30 June 2015

6 Genealogy Sources You May Have Overlooked

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Searching for ancestors who vanished? Looking for a way to break down those genealogy brick walls?

Try these sources, all of which refer to people from many countries. In each record set, read 'Learn More' and 'Discover More' to find out about the record contents and sources. When images are available, either online or in Archives, they will have information that is not in the transcription.

  1. British Civil Service Evidence of Age records

    These records are for people from around the world, including 654 from Australia / NZ. I've found some exciting details (especially for people whose birth was never registered) in images that have recently been added to this record set. Note that a right arrow leads to the next related image, which is often a baptism record.

  2. Passport records

    Various series of passport records refer to people departing either temporarily or permanently (eg, going overseas on holidays or returning to their home country). Records held in Queensland (Australia) often give not only departure details but also ship and date of arrival and State of disembarkation.

  3. Trade Union Records

    These are for railway staff, carpenters, joiners, cabinetmakers, woodworkers, lithographic artists/printers, designers, engravers, boilermakers, iron shipbuilders, etc. Countries included are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Channel Islands, England, Germany, Gibraltar, Ireland, Isle Of Man, Malta, New Zealand, Rhodesia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, USA and Wales.  Australian branches include Adelaide, Ballarat, Bathurst, Bendigo, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Charters Towers, Fremantle, Geelong, Hobart, Ipswich, Kalgoorlie, Leeton, Mackay, Melbourne, Mildura, Mount Morgan, Newcastle, Perth, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Sydney, Townsville, Wollongong and others.

  4. Great Western Railway shareholders

    The index includes names of shareholders, executors, beneficiaries and others (many of whom lived overseas). The image often gives death or burial date/place, occupation, address, names of other parties (executors or legatees for deaths, and husbands for marriages), date of marriage or other event. Most events relate to residents of England and Wales, but there are also thousands of Scottish, Irish and overseas records, including more than 200 entries for Australians.

  5. British India Office collection

    If you are researching someone who lived or worked in India, start here. This collection includes births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, wills and probate records, civil and military pensions, East India Company cadet papers, and applications for the civil service. It covers military personnel, civil servants, surgeons, planters, entrepreneurs, missionaries and others. I found a pension record that gave names and exact birthplaces (long before civil registration) of the man's children, who were back home in England.

  6. New South Wales will books (wills for people worldwide, as explained below).

With the New South Wales will books, don't be put off by the 'NSW' heading. This source includes wills for many people in other States and other countries. Click 'Learn' above the search boxes to find out more about the collection. Searches are free, but if you find a relevant entry you need a subscription or pay-as-you-go credits to see an image of the original book. These are my personal search tips:
  1. Start by searching for a name in 'Who'. You can use asterisks as wildcards. 'Death year' is optional, and you can select 'give or take' (+/-) up to 40 years. For now, ignore the 'Residence' field.

  2. There is a separate field called Heirs' or executors' last name. Enter a surname here (you can use wildcards), leaving the Who fields empty.

  3. If you use the Residence field, use wildcards. You'll understand why if you search for *Brisbane*, with asterisks before and after, and note the residences shown in results! Data in the Residence field is not entered in any set format. It may be just a town, or just a State, or just a country, or town+State, or State+country, etc (with or without punctuation, which makes a difference to the results). Sometimes places are abbreviated (eg, Queensland / Qld).

  4. Experiment with other variations and combinations. Keep a list of the search criteria that you use, because you may later think of other ways to search.

  5. It is essential to view images of the original Will Books, because a 'transcription' does not include the will itself.

If you've made exciting discoveries in any of these sources, please tell us about them in a comment below.

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/6-genealogy-sources-you-may-have.html.)

19 January 2015

Top 3 Things to Do before a Genealogy Conference (Tuesday's Tip)

Image by 89studio, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To get the most out of a genealogy conference, there are three things you should do in advance.

If you are going to Rootstech or Who Do You Think You Are? Live or the Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, do these now!

1.  Order your Contact Cards

Contact cards are a personal version of a business card. Give them to conference delegates who share your interest in a surname, locality or project, and use them to publicise your Web site, online family tree, genealogy blog or social media pages.

I order my cards from Vistaprint. Depending on what discounts are available and whether you choose 'Starter Business Cards' or 'Premium Business Cards', the cost of 250 cards is usually between $8 and $28. That's a great price for good quality cards, which you create by entering text into an online template. When you are happy with your design, submit the order, pay with either BPay, PayPal, VISA or Mastercard, and watch for the package to arrive by post.

Before you design your contact cards, consider what details you want to include. You won't be able to fit all of these, so make a list in order of importance to you.
  • Your name is essential, of course.
  • Your email address that will be valid long-term if you leave your current service provider. (The best option may be a free Gmail address from Google).
  • Your postal address (or at least your State and country).
  • Your Web site URL.
  • Your blog URL.
  • URL of your public online family tree - but check that it really is public (eg, a free tree on Rootsweb's WorldConnect, which is not locked away behind a pay wall on a subscription site).
  • Your social media URLs (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr etc).
  • Short list of surnames that you're researching, especially any unusual names. (Putting these on the back of the card costs a few extra dollars.)
  • Phone number (but if you list this, mention your time zone compared to Greenwich Mean Time).

