Friday 31 July 2015

Deceased Online adds Camberwell Old and Camberwell New Cemeteries

From Deceased Online (

Explore records from Camberwell Old and Camberwell New Cemeteries, South East London

Servicing a large area of South East London for the last 160 years the Camberwell Cemeteries in the London Borough of Southwark, are now available to search through Deceased Online.

For a long time there was extensive poverty in this area and as a result there are large numbers of common or paupers graves in the cemeteries. These graves are largely unmarked and this is your opportunity to find those hundreds of thousands of missing relatives.

The council area covers Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Borough, Walworth, Peckham, Camberwell, Peckham Rye, Nunhead and Dulwich.

Camberwell Old Cemetery opened in 1856 originally as a burial ground for St Giles Camberwell and was expanded in 1874 to help Nunhead Cemetery cater for the demand for burial space for the whole area. It is still an active cemetery part of which is a nature reserve.

Located a short distance away is Camberwell New Cemetery which was opened in 1927 to again cater for the huge demand for burial space. All the records are now available to search online.

There are over 300,000 people buried in Camberwell Old and Camberwell New cemeteries and a total of 700,000 for Southwark.

Find a relative, discover who else is buried in the grave, get a scanned copy of the original register entry and view a vital map giving the square where the grave is located. To search all of Southwark click here.

Honor Oak cremations will be added for Southwark Council in the coming weeks. See full details click here.

(With thanks to Deceased Online)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Dublin's Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932 on FindmyPast

FindmyPast ( has released an important military record set for those with ancestors who were children born to soldiers within the British Army, but there are some deficiencies in the offering. As part of the new British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932 collection, it includes records for the Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932.

First, the announcement from FindmyPast:

British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932
Containing over 27,000 records, British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932 list the details of students and staff members at the Royal Military Asylum (RMA) in Chelsea and the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS) in Dublin. Both schools were founded by Royal Warrant during the Napoleonic wars to educate the orphans of British servicemen in the regular army. Upon reaching the age of 14, students, both male and female, were meant to leave the institution. Boys who chose not to enlist in the army and female students were placed in indentured apprenticeship programs. Not all apprenticeship appointments were local and several pupils were sent as far as Barbados and India.

The collection covers several individual record sets and each entry consists of a transcript of the original source material. RHMS records include information about students outside the normal admission details, such as whether they went on to enlist, what trade they were taught, and the name of their fathers’ regiments. A staff list from 1864 is also available to search. RMA records include apprentice ledgers covering 1803 to 1840 and enrolment ledgers of Army Schoolmasters covering 1847 to 1876. The RMA also kept ledgers of the offences and the corresponding punishments that were doled out to misbehaving students. Punishment Ledgers for 1847 are also available to search.

Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932
Containing nearly 10,000 records, Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932 is a subset of British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932. The records pertain specifically to students enrolled at the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin, Ireland. The School was opened at the end of the Seven Years War in 1769 by the philanthropic Hibernian Society with 90 boys and 50 girls in attendance. It was established in order to educate the orphaned children of members of the British armed forces in IrelandThe RHMS merged with the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in 1924.

Many of the school’s records were stored in London and destroyed during the London blitz in 1940. Surviving admissions registers are now in The National Archives and have been transcribed by Peter Goble. Each record consists of a transcript of the original source material. Admissions Include information about students outside of normal admission details, such as whether they went on to enlist, what trade they were taught, and the name of their fathers’ regiments. There are also names of various pupils captured from the 1911 Irish census and a staff list taken in 1864.

COMMENT: The RHMS records are a record source that I have previously examined at the National Archives in England (, as my three times great uncle Alexander William Halliday studied there from 1878. The institution was based in Dublin as a sister body to the English equivalent, the Duke of York's Royal Military School.

Alexander was born on August 16th 1866 on the island of Bermuda in the West Indies, the son of Corporal William Halliday, and his mother Teresa Mooney, but his early years remain something of a mystery just now. His father, a member of the 2nd battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Foot, passed away on Bermuda in January 1866, seven months before he was born. It seems that his mother returned to Ireland shortly after his birth and remarried to another corporal within the same battalion of the regiment, William John Burns, in a ceremony in Nenagh, Tipperary. After this the family seems to have moved to Dublin by 1871, then briefly to Belfast by 1873-1874, before a return to Dublin.

