Saturday, 31 January 2015

Genealogy Without Borders - my lecture given in Canada May 2014

In May 2014 I was kindly invited to Ontario to speak at the Niagara branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society's conference, entitled Genealogy Without Borders. In addition to giving talks at the main conference I was also invited to give the keynote Houston Lecture on the Friday evening before it got under way.

On many occasions when giving talks I will record what I say using the Evernote programme on my iPad, simply so that I can review it in due course and make sure that I didn't make too many errors when delivering it! Over the last 2 days I've been spending a bit of time looking into how to use the Audacity and SoundCloud programmes, with the possibility in due course of perhaps creating some podcasts for this blog. As part of this, I have tidied up the recording I made in Niagara of my talk, which was the most enjoyable that I think I've ever given, as I had a fair bit of a laugh with the audience (always a good crowd in Ontario - looking forward to returning again in September!), but also because this was a bit of a one-off, to tie in with the theme of the conference. The lecture is now presented here, with the permission of the Niagara branch of the OGS ( - I've reduced it by about 5 minutes for various reasons, but I hope you enjoy it!

Attentive crowd!

Sruth na Maoile (Straits of Moyle)

Genealogy Without Borders

(With thanks to Steve Fulton at the OGS Niagara branch)


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Friday, 30 January 2015

Philadelphia Welsh Society records and Iceland censuses on Ancestry

Ancestry has a few new resources of interest. If some of family were Welsh migrants to Philadelphia, then the following collection may be of interest:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Welsh Society of Philadelphia Charity to Immigrants, 1798-1883
Source: The Welsh Society of Philadelphia Records, 1798–1978. Collection 1186. Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania.

Many early settlers in and around Philadelphia were Welsh. The Welsh Society of Philadelphia met for the first time in 1798 with the goal of providing “for the relief of such emigrants as arrive in this country from Wales.”

This collection contains records from the Welsh Society of Philadelphia, including list of immigrants who received charity, cemetery registers, emigrant registers, receipts, minutes, attendance records, and membership lists.

Records vary, but you might find names, dates, birthplaces, places of origin, arrival dates, arrival vessels, age at burial, date and place of burials, and other details.

Also newly available are third party web interfaces for the 1870, 1880 and 1890 censuses of Iceland.

Web: Iceland Census, 1870

Web: Iceland Census, 1880

Web: Iceland Census, 1890

The original data is held on the website of the National Archives of Iceland (


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Voices from the Past recordings on Ulster Historical Foundation site

From the Ulster Historical Foundation (

Voices from the Past Lecture Series

Guild members can check out our latest additions to the Members’ Area as we have started to digitise audio recordings from some of our past conferences. Our ‘Voices from the past’ lecture series should prove to be a great resource for those interested in genealogy and history.

Some of these speakers unfortunately are no longer with us and thus the recordings are a rare opportunity to enjoy some very distinguished academics and archivists giving advice on using historical sources in Ireland. This week’s additions include:

  • Valuation records: A valuable resource for Genealogists by Trevor Parkhill
  • New Light at the Cape of Good Hope by Prof. Leslie McCracken
  • Family Research in the Registry of Deeds by Dr Katharine Brown
  • Sources in PRONI relating to education by Dr Roger Strong

All these recordings are available in the members area of our website, with Dr Katherine Brown's lecture on Family Research in the Registry of Deeds available on our homepage.

The society has also announced that its January Sale has been extended, offering 50% off all birth, death and marriage records until February 9th 2015.

(With thanks to the UHF)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

FindmyPast adds Essex, Warwickshire and Tasmania records

FindmyPast ( has added the following:

Over 600,000 parish records from Essex
Over 845,000 parish records from Warwickshire
Over 425,000 births, marriages and deaths from Tasmania, Australia

Further details at


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Ancestry DNA kit - first glimpse

Yesterday I announced that AncestryDNA, Ancestry's autosomal DNA testing kit, is now available in the UK and Ireland - see

Today my kit arrived in the post - I will let you know how I get on!

