Monday, 21 July 2014

First World War lectures in Belfast - PRONI and Falls Library

From PRONI (www.proni.gov.uk), news of a First World War themed series of lectures to be held at the archive, and also PRONI contributed talks to be held at Falls Library in Belfast:

Lecture Series: The Road to War

National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) invite you to ‘The Road to War’ - a joint lecture series exploring the impact and legacy of the First World War in Ireland.

The Outbreak of the First World War by Dr William Mulligan, University College Dublin
Thursday 7 August 2014, Ulster Museum Lecture Theatre, 7pm
William Mulligan is a Senior Lecturer at University College Dublin and a EURIAS Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2013/4. His most recent book is The Great War for Peace, published in 2014 by Yale University Press.

Ireland’s Entry Into War, 1914: Acceptance or Refusal?, Dr Catriona Pennell, University of Exeter
Thursday 25 September, 2014, Ulster Museum Lecture Theatre, 7pm
Dr Catriona Pennell is Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter. Her first book, A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press , 2012) was nominated for the RHS Whitfield Prize 2012 and the Economic History Society First Monograph Prize 2013.

Militarism in Ireland, 1912–18, Professor David Fitzpatrick, Trinity College, Dublin
Thursday 9 October 2014, PRONI, 7pm
David Fitzpatrick is Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin. His works include Politics and Irish Life, 1913–1921 (1977, 1998), Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia (1994), The Two Irelands, 1912–1939 (1998), Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution (2003), ‘Solitary and Wild: Frederick MacNeice and the Salvation of Ireland (2012), and, as editor, Terror in Ireland, 1916–1923 (2012). Descendancy: Irish Protestant Histories since 1795 will be published later this year by Cambridge University Press.

'If the nation is to be saved women must help in the saving’: Women and War in Ireland, 1914-18, Dr Senia Paseta, University of Oxford
Thursday 23 October 2014, PRONI, 7pm
Dr Senia Paseta is a historian of modern Ireland with a particular interest in the history of education, religious identity formation, political movements, and ideas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her current research is in the history of women and political activism in Britain and Ireland. Her new book, Irish Nationalist Women, 1900-1918 (Cambridge, 2013), examines how politically active women worked within broader nationalist and feminist contexts during a volatile period of Irish history.

WHERE: Lectures will take place at PRONI and the Ulster Museum as stated above.
WHEN: All talks will start at 7pm
HOW MUCH: Admission is FREE but booking is essential. Please contact PRONI to secure your place: E: proni@dcalni.gov.uk T: (+44) 028 90534800


Also:

PRONI will be participating in a series of lectures on the First World War taking place at Falls Library from the 4th to the 8th August. Each lecture will be preceded by a ten minute talk from a member of PRONI on individual experiences of soldiers and civilians during the First World War. Each talk will cover one individual, including men and women at both the Home Front and overseas and will showcase some of the archival resources from PRONI.

Remembering, Forgetting and Commemorating Ireland's Great War: Issues for Belfast by Professor Richard S Grayson
Monday 4 August at 7pm

“The Soul of the Nation”: Irish republicans, war and rebellion by Dr Fearghal McGarry
Tuesday 5 August at 1pm

The Great War and Unionist Memory by Philip Orr
Wednesday 6 August at 1pm

Belfast Women and the Great War by Dr Margaret Ward and Lynda Walker
Thursday 7 August at 1pm

The formation and history of the Three Irish Divisions by Jimmy McDermott
Friday 8th August at 1pm

All lectures will take place at Falls Library. For more information about these events, please visit http://www.librariesni.org.uk/Libraries/Pages/Falls-Road-Library.aspx.

(With thanks to the latest edition of PRONI's weekly newsletter, PRONI Express)

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

National Records of Scotland needs to up its game

This morning I set off to Edinburgh to achieve two things at the National Records of Scotland (www.nas.gov.uk). The first was to spend a couple of hours carrying out some research for a client. The second was to spend the rest of my time there doing some personal research - with so much happening on the Irish side of my family tree in the last year or so, my Scottish side has been somewhat neglected.

