Saturday 31 March 2012

Something for the Weekend 4

Most weekends BI-Gen will take a break from the world of family history news and wander into other areas. This new ‘Something for the Weekend’ feature will give myself and others the chance to vent their spleens with an opinion-piece, to recommend a product or research technique, or to simply show-off their expertise! Who knows what will find its way onto the blog?

If you’ve an idea, run it past me - I'd really like to hear from you. There is no need to be an expert, a published author, or qualified in any way. If you've got something interesting to say, get in touch with me at .

This week we take a look at the future (or otherwise) of the Census...

Is the Census History?

The ten-yearly count of the UK population that is the National Census - last taken one year ago this week - will almost certainly be discontinued when the Office for National Statistics concludes its long-running Beyond 2011 Programme in a couple of years time. It appears that plans are afoot to scrap the system with which genealogists are so familiar in favour of cheaper, more accurate ways of collecting information on the populace.

The Census has been with us, as I'm sure you all know, for over 200 years. Taken every ten years since its inception in 1801 (missing only 1941 due to the nation being otherwise engaged), its only official aim was to provide statistical information for the government of the day – with a view to influencing policy decisions. A handy side effect for those of us interested in history – especially family history, of course – is that it helps us pinpoint the whereabouts of our ancestors at ten-yearly gaps (well, at least since 1841, when individuals were first named in the returns). In fact, it is so handy that one may be forgiven for thinking that the Census was introduced all those years ago for the sole benefit of family historians.

Anyway, in this day and age (so say the politicians), the old-fashioned survey of the population is just not cost effective – especially when one considers that there are so many other much cheaper and more efficient ways of collecting the relevant data (it cost around £450-£500m to conduct the 2011 Census). By using existing public and private databases is will be possible, we are told, to take local or nation surveys almost at will, for whatever purposes future governments may need the information. Nothing is yet set in stone, but it does seem likely that last year's Census was the last data-collecting exercise of its kind.

One’s initial response – well, as a genealogist, anyway – is that this is a great shame. First of all, of course, it will surely deny future generations of family historians of a primary source of data – one that is absolutely central to our current research methods. Secondly, Census Day seemed to me to be just about the only time that we, as weirdo genealogists, seem to be at one with the rest of the ‘normal’ population. Suddenly everybody is interested in learning about ‘this Census thing’, and we’re in a neat and somewhat lofty position of superiority. “You’re into this family history lark, Mick – what’s this Census business about, anyway?” It’s about the only time that anyone ‘on the outside’ shows a genuine interest in our hobby.

But is it really such a disaster? Well, it really all depends on one crucial aspect of the forthcoming ‘new regime’. And that is: will the many and varied alternative sources of information to which the government refer ever be made fully ‘public’? In other words, will the Census alternatives be open to scrutiny to future researchers so that they may successfully compile family trees and histories in the way we can of our ancestors today? I would say that, yes, subject to an appropriate period of closure, they probably will.  Probably.  In fact, there will, hopefully, be a good deal more in the way of source material for future genealogists to consult judging by the amount of information that is currently out there about us all!  It wouldn't surprise me if my great-great-grandchild, spinning through the archives by whatever means in 100 years time, may be able to turn to their fellow researcher and say, “Oh, I see my great-great-grandfather had an account at Argos in 2008 … oooh, and look at what he ordered for his new house on 27th September.  Very retro.” Or whatever.

One thing’s for sure. Our generation will leave far more behind for posterity than our ancestors ever did. What, with all the various forms of media which are flooding our lives, it will be almost impossible for our great-great-grandchildren to not know what we all looked like, how we all moved, what we all did, and maybe even what we all thought back in the early 21st century … Census or no Census.

But it’d still be kinda nice to have the quaint, old-fashioned Census Returns for them to look at, wouldn’t it? As we all know, it was possible (as an option) to lodge the 2011 Census information online. Maybe the answer is to keep the Census, but make this ‘online option’ compulsory in future years, therefore slashing costs … and keeping us family history freaks happy.

Mick Southwick.

Friday 30 March 2012

Various Bits and Pieces

The Family Tree Magazine website is carrying a lot more news items of interest since its revamp a few months back. For example, there's a little news round-up here (which carries a few items not covered by this blog) and there's also a piece which caught my eye on the subject of the Magna Carta.

