Wednesday, 25 May 2016

7 Tips When Researching U.S. Army World War II Soldiers

After nearly 30 years of researching my father-in-law's WWII military service, which began on 7 April 1941 and ended on 18 June 1945, I now know where he was on almost every day of that time. My husband and I have taken many terrific trips visiting those places and learning more about where he served. So it's no surprise I like to write about the war experiences of my ancestors. From skirmishes with Native Americans prior to the Revolutionary War right through the Global War on Terrorism. However, I write most frequently about my Civil War, World War I and World War II veteran ancestors' experiences. Today, I'd like to share with you what I've learned about researching U.S. Army World War II veteran ancestors -- one of the millions of citizen soldiers Tom Brokaw called the "Greatest Generation."

A great resource is World War II Research and Writing Center.

1. Order his military service records

It's difficult to proceed with your research unless you know in which unit your ancestor served. The first thing I recommend doing is to order his or her military records. You can make your request for those records if you are next of kin of a deceased veteran here. If available, the information you will receive will include his DD 214, or separation papers; personnel records; replacement ribbons or medals; and medical records. The unit listed on this form includes the unit he was with when he was discharged. It may not be all of the units in which he served. Company morning reports housed at the National Personnel Records Center will include the transfers of soldiers to and from different units.

Page 1 of my father-in-law's DD 214 form; personal collection

Those military records are housed at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. There was a fire at that location in 1973, which destroyed approximately 16 to 18 million records, including:
  • 80 percent loss of Army records for personnel discharged between 1 November 1912 and 1 January 1960
  • 75 percent loss of Air Force records for personnel discharged between 25 September 1947 and 1 January 1964 (names after Hubbard, James E. alphabetically)
Even if your veteran ancestor's records were burned, you will likely receive his or her DD 214 form if your are next of kin. This form contains enough information about the specific unit in which your ancestor served, military induction and discharge dates, special qualifications or schools attended, ribbons and medals received, and so on.

2. Learn about the specific unit in which he served

Now that you have your veteran ancestors military records, you can begin to research the unit in which he served. Every branch of military service has an organization hierarchy. In the U.S. Army it is:

Company >> Battalion >> Regiment >> Division >> Corps >> Army >> Army Group

The division is the smallest unit that is capable of fighting completely independently. To understand more about how Army divisions were organized during World War II, I suggest reading a post I wrote on this topic on my Tangled Roots and Trees blog.

Another necessary resource is the Order of Battle of the U.S. Army, European Theater, World War II.

These resources are invaluable when reading Army histories to better understand if your ancestors were involved.

3. Understand the role he played in his unit

Two factors will help you understand the role your ancestor played within his unit -- his rank and his MOS, or Military Operational Specialty.

There are two types of soldiers in the Army, officers and enlisted personnel. Each have their own levels of ranks. To learn them and the general responsibilities of each rank, I have found these links extremely helpful:
Your ancestors military records will include their rank upon discharge and any military operational specialties, or special skills they acquired, on their DD 214 form. This link includes the list of current Army MOSs, but many from World War II still exist though they may have been renamed. I have found it's possible to find a similar MOS and at least get in the neighborhood of what duties my ancestor performed. For example, in Korea my father was a mechanic for wheeled and tracked vehicles. Those MOSs still exist.

4. Record the awards and decorations he earned

Your ancestor's DD 214 form will include the awards and decoration he earned during his Army service. If he won an award for meritorious conduct or bravery, you will likely receive a copy of the original citation if you order a replacement medal. Other awards can provide clues to the dates on which he or she served if they are not provided elsewhere. If your ancestors received the American Defense medal, he enlisted or was drafted before Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, as did my father-in-law. If he or she received the Victory medal, they served in the Army sometime between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946. I will be writing about this topic in detail on Tangled Roots and Trees in June. However, you will likely find these sources helpful:
My father-in-law's ribbon "rack;" built using EZ Rack Builder[1]

5. Learn about the campaigns in which he served

Your ancestor's DD 214 form will include any campaigns in which your ancestor participated. Campaigns are a series of large-scale, long-term operations or battles which required significant military planning and form part of a larger conflict. For example, during World War II, the U.S. Army fought in 38 campaigns. Knowing in which campaigns your ancestor participated will allow you to read the appropriate sections of the Army "Green" Books. These military histories are now online. When I began my research I had to order them from the General Printing Office.