(With thanks to Ancestry)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Forthcoming events at the National Archives (Kew)

Forthcoming events at the National Archives at Kew:

Vanishing for the Vote: diverse suffragettes boycott the 1911 census FREE
Thursday 29 January 2015 18:00-19:00

The published word: making the most of electronic publications for your research FREE
Tuesday 3 February 2015 14:00-15:00

Using published sources for First World War family history research FREE
Thursday 5 February 2015 14:00-15:00

Further details at


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

National Records of Scotland estates review and future direction of travel

I've had some fairly major news today from Anne Slater, Head of Public Services, at the National Records of Scotland (, following up on my posts of November 14th 2014 about the current Estates Review being undertaken by the body (see and It concerns the strategic direction of the future for the NRS, and how it intends to develop over the next few years, and I'm grateful to Anne for permission to share the news - the easiest way to do so is to simply quote the relevant section from her email:

"In line with the requirement of all Government bodies and departments to ensure our estates portfolio remains fit for purpose and cost-effective we embarked on our Estates Review last year. We recognise the important role we have as the guardians of some of Scotland’s most treasured possessions and information and are committed to making sure that we do that job well at the same time as improving our services to customers.

"Our long-term aspiration is to co-locate the majority of our staff in a fit-for-purpose facility in Edinburgh, and to expand and improve our archive and public facilities at Thomas Thomson House in the west of the city. Although there are no immediate plans for NRS to move out of General Register House or New Register House, these buildings do not feature in our core estate over the long-term. This intention remains subject to a number of challenges and constraints, not least funding, and at this stage this is our preferred direction of travel over the long-term, not a hard and fast commitment.

"However as the realisation of this strategy will take a number of years and remains dependent on funding, we have also agreed a short term plan to address our two immediate priorities – to improve archive storage (for all records), and to build a more cohesive, collaborative organisation. These plans include extending the current archive facility at Thomas Thomson House, with digitisation facilities and public search rooms to provide better customer access to physical records, securing modern office accommodation for our staff in the same area, and re-locating the West Register House archive to Thomas Thomson House.

"Over the next few months we will develop an implementation plan that will allow us to make these changes whilst meeting our existing commitments. A component of the implementation plan will be engagement with our customers who use our services to develop a plan in line with their needs."

Following the above, I contacted Anne to ask for a possible timescale on this. I have been advised that the first phase of the strategy is envisaged to perhaps take up to five or six years to implement. In terms of a purpose built facility - if it indeed happens - this is still a long way off, but what the above is stating is that it is the preferred direction of travel in the long run to aim for this.

COMMENT: I have previously stated my thoughts concerning the present system offered at the National Records of Scotland in comparison to the services provided by the equivalent repositories in Belfast and London (see, which on many (though not all) fronts, are considerably further ahead. I've always held the view that New Register House and General Register House are merely bricks and mortar, and that what is actually important is whether or not I can access the documents I need to see, within reasonable constraints (for example, conservation considerations). A purpose built facility with onsite storage would certainly be in the interests of all, and whilst it is disappointing to note that such a development is perhaps at least a decade away from being considered, it is at least now on the radar in terms of direction of travel. The fact that a shorter term interim step in making better use of Thomas Thomson House is to be implemented is certainly to be welcomed. This is still five or six years away, and certain issues concerning the use of the facility still remain, however, I have been heartened to see efforts being made recently to address some of these, though there is clearly much still to be done.

(With thanks to Anne Slater)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

New version of Canadian Directories database released by LAC

Library and Archives Canada has released a new version of its Canadian Directories database at The site contains directories for the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Kingston and London and for the counties of Southwestern Ontario.

For more on the announcement, visit the archive's dedicated blog at


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Ancestry's US headquarters to move

The US headquarters of Ancestry ( will be relocated to a new $35 million purpose built facility at Lehi, Utah.