Still wondering what the newly-launched 'Friends Reunited' website is all about? Well, here's an explanation from the horse's mouth.

Another of our major websites, FamilySearch, has a useful-looking 'TechTips' section which is worth a browse.

The National Archives have launched their new 'Archives Sector' website, which "provides guidance and information for everyone who works with or within archives". TNA have also made an announcement regarding the future of archive preservation as balanced against 'green' concerns - see here.

TNA's latest podcast, on the subject of 'Business Archives', is now available.

Lovers of Dublin's history will want to check out the tasty line-up of lectures on The Little Museum of Dublin's website.

Natives of Northern Ireland have the April programme of events at Linen Hall Library to look forward to.

Here's an interesting bit of news about an amazing find during the refurbishment of Belfast City Hall.

The week's 'History Headlines' from the BBC can be found here. The latest history podcast from the same institution is available, too. And the Beeb have jumped on the Titanic bandwaggon with a new, dedicated section on their website.

Oh, and the BBC's guide to the week's TV & radio history shows can be found here.

Talking about TV and history, here's a controversial article on the subject on the HistoryToday website.

OK, so it's from 2009, but you might have missed this one...

Thursday 29 March 2012

FFHS Awards + Major Releases

The Federation of FHS announced its award winners at a ceremony in London on Saturday - the two categories being 'Best Journal' and 'Best Website'. Congrats to the winners and those that ran them close!

Important news from Scotland: the 1915 Valuation Rolls have gone online - see here.

Ancestry have released two more collections - the 'UK, Victoria Cross Medals, 1857-2007' and 'London & Surrey, Marriage Bonds & Allegations, 1597-1921'. See their 'updates page'. have posted news of a couple of new releases, namely, Kent Probate Indexes and Middlesex/London Burials - see their 'What's New' page.

If you haven't yet had enough of the Titanic shenanigans, then check out the opening of 'Titanic Belfast' this weekend.

There's a lengthy article on the subject of 'digital archives and openness' by Nick Poole to be found here (thanks to @OpenGenAlliance).

Here's details of the new issue of Your Family Tree magazine.

Serious techies may be interested in this somewhat specialist post on TNA's blog about the recent 'Hack Day' held at Archives HQ.

I see that FindMyPast Ireland have joined Pinterest.

From a churchyard in Wales, whose bards were not always as skilled as is sometimes claimed...

Two lovely babes lie buried here,
As ever bless'd their parents dear;
But they were seized with ague fits,
And here they lie as dead as nits.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Big News Day!

I don't suppose any of you have missed it, but for the benefit of anyone who did, well, yesterday saw the relaunch of the FriendsReunited website. The focus of the new site is 'memories' - both on the family/friends scale and from the wider world. A browse of the website itself will give you an idea of the new set-up - and keep an eye on feedback from blogs and commentators in the next few days. One interesting point to note is the availability on the new site of existing copyrighted images from The Press Association and the Francis Frith Collection. Be interesting to see how it takes off.

FindMyPast have published 1.3 million new parish records pertaining to Westminster in a truly massive new release - see the announcement here. The records cover more than 400 years and are drawn from the registers of over 50 churches. Blimey!

Researchers with an interest in Cheshire will want to digest the contents of DeceasedOnline's latest news release, with the most recent update taking the total number of records now available from this part of the world over the 200,000 mark. See their homepage, then click on the option at bottom right.

The Public Libraries News blog features a really quite important item concerning the Arts Council's consultation into the future of our libraries - see here.

News of the re-opening of the Marks & Spencer Archive in Leeds can be found here (direct link here).

Users of the 'Family Historian' software package may wish to take a look at the announcement re. the release of Version 5.

I see MyHeritage have jumped on the Pinterest bandwaggon.

Nicola Elsom has the latest instalment in her series of articles entitled 'Getting to Grips With the Master Genealogist'.

The usual weekly round-up of history links from the 2 Nerdy History Girls.

From Twitter:

Motherhood quotations:

My mother could make anybody feel guilty - she used to get letters of apology from people she didn't even know.
[Joan Rivers, US comedian]

Why do grandparents and grandchildren get along so well? They have the same enemy - the mother.
[Claudette Colbert, French actress]

Sometimes when I look at all my children, I say to myself, 'Lillian, you should have stayed a virgin.' 
[Lillian Carter, at the 1980 Democratic Convention, where her son was nominated for a second term as US President]

A wise parent humors the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and advisor when their absolute rule shall cease.
[Elizabeth Gaskell, English novelist]

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

FH Events Taking Off!