My Army "Green" Books; personal collection

They are the very best, detailed history, often to the company level of the U.S. Army in World War II.

If you are not a history buff, at least read the relevant campaigns or skim the index for his army, corp. division, and regiment (sometimes part of a combat team with the same numerical designation as the regiment).

6. Use unit societies' websites and books about units

Websites for Division Societies such as the Society of the 5th Infantry Division are plentiful on the Internet. These societies will have a wide variety of information, personal photographs, and first-hand accounts from soldiers who served with the unit. Many include pamphlets and other propaganda published by the unit. Simply Google to find them online. Some will have the names of books that can be purchased about the unit. If the book is out of print, I have had great success finding them on Internet ArchiveABEBooksGoogle PlayAmazon, or eBay. If none of those sources have the book available, I can usually find it on World Cat and either go to a nearby library or have it loaned to my local library.

7. Don't forget your women ancestors

Many women served in various women-only military organization during the war. Don't forget about them in your research. General Douglas McArthur called the Women's Army Corps (WACs) "his best soldiers" and said they worked harder, complained less, and were better disciplined then men. General Dwight Eisenhower said their contributions were immeasurable.

I hoped I've sparked your interest in digging deeper into your World War II ancestor's military service. Many in that generation would not talk about their experiences. This is your chance to find out about them.

Good luck!

_______________
Women's Army Corps (WACs) in World War Two
Understanding the U.S. Army World War II Infantry Division
Army Campaign Streamers

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Qualified, Certified, Accredited, Member? Choosing a Professional Genealogist

When you need a little more help with your genealogical research than friends can give, it may be time to hire a professional.  How do you choose one?  When money changes hands trust matters.  There are no laws regulating who can do genealogy for money, so what safeguards can you rely on?  Do you just have to take a punt?


Fortunately, there are several organisations for professional genealogists whose members have fulfilled criteria for membership.  Membership requirements fall into three categories:
  • Ethics
  • Assessment by portfolio
  • Academic qualification

I will restrict this discussion to organisations in English speaking countries, especially the United Kingdom and United States of America.
 

Ethics

All the organisations require members to abide by a Code of Ethics, also called codes of practice or conduct.  Members who seriously breach the code may be expelled.   

Ethical conduct is all about trustworthiness.  In What clients need to know about Professional Research, Anne Sherman explains the differences between private and professional research, and the duty of the professional to produce quality work under time and cost limitations.  Inexperienced researchers may not recognise the limits of their knowledge or ability to complete a project.  Dutch genealogist, Yvette Hoitink recently demonstrated ethical behaviour in a Facebook post:
I told a potential client today that she should not hire me. She wanted to prove kinship to a famous Dutch artist based on the same last name. Her own brick wall wasn't even in the Netherlands, and the name is quite common throughout Western Europe. Instead of taking her money on a wild goose chase, I recommended she trace back her own tree first and referred her to a colleague in the other country.

Agreeing to abide by the ethical code is the only membership requirement for the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).  Unlike other bodies, APG welcomes a broad range of genealogy professionals, not just those who undertake research.  So, APG does not assess the wide-ranging skills of members.  Of the 2169 members currently listed, 391 reside outside the US, spread over the British Isles (168), continental Europe (96), Canada (81), Australia & New Zealand (28) and a thin scatter elsewhere. 

Assessment by Portfolio

Certification, accreditation and membership criteria vary.  Each organisation has come to different view on what is important and how to assess competence in genealogical research.  Membership levels reflect career progression, with certain benefits (e.g. use of logo, membership listing) reserved for 'full' members.  As things change, particularly educational opportunities, criteria may be updated.  Last year I posted an overview of  formal education in  Time for Formal Genealogy Education?

