When I'm visiting archives or libraries, I need to make sure that I have all the information I need with me. There's nothing more infuriating than travelling somewhere to do some research, only to discover that you have left that vital piece of paper at home!

One way I make sure that disaster doesn't strike is to write my research plans before I start in Microsoft OneNote. If you use the Microsoft Office suite of programs, you may already have this on your computer - it's that purple square with the 'N' in the middle :) There are other similar programmes such as Evernote, but this is the one I use. I can put in here the information I have and plan out which documents I need to look at when I'm at the archives.

The thing about OneNote that I love is the free app that works on my iPad - if I sync all my OneNote files via my Windows Live ID (a Hotmail account also works) they automatically download to my iPad. Likewise when I get home, any changes I've made while I've been out are synced back to my computer. So all I have to do is to type into OneNote what I find, and it's right there - no transcribing back or transferring files, it's all done automatically.

The only thing I would say is that not all archives and libraries have wi-fi internet access, so remember to sync your files before you leave home.

I've put a new video presentation on YouTube. Please take a look!


Genealogy Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Having ordered a marriage certificate for my great great grandparents, I was looking for confirmation of which of my two 'possibles' was really my great great grandmother Harriet's father. But guess what? It wasn't either of them!

Harriet herself was recorded as a minor and a spinster. Nothing unusual in that. However, the man named on the certificate as Harriet's father had a completely different surname. I assumed it was her stepfather and that perhaps her real father was dead. Her real father should still have been named on the marriage certificate, of course, but this was in 1837 in the first year of civil registration, so perhaps no one was quite sure what the rules were about what should be recorded. 

Harriet was married in the same parish where she was born (or so I believe from later census entries). So I looked for a marriage between the man named on the marriage certificate as her father and an (unknown) woman with Harriet's surname. Not only did I find nothing, but I found no marriage in that locality for Harriet's supposed father at all.

I looked in the banns book for the parish to see if there was any reference to either parent (since Harriet was a minor, she should only have been marrying with the permission of a parent or guardian) but there was nothing helpful written down there. In fact it was worse, as the groom's surname was spelt wrong!

In case you're wondering, I can't find Harriet's baptism record at the moment - it is pending a visit to the county record office to look at the original parish records which are not available anywhere else. I'm expecting to find that there was no father named at her birth, but you never know.

Meanwhile, I did have some success with another great great grandmother from another branch of the family - I found her baptism record which finally proved that not only was she illegitimate with no known father, she had a twin brother. Unusually for twin births in those days (1815) both survived and lived to a ripe old age, as did their mother.

Back to client research next week....

Happy New Genealogy Year

A bit of a slow start genealogy-wise this year, although things should start speeding up next week. Meanwhile I have been enjoying the holidays and taking the opportunity to tidy up some of my own family history documentation. As a result I went back to check some old information (obtained in the old-fashioned way in a record office, before the days of online databases and browsable images) and found a sizeable chunk - OK, about 50 people - who had been linked to my family in error. And yes, it was I who did it, so I cannot blame anyone else! It happened so long ago I can't remember why I thought this particular branch 'belonged' to my family - perhaps it was just wishful thinking.

Anyway, as a result of my 'tidying' I now have a new branch to research to replace the one that shouldn't have been there, so lots more fun in store.

Moral of the story: CITE YOUR SOURCES!

The British Newspaper Archives are now available on Findmypast UK and what a bonus that is! I've been having a lot of fun over the last week or so looking up newspaper stories about my ancestors. They weren't famous or even locally well-known, and definitely not rich. Nor were they criminals - so I didn't expect them to feature much in the papers. But I still found a few mentions, including a story about my 3xggrandfather being attacked on the way home from work. Not in a city or town as you might expect but while walking along a country lane between the village where he had his shoemaker's workshop and the village where he lived a couple of miles away. It was November, so presumably the attack took place after dark. He recognised his attacker - the newspaper article actually states that it was someone he had met (and presumably annoyed!) earlier in the day - and the alleged perpetrator was duly arrested and held in prison pending trial.

The twist to this was that when the trial took place two months later, the prosecution offered no evidence and the case was dismissed. Now why would that be? My ancestor must have been pretty certain who attacked him and gave a definite identification to the police resulting in a swift arrest. So what happened? I can only think that he came to some arrangement with the attacker's family to forget the whole thing  - the villages concerned were small communities where everyone knew everyone else. 

That was the most interesting story I found, although there were others. The only issue I had with searching the archive is that it really only works well if you have an relatively uncommon surname. Also if the surname you are searching for can also be a word meaning something else - occupational surnames like Butcher or Baker for example - the search facility will pick up every occurrence of the word, not just the names, so you end up with thousands of results. Apart from those caveats, this is a great resource for those with UK ancestors.

Family History Research UK

Trying out Wikitree

After my slightly disappointing experience with My Heritage last month, I thought I'd give Wikitree a go. It's supposed to be very collaborative and I spent some time trawling through the questions from other members, and answering a couple of them. Once I'd got a sense of how it all worked, I took a deep breath and uploaded my gedcom file - I had to cut it down a bit as they don't like you to include more than 1000 individuals. So I just included my main lines.

The gedcom loaded up overnight and I got an email next morning to confirm it worked. There were a few glitches - my privacy settings on one or two individuals had gone a bit haywire, and the system doesn't accept dates like Q3 1800 (i.e. the quarter of the year as with the British BMD records), so I had to go through and edit those manually. But these were minor irritations and I was excited to see a lot of potential matches.

Unfortunately those matches were 90% useless - the system didn't seem to pick up on places of birth or even countries, so I got lots of potential matches with the same name who were born in the US and were clearly not the same person as my UK ancestor. I did go through and reject some of them, but there were hundreds and my eyes began to glaze over. Out of 900 individuals I got one actual match. One!!

Was it worth it? Well it was an interesting exercise and maybe in the future as more non-US families are uploaded I'll get a few more matches. I believe this site is introducing a more sophisticated matching technique shortly, so hopefully that will help eliminate the obvious mismatches. And at least this site doesn't charge anything - the idea is that everyone pitches in and helps each other. Be warned however that once you have uploaded your data you can't delete it in future if you change your mind.


The day job has rather taken over lately and genealogy has got somewhat pushed to the side. This is when I find Twitter invaluable - I can keep with what's happening in the genealogy world in just 5 minutes or so a day. Lots of bloggers (most of them?) tweet links to their blogs - I really must start doing that!

In the past week I've read about a couple of cases (not just in the genealogy world) where material from people's websites or blogs has been used by others without permission. I don't mean retweeting links or quoting tweets, but actually pasting other people's words or images into their own material and passing it off as their own. For some reason some people seem to think copyright doesn't apply on the web. I've got news for those people - OH YES IT DOES!

What I'm not sure about is how you find out if someone has done this to you. The Internet is a big place and I suppose that's how you get away with it - the odds of being found out, particularly in fields like technology where there are millions of websites on the same subject, must be pretty small.

But remember - just because Google images led you to an image, it doesn't mean you're free to use it on your own website. The best advice I read was to use only images you create yourself. I use old family photos on my website that I scanned from the original - if anyone thinks they recognise the photo, you're probably a relative, so get in touch!



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