Things are starting to liven up, events-wise, for family & local historians. Here's what's coming in the next few days...
  • Saturday 31st March - Rotherham Family History Fair;
  • Saturday 31st March - Dorset FHS Open Day, Parkstone;
  • Sunday 1st April - East Anglia Family History Fair, Norwich;
  • Saturday 31st March - Stamford Book Fair;
  • Sunday 1st April - Dartmoor Book Fair, Tavistock;
  • Postcard Fairs at Digbeth (28th), Chichester (31st), and Porchester (31st) - see here. Advisable to contact organiser before travelling.
  • The Society of Genealogists' schedule of talks, etc., for April can be found here - and there's an Open Day at the SoG on Saturday 31st March;
  • The Irish Genealogy News blog has, over the course of the past few days, listed a number of forthcoming events of interest to Irish researchers. Click here, and scroll back through the last few blog entries (also, look out for an explosive post on IGN re. the new fee structure at Roots Ireland!);
  • A reminder, too, about the forthcoming Titanic 2012: Commemortaing RMS Titanic at her birthplace programme of events at PRONI beginning on 2nd April - see here.
  • Oh, and I see that the 'Events' page of the National Library of Scotland website was updated a few days ago.

Worcestershire researchers will be aware that things are a-changing in their part of the world as regards the county's records office service. The County Hall branch has already closed and the 'History Centre' branch will shut up shop on 21st April - with a new archive centre, 'The Hive', opening in July. Check out their website for full details and regular updates.

On the subject of changes to libraries/archives it is worth reminding you all that as April dawns many of our institutions will be bringing in new opening hours in line with recent cuts to services, etc. So if you can spare a few minutes, do check out the website of your local repository before you make your next visit - just in case!

Those of you who read Michael Sharpe's comments on this blog on Saturday (see here), will be interested to read Nick Barratt's short piece here on pretty much the same topic.

There's an article on TNA's blog re. UK naturalisation records (1870-1980) - see also here. And there's also the pending release of colonial administration records.

Finally for today, a quick visit to John D Reid's 'Anglo-Celtic Connections' blog brings us (among other things):

Having picked this one up from a book, I do wonder if the gravestone epitaph does actually exist 
(from somewhere in Ireland, apparently)...

Here lies the body of John Mound;
Lost at sea and never found. 

Monday 26 March 2012

FamilySearch in the News

After featuring prominently in the current WDYTYA? Magazine, the FamilySearch website seems to be making it onto quite a few genealogy blogs of late. First of all, Nick Thorne examines an especially useful corner of the website, the 'English Jurisdictions Maps'; then there's Ruth Blair's informative piece on finding your way around the FamilySearch website. Also, the FamilySearch website itself has issued a little records update.

The latest Parish Chest newsletter is now available - the list of new product releases is a little shorter than usual, but still worth a quick look.

The April schedule of free public lectures at London's Gresham College is now available - see their website, here.

The Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry has a number of items available at bargain prices on their website - including over 15,000 unwanted BMD certificates.

Your Family Tree magazine has a set of free downloads available. Very nice!

The Genealogy Workshop blog has a neat weekly summary, here (including lots of stuff on copyright issues - see the 'comments' on the post, too). There is also a special look at 'In Memoriam' cards.

Some industrial artwork news now, and it may be worth keeping an eye out for this collection of works when it goes on tour.

CILIP's 'Local Studies Group blog' has recently featured a couple of posts concerning the copying of newspapers. Part 2 is here - with a link to part 1 available, too.

TNA's latest podcast can be found here.

Those of you eagerly awaiting the release of the 1940 US Census may be interested in this fantastic-looking piece of news from MyHeritage.

Finally, a reminder that you can get 10% off any FindMyPast subscription until 28th March by using the code SOCIAL10 at checkout - follow this link to take advantage. 

My History

Some family advice...

Saturday 24 March 2012

Something for the Weekend 3

Most weekends BI-Gen will take a break from the world of family history news and wander into other areas. This new ‘Something for the Weekend’ feature will give myself and others the chance to vent their spleens with an opinion-piece, to recommend a product or research technique, or to simply show-off their expertise! Who knows what will find its way onto the blog? If you’ve an idea, run it past me.

