Friday, 23 January 2015

Ulster Historical Foundation launches records video tutorials & new FAQ guide

The Ulster Historical Foundation has launched a couple of video tutorials online at its Ancestry Ireland website at The aim of the tutorials is to help you become familiar with its online records databases - vital records for Antrim and Down, and a fair few other collections from across the island.

The society's William Roulston has also revised his online Genealogy FAQs research guide at

(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

NIFHS to expand its research centre in Newtownabbey

The North of Ireland Family History Society ( has a dedicated research centre in Newtownabbey, not far from Belfast and my old haunt of Carrickfergus. It was not too long ago that it opened at these premises, but the good news is that demand has been so heavy that they are now seeking to expand the facility.

The Antrim Times has the story at about the development, which includes a good interview with the organisation's Sarah Ardis, NIFHS education and development officer, outlining how to get underway with research, as well as a wee bit about the society itself.

There are 12 regional branches - Ballymena, Belfast, Coleraine, Fermanagh, Foyle, Killyleagh, Larne, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, North Armagh, North Down and Ards, and Omagh. It's the only society that I am currently a member of, and it is worth every penny, with some great and friendly folk - recommended!

(With thanks to Eddie Connolly @teddiec via Twitter)


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

Recent UK death indexes released on Ancestry

Ancestry ( has released a couple of interesting, if not somewhat bewildering, death indexes on its site, as follows:

Scotland and Northern Ireland, Death Index, 1989-2013

England and Wales, Death Index, 2007-2013

The source has simply been listed as 'Various sources', however, genealogist Karen Cummings (@CummingsPFH) has contacted Ancestry via Twitter to ask what the source is, to which they have responded "The source of this collection is GreyPower Deceased Data, compiled by Wilmington Millennium". Wilmington Millenium appears to be this company online at, noted as offering "intelligent consumer data suppression and lead generation products created in conjunction with leading industry partners". There is no mention of a partnership with Ancestry on its site however.

A typical search yields the following info - name, gender, age, birth date (variously reported as a year or with the full date), death date, residential place at death, and a postal code district.

Without a decent provenance for the source, i.e. any understanding of what it is, I would suggest that any entries on this be treated simply as a finding aid that should be pursued via the usual sources through the three respective General Register Offices of the UK. These are as follows:

Scotland - records can be ordered via (£12 each)
Northern Ireland - via (£15 each)
England and Wales - via (£9.25 each)

Scottish finds can be partially corroborated online via ScotlandsPeople (, which does index death records within the last 50 years, but does not provide the digitised register images, as with earlier records. (All records, including up to the present day, can be accessed at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, or at other centres in Scotland providing access to the same database, for £15 unlimited access). No online GRO indexes are available for Northern Ireland in this period, nor for England and Wales.

I have read many reports from users saying that the databases are not complete. Scotland seems to be better covered than Northern Ireland, and my own mother's death, in Manchester, England, in November 2013, is not included. I have found my grandmother's death in Carrickfergus - her date of death is given as 22 JUL 2011, and her birth year as 1922, both correct. her name is simply given as Mrs Martha Graham though - her full name was in fact Martha Jane Elizabeth Watton Bill Smyth, so don't be expecting too much in the detail!

So it is an interesting resource, one that needs handling with caution, but potentially useful. But no substitute for the placing of indexes online by the English, Welsh and Northern Irish GROs, as has been done by Scotland via ScotlandsPeople.


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

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Irish Poverty Relief Loan records on FindmyPast

From FindmyPast (

Findmypast makes Irish Poverty Relief Loan records available online for the first time to mark Irish Family History Day

With the addition of exciting new record sets, leading family history website Findmypast is now the best place to research your Irish ancestry

Dublin, Ireland. 23 January 2015. Findmypast has digitised and is publishing the Poverty Relief Loans records from The National Archives in London online for the first time. This release - together with the addition of a new, easier to search version of the Ireland Census 1911 - makes Findmypast home to the largest online collection of Irish family history records anywhere in the world.

New records: Poverty Relief Loans

The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor’ – those most affected by poverty and famine.

