Who Do You Think You Are Magazine Review of Websites

 

Nick ThorneI 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?

 

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Family History sent me round the houses today!

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I was back in the area of Jersey where I grew up today.

It was not my family history that I was researching, but ancestors belonging to someone else.

I had received a request to take a photograph of the house in which my contact’s forebears had lived and so I went to my computer and opened TheGenealogist.co.uk and looked up the head of the household in their Channel Island records.

This site has some “Jersey Almanacs” which are very useful trade directories for the islands and soon I was on the trail.

The Genealogist also has the full run of census data and images, which I next used to quickly find the person in question.

Unless you are new, to family history research, then you will be aware that the census collections are also available on Ancestry and Findmypast as well. I tend to use all three sites, as sometimes the transcription on one may help me better locate a person with a difficult name spelling.

 

In the 1901 and 1911 census it was quite plain that the family in question lived around the harbour at St Aubin, in the parish of St Brelade. The census in each case clearly gave the name of the house, though it was different in 1911 from 1901 so there was the possibility that the family had moved a very short distance. Either that or they had changed the name of their house.

So a simple task, you may think. All I had to do was pop along to the road in question and snap a building. Even if the house name was no longer visible, or had changed, there was bound to be a property in the road that had retained its name and I could use as a reference point. All I would need to do is count down the houses from that one.

Oh that it was so easy! You see the harbour front has some alleyways off it and these had different road names today from the ones used in the census. It seems to me that the parish has gone back to using the older French names for these roads from the Anglicised ones used in 1901 and 1911.

Another problem was that off these alleys were some semi-detached cottages, some of which are reached via foot paths. Also there were a set of steps, leading up to the steep Market Hill that rises behind the harbour, on which three more un-named cottages perched.

Both of the census records ignored the Methodist Church, that sat in the middle of the harbour frontage between one of my reference properties, as is to be expected if it had no residents to be counted. But it was also obvious that, in times past, some of the other buildings would have been warehousing, or other uninhabited commercial buildings and so these too were not enumerated. This made my task of counting down the houses to the ones for which I was searching, difficult.

I consulted the “Description of the Enumeration District” as in some cases this can give you a good idea of the enumerator’s walk. In this case it mentioned the names of the roads, in general, but did not explain how he had dealt with buildings set behind each other or to the side.

By finding some more reference buildings, that is those that have retained their names through to today, I was able to tie down the house in the 1901 to being on one plot. I am not certain that it is the actual building as it may well have been built later, it not having many of the period features of its neighbours to give away its age.

So only a partial victory for family history research this week, but the Description of the Enumeration District can be a useful tool elsewhere and browsing through a road on the census can often be illuminating in other ways. Sometimes you may find more members of the family living close by and a child missing from one house in its grandparent’s or Aunt and Uncles. I remember finding this in my own family in Plymouth.

 

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above when discusssing the resources of:

The Genealogist

Findmypast

Ancestry

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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.

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Census Transcription Error Unearthed A Second Marriage

This weekend I decided to revisit a line in Plymouth that I had only barely scratched the surface of in my research into the family.

My paternal grandmother’s father was called Edgar Stephens. His mother was Mary Ann Stephens nee Westlake and her mother was also called Mary Ann. Thus, in the 1851 census I was able to find my 3 x great-grandmother Mary Ann Westlake nee Legg married to Thomas Westlake the Brass Founder and Plumber that I have written about before in relation to his advertisement in the 1852 Plymouth Trades Directory.

Trade advertisement from 1852 Plymouth

I was looking at the 1851census records for Thomas and Mary Ann and noticed that they were both the same age, having been born in 1818.

I then went to find them in the 1861 census and noted that the transcript on TheGenealogist had Thomas’ wife listed as “Clara M Westlake” but as her date of birth was still 1818 I just put this down to an error. Opening the image I could see that the writing was none too clear, giving the transcriber a bit of a job to work out. What it certainly didn’t look like was the Mary Ann, as I had expected it to read.

Popping over to Ancestry.co.uk and the transcription for their 1851 census was given as “Chrisk W “.

Searching the same 1851 census on Findmypast and I got the transcription returned as “Catherine W”. The writing on the census page had challenged the transcribers at all three sites and I can not blame them for their differing attempts to make sense of the entry as I certainly couldn’t.

So what had happened to Mary Ann? Had she tired of her name and changed it to something more exotic? Or had she died and Thomas had taken a new wife, who also happened to have been born in the same year as he and the former Mrs Westlake?

 

I decided to do some detective work and search for a death of Mary Ann Westlake from after the 1851 census and before the 1861. What I found was a number of candidates that could have been my great-great-great-grandmother.

So now I approached the problem by seeing if I could find a second marriage for Thomas and here I can testify to the usefulness of the advice, given by many experienced family historians, to “always kill off your ancestors”.

You see, by having done just this for Thomas, having found his death in the records and then the listing for his probate, I was able to discover that he had an unusual middle name of “Scoble”.

Now I could look for a marriage of Thomas Scoble Westlake and I found just the two in the databases. One was in 1841 to Mary Ann Legg in Stoke Damerel, which is in the Devonport area. The other was to Christian Upcott Harwood in the last quarter of 1859 in Falmouth, Cornwall.

I had the name of the second wife!

Though this asked the question, if Thomas and Christian were wed in 1859, then what had happened to Mary Ann? The records show that in the second quarter of 1859 a death was registered in Plymouth for her, allowing Thomas to take a new wife in the fourth quarter! I will need to order a copy of the death certificate to find out what she died of.

So who was Christian Upcott Harwood? I had looked for her birth or christening without any luck. Then it struck me that perhaps she too was a widow. I now looked for the marriage of a Christian Upcott, leaving the bride’s maiden name blank,  to someone called Harwood and I found one to Samuel Peter Harwood in 1841 in Lewisham. Christian was from Plymouth and he was from Plumstead in Kent. A death occurred in East Stonehouse, Devon in the year 1858 to one Samuel Harwood and I assume it was his widow who married Thomas Scoble Westlake.

 

If you would like more tips on researching your English or Welsh Family History then why not sign up for my tips and a special FREE report using the box below…

 

 

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Limited time only…ALL 1911 TRANSCRIPTIONS ARE FREE

I got a Press Release today. When I saw the headline I thought that I’d better post as soon as possible as some of my readers may make good use of this free offer…

“ALL 1911 TRANSCRIPTIONS ARE NOW FREE ON GENES REUNITED AND FINDMYPAST.CO.UK”

Leading family history websites www.GenesReunited.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk have teamed up to offer their members free access to all 1911 census transcriptions from today until 18th November 2012.

The 1911 census is a great place to start researching your family history as the records are the most detailed of any census. It includes places of birth, details of siblings, occupations, how many children have been born to the marriage, how many still alive at the time of the census and how many had died.

 

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager of findmypast.co.uk, said: “The 1911 census is an invaluable resource for tracing your ancestors and it’s fantastic to be able to offer this to our members for free.”

Take a look at  www.GenesReunited.co.uk or findmypast.co.uk now, before its too late!


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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 GenesReunited.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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