This week, Michael Sharpe, author of Family Matters: A History of Genealogy, is our guest blogger...

Time to Bring Vitality to Our Vital Records

News that the General Register Office (GRO) has been forced to make redundancies and to hold the price of birth, marriage and death certificates in the light of declining revenue prompts me to reflect on the history of this most obscure and lumbering institution.

Family historians and the GRO have often enjoyed an uneasy relationship. Since its formation under the Registration Act of 1836, the GRO has jealously guarded its role as the custodian of the records of civil registration and has resisted all attempts to open its holdings to the public. As early as 1912, the Society of Genealogists (SoG) was campaigning for researchers to be able to access the civil registration records, rather than just the indexes, a battle that has been engaged many times since.

Like other service providers, the GRO has been riding the wave resulting from the massive interest in family history seen over the last decade. As more people took up the search for their roots, the number of certificate applications steadily increased – but so too did the price. In 2010 the cost of certificates went up sharply, from £7 to £9.25, an increase of almost one-third. Yet even in genealogy the basic laws of economics apply. Demand for certificates is not without limit and in recent years there are signs that a ceiling has been reached. In 2010/11, following the increase, certificate sales declined by 6%, to £15.9 million, and the GRO’s ‘profit’ (yes, despite being a public institution it is allowed to make a profit) was down by £1.5 million to just £0.5 million. Meanwhile, much valued facilities such as the checking service for certificate applications and Traceline (a service for tracing missing relatives) have been withdrawn.

Experienced researchers will be familiar with the idea of looking up the indexes and sending off for certificates, but many newcomers find the whole setup completely baffling. Why, when everything from 100-year old census data to 19th century newspapers and passenger lists are available on commercial websites, do people have to fill in a form – and until a year or so ago it was a paper rather than an online form – and wait for information to be sent through the post?

What researchers are waiting for is an online system that offers low-cost instant access to the GRO’s registers. In Scotland, such a system has been in operation for several years, operated by Scotlandspeople, offering access to the registers held by the General Register Office of Scotland. In England and Wales the GRO’s efforts to digitise its holdings relied on a high profile project called DOVE (Digitisation of Vital Events). This collapsed in 2008 – just as the financial crisis hit – amid acrimony between the GRO and its contractor.

Four years on, the GRO’s plans remain mired in secrecy and no firm dates for an online service have been given. The Identity and Passport Service, of which the GRO is a part, claims that new legislation would be required in order to extend its services in this way. Exactly the same argument has always been trotted out by “the small person in office” (to quote George Sherwood, one of the SoG’s founders) to resist any form of change. Civil registration, of course, was not put in place for family historians, but we are one of the biggest users of the information it generates. Our voice needs to be heard as we strive towards a civil registration service that is fit for the twenty-first century.

Michael Sharpe’s book FamilyMatters: A History of Genealogy, describing the evolution of family history in Britain over the last 200 years, is published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd,

Friday 23 March 2012

Minor Genea News Round-up

Nothing earth-shattering to report today, but some of the following may be of interest...

Readers should check out Chris Paton's helpful post on the subject of 'TNA's User Group update' on his BritishGENES blog, here.

The Family Recorder blog has a piece on 'Using the London Gazette', which may give a (free) lead or two on your research.

There's a little bit of feedback from the Europeana WWI memorabilia event at Preston on 10th March.

Europeana also has a look at the latest craze to sweep the Internet: Pinterest (direct link here). This really seems to be taking off, and it's a website that local and family historians may come to know and love very well in the months and years ahead.

Blogger John D Reid points us to an interesting new angle on DNA research - and a really curious idea it is, too. I'll say no more, other than to guide you to his little piece, here.

Claire Santry has another batch of updates to the Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives.

There's an online historical survey for you to take part in on the subject of 'Britain's Greatest Foes' at the National Army Museum website. Runs until 30th March.

The seriously academic among you may be interested in this post on TNA's blog about the organisation's 'Big Questions' (as they put it).

The April issue of WDYTYA? Magazine is now on sale.

Some TV & radio for the coming week can be found here and here.

The BBC HistoryExtra website also has its latest 'History Headlines', as well as a new podcast.