This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Potato Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world. Now anyone can go online and research individuals and families to find out more about where they lived, their financial situation, their social status and more besides.

Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

Caroline Kimbell, Head of Licensing at The National Archives in London said “This collection is one of very few about individual Irish families from 19th century held at Kew. We are grateful to Findmypast for bringing these remarkable testaments to light.”

These new records complement an expansive collection of Irish records - including Irish Petty Sessions, Irish Prison Registers, Irish newspapers and Irish Births 1864-1958, to name a few – that make Findmypast the best place to bring Irish family history to life.

Exclusive Irish records – digitised for the first time

As well as the Poverty Relief Loans, Findmypast has today added other new Irish record sets, including the Clare Electoral Registers, which reveal early women voters and is only available online at Findmypast, the Ireland Census 1911 and over 800,000 Irish marriages dating back to 1619.

The Ireland Census 1911 is an excellent starting point for anyone researching their Irish ancestors. Findmypast’s powerful search will for the first time allow family historians to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name – all making it easier than ever to trace Irish ancestors.

Irish Family History Day

This year, Findmypast’s Irish Family History Day – an annual celebration of Irish heritage – takes place on 23 January.

It will be marked by the launch of exciting new record sets, as well as webinars, guides and advice, information on the records and exclusive offers to access Findmypast’s extensive Irish record collection.


As part of Irish Family History Day, Findmypast will be running an online webinar and Q&A session hosted by Irish family history expert, Brian Donovan. The webinar will cover getting started with Irish family history, as well as hints and tips on getting further with your research.

The webinar will be held at 5pm GMT on 23 January. Brian will be on hand to answer questions after the webinar. For more information, and to register interest, visit

(With thanks to FindmyPast)


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

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Irish Family History Resources Online - new 2nd edition

I've been working on a few Unlock the Past ( publications over the last couple of weeks. The first of these is a brand new updated 2nd edition of my Irish Family History Resources Online book, first published in Australia in 2011. The following is the contents list for the new guide, and the cover blurb:

There is a popular belief that Irish family history research is virtually impossible because 'all the records were burned in the civil war'. But as Northern Irish born family historian Chris Paton demonstrates, the glass is most definitely half full rather than half empty when it comes to research in the Emerald Isle. Many records still exist which can help with your ancestral pursuits, and for those unable to make their way to Ireland to carry out research, the internet is finally coming to the rescue, as more and more material is increasingly finding it's way online by the day.

This revised and fully updated Unlock the Past guide explores the key repositories and records now available online, and will prove to you that if you have been put off with Irish research in the past, now is absolutely the time to take another look.

Second edition
Who were they?
- Civil registration
- Church records
- Burial records
- Wills and probate
- Biographical databases
- Heraldry
Where were they?
- Censuses
- Street directories
- Land records
- Maps and gazetteers
Archives and Libraries
- National Archives of Ireland
- National Library of Ireland
Newspapers and Books
- Newspapers
- Books, journals and magazines
Other useful material
- Gateway sites
- Military, police and the law
- Emigration
- Miscellaneous sites of interest
- Magazines
Some further reading

This new edition includes many new detailed and revised sections, including a walkthrough of the new Northern Irish based Geni website, and many other additions. You'll also notice that the cover design is significantly different to the first edition, and the UTP range as a whole - the range is being given a facelift, with this new book one of the first few being published to the new design style.

As many of you know, I wear two hats in the genie world, working in both Scottish and Irish research, and so I'm also close to finishing a brand new Scottish based guide for the company, and this one's most definitely a wee bit different! I've been having an absolute ball writing it, after having placed it on hold for a year (I had previously started work on it just prior to my mother's death at the end of 2013, after which it was shelved for a period) but I'll hold off on saying any more about that for now - save to say that when disaster hit in the days of yore, when times were hard and our ancestors were seemingly down and out, there was usually someone with a quill and ink close to hand!  I've provisionally agreed to write at least two more Scottish and Irish guides on top of these this year, and will be participating as one of the speakers on the company's Baltic based genealogy cruise this coming July (see, so it's a busy year ahead!