Aged just eleven years and eleven months Alexander William Halliday was admitted to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin on August 1st 1878. The enrolment record is held at the National Archives (TNA: WO 143/22) and states his date of birth as August 16th 1866, his height as 4 foot 4 inches, his weight as 4 stone 8 pounds, his chest as 24.5 inches, and his religion as Established Church (Church of Ireland). By the time he left he had gained one mark for good conduct, and no trade had been learned by him. This is the information gleaned at the National Archives, from the original register. (Aged just 13 years and 11 months upon leaving the school, Alexander then officially joined the 48th Brigade on August 17th 1880, before later becoming a 14 year old private in the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Foot, the Queen's Royals.)

The transcribed dataset, however, omits any information on his religious denomination, his good conduct mark or any useful trade learned. But this is the frustrating part - there is also no useful source information given for the original register, it is merely given as Royal Hibernian Military Schools admissions 1847-1932, with transcriptions by Peter Goble, whilst the email announcement mentions they were accessed at TNA, but with no references. Would it really hurt to ask Peter Goble for the relevant TNA references, or for the company to source them itself?

This is not meant as a criticism of Peter Goble, who I have never met - it's a great effort to have transcribed so much - it is a criticism of company that wants to be seen as one of the big players in the British genealogy scene, and yet cannot seem able to understand one of the very basics of genealogical research, which is for genealogists to understand where materially has originally been sourced from. If the transcripts are incomplete (and there may well be very valid reasons why that is the case), or indeed erroneous, it is imperative to be able to know where the original source is so that it can be further consulted. Rant over...

Also released from FindmyPast:

Norfolk parish registers browse
The ability to browse through more than 300 years of parish registers has just been added to our collection of Norfolk parish records. Containing more than 5,300 pages of baptism, marriage, bans, and burial records from Church of England parishes, the Norfolk registers date back to 1538 and pre date civil registration.

Most of the records are handwritten so you may find incorrect spellings or find them hard to read. Some registers have suffered damage over the centuries so some pages may be water or heat damaged – or even nibbled by mice. The information recorded has varied over the years, but parish records can provide more information than simply confirmation of the event. Information also varies according to which event is being recorded.

UPDATE: The new Norfolk set is a browsable database of original images.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Thursday 30 July 2015

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 12-14: Copenhagen and homeward bound

The final three days of our adventure on the Unlock the Past Baltic cruise ( saw a visit to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, and then a final two day conference at sea as we made our way back to Portsmouth.

There's been quite a lot of discussion about Scandinavian politics in Scotland over the last two years, with groups such as Nordic Horizons promoting links between the two regions - indeed, until the 15th century a part of Caithness, Orkney and Shetland in Scotland were in fact under the rule of Norway, so there is a long established link. I have absolutely no idea why, but Copenhagen was somewhere in particular that I have long wanted to visit, so this was going to be a real treat. My first glimpse was a bit tenuous, but at 1.30am in the morning we sailed under the bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden, and so I went on deck to take a few pics in the dark, being the immense optimist that I am. I managed to actually get something, but with only a few metres clearance between the bridge and our boat it was a hairy experience, and we were travelling at a rate of knots! Having docked in the city just after 6am, my original intention for the day was to do a hop on hop off bus trip around the city, but on learning of a military fort close to the boat, I changed my mind and decided to go in on foot instead.


The preserved five pointed fort, dating from 1626 and still in use today as a military base, was the Kastellet (Citadellet Frederikshavn), located about a five minute walk from the boat, and surrounded by a moat. It was involved in the Napoleonic Wars Battle of Copenhagen against the British in 1807, with the British attacking it to try to neutralise the Danish fleet, and reminded me immensely of a fort in Holland that I visited when a student some twenty years ago (at Naarden), though much larger in size. It was later captured by the Germans in 1940. Amongst the buildings in the fort were a windmill, barracks for soldiers, and a war memorial, although I spent most of my time there walking around the ramparts and taking in the views. Another impressive war memorial to the memory of those who fell in Danish and Allied service guarded the exit on the far side of the fort as I departed.

I made my way past the Geifion Fountain, depicting the Norse goddess Gefjun driving four bulls ahead of her. These were her four sons who had been turned into bulls to allow her to plough as much land in a single night as she could, with the land ploughed falling into the Danish sea to create several islands (which were then granted to her), with the hole left in the ground becoming a huge lake. The Danes have their own version of Fionn MacCumhaill, who, as everyone knows, created the Isle of Man after scooping out soil from what later became Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland! Located behind the fountain was an Anglican church, St Alban's, providing a dramatic backdrop.

