Those 2015 New Year Genealogy Resolutions

Remember those Genealogy Resolutions from 2015? Well, let’s see how I’ve done so far…

Right at the tail end of 2014, I set myself some more New Year Genealogy Resolutions, in a bid to get myself to focus on solving some more problems (if only in a rush in December 2015). So, how did I get on?

1. Source and Scan even more photographs

I can confidently say that I have achieved this.

In my resolution, I included a screenshot of my current archived collection of photos, and it stated that I had 258 faces across 273 photographs. As of right now, I have tagged 283 different relatives faces across 321 photographs.

iPhoto showing a selection of Faces.
iPhoto showing a selection of Faces in my family tree photo collection.

Okay, that’s an increase, but I didn’t even start talking to my more distant Gilbert relatives, or my elderly uncle, so I think I could easily improve on that if I tried harder.

2. Kill off Mary Clarke

Honestly, this woman just won’t die. Mary Bailey (née Clarke) was my 4x Great Grandmother, and she has survived conviction and hard labour for abusing, neglecting, and cruelty towards her step-children, and a few periods in the workhouse, and yet she continues to dodge death.

In my resolution, I hinted towards a possible lead that might place her burial place under what is now a housing estate. However, the death certificate proved incorrect, and so she remains – out there.

Somewhere. Almost teasing me.

I’ll get you Mary!

3. Delve into new record sets

It’s easy to stick to censuses and parish records, but there’s so much more out there.

In 2015 I achieved this – I explored the newly launched online Wills service – which allowed me to download copies of relatives Wills from the comfort of my desk.

I’ve continued to explore newspapers, and these have often thrown me some new slivers of information – or leads to go on at least.

As I write this post, I’ve just had an email from Alex Cox at the FindMyPast team telling me about yet another batch of records they’ve added to their site. Honestly, you guys ruin my weekends!!

New India records available on findmypast
Alex Cox’s email telling me of new India records available on findmypast

So, just a couple of minutes ago, I took advantage of some newly available British India Ecclesiastical Returns and downloaded a copy of the marriage entry for a Sgt Thomas Yarrow and his wife Catherine O’Keefe (née Cambert) in 1863 at Faizabad. I already have a great deal of information on these two (including a family photo), but the marriage entry finally gives me the exact date of this event.

4. Write more

I kind of wrote more…. but unlike my resolution, it didn’t involve a book.

Instead, after Google announced it’s ‘mobilegeddon‘ update back in April 2015 (where Search Results will be biased towards mobile-friendly sites), I’ve been busy designing a fully responsive website template with which to upgrade The Family Tree UK website. I’ve done this from scratch, and now I’m slowly migrating the content across.

So yes, I did write more, but it was in HTML5, CSS3 and all in the name of future proofing my site. I also took the opportunity to tidy up some data and links too – so essentially all behind the scenes stuff.

5. Complete Simpson Bishop’s timeline

This one has puzzled me for a while ever since I stumbled across an unexpected departure from rural fenland up to the cotton mills, and an extra two marriages.

I lose Simpson Bishop after the deaths and burials of two of his young daughters in 1874. At the time of the 1871 census, he is not living with his third wife. Instead, he is living a short distance away with some of his older children.

He goes AWOL 1881-1891, whilst his third wife Sarah is easy to find – yet she states that she is ‘married’. She finally states she is a widow on the 1901 census.

Did he abandon her? Were they simply living apart on the census because they had a big family that wouldn’t fit in one small house for cotton mill workers like them? Did he emigrate? Did he die just after the 1871 census?

These questions puzzle me, and I feel that I need to give more attention to the Lancashire records and maps so that I can make judgements as to where he might have gone and why.

So, like Mary Clarke, he’s still out there… and I will find him.

Did you have any Genealogy Resolutions from 2015?

Last year a few of you suggested that you might participate with your own resolutions, so I’m wondering how yours fared – better or worse than mine?