Several of my Unlock the Past guides, as well as titles from other authors, are now also available in the UK from My History ( and from Canadian based Global Genealogy (, whilst the full range is of course available in Australia via Gould Genealogy ( If you prefer an e-edition, then Gen-eBooks is the place to go at If ordering from Gould, I believe there may be a short delay with orders, as the staff are currently working on an Unlock the Past genealogy cruise in Australia, so please bear with them!


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

Friday, 16 January 2015

British military and English collections added to FindmyPast

More British and English collections from FindmyPast (

British Army Bond of Sacrifice: Officers Died in the Great War 1914-1916, contains over 2,600 officer biographies from both volumes of the Bond of Sacrifice. The Bond of Sacrifice was designed to act as a biographical record of all British officers who fell in the Great War. Volume 1 covered the first four months of the war and closed in December 1914, while Volume 2 covered the first six months of 1915. The original intention was to create a volume for every six months of the war to include the names of all the officers, who died from causes directly related to active service. However, due in no small part to the huge number of officer casualties, and to the publishers running out of money, the series was never completed.

Names are listed in alphabetical order and most entries include a photo portrait and a short biography. The biographies usually consist of parents’ names, educational background, achievements and, when present, spouse’s name and children’s names. The entries also detail the officer’s military career and often include a description about how the officer lost his life. Many include comments from commanding officers about the bravery and gallantry of the officer under their command.

London, Docklands and East End Marriages, 1558-1859 contain over 92,000 records. Covering 8 East End Parishes, each record contains a transcript of the original Parish registers. The amount of information listed may vary but records can include the couple’s names, their marital status, the groom’s occupation, the date of the wedding and where it took place.

The East End of London has always been home to a variety of immigrant communities. In the 17th century Huguenot refugees settled in Spitalfields, followed by Irish weavers and other ethnic groups, many of whom came in search of work in the blossoming clothing industry there.

Derbyshire, Derby Railway Servants’ Orphanage registers 1875-1912 lists the details of children from Northern Britain whose father’s died while working on the Railways. The Derby Railway Servants’ Orphanage opened in 1875 in response to the hundreds of railway employees, who died each year in the course of their work. Children were admitted from railway companies all over Great Britain and Ireland and the Derby home catered for the north of Britain. Children were admitted between the ages of 6 and 12, had to leave at the age of 15 and would be classified as orphans even if their mother was still alive.

Each record contains a transcript of the original register. The amount of information varies but records can include details of the father’s occupation and death, mother’s address, any siblings, dates of arrival and departure and signatures. Many records also include additional notes such as comments on behaviour, employment prospects, health, religious denomination and funding.

(With thanks to Alex Cox)


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

Discount on Antrim and Down BMD records via AncestryIreland

From the Ulster Historical Foundation (

Take advantage of our January sale!

All our 2 million pay-per-view birth, marriage & death records for Counties Antrim & Down are half-price on until 31 January 2015.

Our website includes virtually all Roman Catholic registers of baptisms for Counties Antrim and Down prior to 1900, a large number of Church of Ireland and Presbyterian registers of baptisms for Counties Antrim and Down and the city of Belfast as well as many civil birth records for Belfast.

We also hold virtually all civil marriage records for County Antrim and County Down, virtually all Roman Catholic registers of marriages for County Antrim and County Down prior to 1900 and a large number of Church of Ireland and Presbyterian registers of marriages for mid, south and west County Down

In addition our website contains funeral records (where they survive) from Roman Catholic registers for Co. Antrim and Co. Down prior to 1900 and a large number of Church of Ireland and Presbyterian registers of burials for the city of Belfast.

Visit to take advantage of this limited time offer, which must end 31 January 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

Registers of soldiers effects 1901-1929 on Ancestry

From Ancestry (


Newly digitised records reveal the financial recompense provided to a soldier’s next of kin following their death in service

Soldiers’ Effects Registers show the money paid by the British Government to the next of kin of men killed in action in WWI and the Boer War

Mothers were the most commonly listed next of kin

Records feature military men including Military Cross recipient Second Lieutenant Walter Tull and Prime Minister’s son Lieutenant Raymond Asquith

Newly digitised historic military records launched online today reveal the money paid by the British Government to the families of men killed in WWI and the Boer War.

Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, in partnership with the National Army Museum the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 was created by the War Office to record the money owed to 872,395 soldiers who died while serving in WWI as well as the latter stages of the Boer War. In addition, peace time casualties are also represented in the collection.

Each record typically lists the soldier’s name, rank, regiment, date, place of death and next of kin. For 1901 – 1914 records, trade before enlistment is also listed.

Mothers are the most commonly listed next of kin, suggesting just how young so many of the soldiers that perished in the Great War were. Wives are also commonly listed, highlighting the devastation experienced by millions of young widows whose husbands never returned home from war.

In the section where next of kin is recorded, a number of registers also list the term ‘himself’. This typically refers to men who were discharged from combat as a result of psychological disorders. If they were deemed well enough, the soldier could receive payment direct. If not, he could choose to forward the money on to relatives or the care institution where he was being treated would hold the payment until he was considered capable to oversee his finances.

Millions of WWI records were lost as a result of bombings during WWII meaning that these registers provide a rare opportunity to find out more about a wartime relative. Specifically, the inclusion of next of kin is vital for those looking to find out more about the family of a deceased soldier.

Further analysis of the collection reveals that in historic money, each soldier’s beneficiary received an average of £10.35[i] compensation consisting of his final balance of pay plus a gratuity paid by the War Office – responsible for the administration of the British Army at this time. War Pensions were received as separate to this amount.

When taking inflation into account, the average payment of £10.35 is equivalent to just over £929 in today’s money. Whilst the government was committed to providing financial support to the families of those killed in action, the sheer volume of deaths meant that the sums offered by the War Office seem relatively minor today.

Miriam Silverman, Senior UK Content Manager from Ancestry comments: “This collection serves as a stark reminder of the millions of soldiers killed in WWI and the Boer War. By recording each soldier’s next of kin, this newly digitised collection will be valuable for both social and family historians looking to uncover more about the lives of the men who never returned from war and the families they left behind.”

David Bownes, Head of Collections, National Army Museum said: “Sharing the stories of soldiers who served with the British Army is at the heart of our work here at the National Army Museum. We embraced the partnership with Ancestry as a way of making the Soldiers’ Effects ledgers more widely accessible. Some of the insights they reveal are fascinating.”

To search the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 collection visit

(With thanks to Bryony Partridge at 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, 15 January 2015

Ancestry updates iOS app

Ancestry has updated its iOS app - the changes are fairly minor, but the full details outlined at

NB: I'm a big fan of the app, as I can synchronise my tree on my PC wit that on my iPad, via Family Tree Maker 2014. Unfortunately, as I am using Windows XP still (it ain't broke, so I ain't fixing it!), I've found that a recent FTM 2014 update won't allow changes made on the app to head back to my computer, so I've had to uninstall the update. But I can still make changes on the PC and synchronise the update with my tree on Ancestry (set to private), and have it instantly accessible on my iPad also - it's a handy thing to have at all times!


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

Dick Eastman to give WDYTYA Live keynote speech

News from Who Do You Think You Are Live ( that American based geneabloger Dick Eastman is to give this years' keynote address:

Dick Eastman joins us for the Keynote Workshop

We are excited to announce that blogger and genealogy extraordinaire, Dick Eastman will be joining us this year to deliver the Keynote Workshop. Dick combines his 40 years experience in technology and passion for genealogy to bring us one of the shows most eagerly awaited keynotes to date. Any burning questions about the future of genealogy? Dick is your man!

Don't miss your chance to buy 2 tickets for £26, quote: NEWS2426 (

COMMENT: Dick's blog/newsletter is the grand-daddy of them all, celebrating 19 years today - happy birthday EOGN! You can access the blog at - access if free, though you can also subscribe to Dick's 'plus edition' newsletter posts for a small fee.

(With thanks to WDYTYA Live)


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