The original plan was to visit last Thursday, but an irritating cold prevented me from making the trip. In preparing for the journey (which is a 5 hour round trip to make from Largs), I had initially consulted the NRS catalogue a week ago, only to find it wasn't working. When I called the NRS, I was told it was offline and in need of a new part, but that it would be fixed within a couple of days. In fact, it was back up again a day later - great stuff. The documents I needed, however, were stored not at New Register House, but in an offsite storage facility on the other side of Edinburgh, and needed to be ordered in advance of my visit. When I had called to ask about the catalogue I was also advised that there had recently been problems with the online ordering system, so I was advised to call back through with any documents references I needed to order in advance, rather than do it online. A quirk of the ordering system is that you can only order up twelve items in advance. For my client's research - the priority - I had to order up ten items, leaving only two slots for me to order documents that might be of use for my own research - any more than that, and the "computer says no". I duly ordered twelve items then, expecting to view them all last Thursday, but of course, that had to be rearranged for today. Helpfully, the NRS staff member held the documents over for me, rather than returning them to Thomas Thompson House, the offsite storage facility.

The material I ordered for my client research thankfully came through, and I was able to successfully resolve an interesting situation using ultimus haeres records (a future blog post!). Another brief look up for a second client took just a few minutes, and then at about 11.30am, I had almost five hours left to play with two series of rental rolls I had ordered - except, when I got the two boxes ordered, it transpired one of them was the wrong box, the archivist having accidentally ordered the wrong accession number, which was out by a single digit. It was an unfortunate error, but I spoke to the archivist and joked it was just their attempts to get me back up on another day. These things happen, and although frustrating I laughed it off and got to work on the other box, which had a series of rentals from the 16th to the 18th centuries from a barony in Perthshire - enough for me to wade through and to keep me occupied for another hour and a half. And then at 1.00pm, I finished - with still three and half hours precious research time available to carry out work. So far, so good, and at this point, I was still a happy bunny.

Now you have to appreciate that I have been researching my Scottish ancestry for some 14 years, and that on most lines I am at least back to the mid 18th century and earlier. So I am not looking for the basics now when I go to the NRS, such as wills, censuses, parish records etc - I do keep going back to them, of course, but only as a result now from other finds made in other less accessible sources. The records that will push me back further are the things like rental rolls, court records and other more obscure, and largely unindexed collections - the fun records written in Klingon (secretary hand, in Scots) that make your hands go filthy black just by opening them. So with three and half hours to go, I took a quick look at my website on which I have recorded all my progress made so far, and decided to try and order up some records for certain situations that have long been awaiting answers.

And here then, was the problem. In consulting the catalogue, nothing I wanted to see was available. Estate papers I was interested in - stored off site. Sheriff court records of interest - stored off site. Exchequer records for certain escheated estates after the Jacobite rebellions - stored off site. At one point I took a quick look at a volume for the indexes to the Services of Heirs (records concerning inheritance of heritable property) that I have regularly consulted in General Register House in the past - the indexes of interest were there, but when I went to order the original volume, I couldn't believe it - they are now also stored off site.

After an hour of trying to come up with options to help me fill my remaining time, not a single thing I wished to consult could be ordered - everything of any possible interest was stored off site. Even if I had prepared a list of what I wanted to see before turning up today, I would not have been able to view anything - the stuff I'm interested in is stored off site, and I can only order 12 items at a time - a day in advance. Unlike the National Library of Scotland, which ferries records from its off site facility during the day, NRS does not do that. In the past, NRS had a second search room facility operational at West Register House, on the other end of Princes Street, which used to hold all the sheriff court records and other useful materials, but it was closed a few years back. When it was shut, a lot of material went to Thomas Thompson House - stored off site - and only some records made it to the main search room at General Register House.

Thoroughly irritated now, I resorted to my usual default - I decided to have a look (again) at the sasines database to pass time, to see if I had missed anything from previous searches - it's called the RAC Search Tool, and was designed by computer programmers in 55BC, not long before the birth of baby Jesus - but when I tried to perform a search it would not work. I called the archivist on duty over who told me that it was apparently working, but that "since the computers had been upgraded you can no longer see progress being indicated". So, assured it actually was working, I watched a screen do literally nothing for several minutes, before deciding that enough was enough - at which point I asked for my readers ticket back, and left, thoroughly pissed off.

Quite frankly, I am beginning to lose the rag with the National Records of Scotland. The staff are by and large helpful and friendly (as with your barber, never argue with your archivist!), but the system and the set up in operation there just does not work. It is antiquated, not fit for purpose, and if it was not for the fact that there are some computers in the Historic Search Room, I would call it jurassic (or at least 19th century). By contrast, I regularly use PRONI in Belfast (www.proni.gov.uk), and have on several occasions in recent years travelled to London to use the National Archives based at Kew (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk). Both institutions - one serving a population much, much bigger than NRS, the other a population a third the size of Scotland's - have purpose built facilities with their collections stored on site, with many innovations, a willingness to engage with their user base and to understand their needs.