Unfortunately, the one museum I really wanted to visit, The Museum of Danish Resistance, was an impossibility to see, it having burned down in 2013, though thankfully the artefacts inside were saved. The museum is to be rebuilt in due course, with more on that at It was interesting to note a street named after Churchill in the area, but with nothing else to view I found myself wandering towards yet another royal palace. Europe loves its royals. Upon arrival, I discovered that the changing of the guard was about to happen, so stood and watched a bit more troop trooping. After it was complete I stood outside the museum and leeched onto the free wifi for a bit, at which point I was shouted at by a soldier! He shouted at me in English "Hey, you, get away from the wall". Weighing up the options, I decided that because he had a huge rifle and I had only a measly iPad, he was likely to win if I stood up to him, so I duly got away from the wall and avoided a minor diplomatic incident.

This was followed by a visit into the large Frederiks Kirke just up the street, which was yet another impressive domed church structure, but I was rather beginning to get a bit churched out on the trip by this point, so I left after a few minutes, and briefly bumped into several Unlock the Past team members who were enjoying the day via a hop on hop off boat ride. After a quick coffee, I made my way to the Kongens Have (King's Garden), Copenhagen's oldest national palace garden, established in the reign of Christian IV. I then made my way to a large canal and started to backtrack towards the area where the boat was docked.

The find of the day was undoubtedly a quiet wee kirkyard called Holmens Kirkegard. The genie in me couldn't help himself, and so in I went for a wander. Wow! One thing the Danes certainly know how to do is to look after their dead with respect. The cemetery was absolutely meticulous, landscaped, clean, tranquil and respectful. There seems to be a tradition that many grave-owners follow of maintaining a small low cut hedge around the boundaries of their plots, and the effect was just stunning. The following are some of the views of the graves I encountered.

With time running out I had two key things still to do, now back in tourist mode. The first was to visit the Little Mermaid statue, because that's what tourists do in Copenhagen, whilst the second was to have a beer, to complete my tally of lagers and beers tasted in foreign ports.

The statue, surrounded by tourists, commemorates the fairytale story by Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1837, and is one of the most iconic symbols of modern day Copenhagen. After snapping the requisite pics and buying the requisite fridge-magnet (my mind goes beyond the taste barrier), I then had my lager, drinking - what else - but a pint (OK, the boring EU equivalent) of Carlsberg. It was an amazing drink - probably the finest lager in the world - but as I was unsure, and as it was very, VERY hot, I had a second for scientific purposes. In chatting to one of the waiters he told me that Copenhagen was a great place to live, but very expensive compared to the rest of Denmark, even more expensive than life in London. Crikey, there's somewhere on Earth more expensive than London? Travel certainly does broaden the mind...!

Back on board, I had some dinner and then attended Paul Milner's excellent talk on occupations and guild records, providing an overview on how to locate records of our ancestors' employment, and then turned in for the night after a nightcap.

On day 13 we were once again back to full blown conference mode, with Paul up bright and early to do the first session, on First World War military records. Although I was familiar with all of the resources he discussed, he did provide some very useful steers on the basics behind decoding medal index cards. For the rest of the morning I attended talks by Janet Few on migration from the UK, and another by Paul on English census records. Lunch was followed by Cyndi Ingle discussing the advice to lower expectations on the internet to raise research potential, followed by another research help zone, and another packed line up awaiting advice on Irish and Scottish brick wall issues! I then attended a further writing session with Carol Baxter looking at genealogical truth, including an interesting case where she had to get the lawyers in over a book she had written, when her research overturned 'conventional wisdom' about the descendants of some of the First Fleet settlers in Australia, based on older research which simply didn't stack up. Some people do get proprietorial about their research and their conclusions, but it doesn't necessarily make them right if they simply shout louder and stamp their feet on the ground in the absence of documented proof!

After dinner I was then up, with my talk on Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, based on my recent book of the same title. In this I sought to demonstrate the range of records that were recorded in families' desperate times, covering everything from church records, courts and crime, bankruptcy, poor law records, medical records and more. Clearly I could not cover everything, but it did provide a flavour of what else might be out there beyond the vital records and censuses. Janet Few kindly took a few pics of me doing my talk but then told me I walked around so much that they were all blurred. I actually gave my first talk that night in the quantum range of dimensional reality, but happy to put it down to my incapable camera! :)

The final day then saw us get under way with another session by me, although clearly my journey into alternative quantum dimensions had upset my internal chronometer, or rather, that of my iPad. We had a clock change heading back to England, so I set my iPad back an hour, but unbeknownst to me, my iPad for some very bizarre reason had set it to an hour before in GMT, rather than British Summer Time, with the net effect that it actually set itself back by two hours, instead of one. Muggins dutifully woke up thinking I had an hour until I was due to give my talk, only to find the door being knocked and the information conveyed that a room full of people was awaiting me! I leapt down to the venue and got underway just ten minutes late, thankfully having remembered to get dressed first.

