Those Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014

How did i get on with completing my 2014 Genealogy Resolutions? Did I kill off my evil Gtx4 Grandmother? Did I write that book?…

Old Father Time meets the New Year
As Old Father Time breathes his last, 2015 and a whole new year of genealogy awaits!

You might remember that I continued my tradition of setting myself some genealogy themed New Year Resolutions (or ‘Genealogy Resolutions’ as I’m calling them). These were 5 aims for my research during 2014.

Here’s the original Genealogy Resolutions for 2014, but how did I get on?

Well, in true genealogy style (and as I’m sure many of you will be able to associate with), I got sidetracked.

Anyway, here’s the results:

 1. Find More Photos

I managed to find some ‘new’ photos of my ancestors thanks to the kindness of people emailing me, or through the hints on Ancestry, and through exploring the brilliant Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network (CCAN) – a big, online, free-to-use archive of Cambridgeshire images. I’m sure there’s similar ones of these for other areas as the concept is hardly new, but this archive contains quite a few of my ancestors.

However, I didn’t write to the more distant relatives that I had planned to, so I need to pick that up.

My scanned and tagged photo collection in iPhoto, now contains 258 recognised faces. I think that’s quite a nice achievement.

2. Killing off my wicked Great x4 Grandmother

For the second year running, I’ve yet to kill off Mary Clarke (1812-?) – my Gtx4 Grandmother who went to jail for abusing and neglecting her step-children in favour of her own, and served several stints in the workhouse in later life. She vanishes after 1881.

I took a gamble earlier in the year and ordered a certificate, but failed to get the right person.

A lead from the ever helpful Arthur Bird of the Suffolk Family History Society, has pointed me in the direction of Oulton, and a death there, and subsequent burial at a workhouse. If this is her, then I may find that her body has recently been exhumed, or is in fact now beneath, or at least amongst, a modern housing estate.

My next Death Certificate purchase will be the one to confirm/disprove this.

3. Spending 3 Days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Whilst I’ve been attending the WDYTYA? Live show for a few years now, 2014 was the first year that I spent all three days there at the London show. I really enjoyed myself, and I’m pleased to say that I felt like I got more out of it, and was really pleased to be able to meet up with familiar faces that I’ve only otherwise ‘spoken to’ via social media.

I look forward to the show in Birmingham, in 2015.

4. Sorting out the babies

I admit that I haven’t done this one at all.

The mass of Yarrow infant births and deaths in Stretham and Little Thetford, and the Martin ones in Little Downham, leave me with a set of certificates to purchase.

This one will have to wait a bit longer.

5. Write that book (or at least start!)

Whilst ‘the book’ remains nothing more than an idea, I have at least been exploring this further even if I haven’t really put too many words down. I do have a few thousand words tucked away in Evernote, but it’s more notation than book.

I’m still stuck as to whether I’d pitch for a novel based on one or a few stories, or stick to a hard fact book, but, as someone who became terminally thrilled by genealogy when I discovered an old tree and some Victorian photos, I’m wondering whether I should aim for something far more visual.

I was pleased to sit in on talks from Kathy Chater, Ellee Seymour, and Richard Benson this year – all being authors and/or journalists who have researched and written family history titles.

 

How did I do?

So, I completed one, three are in progress, and one I did’t do.

As with resolutions, it’s easy to sit there and come up with them, but the delivery can be difficult – particularly when you find yourself chasing a new and interesting story 5 ancestors away from where you meant to be.

I’ll reveal my New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2015 shortly, but in the meantime…

Have a very Happy New Year!

Andrew

Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014

A look back at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair, which took place on October 25th 2014 at Girton, Cambridge.

Yesterday saw the second Cambridgeshire Family History Fair take place – a free genealogy and local history event held in Girton’s Glebe School on the north side of Cambridge.

The Main Hall at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.
The main Exhibition Hall at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.

This year’s fair seemed much busier than last year, and although it seemed that there were fewer talks (one room, rather than two), this didn’t seem to affect the hustle and bustle in the main exhibition hall.

I went along for the whole day (10am-4pm), as I had my eye on 3 of the 4 expert talks, and also had a few genealogy hurdles that I wanted to try to resolve with the Suffolk Family History Society and the Norfolk Family History Society. I also hoped to bump into the postcard stall that I’d seen at last year’s fair… as I had a specific card to find.

Mike Petty MBE: Resources for Researching Cambridgeshire

My first talk of the day was the first time that I had attended a talk by Mike Petty MBE.

His fifty years of collectively working with the likes of The Cambridgeshire Collection, the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History (for which he is currently President), writing a weekly column for the Cambridge News, and being a seasoned lecturer and author for all things Cambridgeshire, has earned him an unrivalled knowledge of the history of the county, and the resources available to research it.