And the latest special offers from Pen & Sword Books can be found here.

From Twitter:

Hello Boys...

Thursday 22 March 2012

Take a Break

Take a break from the world of genealogy news - well, the normal stuff, anyway - and enter the world of the unusual and the strangely interesting...

There's some Neanderthal in us all

Timely birth

Descendant overkill

Did slavery accelerate natural selection?

Is genealogy an exact science?

Wacky wake

Needless to say, if you know of any other such items, do let me know at

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Friends Reunited to 'Relaunch'

The latest genealogy-related story to make the national headlines is the imminent relaunch of 'Friends Reunited' by brightsolid. Seems like it's going to be aimed at 'memory sharing' and should appeal to family historians. The story made the BBC website and one or two of the national newspapers - including The Telegraph. Interesting!

I have been contacted by Joanna Grant of the East Surrey FHS about the organisation's forthcoming 'Archives: Use Them or Lose Them' event. It takes place on Saturday 28th April in Croydon - see here for further details. Note that ALL are welcome to attend this free event.

TheGenealogist has been busy uploading a host of new parish records for several English counties - see here.

A sort of 'mini-census' for England & Wales from 1798 has appeared at Ancestry - see their updates page ('Land Tax Redemption').

Glamorgan Archives' new website is up and running at

FindMyPast Ireland has part 2 in their series of articles entitled 'The Quagmire of Administrative Districts' - see here.

A couple of short 'seminar reports' have appeared on the Archives for London website ('Medieval Records of the City of London' and 'Oral History at the British Library').

'Getting to Grips with The Master Genealogist - Introduction' is the title of a helpful post by Nicola Elsom.

'Counteracting the decline of genealogical societies' may be of interest to those of you involved in the running of a FHS or similar. It's a Canadian piece, but still has plenty of relevance to UK/Irish organisations, of course. There's another (kind of) related piece on the same blog, here.

From Twitter:

Remember, the best way to keep tabs on all my juicy genealogy Twitter items is to sign up to Twitter (dead easy), and to then 'follow' me at @HistoryMick. And if you do, then see the message at the top of the right-hand column of this blog!

Sure this'll work a treat...

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Forthcoming Events of Interest ... and 10% Off!

As per usual for a Tuesday, I've put together a list of forthcoming events which the family historian may be interested in. PLEASE, if anybody knows of any more, do let me know - my email is at the top of the RH column...

You can get 10% off any FindMyPast subscription until 28th March by using the code SOCIAL10 at checkout - follow this link to take advantage. I would certainly recommend you give them a try - even on one of the low-end packages for starters. Over the course of, say, a year, the records which are available at your fingertips will save you many, many miles (and the expense) of travelling. Just a thought.

The demise of  Family History Monthly magazine will have caught the eye of many of you - the final issue having just been issued, in fact. Blogger Chris Paton explains the situation beautifully, here.

Another splendid effort by the above named has resulted in a lengthy list of handy links for those interested in accessing Irish probate calendars. Claire Santry has a related post on her blog, here.

A new podcast from TNA is now online ('Digitised newspapers as sources for family history').

TNA has also released details of two children's books it has published in tandem with Bloomsbury Publishing - both on the subject of the Titanic.

I see that the well-established genealogy firm JiGraH Resources have been swallowed up by MyHistory - the announcement on the former's website says it all.

And you may wish to take in 'Ruth's Recommendations' for the week. Actually, the very same blogger also has a sort of 'Introduction to wikis' for the genealogisthere, which you might find interesting.

Monday 19 March 2012

Libraries Fight Goes On, of Course

The recent passing of the SpeakUpForLibraries rally in London does not, of course, signal the end of the fight. If you need a spur to lend your weight to the on-going campaign, then check out this depressing set of bullet-points.

A couple of St.Patrick's Day offers linger on:

The latest Lost Cousins newsletter is now available.

A low-key, but important, news item has popped up on the 'Local Studies Group Blog' concerning the 'Henley Review of Cultural Education'.

The BBC's 'History Headlines' for the week can be perused here.

The Two Nerdy History Girls give us their usual round-up of entertaining history links, here.

John D Reid is running a short 'genealogy activity survey'.

John also flags the 'Hidden East Anglia' website.

And here's the latest HistoryToday crossword.