After breakfast I attended Caroline Gurney's useful session on manorial records and parochial records, which turned out to be a fantastic piece of scheduling, as it meant that my later talk on Irish land records could refer back to Caroline's session in discussing the same manorial set up that was established in Ireland. Before that however, I had lunch and then attended Janet Few's excellent session on coffers, clysters, comfrey and coifs: the lives of our 17th century ancestors, once again in her period guise of 'Mistress Agnes' and ably assisted by Master Christopher and a helpless volunteer/victim from the audience!

My Irish land records talk then went ahead, again, based on a new book written for Unlock the Past and delivered just a week before we set sail. I discussed boundaries (coincidentally paralleling what Caroline and Paul and had done in similar talks for England), and then discussed records of ownership, estate records, and valuation, as well as my current investigations into a particular brick wall problem in Islandmagee, County Antrim, for which land records have been a godsend. After this I attended two final talks by Paul Milner (British Isles maps and gazetteers) and Cyndi Ingle (building a digital research plan), and with that the conference programme was all but done.

With one exception! After dinner, Paul's wife Carol Becker offered a hilarious session by way of payback for years of suffering as the partner of a historical manic obsessive (i.e. a genealogist), entitled "So you are married to a genealogist?". This one was for the spouses...! Clearly partners of genealogists are under some kind of delusion that graveyards should not be attended, that offices should be permanently clean, that there are other programmes broadcast apart from Who Do You Think You Are, and that they should receive some kind of consideration when being dragged along to archives or museums. It's a strange world amongst the non-genealogist fraternity - I hope they can find inner peace soon!

And with that, it was a wrap! We said our goodbyes, took our requisite selfies, and then prepared for the early departures the following morning from Southampton. The conference was an incredible success, with a packed and vibrant itinerary, and an excellent vessel on which to hold it. We had a few issues along the way, as all cruises do, and occasional changes to programme, but we survived!


If you have read my blog posts this week and wish to learn more about the cruises organised by Unlock the Past, please visit, where you will find details of several forthcoming adventures around Australia and a river cruise in Europe amongst the highlights.

You may also be interested to read the recollections of other bloggers on board, including Alona Tester (, Helen Smith (, and Janet Few (

Happy cruising!

(With thanks to Alan Phillips, the Unlock the Past team, my fellow speakers, and all of my fellow conference delegates/cruisers, for a fun two weeks!)

Earlier Baltic cruise based blog posts:

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 1 to 3: From Southampton to Bruges

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 4 to 6: Germany and Estonia

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 7-8: Russia

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 9-11: Helsinki and Stockholm


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

TNA podcast - The women's First World War in the Middle East

A podcast released by the National Archives in England whilst I have been away is Big Ideas: The women’s war in the Middle East – women’s First World War service in Egypt, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine.

The talk is a 42 minute lecture by Nadia Atia, and and be freely accessed at or as a download on iTunes.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

National Library of Scotland extends 'Chat' service

From the National Library of Scotland (

Extension of our 'Chat' service announced

‘Chat’, our new online enquiry service, lets you ask staff in the General Reading Room a quick question and get an instant response. The service has proved popular, so we are extending it to include evening as well as afternoon sessions. From Monday 3 August ‘Chat’ will be available Monday to Friday between 2 pm - 4 pm and 6 pm - 8 pm.

When 'Chat' is closed you can still ask questions via the online enquiry form at Ask a Librarian and you will receive a response within 10 working days.

Ask questions on a variety of topics including:

* Library material published after 1850
* Registration/Library card process
* Reserving Library material

For further information visit

(With thanks to the NLS newsletter)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Perth and Kinross' Local and Family History department

Yesterday I was in Perth for a meeting, and whilst there I managed to pop into the A. K. Bell Library to make a quick foray into the local archives. Upon entering the building I discovered that the upstairs local studies section has had something of a revamp, with a much more focussed steer towards local and family history, and all sorts of new technological gizmos and new arrangements for the materials available for consultation.

Whilst there, I was very kindly given a wee tour of the facility by Dr. Nicola Cowmeadow, Perth and Kinross Council's local history officer, who explained that the revamp took place about a year ago (I've not been up in a while!), and that it has seen a fair improvement in the numbers using the facility. Here's a few pics:

One of the snazzier new additions are three new readers for microfilm, which once the film is loaded, project the image up digitally onto a screen. This then allows for digital manipulation, and, I was told, can even OCR some of the text. Clearly I now want one for Christmas!

