Saturday 29 September 2012

Something for the Weekend 15

Here’s a post with a difference – so I do hope you’ll stick with the following ramblings and try your best to join in. Intrigued? No? Never mind, read on.

Very soon I plan to give the BI-Gen Blog a bit of a facelift. Nothing too drastic – just a cleaning up of the site and a design change.  However, I'm also going to be putting a big effort into a new idea of mine which I hope you will embrace by either supporting or contributing to – or preferably both.

You see, I've always wanted to do two big things in life as regards my interest in local and family history. The first is to help get people into print (or, more recently, of course, onto the Web). This has been a recurring theme of my (essentially small scale) efforts for the past twenty years, from my early days in the 1990s as editor and publisher of The North-Easterner mail order magazine, to my floundering attempts to get the ‘Local & Family History Centre’ website up and running a few months ago. Some things have worked, most haven’t, but it’s been fun trying and I know a lot of people have got quite a thrill out of seeing their name in print via one of my publications.

I don’t do much ‘old-fashioned’ publishing now – well, who does? But something else has been niggling away at my thoughts of late: and that is helping charity. Oh, here we go, I hear you say…

No, but listen. My idea (via a planned website/blog) is to sell e-books and e-booklets – written by anyone on any topic – and sell them to raise money for charity. The authors would get, say, £1 from every sale, too – so everyone wins. But if this is going to work it does, of course, rely heavily on two things: (a) I need folk to write e-books, and (b) I need people to buy them. I also plan to use Amazon’s e-publishing branch, Kindle Direct Publishing, to get stuff onto their website, too – again with a high percentage of royalties going to charity (maybe two-thirds).

Initially, this would be, I suppose, a local/family history-type venture (because it’s what I know), but there’s no reason why we can’t branch out into any genre. I've got a few publications of my own in the pipeline for the project, but I sure as hell need a whole lot more from, well, anyone, really. I can offer help with all sorts of aspects of any idea you may have, so don’t fret. And it can be anything from a few thousand words on your family history to a full-blown 100,000+ word opus.

As for the charities which I plan to support, well, I dunno yet; but I personally favour UK-registered children’s organisations. I am open to specific suggestions, though.

BTW, this charity fundraising idea may well spread beyond e-books in due course. One step at a time, though.

So, writing e-books and e-booklets for charity. Is this something that you feel you’d like to get involved in? Please, please, please, let me know what you think by either emailing me or leaving a comment below. Many of you will have questions, too, of course – so fire away. It may be that I can put together a mailing list for those of you who are interested in helping out – either way, I shall keep everyone updated with developments on the blog.

And you really need to spread this message via Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of those social media sites – so there’s something else you can help me with.

Well, get on with it, then...


Friday 28 September 2012

Genealogy News - 28th September

FindMyPast have released new records pertaining to Middlesex.

And the FindMyPast blog features an article on the family tree of Inspector Morse creator, Colin Dexter. Oh, and there's a piece on the Guinness family, too.

The latest announcement from TNA details the release of another tranche of colonial admin records. There's a related news item here and a Podcast. And regular users of TNA's online catalogue will want to read this.

DeceasedOnline have unveiled their latest record set: Plumstead Cemetery.

Pembrokeshire Record Office have recently circulated this piece of important news.

A reminder that the National Library of Scotland's 'Reader Workshops' are due to start soon.

There's a little bit more info on the William Roache episode of WDYTYA? here (including a link to the show itself).

Blogger Chris Paton has a useful list of forthcoming genea events in London. Oh, and he highlights a great series of Scottish genealogy workshops, too.

There's been a fair amount of activity on the FamilySearch website for British & Irish researchers of late. Claire Santry sums up the situation nicely. Claire also has helpful posts on a new Irish TV show and the Irish FHS.

Here's an interesting (and underused) source of local history - old 'road guides' or 'strip maps'.

Ancestry have issued another update for Family Tree Maker 2012.

Researchers who use the Archives Hub website may be interested to know that they now have a regional search facility.

Here's some info on the SoG's next 'Open Day'.

Latest from the BBC's HistoryExtra website:

Don't forget the BI-Gen Twitter feed - remember that stuff gets mentioned here that often doesn't make it onto the blog (and you don't have to formally join Twitter to read my feed).