It’s so easy to get sidetracked in family history if its your hobby as your attention competes with everything else that’s going on in your life. I’d like to think that professional genealogists, being more focussed and deadline conscious, would be better at Genealogy Resolutions. What do you think?

Anyway, have a think about what you might aim to do in 2016, as my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions are almost ready!

In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Andrew 🙂

Start your family tree – the time is NOW

In what is the last few days of 2014, I’m thinking back through to last January and my 2014 genealogy resolutions (more on their progress or otherwise, and my 2015 ones to come).

Man holding magnifying glass and death certificate
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by ‘new records’ right now.

This year has been a busy one for genealogy as an industry, and history as a whole, what with some significant world war anniversaries.

Meanwhile, I’ve continued working on my trees, undertaking a couple of bits of free detective work for a friend and also in response to finding a family bible in an antiques store, busily updating my Family Tree UK site with some nice Structured Data for the benefit of Search (yes, my inner nerd has been binging on that), finding a ghost, and joining a one-name organisation that’s found its way through somewhat of a sudden unexpected and perhaps turbulent period of change, I’ve been merrily receiving emails about the latest new sets of hundreds of thousands of newly-available records.

That list of newly available records has kept on growing and growing and that kind of leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve dropped the ball and let my genealogy badge slip.

Perhaps I should just draw a line, and start again?

Only joking, I’m not about to throw 20yrs worth of work away.

But, there’s so much ‘new’ out there, that I feel a bit lost in the noise again.

This is why, if you’re only just starting, or you’re toying with the idea to explore your tree, or to find out if your old grandmother’s rumours were in any way true or just romanticised whimsy, then this is the time to start it.

Book yourself into a session with your local archives, or talk to your oldest coherent relatives, find out the photos.. but make sure you use the sites that carry the ‘human’ bits of genealogy and record them too – not just the number counts of a census return, but the newspapers, the scraps of info from war records, and the scribbly notes in parish registers.

How does that help me?

What I need to do is climb back down my tree branches and stand at the bottom of the family tree, look upwards, and then slowly learn to climb it again. By doing so, I should find new information that helps to make those old branches grow a little bit more.

In my random casual looks for records against close relatives, these new record sets from the likes of the British Newspaper Archive and FindMyPast, have allowed me to fill in more of the everyday lives of people I thought I had already.

I’ve only just dipped my toes/fingers/nose into their millions of records that they’ve been steadily releasing this year. Kudos to FindMyPast, who despite taking a massive backlash when they altered their website, on a scale that was a-kin to the Ancestry Search Change Disaster (remember that?), I think they have led the way with getting the more numerous and more interesting records into their data-sets.

Also, with the launch of sites like Lives Of The First World War from the Imperial War Museum, the information is not only going to come from record organisations, but also via personal histories through the wisdom of crowds.

A snapshot of Lives Of The First World War stats
A snapshot of today’s Lives Of The First World War stats

Of course I should expect to see ‘new’ information turn up – and I’ve enjoyed this immensely spending more time exploring the Ancestry ‘Hints’, and only recently found some photos of my Great Grandfather – Alfred Newman, aged about 28 (youngest I’d ever seen him previously to that, was in his 40s). I never met him.

Ancestry Hits
All these Hints will keep me busy on Ancestry in the Christmas period.

I’ve yet to delve into School Records, but really hoping to find lots of notes on my Great Grandmother as being a mischievous little devil (I always felt she had a rebellious streak in her).

I’m also yet to explore the new online ‘Find A Will’ service from The Probate Service. I’ve always enjoyed reading Wills, but have very few of them. I have some great transcripts of 16th-19th century ones, and they’ve been perfect for unravelling relationships between generations.

With so much to even start to explore, this is why I almost feel like I did when I first walked into a Records Office (the Bury St Edmunds one).

It is exciting, revealing, overwhelming…. and oh…. wonderfully addictive.