Nicola has presented a great history of Perth in a video that can be found on YouTube at, and which is embedded below:

For more information on Perth and Kinross Archives, visit, whilst for the Local and Family History service, visit

Perth is a very special place to me in Scotland, not just because it hosts my favourite archive service, but it is because it is where generations of my Paton family originally hailed from, with my lot fairly entrenched in Craigie for many years in the 18th and 19th centuries (with some relatives still in the city there today), and in surrounding parishes such as Dunbarney and Kinclaven for many centuries.  As such, just for good measure, I took another opportunity to visit Greyfriars Cemetery again to rephotograph some headstones (the weather was glorious!), including one for my four times great uncle Dr William Henderson (1784-1870), a bit of a family hero of mine (see right).

Here are a few of the other images taken at the cemetery:

Go visit Perth - you'll love it! :)

(A huge thanks to Nicola at Perth Local and Family History, and to Steven Connolly at Perth and Kinross Archives)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Discover Irish Land Records - review

A huge thanks to Irish blogger Claire Santry for her fantastic review of my new book Discover Irish Land Records, which she notes has "some breadth" and is one which she is "happy to recommend... as a handy introduction and well-organised reference book for researchers moving into the intermediate stages of their family history studies. Many new avenues of research will be opened up to them through its pages."

She adds that "Chris has not just skimmed the surface of his theme; he has provided some very useful detail that researchers won't readily find elsewhere, as well as suggesting techniques to ensure they wring every jot of information out of some of the most useful documents and resources".

The full review is available at


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

English and Welsh 2021 census consultation

From the Federation of Family History Societies (, concerning a consultation on the future of the English and Welsh census (note that the Northern Irish and Scottish censuses are independently organised from those of England and Wales within the UK):

Send In Your Census Shopping List

Ever since 1841, the census has created comprehensive snapshots of information about people living in the British Isles. Each census is a vital source for family historians - including those in a 100 years' time who will want to find out about us and our contemporaries.

The next census in England and Wales will take place in 2021. To help prepare for this, the Office for National Statistics is asking the public which types of information they think should be included. It is important to focus on details that we need to know about each person but were not fully covered in 2011, such as:
  • Names in full, including maiden names
  • Full place of birth - i.e. village, town or city; county (or local equivalent) and country.

The census consultation website is only a click away - see

This opportunity is open to everyone, whether individuals or organisations. You can answer as many or as few of the questions as you wish.

Don't delay in having your say - the closing date is Thursday 27 August 2015.

The Federation has already submitted its own response to the consultation (click here - a PDF file will download). You are welcome to include material from it, if you wish, when you send in your own response.

(With thanks to Phillippa McCray at the FFHS)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Lanarkshire Local and Family History Show 2015

From Lanarkshire Family History Society, news of a major family history show in just over three weeks time:


Local and Family History Show 2015 ‘Celebrating Scotland’s Heritage’
Saturday 22nd August 2015
9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Motherwell Concert Hall and Theatre, Civic Centre, Motherwell ML1 1AB

Scotland’s largest Local and Family History Show will be taking place this year on Saturday 22nd August in Motherwell Theatre and Concert Hall.

Organised by Lanarkshire Family History Society, the Show has become a regular event on the genealogy calendar, appealing to everyone with an interest in family history and local heritage.

This year’s speakers are:
  • Chris Paton, genealogist, lecturer and author on Using Newspapers for Family History Research
  • Graham Maxwell of Scottish Indexes on Tracing Your Illegitimate Ancestors in Sheriff Court records
  • Chris Fleet, Map Curator at the National Library of Scotland. His talk is about Finding and using online maps for family and local history
  • Dr Tristram Clarke of National Records of Scotland will be talking about Soldiers’ Wills and records of Conscientious Objectors, as well as remembering those who survived WW1
Big-name players in the genealogy world, ScotlandsPeople, FamilySearch and The Scottish Genealogy Society will be taking part, along with the National Library of Scotland Maps, Scottish Monumental Inscriptions, Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, Scottish Catholic Historical Association, Scottish Indexes, the Guild of One-Name Studies, Scottish Local History Forum and Scottish Military Research Group.

Among the many family history societies attending will be those from Aberdeen and North East Scotland, the Borders, Central Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, Fife, Glasgow and West of Scotland, Lothians, Renfrewshire, Troon @ Ayrshire, West Lothian and of course Lanarkshire.