From Twitter:

By the way, if you're on Twitter and you hadn't already spotted it, check out my 'free PDF' offer at the top of the RH column of this blog. But remember you have to email me to specifically request a copy (it's not done automatically, 'cos I need your email address!).

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Today's 'strange story' is a tale from the HistoryToday website...

Saturday 17 March 2012

Something for the Weekend 2

Once in a while – and quite possibly every weekend, eventually – BI-Gen will take a break from the world of family history news and wander into other areas. This new ‘Something for the Weekend’ feature will give myself and others the chance to vent their spleens with an opinion-piece, to recommend a product or research technique, or to simply show-off their expertise! Who knows what will find its way onto the blog? If you’ve an idea, run it past me.

Guilty Pleasure

Am I the only genealogist who considers my pastime a ‘guilty pleasure’? It could just be my retiring personality, but every time someone asks whether I have “a hobby”, I twist my face ever so slightly and begin skirting round the subject.

‘Well, I do like a bit of history’, I’ll begin. That’s OK, I reckon, as most of us like a bit of history from time to time. Even my wife, who hates history (and especially my history books), occasionally shows a bit of interest in the subject when something catches her eye on the telly – and she has, after all, been likened to Adolf Hitler on more than one occasion.

‘Yeah, that’s right, history. Especially local stuff. You know,’ I then offer optimistically. This usually works, as everyone seems to have a little snippet of local folklore to pass on to impress you – which they will then proceed to do in some half-cocked way.

Keen to curry favour, you indulge their well-meaning banter, before adding from the corner of your mouth: ‘Genealogy, actually.’

A moment’s hesitation, as the term – and meaning – of the word ‘gynaecology’ runs through their simple little mind.

‘Ah, genealogy. That’s, erm, family history, right?’ they cleverly deduce. You nod sheepishly, before they continue, ‘Yeah, my, er, auntie dabbles in that, I think. Funny old sort, she is.’ Pause. ‘Aren’t you a bit … young?’

‘I, er, suppose…’

‘Never been interested in it, myself. You see the match last night…?’

Which is why I never bring my hobby up in polite conversation. You know, like someone who may not like to admit to having a criminal record, a history of mental illness or voting for the Lib Dems at the last General Election.

But why are many of us so coy about being family historians? And is it any different from being a hobbyist in any other field?

Youngsters are, I think, a little embarrassed at participating in what is perceived as being an ‘old man’s game’ – and pre-retirees aren’t supposed to have time for academic interests, anyway. Or could it be that being obsessed with one’s own personal heritage is seen as being overly self-centred? Many folk are so shockingly uninterested in their own history that it seems to genuinely upset them when you reveal your awful secret. It’s happened to me several times: I get blank looks, raised eyebrows and the occasional expletive. It can be an ice-breaker, yes, but it can also kill a conversation dead. It’s a chance you take.

But all obsessives are the same, aren’t they? Trainspotters, birdwatchers, computer geeks, those who love fishing, gambling, partying, even – all utter bores when they get onto their specialist subject. And over-enthusiastic genealogists are no different. Their light brush with academia seems to give them a full-of-themselves attitude which marks them out as instantly disagreeable.

And thus are we all so cruelly tarred.

Which is why self-conscious little me doesn’t like to be asked what his hobby is. And, whatever you do, don’t tell anyone.

Mick Southwick

Friday 16 March 2012

St.Patrick's Day Looms

As you would expect at this time of year, the Irish dominate the headlines. But do scroll down for news from elsewhere, too!

The FindMyPast Ireland website has a bit of a St.Patrick's Day feel to it - click here to check it out for yourself (then look for the little advert to follow). For one thing, it's a good time to sign up for a subscription with them as they have a 10% discount up until Monday 19th March.

Several sources mention the appearance of The Belfast Newsletter 1738-1925 online at Ancestry - John D Reid, for example, has a post on the topic. (You should be able to access the area in question from Ancestry's main page at

The National Library of Ireland is gearing up for the Europeana WWI memorabilia roadshow visit on 21st March - see here.

Irish blogger Claire Santry has been busy again, with a number of new posts on her Irish Genealogy News blog...

The National Library of Wales has provided a little update on its Historical Newspapers & Journals (Digitisation) Project.

An excellent post by blogger Nicola Elsom on the availability (or otherwise) of online parish records - with a particular focus on Essex - can be accessed here. Non-Essex researchers should still click through, though!

