and middle name and then adopt the middle name as a first throughout their life. To compound it all, there middle name is even used on their death certificate as if it was their first. And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that many of us have nick names that we prefer to be called by!
The point that I am making here, is to always beware of searching with strict parameters for a person’s name when doing your family tree.
For more useful tips to research your Family Tree then download my Kindle book by using the button in the box below.
I have happily been spending some time looking around the newly launched British Newspaper Archive in the hope of finding ancestors from my family tree mentioned in articles or advertisements.
I can report that I have had some brilliant luck with some and no luck at all with others. I also have noticed that you have to deploy a lateral thought process to the search for a name mentioned in an article as an ancestor may have been named in full, or with initials or been misspelt by the journalist writing the piece.
Many results are clear and you can decide to save them by bookmarking them on the site. Some selections are, however, not so clear. The tip I would give you is to try and read the snippets, next to the results, with an open mind. On quite a few occasions my brain could make sense of the Gobbledygook that the optical character recognition OCR reports back for that article and recognised family names or places that otherwise would be disregarded as meaningless characters.
At Cuttlehill Farm, Cross?ates. wit I I 12th ir.st., Helen Carmichael, wire of JoÂ»B| I jL C. Foord...
becomes: At Cuttlehill Farm, Crossgates. On the 12th instance, Helen Carmichael, wife of John I L C Foord…
And now on to my discovery. I have, for some time, known of a 2x great-uncle that had been killed from a fall over the cliffs in Alderney and buried back on the English mainland near Weymouth. I had first come across this fact in a privately published book on the monumental inscriptions of a church in Cheltenham. In Christ Church Cheltenham there is a monument on the wall to his parents and at some time a local historian had written not only about the people commemorated by these plaques but also about their family.
As I am resident in Jersey I was intrigued to find that there was a family connection to the more northerly Channel Island and yet I had found nothing to explain how one of my ancestors had met his demise there. A few minutes on The British Newspaper Archive has solved this for me and I am now investigating this further.
To take a look at this great new resource for family historians go to:
To wrap up the series, thereâ€™s a miscellany of other potential avenues that are worth exploring.
First of all, there are photographs. If you have family photos you will almost certainly have cursed the elderly relatives who put them in an album and then never got round to labelling who, what and where they were. Butâ€¦ there are some useful tricks to use.
First of all, scan the photograph at the highest resolution you can. If you can be sure the photo was taken and developed in Jersey, you may be able to identify the firm who developed it. A gentleman by the name of Richard Hemery has put years of work into this, and for some of the better known photographers his efforts will allow you to pin the photographâ€™s date down quite well.
This particular photo is a neat example. Richardâ€™s work tells us there were only two firms who put reference numbers on the front of prints, both operating in the 1930s. But thereâ€™s more: a high-res scan picks up the name Le Riche over the shop awning behind and left of the lady, and also makes the colonnade on the right clearer. That pins the location down to Halkett Place by the Central Market, and the date has to be after 1932, when Le Richeâ€™s (a long-established island grocer) opened their shop there.
In addition, thereâ€™s what the newspapers may have said. The first newspaper on Jersey was published in the late 18th Century, and there have been a number of different publications since, right down to the Jersey Evening Post (usually referred to just as the JEP) of today. The JEP has always been a very parochial paper in the better sense of the word: it reports everything and anything that goes on. If your relative was a prominent member of a local church or a schoolmaster or a farmer, itâ€™s quite possible that theyâ€™d get a respectable tribute from the JEP when they passed away.
The central Library in Halkett Place has a very comprehensive collection of microfilmed newspapers â€“ theyâ€™re up on the first floor. You need to book a reader â€“ it is worth doing this in advance, particularly if you want the one that will print to paper. E-mail email@example.com and they will sort things out.
While we are talking about libraries, there are collections of reference books at the Coutanche Library (the NoseyGenealogist will be releasing a film guide to what they have shortly) and smaller collections at both the Archive and the Central Library to supplement your knowledge of Jerseyâ€™s history and culture.
Here is the first of my From the showvideo 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.