Genealogy supplies company My History will be returning to the Show, as will local museums and attractions including New Lanark World Heritage Site, Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life and the David Livingstone Centre. A large number of organisations involved in local history, archives and heritage will be exhibiting; schools and youth groups will be displaying their projects, and there will be activities for children and free workshops on family history topics.

New to the Show will be the Ayrshire-based writer on historical topics Dane Love with many of his books for sale; Alan Godfrey Maps, who produce old Ordnance Survey maps of Britain and Ireland; and Image Restoration, a Glasgow-based company which can help restore, edit or colour your faded or damaged old photographs.

Professional genealogists from the Scottish Genealogy Network ( will be joining members of Lanarkshire FHS in the “Ask the Experts” area to offer free one-to-one advice to anyone starting out researching their family history or who has hit a “brick wall”.

Staff from the Universities of both Strathclyde and Dundee will be available for anyone interested in taking their passion for family history a bit further by signing up for courses in genealogy, palaeography (old handwriting) or other related subjects.

Information about tickets and an up-to-date list of exhibitors is available on the Show website Entry costs £2 per person, with talks priced at £4 each or £14 for all four. Buying one or more talk tickets allows free entry to the show. Children under 12 are admitted free with a paying adult. Book online or by post (by post send a cheque made payable to Lanarkshire FHS to: Lanarkshire FHS, c/o North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre, 1 High Road, Motherwell ML1 3HU).

COMMENT: In addition to giving one of the talks at the event, I will also be helping with the Scottish Genealogy Network's one to one advice sessions. In addition, I'm delighted to say that My History (, which will also be in attendance, is the UK publisher of my Australian published books from Unlock the Past ( The company's founder Tony Beardshaw will have many of these for sale, including Discover Scottish Church Records, Discover Scottish Land Records, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, British and Irish Newspapers, Irish Family History Resources Online (2nd edition), and my new book Discover Irish Land Records.

There will also be additional titles for sale such as Rosemary Kopittke's ScotlandsPeople: The Place to Launch Your Scottish Research, Paul Milner's Discover English Parish Registers and Buried Treasure: What's in the English Parish Chest, and many other titles on British and worldwide genealogy subjects, within the popular and inexpensive range. Full details on My History's offerings are available at

(With thanks to Liz Irving)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Who Do You Think You Are returns Thursday 13th August 2015

Who Do You Think You Are magazine has announced that the new series of Who Do You Think You Are, the 12th, will commence its broadcast run on Thursday 13th August at 9pm, BBC1. The scheduled transmission run is listed in a blog post by the magazine at, with the series kicking off with a programme about the ancestors of Paul Hollywood, a presenter of the BBC's Great British Bake off series.

The BBC itself issued a press release last month about the new series (

Who Do You Think You Are? from Wall To Wall (a Warner Bros Television Production UK Ltd company) is back with another glittering line-up of much-loved faces delving in to their family trees.
Stars from the world of film and TV, theatre, music, cookery, modelling, and news feature in the 12th series of the original genealogy show when it returns to BBC One this summer.

Great British Bake off presenter Paul Hollywood, modelling legend Jerry Hall, Last Tango In Halifax stars Sir Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, actress Jane Seymour, choirmaster and broadcaster Gareth Malone, stage and television actress Frances de la Tour, news reporter Frank Gardner, actor and writer Mark Gatiss and television presenter Anita Rani all join this year’s series.

Spanning almost a thousand years of history and crossing four continents, the new series follows our 10 household names as they investigate the secrets of their family trees. Travelling from the Tower of London to the Highlands of Scotland, from Tunisia to Tasmania, from the Punjab in India to the Wild West of America, our intrepid 10 each embark on a journey of discovery as they dig deep into their family ancestry, uncovering a host of hidden pasts and shocking revelations. Full of heartbreak, laughter, intrigue and surprise, each film captures every step of our celebrity’s mission to learn more about their ancestors’ lives.

From new-born babies spirited away under cover of darkness to convicts transported to the other side of the world; from sisters separated by the Holocaust to the battlefields of North Africa; from laudanum-addicted socialites to paying the ultimate price for treason in Tudor England; from music halls to tales of vampires, the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are? reveals the rich and extraordinary stories of our celebrities’ families and their history.

The series will see model and actress Jerry Hall trace her ancestry from the cotton mills of Oldham to the plains of Texas as she discovers her family’s pioneering past, blazing the trail west across America.