Mike admitted he’s not a genealogist – he’s a historian. This actually makes him a perfect speaker to genealogists, as his talk showed a full room how to get beyond the basics of censuses and BMDs, by digging out the more interesting information about Cambridgeshire that is tucked away in newspapers, in photographs, maps, and books.

As the audience were quickly scribbling down notes, Mike continued to show how to use online indexes to help make your next visit to a Cambridgeshire archives resource more time efficient. He spoke passionately about the vast card indexes that hold so many clues to resources, but which are themselves tucked away due to space limitations.

I’ll definitely make more effort to attend his talks in future – I feel like he could have talked for hours.

Postcard hunting

With a break between talks, I set myself off to see if I could find the Desira Postcards stall that I visited last year, and where I had bought one of two postcards of my Cross family’s bakery shop on Forehill, Ely.

Thankfully, the postcard I saw last year was still within their collection, so (ignoring the £8.50 price tag) I bought it, as it’s an example of how Frederick Thompson Cross was advertising his business. He died in 1911, after which his son Frederick Vernon Cross took over.

Advertising postcard for Frederick Thompson Cross' tea rooms on Forehill, Ely, prior to 1911.
Advertising postcard for Frederick Thompson Cross’ tea rooms on Forehill, Ely, prior to 1911.

Carl Warner: Crowdsourcing History at IWM Duxford

Having enjoyed the collaborative crowdsourcing Lives Of The First World War project that IWM launched earlier this year, I was keen to see what Carl Warner (Imperial War Museum Duxford’s Research and Information Manager) was going to tell us about their Second World War project: American Air Museum.

IWM American Air Museum
The IWM American Air Museum website has launched.

This time, Carl explained that IWM has just launched a new website containing around 15,000 photographs of the USAAF, and that members of the public can register and then add their own, whilst also discuss other images – in a hope to bring names to faces and places, and record the memories of those who remember the presence of American Airmen in Cambridgeshire during WWII.

My own Grandmother remembers the American airmen near Mepal, Cambridgeshire, and like many of her generation, it’s pretty much a story about eating ‘candy’ given to them. Little could she understand then as a child, that when she waved them off as they flew away, that many would never return.

Kathy Chater: How To Write Up Family History

Ex-BBC Researcher, turned professional genealogist, historian and author, Kathy Chater was my third and final expert speaker to listen in to. Her career background, like that of Richard Benson, would give me the impetus and expert advice I need to decide on how best to write up some of my own family history stories beyond the realms of this blog, and a characterless list of names and dates.

Kathy’s advice on breaking down your mountain of research into chunks and focussing on telling each piece of one person’s life at a time, certainly felt to me like a much easier approach. She then suggested that you could then weave a few of these into a story – trying to bring in national, international, social and family events to flesh out the stories and set your ancestor into context.

I’ve certainly been looking at how national and world events may have impacted on my relatives – looking at trends in silk and cotton weaving, the impact of the railways, enclosure acts, Cambridgeshire drainage acts, and of course the horror of wars.

Like Mike Petty, Kathy recommended turning to newspapers – not just the stories, but the adverts and reviews too – all which would help you to understand the world in which your relatives lived.

It was refreshing to hear Kathy give a shot of reality with her comments on being realistic about the publishing of the book – recommending that you should probably just stick to publishing it yourself within your family, and not a publisher. She amplified a message that I’ve heard regularly – file a copy of your book with relevant archives and organisations.

Recharged with enthusiasm to get stuck in to what was the 5th of my 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014, I hope to at least be able to decide whether I’m going to aim for a novelised or non-fiction approach.

Another great genealogy fair!

I’d like to say thank you to all of the speakers that I saw, and also to the hard work of the Cambridgeshire Family History Society team who organised the event. It’s great to see this growing, and I look forward to next year’s event.

Exhibitors at The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.
Exhibitors at The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.

In the meantime, The Big Family History Fair organised by the Huntingdonshire Family History Society returns in May 2015.

FindMyPast.co.uk boosts Suffolk baptism records by 141,500

FindMyPast.co.uk has added 450,000 more parish register entries to its collection – including 141,500 Suffolk baptisms.

Popular genealogy research site FindMyPast.co.uk has announced another tranche of 450,000 online parish records.

FindMyPast.co.uk logo

In a Press Release this morning, it was revealed that 141,525 ‘new’ parish baptisms from 1753-1911 have been added to the FindMyPast.co.uk website via a collaboration with the Suffolk Family History Society.

This is a fantastic boost for researchers of Suffolk ancestors, as well as for the FindMyPast site.