Oh, and I've a little announcement to make tomorrow (Saturday), so do call in to see what it's all about.

Must try to trim down my staff...

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Genealogy News - 25th September

Top of the pile today is the latest Lost Cousins Newsletter - a DNA special! There are still lots of other goodies in there, too, so don't miss out.

TheGenealogist has made a couple of recent announcements - see here. Or you can read all about them in the latest S&N Genealogy Supplies e-Newsletter (lots of other stuff there, too).

FindMyPast have released some brand new Derbyshire parish burial records.

32 new Irish newspapers have been added to Ancestry (covering 1763-1890). Starting point is here, then use the drop down menu on the right for further info.

Oh, and Ancestry also has its new Tony Robinson promotional video to show off its Merchant Sailors Records.

Ireland's Catholic registers are to be digitised (thanks Claire).

A couple of TNA announcements:

A few items from Chris Paton's BritishGENES blog:

National Library of Scotland patrons - please note this change of reading room location.

An interesting little online project to collect memories of 'Inside Welsh Homes'.

A little guidance for Catholic researchers.

Latest history Podcast from HistoryToday.

More developments at Mocavo.

The latest BBC HistoryExtra Podcast is now available.

The brand new (and free) Irish Family Ancestry app for the iPhone & iPad is up for grabs here. I've not tried it personally, but it may be worth a look.

The usual weekly round-up of history links from the Two Nerdy History Girls is here.

And here are your forthcoming events...

The BI-Gen Twitter feed can be found here.

Cocaine Tooth Drops, etc...

Friday 21 September 2012

Genealogy News - 21st September

Ancestry have added a few bits and bobs to their collections. To save me explaining it all, check out their 'updates page' (London, Warwickshire & Ireland stuff).

A couple of announcements from TNA:

And there's also the latest Podcast from TNA, here.

A new development on the MyHeritage website is worth a look: Record Matching.

West Midlanders may be interested in this one-day course on 'Further Steps in Family History'.

Here's a little bit on Charlton Cemetery, Greenwich, from the folks at DeceasedOnline.

Audrey Collins marks the 10th anniversary of ScotlandsPeople.

As ever, Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy News blog has been keeping folk up to date on all things, erm, Irish this week. Look out, especially, for news about a forthcoming Local History Day in Dublin on 6th October, a Dublin GRO update and a new website for Magherafelt burial records.

And you really can't remain in touch with online genealogy goings-on without keeping tabs on Chris Paton's blog. Here are a couple of especially useful posts from the past few days:

The October issue of HistoryToday is now available.

If you're a fan of the Europeana website then you may wish to check out their most recent news items on (a) their new portal and how you can help, and (b) the 'Wiki Loves Monuments 2012' scheme.

Here's Friday's bits and pieces from the BBC HistoryExtra website:

And don't forget the BI-Gen Twitter feed for more news, etc.

FREE access to 1911 Census...
Remember that Ancestry have made the 1911 Census for Eng/Wal/IoM/CHIsles available for free - see here. You will need to register for a free account to avail yourself of this brilliant offer - a simple enough process.

British Newspaper Archive

Get busy, ladies...

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Genealogy News - 18th September

Ho-hum. Once again, not much news to bring you. Anyway, here's what we have...

Definitely worth a look is the latest 'Newsflash' from the Guild of One-Name Studies.

Ever considered volunteering at The National Archives? Check out an informative post on the topic on TNA's blog.

Irish researchers will want to browse the latest Eneclann e-newsletter (including a county focus on Fermanagh).

Those of you with Warwickshire ancestry may wish to investigate the new release at Ancestry (well, an 'update', anyway) - follow the link from here. have released brand new Lancashire and Surrey Wills material.

I think Audrey Collins' latest book deserves a little plug.

Always good to keep abreast of developments at GenealogyInTime Magazine.

Here's a reminder of the recent release of Greenwich cemetery records at DeceasedOnline. Related blog post here.

Latest update from the Ireland Genealogy Project Archives.

The latest Podcast from BBC HistoryExtra will interest many of you.

The usual weekly round-up of history stuff from the Two Nerdy History Girls is here.

And here's the monthly history crossword from HistoryToday.

Oh, and keep an eye on the BI-Gen Twitter feed, of course.

Blimey, almost forgot: the week's forthcoming events...

I'll have half a dozen boxes, please...

Friday 14 September 2012

Genealogy News - 14th September

It's still a struggle to find much to report on, but here's what I have for you from the past few days...

Ancestry have added to their occupations records in the shape of their 'Masters and Mates Certificates'.

I see the ScotlandsPeople website is celebrating its 10th birthday.

The National Archives and the V&A have launched a new online resource of Victoriana.

There's a brief look at pest monitoring in the archives on TNA's blog.

A couple of additions to the British History Online website: Survey of London: Vol.46 - South & East Clerkenwell and Survey of London: Vol.47 - Northern Clerkenwell & Pentonville.

Here's a little guidance for those of you interested in Scottish emigration.

A little bit of Irish military news from Eneclann.

Claire Santry lists some forthcoming genealogy and history events in Ireland.

There's a sale at Pen & Sword Books.

Here's Friday's usual helping from the BBC's HistoryExtra website:

And I shall do my best to keep you entertained over the next few days via the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

First night nerves? Fear not...

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Genealogy News - 11th September

Surprisingly little to report on, but here goes...

First up, here's the brand new Lost Cousins newsletter.

Those with an interest in Greenwich Cemetery will want to read the latest blog post from DeceasedOnline.

Latest TNA Podcast (history of the Paralympics).

Here are details of the latest issue of Family Tree magazine.

The GenealogyInTime website has the latest worldwide genealogy releases.

Here's the latest e-newsletter from the National Library of Ireland.

The usual weekly round-up of history links, etc., from the Two Nerdy History Girls can be found here.

Forthcoming events for the next few days:

And the BI-Gen Twitter feed is available for more family history news.

Friday 7 September 2012

Genealogy News - 7th September

I suspect most of you will want to have a browse through the lengthy list that has popped up on Ancestry's 'New Collections' page. Only goes up to 'N' for some reason - maybe they couldn't squeeze 'em all in! Mainly browse-only stuff, but worth a look, definitely.

Ancestry also have some new Dorset records.

FindMyPast have released a few more Surrey records.

Here's some more info on this week's WDYTYA? episode.

The 'People of Medieval Scotland' website has received a fair bit of publicity of late - check out the BBC's version of the story, here.

Whilst we're with Scotland, the latest edition of Broadsheet is now available.

Essex Record Office's latest e-bulletin can now be viewed online.

Your Family Tree Magazine has some free downloads (including lots of Tyne & Wear stuff)

Interested in Catholic records for Cork? See here. More comment here.

The September issue of Irish Lives Remembered can be found here. There's more Irish history reading here. Oo, and yet more, here!

Claire Santry has listed some forthcoming Irish genealogy courses.

Want to pin down a county border? Check out blogger John D Reid's advice.

If you're off to the National Family History Fair at Newcastle tomorrow, you may wish to take in these few words of advice from Chris Paton.

Chris also has some helpful words about the website.

Archivists may wish to cast their eyes over a helpful post on TNA's blog about archiving and the 'digital challenge'.

Here's Friday's bits and pieces from the BBC HistoryExtra website:

And don't forget the BI-Gen Twitter feed for more news, etc.

FREE access to 1911 Census...
Remember that Ancestry have made the 1911 Census for Eng/Wal/IoM/CHIsles available for free - see here. You will need to register for a free account to avail yourself of this brilliant offer - a simple enough process.

British Newspaper Archive

From Austria, I think...

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Genealogy News - 4th September

From the week commencing Monday 10th September 2012, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives will be temporarily closed for maintenance work. They expect to re-open a little after Christmas, though enquiries may still be made via phone and email. Websites here and here (not sure which is the official one!).

Episode 10 of The Family History Show is now available.

More on last week's episode of WDYTYA? (Patrick Stewart)

Here's a thought-provoking piece by Peter Clifford entitled Genealogy software - the next generation.

The latest newsletter of the 'Ireland Reaching Out' project can be found here.

Lots more Irish stuff via Claire Santry:

A new book from the British Library - London: A History in Maps.

Here's an interesting piece about the oldest and largest family tree in history.

If you're fairly new to family history research, you may wish to keep up with Nicola Elsom's series of helpful posts.

I hope you will excuse a little plug for the new 'English National Football Archive' website - see article here. The reason I mention it is that the chap behind the database, Tony Brown, is the guy who published my own footie book a couple of years back (see here) - so he can certainly be trusted. Check it out if you're into the history of English football.

A useful website for Cornish researchers.

Wanna free mag on the history of medicine? Check out Chris Paton's post, here. Chris also points us in the direction of some online Scottish newspapers.

Ruth Blair points out a website featuring Irish voices from times past.

The Thing About Scottish Clans makes interesting reading.

The latest list of history links from the Two Nerdy History Girls.

And here are your forthcoming events of interest:

The BI-Gen Twitter feed will continue to entertain you until Friday's posting.

From the BNA Blog...

Saturday 1 September 2012

Something for the Weekend 14

Thanks to author Mike Sharpe for this week's effort. Please take a few moments to check out our man's book, the excellent Family Matters: A History of Genealogy - details at the foot of this post.

Anyone for the Big [Family History] Society?

As a reader of this blog no doubt you have an interest in family history. But are you a member of a local family history society? Most likely the answer is ‘no’, nor would you consider joining one. This is a shame because family history societies (FHSs) have much to offer.

My own society, the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry (BMSGH), celebrates its 50th anniversary next year and I’m currently sorting through their archives for a short publication to mark the event. In doing so I have been reminded all too well about the strengths of FHSs, but also of how these once great institutions have been marginalised over recent years.

In their heyday, in the 1980s and 90s, FHSs were at the centre of the family history world. They offered members three key benefits. Firstly, education: societies were the first to organise courses for family historians, which enabled amateur researchers to build their skills. Secondly, they held specialist resources which could not be found anywhere else, such as indexes of BMDs, ‘strays’ (i.e. out of area finds), and monumental inscriptions. These were offered to members as a service and also sold to non-members to generate income. Thirdly, and uniquely, FHSs offered a community for researchers to learn from each other and share their common interests and advice.

Individually and collectively through their Federation, the FFHS, societies have had some major achievements. Many thousands of people have attended FFHS conferences (some of which ran over 3-5 days); the Federation successfully lobbied government departments, providing a much-needed voice for family historians at national level; and it coordinated nationwide projects such as the Big R and the National Burial Index.

But in recent years local societies have been overshadowed by the commercial companies who can do things much faster and on a much larger scale. Relying heavily on volunteers and with limited resources, FHSs have struggled to compete. Membership has fallen – quite dramatically in some cases – and the other staple income sources, book sales and data CDs, have also dropped. It is ironic that at a time when family history has never been so popular, family history societies are in decline.

The reason, it seems to me, is that local societies have failed to adapt. Their basic model – membership subscriptions supplemented by product sales – has remained largely unchanged whereas, as we all know, the world has moved on over the last 30 years.

To use internet speak, the FHSs are being ‘disintermediated’. Just like music companies and book publishers, people are shunning the middle-man and going straight to those offering the digital content instead, which in this case means the commercial providers. Why drive half way across town to a meeting when you can find all you want online?

Such attitudes miss a vital point, however. FHSs, like all community organisations, are not about what you can get out but about putting something back. If they are to survive and prosper, these societies desperately need a new model, one based on their community values.

FHSs have to become the focal points for all genealogical and local history interests in their areas. They need to build partnerships with commercial companies and get a fairer return on their valuable data. They should look to partner with local archives and record offices, which are themselves increasingly under threat from online providers and public sector cuts. They need much better web platforms so as to enable them to sell online and connect effectively with their members, including social media such as Facebook and Twitter. And they have to get better business skills on board so as to compete in the new dog-eat-dog world.

Some of these issues are being taken up by the Open Genealogy Alliance, but so far the initiative has failed to gain traction. Yet, an independent stream that can act as a counterbalance to the commercial companies is essential if we are to keep family history as a movement rather than let it morph into just another consumer market. Your local family history society needs you: isn’t it time you sought them out?

Mike Sharpe

Mike Sharpe’s book Family Matters: A History of Genealogy, describing the evolution of family history in Britain over the last 200 years, is published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd - see also

Contacts for local family history societies can be found on the FFHS website.

If you'd like to write an article for this blog, then please see my post concerning the matter, here. It's easy!