Derek Jacobi's story is one of equal contrasts, from humble roots in Walthamstow to the court of Louis XIV of France. But the family tree hides a dangerous secret – his ancestor is leading a double life and flees to England where there’s another surprise in store – an unlikely connection to royalty on this side of the Channel.

Executive Producer for Wall to Wall, Colette Flight, says: “Who Do You Think You Are? is back with another fantastic line-up of much-loved faces, uncovering hidden history by bringing our celebrities’ ancestors to life. Following our best-known stars on their personal journey into their family trees reveals extraordinary stories, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, but always compelling.”


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 9-11: Helsinki and Stockholm

So far on my recent Unlock the Past cruise ( travels, I have blogged about my visits to Bruges, Berlin, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. Now into our second week, the next major stops were in Scandinavia, at Helsinki (Finland) and Stockholm (Sweden).

Helsinki was the first to be visited on Day 9 (July 19th), and was a particularly big day for Alan Phillips (CEO of Unlock the Past) and his family, who were due to meet up with long-lost family locally for a huge genie-fest of information exchange and visits (see Alona Tester's blog post). For me it was another new city to conquer, and after the Celebrity Eclipse docked at 8am, I went in on a shuttle bus with Tony Beardshaw and Jane and Steve Taubmann for a further dander. At first my heart sank, as we appeared to have been dumped in a fairly average run-of-the-mill shopping precinct, but within a few minutes we realised the driver was obviously having a laugh, because there was a much more interesting part to the city just a few minutes walk away - things soon picked up!

It was a fairly quiet but sunny Sunday morning, and we made our way to the major neo-classical style Lutheran Cathedral, built between 1830 and 1852. This dominated the surrounding landscape, built on a hill overlooking a city square, and we took a few snaps, although we did not venture inside. There was something clearly going to be happening on the square later in the day, as it was fenced off, but we were not able to discern what it would be, and so left to wander around some surrounding streets.

As we wandered it soon became clear that one thing Helsinki is not is wifi friendly for visitors, and so my fiendish masterplan of not using the expensive on-ship wifi, and only leeching off free wifi in city centres took a dastardly blow, with only the occasional bubble of hope occasionally rising and then crashing again repeatedly as we perambulated through the city. 

In the midst of wifi hunting a novel experience soon occurred, when my heart almost made an assassination attempt on my brain for taking a wrong direction as we passed a government building with a banner advertising the truly exciting exhibition, "Our Mutual Debt: Finnish Government Borrowing 1859-2015". Fortunately an adjacent statue with a stone plinth that had clearly been shot at repeatedly soon peaked our interest, although there was nothing on display to suggest why it had been targeted. Quite possibly it was a statue of the person who first came up with the notion of making an exhibition on Finnish Government Borrowing.

The genius of the debt exhibition was later matched only by a shop for which the mind truly boggled, called Bonk Mindlab. This was one business for which I did not want to discover a purpose, in case it turned out to be the place where creativity pushed tirelessly beyond the bounds on a daily basis to end up producing government debt exhibitions...!

By the riverside we then crossed a bridge with many padlocks clamped to it with couples names inscribed upon them, the current in thing for young love.

We then proceeded to the Finnish Orthodox Church, an extraordinary building, which I briefly popped into. There was a service going on, and so I stayed for a few minutes to observe, having never been to an Orthodox service before, and experienced lots of smells, but no bells - it was all very calm and dignified, and a real pity we could not have stayed for longer.

After this the four of us made our way to the waterside and to a market, where I bought the compulsory fridge magnet, avoiding the purchase of anything made from reindeer, or the salmon soup which seemed to be on special offer from all the food-vendors, clearly a local delicacy. We left the riverside, passing a bronzed Mr T impersonator (10 out of 10 for random!), and then through a couple of parks to the Brunnsparken/Kaivopuisto park to the south of the city, before making our way back in to the centre for a beer.

The final part of the trip was a visit to a church literally carved out of a stone, the Temppeliaukio Kirkko, or Underground Rock Church. This was stunning, yet another Lutheran church, but with an architectural style much simpler and more modern, and which opened in 1969 - well worth a visit.

Another dream soon came true after we left the church, as I finally got to meet Santa Claus and a reindeer busking outside of a shop!

Back at the boat, Helen Smith kept the daily evening talks programme going with a session on researching health history. Again, I missed this one, as happening at the same time was a hot glass show taking place on the upper deck, with a demonstration on the art of glass making, which sounded too good to be true and which was worth the 90 minutes of mild hypothermia I endured to watch the team demonstrate their extraordinary craft. However, Helen has kindly given me a copy of her publication Death Certificates and Archaic Medical Terms, 2nd edition (available from, which I will review in due course, and which on intial inspection certainly looks to be a useful guide.