I attended an archive conference in Dundee in April 2013, and gave a talk to a room filled with archivists about how professional genealogists, and those doing genealogy for a hobby, use archives to further their work. I discussed some of the great innovations that many archives in Scotland and across the British Isles have been adopting to move with the times, ranging from social media engagement with the user base and initiatives such as talks programmes, user forums, purpose built facilities, digitisation and online access to records (with commercial partnerships etc), wifi access at search rooms, and so, so much more. On just about every one of the criteria I mentioned, NRS fell flat on its face. Fifteen months later, it is still flat on its face. And that is a real tragedy - because it was here in Scotland that we basically kick started the online genealogy provision of records in the UK. ScotlandsPeople, and its precessor, Scots Origins, were ground-breaking upon creation, as indeed was the ScotlandsPeople Centre, itself a modern face to the previous access available at the GRO search room in Edinburgh's New Register House.

But in the newly merged National Records of Scotland - a body in which the General Register Office and the National Archives of Scotland still maintain separate websites years after the event (as if each is standing permanently startled on either side of a room after a shotgun wedding in which they suddenly found themselves as the protagonists), there is certainly no sense of energy at least on the archive side, no sense of willingness to move ahead with the times. ScotlandsPeople is moving slowly, but it is moving forwards. By contrast, with each visit I make to the Historical Search Room, I get the feeling that the opposite is happening - things are going backwards. And it is just not on in the 21st century.

Quite frankly, we need a new national archive facility in Scotland. It will be heresy to some, but I'd be quite happy to see General Register House knocked down to build something more adequate. But it isn't just the building. We need a new facility, new practices, new opening hours and a new attitude with the powers that be to help us to access our personal heritage. Wooden panelled walls in a search room with a wooden panelled bureaucracy just will not cut it any more in today's day and age.

In a separate post tomorrow I will compare and contrast the provisions for genealogists of the three national archives in the UK at present, located at Belfast, Kew and Edinburgh.

Shiny, fit for purpose TNA at Kew

Shiny, fit for purpose PRONI

NRS. And the Duke of Wellington.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

RIP: GRO Ireland's credibility (2014-2014)

There's a great phrase often used in life, when a spectacular failure that could be entirely foreseen just wasn't, and all credit is subsequently given for the failure to the organiser.

"He couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery."

To clarify... this is a great piss up, the example being the night before my brother's wedding in Portsmouth last year:


And this, then, would be your average brewery:


With enough beer, participants, and permission to be allowed in the said brewery, it would indeed be entirely possible to organise such an event very easily. You just have to ask the right questions, find some thirsty folk, and then let rip until daybreak... anyone could do it!

Unless you happen to be the General Register Office of Ireland.

For almost a year the GRO from the Republic of Ireland has been promising enhanced indexes online for state issued certificates for births, marriages and deaths from 1845 to the present day, all with added and enhanced information, designed to bring Irish genealogy resources well and truly into the 21st century. Surely not, many cried, such an act would be like finding and then hiring Moses to part the Red Sea again - a tad tricky? And yet, a couple of weeks back, they delivered, and on Irish Genealogy (www.irishgenealogy.ie) the indexes arrived. A grateful nation wept tears of joy.

Except... the GRO forgot to ask if it was OK to put the information online.

The Irish Genealogy site put a note up a few days ago to say that the database was currently unavailable. The Information Commissioner in Ireland, Billy Hawkes, has since been quoted in today's Irish Times as saying that “it will stay down until we sort out what exactly has gone wrong", for although "a lot of the stuff on the site is harmless – it’s about dead people", it's quite a different issue when putting info online about those still alive. His judgement is apparently that someone has “missed the plot” in doing so. The article is at http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/personal-details-removed-from-site-over-identity-theft-concerns-1.1872741, with a follow up at http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/genealogy-site-left-personal-data-open-to-identity-thieves-says-commissioner-1.1872664 discussing the fears of identity theft that the database would apparently be open to abuse for.