There's a truly gargantuan post on the MyHeritage blog about the company's new feature, namely, their personalised 'Family Calendars'. Seems like quite a neat idea, and you may wish to give it a little of your time.

Those who work in the archives sector will be interested in this piece of news from TNA re. the 'Archives Sector Website' launch.

The BBC website has a few items of interest:

HistoryToday Magazine's website has a 'History Around the Web' round-up.
For today's 'oddity' I reckon that a website recommendation will do. Check out the 'Lists of Note' blog for an endless stream of entertaining and enlightening material.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Oddments from Everywhere

Irish researchers will want to take a quick peek at the Ancestry Updates page, for there are several new entries  pertaining to their corner of the world - including a brand new 'Dublin Probate Record and Marriage Licence Index for 1270-1858'.

Diamond subscribers to The Genealogist may have noticed the addition of baptismal PR transcripts for several English counties - see here.

I think it a good time to remind readers of the Scottish Association of FHS's forthcoming Conference on 21st April - full details here.

I see that a new batch of goods from across the UK & Ireland has appeared on the Archive CD Books website.

Time for another reminder about recent additions, too, to the Electric Scotland website.

Oh, and I'm a little behind with Claire Santry's 'Irish Genealogy News' blog. Recent posts of particular interest:

Those with Irish blood may also like this interactive map.

The WDYTYA? Magazine website has something of interest for Devon/Cornwall folk.

And the same website has details of a few TV programmes on the way.

From Twitter:

This is an odd one. Not sure why, but it appeals to me even though it has nothing much to do with genealogy...

(and click on the image for a short film)

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Libraries Rally, SoG, etc.

Reports are beginning to trickle through regarding yesterday's SpeakUpForLibraries rally/lobby. One of the most prominent can be found here.

A quarter of a million new entries have been added to the SoGs' data online - click here for news of this major development as reported by Else Churchill.

The National Archives' latest newsletter is now available - click here. Several interesting items to take note of, including an appeal for volunteers for a new project, and a chance to take part in a survey. Oh, and there's also an interesting post about how TNA operate, here.

A report on the WWI memorabilia get-together at Preston is now online.

Dick Eastman brings us news of the ultimate 'sign of the times' story, as Encyclopedia Britannica ceases production of its 'hard copy' version.

The April issue of HistoryToday Magazine is now available.

There's a list of notable online articles, etc., from the past week at the Two Nerdy History Girls blog.

Finally, I must give a special mention to a relatively new blog entitled The Genealogy Workshop. Nicola Elsom is the individual who runs the same, and you may wish to consider adding it to your 'blog-roll' (or whatever they call it). Take a look at her most recent post on death certificates, and have a browse of her website if you have time.

From Twitter:

Epitaph of eminent barrister, Sir John Strange (died 1754):

Here lies an honest lawyer -
that is STRANGE.

(Rolls Chapel, London)

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Tuesday's Events Listing

Events for the next few days:
  • Saturday 17th March - Devon Record Office Open Day, Exeter;
  • Saturday 17th March - Island History Day (Isle of Dogs);
  • Saturday 17th March - Irish Family History Day at South Shields Central Library (ring 0191 4247860 for further info);
  • Sunday 18th March - Jewish Living Expo, London;
  • Friday 16th & Saturday 17th March - Harrogate Book Fair;
  • Postcard Fairs at Sittingbourne (17th) and Chester (17th) - see here. Also, postcard fair at Berwick Parish Centre (off The Parade) on 17th (10.30am-4pm) - contact Gareth Burgess on 01368 860365. Always best to confirm arrangements with organisers;
  • It is also worth pointing out the forthcoming Society of Genealogists Open Day on Saturday 31st March (free, but must be booked);
  • Please also note the change to the date of the Linen Hall lecture due to be delivered on 28th March (now 27th June) - see here.

If there are any more, please let me know.

News is circulating that the prices of certified copies of BMD certificates are to increase soon. The best summary of the position can be found on Chris Paton's blog.

Those with military ancestors may be interested in the mention by blogger John D Reid of the 'In From the Cold Project'.

And military researchers are certain to be interested in the announcement from FindMyPast regarding their new record release pertaining to the Royal Artillery.