On the Monday morning, Day 10 (July 20th), we were then in Sweden, having docked at Stockholm at 9am. As with Helsinki, this was another short stop of just seven hours, and so I was back out again early to take in the sites. It was quite a grey morning, but we wandered into the old part of the town to see some beautiful small cobbled streets. There were some wonderful squares, and we soon came across yet another royal palace, this time for the Swedish royal family.

From here we then made our way to one of the real jewels in the city, the Tyska Kyrkan/Deutsche Kirke (German Church). We went inside and just marvelled at the interior. It was much more basic than many of the grand cathedrals we had so far witnessed, and to me seemed a bit more reassuringly familiar, the Lutheran interior being a seemingly blinged up version of the more austere Presbyterian kirks I am more used to in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Whilst incredibly ornate, it still felt much more basic than anything else we had seen on the cruise so far.

After a coffee at the under Kastanjen cafe, in a cup that never emptied and with a wifi source that never failed, wecontinued our meanderings, and soon passed an amazing statue of Saint George fighting a dragon. This seemed as much out of context as Saint Andrew did in St. Petersburg, and yet this is every bit as much a part of the local culture in Sweden as it is in England.

As we made our way to the riverside by the palace, we then bumped into a bit of troop trooping, which we stood and watched for a bit, before passing a building marked Sveriges Riksdag, which I presumed was a parliament - Riksdag possibly being a localised equivalent of the German word 'Reichstag'. It turned out that it was indeed the legislature for Sweden. (One of the interesting things about touring around the Baltic was seeing how the Germanic and Cyrillic languages mutated from place to place, making it possible at times to guess what some words meant with my limited German, and which was fun to guess.) Whilst we never visited inside, we did see some interesting things around it, not least of which some 'hoop-boats', a rather unique design for a fishing boat. I later found some old black and white pictures online of these boast in use, which can be viewed at After a final visit to the Riddarholmen church, the oldest in Stockholm, and which has long been used as a royal burial church, we made our way back to the boat, getting on board just as the heavens opened.

As I ate dinner on the 14th deck I was able to watch as the boat sailed out of Stockholm, through a beautiful landscape of islands which seemingly followed our exit for several hours, before we again reached open sea. The final part of the day was to hear Jane Taubmann's useful talk on scanning and restoring old photos, with her recommendation to use a software package called Photoshop Elements, which I will certainly need to look into.

Day 11 was then a full conference day at sea, and so time to get busy again on the genealogy front. I gave the first talk on Scottish civil registration records to a fairly busy theatre for an 8am start (there isn't a more disciplined force than a group of genies wanting to learn!). Several interesting talks then followed, from Cyndi Ingle on maintaining an organised computer, Jane Taubmann on Family Historian's diagrams, and Eric Kopittke on locating an ancestor's place of origin in Germany. Shauna Hicks also spoke on family history on the cheap, with several tips and tricks on offer, and Barbara Toohey spoke on charting your family history. After a quick lunch Rosemary Kopittke gave an overview on The Genealogist website (, before I then had a second, and this time, successful bash at my postponed talk on Scottish land records, introducing the audience to the complex but awesome world of Scottish feudal records. This was then followed by a research help zone, where the main speakers offered advice to individual delegates on the cruise with brick wall genealogical problems - always a good way to keep us on our feet!

I missed Cyndi Ingles' talk on creating chronological timelines in order to attend Paul Milner's talk on pre-WW1 British soldiers' records, which I was glad I did as it confirmed a potential line of enquiry I had suggested to one of our delegates with some research I had been carrying out for her, to confirm a particular brick wall issue by chasing the subsequent payment records of money paid to a soldier ancestor after being discharged to pension (and which I am delighted to say has since worked out for her after a fruitful day's research at TNA yesterday!). I then attended another writing workshop by Carol Baxter on structuring a family history or other non-fiction piece of work. The final talk of the day was by Helen Smith on the need to ask grandma, and other relatives, for stories and information before it is too late!

Coming next - I get shouted at by a Danish soldier, and then have what is probably the finest lager in the world in full view of a little mermaid - before a final full two day conference at sea, and a slight problem with time keeping...

Additional Baltic based cruise posts:

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 1 to 3: From Southampton to Bruges

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 4 to 6: Germany and Estonia

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 7-8: Russia

Unlock the Past Baltic genealogy cruise - Days 12-14: Copenhagen and homeward bound


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit