Archive for 2011


Family Tree Maker Software for Beginner & Advanced Users: 30 June 2012

10:30am-1pm – Family Tree Maker Software for Beginners
This workshop will cover the foundation essentials needed to understand the program and is suitable for beginners. The separate afternoon advanced course runs from 2-5pm. It is preferable that those taking the advanced afternoon course, also take Mike’s morning course  (those that are familiar with the basics, can take this as a refresher).

Taught by Mike Bollinger, each course costs  £17.50/£14.00 (SoG members) and must be pre-booked and pre-paid. Visit our online shop or telephone 020 7553 3290. Have a question? email events department.

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Wills, Wills, Wills

Wills are a fantastic resources for any family historian and it’s great news to hear of more being made readily available.

Ancestry.co.uk have been filling in some of the earlier gaps in its coverage of the post 1858 will indexes for England and Wales and we hear that these indexes are to be made free to view for the next week until 9th July.

We’ve been playing about with Ancestry’s new dataset of London wills 1528-1858 and trying to establish exactly what it contains. Comparison with various other indexes and sources and the site itself suggests these are the original wills  from those church courts whose records were formerly lodged at Guildhall and are now at London Metropolitan Archives (Commissary  and Archdeaconry of London) along with those from the Consistory of London and Archdeaconry of Middlesex which were always a LMA.

The collection does not, at present, include any testamentary records which might be found amongst the old Register Copy Wills or in the Will Act Books nor in the Administrations of those who died intestate. So don’t be beguiled into thinking these are the only probate records for Londoners.  As Ancestry’s site says there are still other records to check back at LMA.  It’s a fantastic start and the images of the documents it has are excellent. BUT you should still check all of the published indexes to the various London courts whether they be published by the British Record Society or on other websites.

The Society of Genealogists library has free access to Ancestry.co.uk as well as Findmypast and British Origins which also have useful indexes to wills for the London area. The SoG’s library of books and documents contains many abstracts and copies of London wills and some of these are indexed amongst the SoG data on MySoG. The Society has all of the manuscripts, printed and published indexes available for the church courts that governed wills including those for London  and Westminster. Note also that many Londoners’ wills were probated in the highest church court known as the Prerogative Court of Canterbury which has records at The National Archives. These indexed on TNA’s Documents Online webbsite which is also free to view at the Society of Genealogists.

For more information on using wills see the SoG free information leaflet on Wills.

Remember where there’s a will there’s a genealogist

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Findmypast.co.uk have released a fabulous family history resource –  the index and images of  WO96 militia records for 1806-1915. The Findmypast wesbite is available for free at the Society of Genealogists Library

 

The WO 96 Militia Records are a valuable resources for genealogy research-

  • Over half a million records covering 100 years of the militia – the forerunner of The British Territorial Army – published online
  • Records provide unique descriptions of what your ancestors actually looked like
  • Everyday workers including butchers and bakers fighting for their country
  • The British militia was recruited from all over the world

Leading family history website, findmypast.co.uk has published the records of over half a million men who served in the British militia, the precursor to the UK’s Territorial Army. The Militia Service Records, covering 1806 to 1915, have been made available online for the first time to coincide with British Armed Forces Day on Saturday.

The records colourfully portray what the British militia looked like, detailing the height, weight, chest size, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks of each recruit. Arthur Wilson’s distinguishing marks included an acrobat and dots tattooed on his left forearm. Similarly, Albert Smith, born in India, was recorded as having teeth that were ‘defective but enough for mastication’.

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at findmypast.co.uk comments: “These records provide rich insight into our past and show how the everyday man, such as your local shopkeeper, found himself fighting for his country. In the absence of photographs, these records can help you imagine what your ancestors looked like, containing details which are largely unavailable elsewhere. Our easy to use website means you can unearth even more fascinating and detailed information about your ancestors at the click of a mouse.”

Like today’s Territorial Army, the militia was made up of men who held everyday jobs, but took part in military exercises and on occasions fought for their country. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, these typically included shoemakers, woodchoppers, butchers, bakers, coal miners and millers.

Charles Godfrey, for example, was a butcher for a Mr Debron in Oxford. Born in the Parish of Botley, Berkshire, Godfrey volunteered for the militia on 25th July 1887 aged 18. Charles served with the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and was recorded as being five feet four inches tall with steel grey eyes. 

 

William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, commented: “It took a certain kind of individual to leave a day job as a blacksmith, labourer or barman and enlist as a part time soldier in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the majority never left British shores, many saw active service with the regular army in places such as South Africa during the Second Boer War. Like its modern equivalent, the Territorial Army, the pre-WWI militia offered a way for former soldiers to continue serving their country and civilians a chance to leave humdrum jobs, earn extra money and enjoy the comradeship such services had to offer.”

The Militia Service Records are the only set of their kind available online and have been published in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch. The records show that the soldiers who made up the militia during that period hailed not only from the UK itself, but also from around the world. Some recruits had been born in Italy, Ceylon, South Africa and even as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

David Rencher, Chief Genealogy Officer at FamilySearch added: “The publication of the Militia Service Records fills another critical gap in the family historian’s toolkit. The digitisation and indexing of this rich collection will make it easy to find the regiment an ancestor served with and also when and where he was born. Family historians will quickly realise the value of this information, particularly when the record of an ancestor’s birth has been elusive or impossible to find elsewhere.”

ENDS 

For further information or examples of the records, please contact:

Amy Sell

amy.sell@findmypast.co.uk

or

Lauren Hunt-Morgan

0207 566 9729

laurenhm@lansons.com

 

Notes to editors

Armed Forces Day

The release coincides with Armed Forces Day which is taking place on Saturday, 25 June 2011.

The day aims to raise public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, It also gives the nation an opportunity to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families and from veterans to cadets. In 2011 the National Event will be held in Edinburgh, but there are many more events up and down the country being held in support of Armed Forces Day.

 

Full list of places of birth as recorded in the Militia Service Records:

Africa

Australia

Canada

Channel Islands

East Indies

England

Spain

France

Germany

Gibraltar

Greece

India

Isle of Man

Ireland

Italy

Ceylon

Malta

New Zealand

Russia

South America

Scotland

At sea

West Indies

Wales

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The first meeting of The National Archives User Advisory Group (TNA UAG) took place on Wednesday 22 June. Draft terms of reference were circulated and these are under discussion. The draft terms of reference have already been published and are for comment on the Society of Genealogists blog  and will presumably be available online through TNA when they are formally accepted.

The names and contact information for each representative will be published on the TNA UAG web pages  along with minutes and papers of the group’s quarterly meetings. However all the representatives have undertaken to represent, feedback to and communicate the UAG’s activities – so here goes.

The meeting’s first agenda was pretty much a case of getting to know each other (though many already did – this is very much an off-shoot of the more informal monthly users’ forum though with more users from the Map and Large Document Room and academics.) Chaired jointly by Jeff James, Director of Operations and Services and Chris Mumby, Acting Director of Customer and Business Development the meeting was set in the context of TNA’s business plan for 2011-2015 (already published online). This is scary as it shows TNA’s 2014/5 spending allocation £9m below that for 2011/12. TNA has to produce a lot more for less though Jeff and Chris are very gung ho.

Feeling suitably subdued we then looked at a very dense document relating to proposals for a User Participation Strategy – which is a technical term apparently for volunteers’ projects. We saw how prospective projects were analysed for their benefit and potential to the business of the organisation. Having gone through this process eight proposals are to be carried forward including projects to create user generated catalogue descriptive content; digitisation of images for the Caribbean and other material from the Commonwealth Office pictures and conservation projects. Having decided on these projects TNA intends to bring the User Advisory Group in to discuss methodology and approach at this “strategic” level. Though as usual, TNA is establishing a “Board” to manage (or provide governance) for the various projects.

I was amused to see how this meeting clearly showed how a group of professional civil servants have seamlessly taken on board the wishes and whims of their new political masters as I can’t tell you how many times the phrases “fits in with the Big Society etc” were bandied at his point. But TNA has always had to be pragmatic and work in the political context it finds itself and I make no criticism of civil servants doing what civil servants have to do. But it can feel a bit “Yes Minister” at times.

We then learnt more about a project to digitise and accession digital images of a subset of the Home Guards records to act as a pilot for the full Home Guard collection of 4.6 million records. The decision to access only the digital images of these documents and not the originals has been somewhat controversial. There has been public consultation about the transfer of these and three other large Ministry of Defence Collections and much discussion at higher level to get to this point (I am also on the TNA Advisory Council and contributed to the MoD consultation paper in November 2010 on behalf of the Society of Genealogists and the British Genealogical Record Users Committee). But it’s down to TNA project managers to make sure TNA does this project properly. It has to ensure the digitisation is done by a commercial partner to the standards it and its customers require. The HG records for Durham have been chosen for the pilot as it’s a small enough collection, but representative of most of the records and potential problems that might arise. The User Advisory Group will get to look at these “closed” records and comment of how they might be used and what searchable fields of data should be captured. The fields proposed are:

Name – surname and forename(s), Date of birth, Area or County, Place of Birth where given and address.

Once UAG members see the documents we might have other suggestion to add such as occupation or battalion.

I remember this same process 10 years ago with the 1901 census and I know that whatever advice we give will be tempered against what the commercial partner will consider to be practical and commercially viable. So the Advisory User Group can advise but whether this advice is heeded. in the end will be down to TNA and its partners.

The meeting concluded with TNA giving some rushed but tantalising indications of Public Service developments – British Nationality Cards will be made more readily available, Work will continue to scan and make digitally available material from film. We hear there are plans for TNA to use web chats or instant messaging – presumably as part of the advice and help services. UCL’s collection of rare books will be hosted at TNA while it is being refurbished and it’s quite likely that the London LDF Family History Centre’s collection of films and computers will also be housed at TNA while the centre closes for a 9 month refurbishment plan.

Do look out for the formal minutes of the meeting when they are published by TNA http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/get-involved/user-advisory-group.htm

I’ll keep you posted about what we learn about the Home Guard records. The next meeting of The National Archives’ User Advisory Group will be on 6 September

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The first meeting of The National Archives’ User Advisory Group is on 22 June, then four times a year thereafter.

If anyone has any issues or points they wish to raise about TNA please do not hesitate to contact Else by email genealogy@sog.org.uk, or through the comments facility on this page. Alternatively you can comment via the Society of Genealogists’ Facebook page or follow Else on twitter @SoGGenealogist

TNA has drafted the Terms of Reference for The National Archives’ User Advisory Group

The role of the User Advisory Group is to:

 Provide an opportunity for users of The National Archives to get involved in the organisations planning and decision making process at an early stage and a strategic level.

Provide an opportunity for The National Archives to seek structured advice and feedback from our user communities on specific developments and decisions, via a formal closed group, which actively represents the diverse interests, concerns and agendas of our user communities. Provide balanced and holistic representation from the diverse sections of our user community and an opportunity for dialogue between representatives of these groups. Act as a two way communications channel between The National Archives and our user communities.

Provide a voice, through representation, for users who may not be able to make use of the other engagement channels provided by The National Archives.
 

The role of the User Advisory Group is distinct from:

The role of the User Forum which is an open forum held regularly on site at The National Archives. However, it is likely that there will be links and communication channels between the 2 groups, in both directions.

Executive responsibility of The National Archives’ formal governance structure, including all of its constituent parts.
Any other consultative or advisory group or body not listed above.

Method of engagement

The User Advisory Group consists of invited delegates who represent the following sections of our user community:
On site, personal interest researchers
Independent (paid) researchers
Academic researchers
Researchers based primarily in the Map and Large Document Reading Room
Researchers interested in the diversity / inclusion / access agenda
County / external archives
Genealogy / family history societies
Online users (Initially, on site users will be represented by a member of The National Archives’ staff. During 2011 – 2012, we will be running a formal work stream to improve opportunities for engagement with online users).

The National Archives commits to:

Manage and Chair the meetings effectively, to promote productive communication and discussion.
Set the dates of the meetings in advance and communicate these effectively so as to allow delegates to plan their attendance.
Circulate agendas and minutes of the meetings in a timely manner. Communicate effectively with delegates interregnum, as appropriate.

Delegates should commit to:


Respect the roles and opinions of the other delegates, the Chair and other staff in attendance.
Make every effort to attend the meetings and act as a representative for a minimum of one year (4 meetings).
Make every effort to effectively represent, feed back to and communicate with their user community; to include the publication of their names and contact details.
Show discretion in communicating what is discussed at the meetings and maintain confidentiality where instructed by the Chair or other staff members.

Constitution of the User Advisory Group
The User Advisory Group will meet 4 times a year with:
The Director of Operations and Services (co-chair) The Director of Customer and Business Development (co-chair) The Customer Intelligence Manager The Customer Research manager The Customer Intelligence Officer (online user representative)
Additional members of staff will be made available depending upon agenda topics.
Agendas for meetings will be published in advance of, and full minutes will be published following the meetings.

Resources
We will make limited resources available to support the User Advisory Group:
Publicise the dates of the meetings and the contact details of delegates, online, onsite and in publications where appropriate.
Provide meeting space, refreshments and facilities for the meetings, as required.
Where appropriate, provide reasonable resources to allow delegates to communicate and meet with members of the communities they represent (to include space on our notice boards and meeting rooms where available).

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