Thomas MacEntee has the full story at

(With thanks to Thomas via Facebook)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Ancestry launches AncestryDNA service in the UK and Ireland

Fairly major news from Ancestry ( in the UK:


Revolutionary DNA test utilises advanced science to pinpoint genetic ethnicity and help people discover family origins
  • AncestryDNA test examines a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 different genetic locations
  • Service will help people discover and connect with new relatives – linking their DNA results to a network of over 15 billion records and 60 million family trees
  • New technology targets more relevant and recent family history

AncestryDNA, the market-leading genetic family history DNA testing service, has launched in the UK and Ireland today – revolutionising the way that people can discover more about themselves and their family history and also connect with relatives they previously didn’t know existed.

AncestryDNA is offered by a subsidiary of Ancestry – the world’s largest online family history resource – and uses advanced DNA technology to reveal genetic ethnicity and uncover new family connections with other people who have taken the test. When combined with Ancestry’s existing database of over 15 billion records and 60 million family trees, this creates the ultimate family history resource.

Following its US release in 2012 AncestryDNA now has a database with DNA samples from 700,000 people who have discovered fascinating and sometimes surprising information about their own heritage. This international database is of huge benefit to UK and Irish users and will become even more so as it grows with the addition of DNA from the UK and Ireland. The database is expected to grow even further when AncestryDNA launches in other international countries later in 2015.

The AncestryDNA test uses microarray-based autosomal DNA testing, which surveys a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations via a simple saliva sample. Analysis of the DNA data provides a prediction of the locations of ancestors from 26 separate world-wide populations including Great Britain and Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and South and North Africa.

In contrast to Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA tests, which only test one line of your family and generally provide information about ancestry several thousand years ago, the AncestryDNA autosomal test targets the last few hundred or thousand years. This enables people to learn more about their more immediate family history.

AncestryDNA can also help people identify relationships with unknown relatives through a list of possible DNA member matches. These results are a great starting point for additional research, collaboration, or to help people expand their family trees.

Ancestry subscribers in the UK and Ireland will also have the opportunity to use new online interface tools to link their DNA results with their existing family trees and research. With millions of family trees online at Ancestry, more people than ever before will now be able to connect with new relatives and share their results.

Catherine Ball, Vice President, Genomics and Bioinformatics at Ancestry, comments: “While family history research is most often focused on discovering more about the past, the AncestryDNA test uses the best modern technology to help users find out more than ever before about who they are and where they came from. When used in conjunction with existing Ancestry services, it also provides an exciting opportunity to discover and connect with new relatives – in fact the vast majority of customers from the UK and Ireland can expect to connect with 3rd or 4th cousins in the US immediately. As more customers from across the globe are added to the network, it will provide an exciting opportunity to connect some of the major migrations from the UK and Ireland.”

Dan Jones, General Manager International at Ancestry comments: “AncestryDNA provides people with a unique and engaging experience that helps them make amazing discoveries about their family history. The product has been a great success since it launched in the US and I am excited that it is now available in the UK and Ireland and in time will be offered in other International markets.”

Costing £99, plus shipping, AncestryDNA kits are dispatched within six days of an order, with the test results taking from 6-8 weeks to be delivered. Tests are available for purchase at

COMMENT: Ancestry are kindly sending me a kit so that I can work through the experience of an autosomal DNA test, which I will blog about in due course. I'm looking forward to this as I have had a few requests from known cousins in recent months to take such a test - though obviously the key advanatage will be in searching for unknown cousins! (I have previously been tested for Y-DNA through FamilyTreeDNA, and mitochondrial DNA through the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation).

In the meantime, Debbie Kennett, a member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, and Honorary Research Associate attached to the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, has posted her initial thoughts on the new test (which she has previously undergone when made available in the United States) at

(With thanks to Bryony Partridge at Ancestry)

UPDATE: 30 Jan - see


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at