I see that the workshops/talks from last month's WDYTYA? Fair have begun to appear online - see here

The latest Pharos newsletter is now available.

Education institutions may be interested in this new subscription service from The British Library & JISC Collections.

From Twitter:

Check this out...

Monday 12 March 2012

Irish Census News

The early release of the 1926 Irish Census has moved a step nearer via an important statement issued by the country's Heritage Minister. Check out the full story on the CIGO's website.

The latest issue of S&N Email News is now available.

An important announcement for Gloucestershire researchers regarding manorial records at The National Archives can be found here.

Ceredigion Archives have announced their plans for the immediate future - including their temporary opening hours. See here.

Roy Stockdill analyses the early life of Charlie Chaplin in a guest blog for FindMyPast.

Ruth Blair has a lengthy blog post dedicated to maps and mapping.

HistoryToday has its regular 'History Around the Web' feature.

And there are more 'History Headlines' from the Beeb - plus a history podcast, here.

TNA also has a new podcast, entitled 'Finding Your Family in Canada'.

Titanic enthusiasts may wish to run their eyes over this curious new Twitter account.

If you fancy taking part in a 'family history research study', then check out this post on the SoG's blog.

For an utterly enchanting video presentation of the story behind the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster, click below...

Saturday 10 March 2012

Something for the Weekend 1

Once in a while – and quite possibly every weekend, eventually – BI-Gen will take a break from the world of family history news and wander into other areas. This new ‘Something for the Weekend’ feature will give myself and others the chance to vent their spleens with an opinion-piece, to recommend a product or research technique, or to simply show off their expertise! Who knows what will find its way onto the blog? If you’ve an idea, run it past me. We’ll begin with something topical…

Fahrenheit 451*

None of us like to admit we’re wrong. A u-turn is embarrassing, humbling – a sign of weakness, even. But I admit it: I was wrong.

But it wasn’t really my fault. I was taken advantage of – we all were, in fact. Let me explain.

The UK's libraries are in crisis, as we all know. When the public sector cuts were first mooted in the wake of the last general election, local and family historians knew what was in store. And it involved our beloved museums, archives and libraries. They were quickly branded ‘non-essential services’ and would be first up against the wall.

Councils up and down the land, as if to justify their pending and inevitable decisions, rolled out public surveys to let the people have their say. And, of course, as people want their bins collected, their sick treated and their elderly cared for before safeguarding the welfare of their culture and their heritage, library services and the like ended up bottom of the polls. Not helped by the fact, of course, that 75% of the population are philistines and only pick up a book to swat a housefly or prop up the sofa. And most folk couldn’t identify a primary source if it was tied to their nose and labelled “primary source”.

OK, then, so cuts started being made – and c*lture became a swear word. Archives began cutting their hours, museums likewise (and many considered charging an entrance fee if they were free) – and libraries, well, they could be run by volunteers.

When this all began kicking off a couple of years ago, I and many others looked upon the crisis as an opportunity for structured, positive change. As they lurched out of the Dark Ages, archives and libraries would become leaner and meaner, they would embrace and harness new technologies, they would diversify, they would modernise. They would become the hubs of our communities as the public ‘mucked in’. By taking on volunteers and engaging with ‘friends’ organisations they would integrate beautifully and seamlessly into society, finding and filling a new and vital role. You know, the ‘Big Society’.

Volunteers? Turns out it was the thin end of the wedge.

Check out the mayor of Doncaster’s amazing outburst, here. Now that people are prepared to work in our libraries for nowt, they are supposedly resentful that they’re getting paid, er, nowt, whilst the salaried staff get, erm, a salary. But hold on a minute, if we can get folk to work for free, then, well, I guess we don’t need the paid staff, do we? No one seems to have imagined what would happen if the supply of unpaid staff suddenly dried up.

And that’s where I was wrong. Getting volunteers in isn’t such a good idea after all, I think. Give the local councils an inch and they take several miles. Ditto central government, ten-fold.

Tell you what. Why not just get rid of the books, put the archives into cold storage and be done with it. Won’t even need volunteers then. Sorted.

The adult comic, Viz, may not be far off the mark with this dystopian view.

Want to do something about it? Then check out SpeakUpForLibraries, and get yourself along to their rally on Tuesday 13th March.

Mick Southwick

*Fahrenheit 451 – see here.