Tuesday, 22 December 2015

British GENES Review of 2015

It's been a busy year, with some extraordinary developments and some fun personal experiences, so here is a quick overview of the year I have just had, and some of the stories and developments of particular note for the humble Scottish based Irish genie!

In January, the National Records of Scotland, via its estates review, announced that it is not wedded to maintaining a permanent presence at General Register House - a building I have long admired architecturally but have deplored increasingly in its unsuitability as a modern day archive facility. The full story is at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/national-records-of-scotland-estates.html. From a CPD point of view, a book that has had a massive impact on me, both in terms of understanding how Scotland's land has been carved up and transacted over the centuries, and from a modern political perspective, has been Andy Wightman's The Poor Had No lawyers - Who Owns Scotland? - my review of it is at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-poor-had-no-lawyers-who-owns.html. Not only do I understand Scotland's land records system, I now understand exactly what led to the development of land registration in the 17th century, some of it truly shocking. On the vendors' front, probably the most significant January development was the launch of AncestryDNA in the UK - see http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/ancestry-launches-ancestrydna-service.html. My Irish Family History Resources Online book was republished in a new and expanded second edition (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/irish-family-history-resources-online.html).

In February I located Northern Irish OS maps online via the Northern Irish Environment Agency website (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/historic-northern-irish-os-maps-on-ni.html), and discovered that DNA could be used to store data for a million years (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/storing-data-in-dna-for-million-years.html). My book Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis was published (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/my-new-book-down-and-out-in-scotland.html), and Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FHS ceased to be (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/alloway-and-south-ayrshire-fhs-to-cease.html).

The highlight of March was participating in the Genealogy in the Sunshine conference in Portugal's Algarve, and getting to see a spectacular eclipse (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/genealogy-in-sunshine-and-eclipse.html)!

April saw the relocation of Who Do You Think You Are? Live to Birmingham, with a huge thumbs up from me (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-2015.html), whilst Ancestry began to release some First World War army diaries on its site (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/ancestry-releases-uk-first-world-war.html).

In May Forces War Records released casualty records from the Second World War (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/ww2-army-casualty-lists-from-forces-war.html), and I had a lot of fun with Facebook's My Social Book (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/my-social-book-review.html). I also found an extraordinary film of a devastated Berlin in colour from July 1945 on YouTube (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/colour-film-footage-of-berlin-from-july.html), and British GENES passed the 2 million views mark (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/two-million-british-genes-post-hits-and.html). In Scotland, after a couple of minor operations in hospital, I was very proud to help work towards one of the most historic election results the country had ever seen (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/historic-week-in-scotland-and-absence.html).

In June, UK Press Online relaunched itself with a new website (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/uk-press-online-launching-new-version.html), and I discovered the difference between lifters and anti-lifters (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/were-your-ancestors-lifters-or-anti.html)! The Scottish Military Research Group continued to expand on its research guides (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/scottish-military-research-group-guides.html).

July saw me take part in the Unlock the Past tour of the Baltic, in which I got to visit Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark for the first time, in what was a good humoured and highly informative two week genealogy conference at sea. Amongst other highlights was the chance to meet Paul Milner and Cyndi Ingle for the first time - great craic! (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/unlock-past-baltic-genealogy-cruise_30.html). By far the most significant online records release was that of Ireland's Roman Catholic parish registers by the National Library of Ireland (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/catholic-parish-registers-at-national.html). I released my third book this year, Discover Irish Land Records (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/discover-irish-land-records-now-on-sale.html).

In August I literally stumbled upon the fact that 50 years worth of the Dublin Gazette newspaper from 1750-1800 had in fact been digitised and made available on the Oireachtas website - something that seemed to be news to everyone, they definitely kept that one quiet (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-dublin-gazette-from-1750-1800-is.html)! A twelfth series of Who Do You Think You Are also got under way, for another successful run (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/who-do-you-think-you-are-series-12.html), and the English based AGRA website regenerated (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/agra-updates-its-website.html). The University of Strathclyde announced that its highly successful postgraduate programme in genealogical studies was now offering a modular format for study (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/new-modular-version-of-strathclydes.html).

In September the North of Ireland FHS website regenerated (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/north-of-ireland-fhs-website-is-revamped.html), and I got a sneak peak at PRONI's new OS mapping site, coming soon (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/new-proni-maps-database-sneak-peak.html). I travelled to Toronto and Ottawa for another fun filled weekend of conferencing and talks, catching up with Thomas MacEntee and Christine Woodcock amongst others (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/amazing-weekend-of-conferences-in.html).

October saw the Internet Archive announce plans of its own forthcoming regeneration (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/internet-archives-wayback-machine-to-be.html), and the contract for the new ScotlandsPeople website was handed to CACI, ending FindmyPast's involvement from September 2016 (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/scotlandspeople-contract-awarded-to-caci.html). DNA developments upset some blue-blooded folk (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/dna-tests-may-upset-blue-blooded.html), and Gordon Honeycombe, former presenter of Family History, passed away (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/gordon-honeycombe-has-died.html).

Last month then, I learned that Erskine Hospital was cataloguing its archive (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/erskine-hospital-archive-to-be.html), and to help a reader out, I investigated what had happened to the missing FamilyRelatives.com website - which is still not back online, despite assurances that it would be imminently (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/familyrelativescom-and-gro-overseas-bmd.html). The London Gazette celebrated 350 years of publication (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/350-years-of-london-gazette.html). FindmyPast launched its 1939 National Identity Register for England and Wales, and almost immediately after restricted the free information available in the form of TNA reference numbers, upsetting many (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/findmypast-restricts-tna-ref-numbers-on.html). The Scottish Courts Service confirmed that divorce records in Scotland are now subject to a 100 year closure for privacy purposes (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/access-to-scottish-divorce-records-to.html).

This month, Ireland's Military Archives released additional material and had its funding for further digitisation work confirmed until 2023 (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/irelands-revolution-will-be-digitised.html). England's Protestation returns were found to have been digitised (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/digitisation-of-english-protestation.html), and Ancestry committed softwaricide with its Family Tree Maker programme (http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/rip-family-tree-maker.html). And I finally got my act together and rebuilt my research service website at www.scotlandsgreateststory.co.uk!

Here's to 2016....!


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 http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html. My Pinterest account is at https://www.pinterest.com/chrismpaton/.