Such fears have prevented the ScotlandsPeople site (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk) from issuing detailed indexes for recent records that do not fall within certain closure periods (100 years for births, 75 for marriages, 50 for deaths) - it only provides basic indexes that have enough information to order the relevant certificate for those already in the know. The Northern Irish GENI site (https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk), launched recently, just does not provide any recent indexes at all, only records older than the same employed closure periods. The English and Welsh GRO however, does provide indexes up to 2005 online (via various third parties), but provides no further indexes online beyond that date for privacy reasons. All these bodies have at least considered what is acceptable online. Not GRO Ireland it seems...


In summary, the GRO in Ireland, and its government partners at Irish Genealogy, have screwed up in unbelievable proportions. As such, they should probably not be contacted to organise parties in establishments that produce booze - just in case you were thinking of asking them to do so.

(With thanks to Nicola Elsom and Colin Gronow via comments on my last story on this a few days back, but in particular to Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy News blog - see Claire's take on the situation at http://www.irishgenealogynews.com/2014/07/privacy-issues-close-civil-registration.html)

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

FamilySearch redesigns international records collections access

FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org) has been tinkering again with the way that we locate the international records collections. Previously there was a list of defined regions within which the collections were grouped, e.g. "United Kingdom and Ireland", located on the Search page. Now that list has been replaced by an interactive map. Here's a quick walk through...

Visit the Search page at https://familysearch.org/search and scroll to the bottom - this is what you will now find:


Rolling the mouse across the map highlights each region in yellow as you pass over:



If I roll over the British Isles and select Ireland as one of the options in the menu on the left and then click, I now get a brief overview of the number of records held and the number of collections:



To be blunt, that's fairly useless, and I get bored with numbers fairly quickly! What I want to see are the collection titles, and to do this I have to click on the 'Start researching in Ireland' blue hyperlink in the box. Once I click on this I am then taken to a dedicated page listing only the Irish collections:



I suspect this has been necessary due to the number of collections being added - the UK and Ireland page holdings list was getting quite lengthy, and I suspect it was the same for some other regions. There is also the option of using the 'Browse All Published Collections' list beneath the map - but it a very long list...!

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Irish BMD indexes database currently unavailable

The recently launched civil births, marriages and deaths indexes database for the Republic of Ireland on Irish Genealogy (www.irishgenealogy.ie) have suddenly disappeared, with a message since 13.05 yesterday (Friday) now stating "Civil Records Search temporarily unavailable: Further update will be provided."

Rather oddly the category heading itself has disappeared from the menu at the top of the home page, but all other record sets remain accessible at present. Hopefully this is just some sort of blip that will be sorted imminently...

For Northern Irish research, remember that BMD records can be sourced from the new pay per view source from the GRO in Belfast at https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk, whilst for the Republic, BMD indexes from 1845-1958 are freely accessible on FamilySearch at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1408347.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office records 1782-1982 workshop

The National Archives at Kew is running a workshop on Tuesday 22nd July entitled From mandarins to mandates, an overview of Foreign and Commonwealth Office records in The National Archives. The workshop "will look at records of the Foreign Office from when it was established in 1782, through to the merger with the Commonwealth Office in 1968 and up to the latest releases of records for 1982."

For further details visit http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/events/mandarins-to-mandates.htm.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

TNA podcast - Keeping it in the family

The latest podcast from the National Archives in England has a medieval Scottish link. Entitled Keeping it in the Family, it is a 42 minute talk from Dr Jessica Nelson - here's the blurb:

In a period where politics could not be separated from dynasty and the personal relationships between individuals were crucial to government, women often played a key role in diplomacy. This was certainly the case in relations between England and Scotland in the medieval period, with sisters, daughters and cousins of English kings regularly being dispatched north of the border to forge links through marriage with the Scottish kings. This talk draws on records at The National Archives and elsewhere to illuminate the roles that these women played and discuss what light they can shed on Anglo-Scottish relations.

The podcast is accessible at http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/keeping-family/ or can be downloaded for free from iTunes.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Durham Records Online additions

The following records ave been added to Durham Records Online (www.durhamrecordsonline.com)

Blaydon Cemetery burials 1906-1983 (unconsecrated section)
4,844 burials in the unconsecrated section of Blaydon Cemetery at Blaydon in Gateshead district, from 13 Dec 1906 to 10 Sep 1987.

Stranton All Saints marriages 1898-1927
2,495 marriages at Stranton All Saints in Hartlepool district, from Jan 1898 to early Oct 1927.

Ponteland records 1762-1812
At Ponteland St. Mary the Virgin, in the Castle Ward district of Northumberland, from a combination of the parish register and the Bishop's Transcript:

Heworth marriages 1837-1844 plus witnesses added 1813-1837
At Heworth St. Mary in Gateshead district:
274 marriages, filling a gap we had from 1 Jul 1837 through 17 Feb 1844. We now have a continuous block of marriages at Heworth from 1813 through 1908.
1,825 witnesses added to our existing 889 marriages at Heworth from 1 Jan 1813 to 1 July 1837. Now all of our Heworth marriages are complete with witnesses.


Coming Soon:
  • Hurworth baptisms, marriages, and burials 1770-1812
  • Trimdon marriages 1837-1852
  • Merrington marriages 1837-1863
  • Stockton St. Thomas burials 1859-1869
  • Egglescliffe baptisms & burials 1752-1851, marriages 1752-1812 and 1837-1851
  • St. John Lee baptisms & burials 1837-1858
  • In the queue: Hart Cemetery, Gateshead Wesleyan Methodists, Gosforth 1762-1846, several South Shields Presbyterian churches, Hartlepool St James, Easington pre-1798, Stockton Holy Trinity, Stockton Friends Burial Ground, Penshaw

(With thanks to Durham Records Online)

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

LGBTI rights in the University of Glasgow's archive collections

The University of Glasgow hosted a one-day conference on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) Human Rights in the Commonwealth yesterday (Friday). To tie in with this the university's Archives and Special Collections took a look at documents concerning LGBTI rights in their collections - for a discussion on findings, visit the university library's blog at http://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/discovering-lgbti-rights-in-archives-and-special-collections/.

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Balancing the Books - the finances of an agricultural labourer

Another short article from three years ago, which first appeared on my Walking in Eternity blog. This time it looks at a useful resource, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, and an entry found within them that sheds light on the finances of those with the humblest of occupations, the 'ag lab', or agricultural labourer...

Balancing the books

Ever wondered what our ancestors earned? The following is an example of an agricultural labourer's income and expenditure, as recorded in the First Statistical Account for Auchterarder in Perthshire, in the 1790s. The family consisted of a husband and wife, and seven children:

INCOME
Man - 1s. per day for 8 months, and 8d for remainder........£13 17 0

Mother and eldest girl by spinning, 1s 6d per week.............£3 18 0
Eldest boy herding cattle.......................................................£0 18 0
Produce of his acre of ground-
6 firlots of oats, at 13s 6d.....................................................£1 0 3
4 bolls of barley, at 14s.........................................................£2 16 0
6 bolls of potatoes, at 6s 6d..................................................£1 6 0
Sold a calf..............................................................................£0 7 0
TOTAL INCOME..................................................................£24 2s 3d

EXPENDITURE
Rent of house and land, seed & management....................£4 5 0
Cow's grass in summer, 10s; straw in winter 6s................£0 16 0
Fuel, £1 5s; 8 lbs soap, 4s 8d................................................£1 9 8
8 1/2 bolls of oatmeal............................................................£6 3 3
4 bolls of barley meal............................................................£1 17 4
Butcher meat, 18s; 4 pks salt 3s 4d....................................£1 1 4
3 pints lamp oil, 3s 6d; candles 2s 2d..................................£0 5 8
2 stones cheese (cow yielded milk and butter).....................£0 8 0
Molasses for beer, 4s 6d; groats & barley 7s.......................£0 11 6
Potatoes produced and consumed.......................................£1 6 0
Whisky, small beer, & wheaten bread at New Year.............£0 3 4
Needles, pins, and thread.....................................................£0 0 10
Expenses in sickness.............................................................£0 15 0
Father's clothes 10s; 2 shirts, 7s; shoes 10s......................£1 7 0
2 pairs stockings 4s 6d; wear of bonnet & kerchief..............£0 5 6
Mother's clothes 4s; 1 shift, 2s 6d; 2 aprons 2s 3d...............£0 8 9
Shoes and stockings 4s; kerchief, cap, etc 3s.....................£0 7 0
Pair of shoes to each of 7 children........................................£0 14 2
Clothes to 3 youngest, 9s; to 2 next 8s; to 2 eldest 10s......£1 7 0
Shirts to youngest 2s; to 2 next 2s 6d; to 2 eldest 3s 4d.....£0 7 10
TOTAL EXPENDITURE........................................................£24 0s 2d

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland from the 1790s and 1830s/40s provide all sorts of useful information on the environments where our ancestors lived, and can be viewed freely at http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sas.asp?action=public&passback=

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.