I created this contact card with Vistaprint, and 250 of these only cost $7.99.

2.  Submit your research interests

For the Australasian Congress in 2015, register your research interests now. If someone else is interested in the same family, you can contact them before the Congress (which is a lot easier than finding them in the crowd).

Use a spreadsheet to prepare each of your entries for easy cut-and-paste. The fields are:
  1. Name/s (either surname only or with the family name first, eg, 'PEACOCK, Jonathan';  alternative spellings can be included here)
  2. Location (remember to specify the country)
  3. Period
  4. Extra details (put the most important details at the beginning because only about 96 characters including spaces will be immediately visible to people browsing the interests list).

3.  Plan what to take and what to do

There are lots of great tips in:
  1. Prepare Before Attending a Genealogy Conference (by Sue Maxwell).

  2. Rock Star's Guide to Genealogy Conferences (by Amy Coffin).

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/2015/01/top-3-things-to-do-before-genealogy.html.)

13 January 2015

Genealogy Do-Over or Source-Based Incremental Fix?

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the 'Genealogy Do-Over' or 'Go-Over' proposed by Thomas MacEntee. I am taking a different approach. I'm doing a 'source-based incremental fix'.

Starting again from scratch is not an option for me because...

  • Some archival records that I used are no longer open to the public. The Government has since changed the access restrictions.

  • Talking to relatives in the 1970s gave me vital details that I have never found in documents - and those relatives are now in Heaven.

  • Many records that I used are on the other side of the world. They are not indexed and not digitised.

  • I have never copied details from online trees, and I never will. I might treat them as clues for further research, but that's all. About 90% of my research was done in the 1970s and 1980s, long before I had Internet access, and I used original records in State and national archives. I have since used a wide range of online resources, but I have not found any mistakes in my original research.

Louis Kessler has suggested a source-based incremental fix, which will suit me perfectly. Taking one document at a time, I will analyse it carefully and check that every bit of information has been extracted and entered into my family tree programme, with the source reference. Then I'll file the source in a new and separate location. As I work, I'll note gaps in my knowledge and list my ideas for further research.

First, though, I need to decide how to organise my records. This is what I've done so far.

  1. I've gathered together all my paper documents and research notes.  There are fifteen ring binders and one archival quality photo album from which data has already been added to my genealogy programme (The Master Genealogist). There are also two 52 litre storage boxes with countless unscanned photos and unprocessed photocopies and research notebooks. Eeek!  (Note to self:  Don't panic.)

  2. I've read Nancy Loe's guides.  These three e-books are very practical: Organizing Genealogy Research Using Archival PrinciplesCataloging Digital Family Photographs and Records; and Simplifying Genealogy Sources and Citations.

  3. I've read those guides again, this time making notes about how I'll modify Nancy's method so that it fits the way I think when I look for records in my files.

  4. I've downloaded source checklists for Evernote, via CyndisList. (Thanks to Michelle Patient for bringing these to my attention.)

  5. I've started creating a 'style guide' to ensure that I name and store files (especially digital files) consistently. (Nancy Loe says, 'Using controlled vocabulary is the single most important thing you can do to keep your research organized.')

In amongst all that organising, I will be writing about my ancestors in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.  (Note to self:  Don't panic. Nobody said the 52 weeks have to be consecutive.)

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/2015/01/genealogy-do-over-or-source-based.html.)

Order of words in a blog post title - why it matters (Tuesday's Tip)

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Does the order of the words in a blog post's title make any difference to how many people read that post?



https://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo/ says, 'Search engines put more weight on the early words, so if your keywords are near the start of the page title you are more likely to rank well. People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.'

http://moz.com/learn/seo/title-tag says, 'The closer to the start of the title tag a keyword is, the more helpful it will be for ranking ­and the more likely a user will be to click them in search results.'


   Kitty (Catherine) ASHTON: ancestor #1 of 52

is probably a better title than

   52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge: #1 Kitty (Catherine) ASHTON.

And yes, there really is a blog post about Kitty ASHTON (my great-great-great-grandmother).

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/order-of-words-in-blog-post-title-why.html.)

31 December 2014

Using LostCousins for genealogy (UK, Ireland, USA and Canada)

LostCousins logo
LostCousins is probably the only Web site that identifies (with virtually 100% accuracy) people who share the same ancestors. You do not waste time corresponding with people who are not related to you!

I have found several new relatives via the site, and its free newsletter is packed with useful information.

To use LostCousins you need to find your relatives in the census for England and Wales 1841, 1881 or 1911; Ireland 1911; Scotland 1881; Canada 1881; or United States 1880 or 1940. Then at LostCousins you enter the census source/page details for those names.