Amongst other records added at the same time were:

  • 244,309 Wiltshire Baptisms 1538-1867
  • 27,420 Northumberland & Durham Burials 1587-2009
  • 22,687 Sheffield Baptisms 1837-1968
  • 8,181 Sheffield Marriages 1824-1991
  • 7,113 Ryedale Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1754-1999

The records are available to view online now for users with PayAsYouGo, Britain Full, or Worldwide subscription.

This is perfect timing for me, as I’ve been waiting for Suffolk parish records to help me solve some research hurdles.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012

Review of my day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012 (WDYTYA Live) show at Olympia, London – including my top tips for you and for the WDYTYA Live organisers!

Back for my second and consecutive WDYTYA? Live show in Olympia, London.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012
Day 2 (25th Feb 2012) – it’s impossible to take a photo that shows the full scale of WDYTYA Live.

Last year I was able to catch the entertaining Monty Don, who talked about his experiences of filming his episode and the effect that it had on him. Unfortunately I missed this year’s Emilia Fox, whose episode was heart-wrenching and fascinating.

WDYTYALive workshops and talks

Instead, I had pre-booked myself on to a couple of talks – the first being a keynote workshop organised by the Society of Genealogists and hosted by the brilliantly raconteur (and freshly outed event tweeter) Else Churchill. The topic of the workshop was “Breaking the barriers of Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks”.

By name, it made me quite excited to attend to see if there is anything that I could use in my own research. The session was led by Laurence Harris from MyHeritage, and whilst interesting, it did stray away from social networking – even touching on DNA testing – and did feel a little at times like a product pitch by MyHeritage. However, there were some good ideas at using social media, and Laurence was clear in his descriptions of the benefits, disadvantages and concerns over using social networks and other online platforms as tools for research. He even introduced me to Mocavo – a genealogy-savvy search tool (and kudos to Mocavo for tweeting at me in response to my tweet about them).

This was followed by a Q&A session with a panel of experts who were certainly from quite a wide range of backgrounds – including D. Joshua Taylor from BrightSolid.com (the partners that help deliver FindMyPast), and Lisa Louise Cook (Genealogy Gems, Google expert).

Else Churchill introduces the panel
Else Churchill (far left) introducing the panel of the Keynote Workshop: ‘Breaking The Barriers with Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks’.

This year, I was also fortunate to meet the brilliant geneageek Lisa Louise Cook after she literally wowed the audience as they frantically scribbled notes during her talk ‘Google Search Strategies for the Family Historian’. What she doesn’t know about using the family of Google products for genealogy research just isn’t worth knowing.

She introduced the audience to ‘search operators’ and how to wield these to make Google search work its hardest for you. I’d never heard of ‘synonym search’ or using a date range tool in my search box, but I know that I will be doing this from now on.

If you’ve never heard of Lisa before, check out her free podcasts on iTunes!

Societies

Titanic themed FindMyPast theatre
FindMyPast might be bigger, but Family History Societies are equally essential in your research.

It’s important to remember the hard work that societies do for genealogy – it’s not all down to the big names like Ancestry, FindMyPast or GenesReunited. Who Do You Think You Are? Live gives huge exposure to a vast number of these local societies and I was very pleased to finally meet Carol Noble from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society, who was very helpful and great to talk to – I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for records for her from now on!

I was also pleased to see the Suffolk Family History Society there too, who gave me some inside news about the availability of some more records from Elveden. Lots of other counties were also present – Norfolk’s stand was crawling with people eagerly browsing their books and cd-roms. I was a little bit disappointed to see that the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society didn’t appear to have (unless I totally missed it) anything to buy and take away – ideally I’d love to get my hands on a cd-rom of parish register transcriptions in the style of the CFHS or Suffolk Family History Society – but instead, they were offering look-ups on their computer for £2 each.

Tips for your WDYTYA Live visit

  • Leave yourself plenty of time if you’re traveling via London Underground – Earls Court station gets very busy and isn’t the easiest to navigate.
  • Be prepared for lots of walking and standing….. and talking!
  • Book tickets for the ‘big’ workshops and talks online as early as you can – many of these were sold out weeks in advance.

Tips for WDYTYA Live prior to my next visit

  • More chairs needed up in the gallery area!
  • Set up a ‘tweet-up’ lounge space for genealogy twitter chums to meet up in *yikes* real life (!) and talk genealogy social media and tech!
  • Encourage the Local History societies to put their region name up on the top boards of their stands in big letters – takes ages to track down the county you want!

Spotted!

Nick Barratt with film crew in tow; the legend that is Eric Knowles valuing heirlooms; a man with an incredible moustache; and author Chris Paton wearing a rosette.