Before gathering and entering data, read the instructions on LostCousins very carefully ('Information - Read this first') because requirements for each census are different. If you prepare well, entering the data is a lot quicker.

Be sure to enter census data for brothers and sisters of your direct ancestors, because their descendants are the cousins you want to contact. One such descendant had a family bible and a letter from my great-great-grandfather, which overcame a dead end in my research.

After entering your relatives' census references, click 'Search', and the system checks whether anyone else has already entered identical data. If they have, it means that you are both researching the same people.

Remember to log in periodically, go to your 'My Ancestors' page and click 'Search' again to check for matches with new LostCousins members.

It is free to join LostCousins and enter your data, but I choose to pay a small annual subscription (about $10) so that there are no delays in making contact with my distant cousins when they are identified by the extremely accurate matching system.

The more people who enter census data for direct ancestors and their siblings, the greater the chances of finding our 'lost cousins'. Maybe you are my distant relative! I'm trying to find you - so please... start using LostCousins today!
- - -
(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/using-lostcousins-for-genealogy-uk.html.)

24 November 2014

How to Become a Paid Genealogy Researcher

Genealogical research is interesting and challenging, but not necessarily lucrative. It involves a huge number of non-billable hours and many non-billable expenses such as stationery, ongoing education (genealogy seminars, conferences etc), books/fiche/CD-ROMs for your home reference library, computer hardware and software, equipment repairs, Internet access, Webpage costs, electricity, etc.

As a paid researcher you will need to learn about sources that you did not use for your own family tree. Before setting up a business, do voluntary research (perhaps dealing with requests sent to your local Family History Society). This will alert you to some of the gaps in your knowledge. You can then decide what type of research commissions your business should accept. Make the most of any special interests or skills, and be aware of your weaknesses.

You could start by working as a record agent, dealing with simple requests that require minimal analysis and interpretation (eg, 'I want a copy of Document-X, which I know is at your local record office.') As you become familiar with more record series, you can offer a wider range of services.

In my opinion, these are the main requirements for a professional genealogist who does research in local archives or record offices:
  • A very high degree of proficiency in using the holdings of those repositories.
  • A thorough understanding of correct research techniques, genealogical proof standards, and the difference between primary and secondary sources (original records and derivative records).
  • A clear understanding of privacy issues and professional ethics.
  • An awareness of the traps involved in using indexes and interpreting handwriting.
  • Good analytical skills.
  • The ability to use lateral thinking.
  • The ability to cite sources fully and accurately, regardless of whether results are positive or negative.
  • Knowledge of the history of the area in which you specialise (dates of first settlement, local industries etc.)
  • The ability to interpret and analyse the lives of individuals and families in the context of local, national and world events.
  • Good communication skills, especially in reports and emails. (Clients do care about your grammar, spelling and punctuation!)
  • Knowledge of accounting and small business management.
  • A willingness to undertake professional development and on-going education. This includes attending seminars and conferences (for example, the Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry), listening to webinars and podcasts, reading reference books, journals, newsletters, Web sites and genealogy blogs, and doing whatever else is necessary to keep up with changes in your particular field. If you want a formal qualification, a good choice would be one of the Local, Family and Applied History 'distance education' courses offered by the University of New England (Armidale NSW).

Some potential clients ask about my formal qualifications and accreditation, but most employ me because of word-of-mouth referrals or the helpful content of my main Web site.

Do you agree with my ideas on what should be expected of a paid researcher? If not, why? I would love to hear your point of view. Whether you are a researcher or a client, please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
I use and recommend FindMyPast.

22 November 2014

The Missing Nephew - Can You Help?

I have (at the enquirer's request) deleted many names, dates and locations that she included in her email (although I explained that this publicity may be virtually useless without them).

- - quoting from email - -

"I am searching for any info re the son of my brother."   [I'll call the brother 'B'.]   "B told me about his unborn child in 1981-1982, but refused to divulge the name of the mother. I am sure that he knew that I would contact her and offer support. My brother was in the Army and living at [deleted] at the time. In recent years the young man visited B in Queensland.

This young man may have questions about family or genealogy, and I would welcome him and offer any assistance I could. He is my nephew and he has a right to know about his birth family. I would welcome any advice on how to proceed."

- - -

If you any have suggestions, please add a comment below.

15 August 2014

FindMyPast's world records discount offer

FindMyPast's logo
FindMyPast periodically offers discounts and 'free access' days, which in future I will list on the Discounts and Freebies page on my main Web site. You may also want to read why I use and recommend FindMyPast.

A one-month 'world' subscription to FindMyPast is just $5 (usually $19.95) for new subscribers who pay before midnight on 1 Sep 2014.

The world subscription gives you access to more than 1.5 billion family history records for Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the USA and Canada.

If you do not want your subscription to automatically renew at the normal price after your initial period, un-tick the 'auto-renew my subscription' box in the My Account section of the site.

Check whether more recent offers are listed on the Discounts and Freebies page.
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