In the UK, the Association of Genealogists & Researchers in Archives (AGRA) requirements for full membership include: reports sent to paying clients, a research assignment set by AGRA, evidence of continuing professional development, and an interview.  The Strathclyde University postgraduate certificate in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies and the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studied (IGHS) Diploma are deemed to fulfill parts of the requirements, so may be substituted for some of the client reports or research assignment respectively.  102 full members are currently listed.

The Association of Scottish Genealogists & Researchers in Archives (ASGRA) is open to genealogists practicing in Scotland.  Requirements for full membership include: a paid client report and 2 other studies, transcriptions set by ASGRA, and a statement of their genealogical business.  The postgraduate diplomas from the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee were recognised in 2013 as fulfilling some requirements.  Pre-2013 graduates are required to submit 2 client reports, and post-2013 one client report.  One of the reports may have been completed as part of the course.  There are 18 full members currently listed.

Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI), formerly known as the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) is open to genealogists who do full time paid genealogical work and reside in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.  Full members may use the post-nominal M.A.G.I. (Member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland).  Requirements for full membership, described as accredited include one sample of a client report.  Education is advised, but not taken into account in the application.  Currently, there are 21 members available to take commissions.

Unlike in the UK, there are no formal genealogical qualifications at postgraduate level in the US, so education plays a different role in the process.

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) divides the US and world into regions and tests applicants on their chosen region.  Requirements include prior research experience or education (1000 hours combined), a 4 generation project, 2 written exams and an oral review.  Those who successfully complete the process may use the post-nominal A.G. (Accredited Genealogist).  Renewal is required every 5 years to ensure the professional's skills remain current.  Of the 142 accredited genealogists listed, 105 reside in Utah, 34 in the rest of the US (in 15 states), and 3 in Europe.

Portfolio requirements for certification with the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) include document work (transcription, abstraction, analysis and research planning), client research report, case study (use of evidence), and a narrative kinship determination project.  The standards required for submission are published in Genealogy Standards, and the judging criteria for each part of the portfolio is comprehensively documented in the Application Guide.  After 5 years certification expires and submission of further work samples is required.  Certified genealogists may use the C.G.  post-nominal.  218 certified genealogists are listed, of which 213 reside in the US spread over 47 states, 5 live in Canada and 3 in Europe.

In the specialised area of probate research (identification of heirs to estates), the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) governs the new ForensicGenealogistCredentialed credential, denoted by the post-nominal FGC.  Level IV CAGF members are eligible for the credential.  Of the 39 members listed, 12 are level IV.  Entry requirements (level I) include prior education at 2 approved courses (e.g. institutes, Boston & Washington university short courses), and a work sample.  Subsequent levels require further work samples, evidence of continuing professional development, and documented hours of forensic genealogical work.  By level IV, a total of 1050 work hours is required.

Academic Qualification

The newest professional genealogy organisation is the Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG), launched on 10 March 2016.  Full members, who may use the post-nominal Q.G., have gained one of the accepted academic qualifications:
  • University of Strathclyde - MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies
  • University of Dundee - MLitt or Postgraduate Diploma in Family and Local History
  • Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies - Diploma in Genealogy

These formal qualifications have been benchmarked against Scottish, United Kingdom and European higher education standards and are evaluated at postgraduate level. 

Genealogy is a serious academic subject. In QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously? Elizabeth Shown Mills made the case for the mutual embrace of genealogy and traditional academia.

Graduates of these courses are experienced researchers because they have conducted considerable practical genealogical research.  Karen Cummings describes her experience of the IGHS Diploma and the portfolio she submitted as part of gaining her qualification.  I can personally attest to the 5 studies and dissertation I completed for the Strathclyde Postgraduate Diploma, in addition to regular assignments.  Dundee graduates tell me the same story.

 

Conclusion

All these organisations seek to raise standards for the benefit of clients and professionals.  Membership of one does not preclude membership of others.  Each offers a different blend of benefits in continuing professional development (e.g. webinars, conferences, publications), networking with colleagues and promotion, with a different geographical bias.

Anyone who has made a commitment to ethical practice, demonstrated skills by portfolio or gained academic qualifications deserves respect.  Those who denigrate the commitment and achievements of professionals act to the detriment of genealogical community.  I hope this overview will assist potential clients, and those considering working as genealogists.  Below is a summary of where to access information on the organisations discussed:

Organisation Ethical code Membership requirements List of members
APG Code of Ethics Membership Directory
AGRA Code of Practice Joining AGRA Directory
ASGRA Code of practice Applications
Membership Requirements
Find a researcher
AGI Code of practice Admission Fellows, members & affiliates
ICAPGen Professional Ethics Accreditation process Find an AG professional
BCG Code of Ethics and Conduct Application Guide Find a genealogist
CAFG Standards of Practice and Conduct Membership Levels Directory
RQG Professional Code Accepted Qualifications Profiles


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Headstones Are Not Always Right

Many genealogists before me have sounded the warning to only use Find a Grave memorials as a tool and not always as pure fact. Those that have headstones are considered by many as valid evidence of the death and burial of the subject of the memorial. Those with a tombstone are more valid than those memorials posted without headstones and no source pinpointing burial in that cemetery.  Another problem for the researcher is the headstone that has been recently created and added to a cemetery for someone who died more than a century ago. Where did the creator get the information?
You can tell the focus of my post will be why you need to be cautious about adding the information you find on Find a grave to your tree and creating Find a Grave page as your source for the dates you put in your tree.

I will use as an example of my words of caution a memorial I found while I was helping a family with the War of 1812 Pension Files for Josiah Mead. I went to Find a Grave website to look to see if there were any headstones for the soldier or his two wives, . There was a memorial for his first wife Sally Wood Mead and connected was a memorial for him. At first I thought it was strange there was a headstone for him in Lexington, Kentucky since he died in Will, Illinois. Then I looked a little closer and, well, let me put up the headstones for Josiah and Sally and then I will discuss.
Memorial for Josiah Mead 
 m
headstone on Sally Wood Mead memorial, wife of Josiah.


The "headstone" for Josiah on his memorial, correct me if I am wrong, appears to be the bottom part of Sally's headstone where it identifies her as wife of Josiah Mead Born...; Died...
You notice they have the exact same birth and death dates. Odder things have happened, but in this case I have a pension file to show the inaccuracy. 
Information of first wife Sally Wood 
 T
Portion of a letter in the file, stating death of Josiah. He was living in Will, Illinois

With this information, I know that the "headstone" on Find a Grave was not Josiah, because a year after Sally died he was writing a family member about her death. Another point to be made is he married his second wife in the year 1856 and then died in 1866.
I contacted the man who maintains the memorial site with the above information suggesting a change for Josiah's memorial was in order.  No response, and it has not been changed as of this time. 

You get my point, that headstones  are awesome to help with identifying birth, death, and place, It is not, however, a primary proof, and should not be treated as such. If you are sure the information is correct, then back up that information with researched sources if at all possible. 

I leave these thoughts with you to mull over and consider.
See you again, same place, same time next month.
FranE

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Genealogy centenaries

Isn't it always the way? You wait years for a significant genealogy anniversary and then three come along at once. That's how it is in 2016 for my ancestors - three significant bicentenaries for three of my convict forbears, Nicholas Delaney, Sarah Marshall and John Simpson.

So I thought I'd share a bit of information about them. A lot of Australians are descended from this trio of law-breakers and maybe one of them will find this post and get in touch. We genealogists love hearing from cousins...

The first genealogy centenary is 13 June, 2016, the 200th anniversary of the official founding of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Drawing of the Domain and Mrs Macquarie's Point, Sydney, Australia1830
The Domain and Mrs Macquarie's Point, 1830, Creative Commons by Paul K

On 13 June, 1816, Nicholas Delaney, my 3x great grandfather, and his gang of convict workers finished building Mrs Macquarie's Drive, the road that runs round what was then the Government Domain. It's now part of the Botanic Gardens.

Photo of the Botanic Gardens, Sydney, with skyscrapers in the distance
The Botanic Gardens in the 21st century CC via Wikipedia

Cleverly, Nicholas arranged to finish the work on the birthday of Governor Lachlan Macquarie's wife, Elizabeth. The delighted Governor awarded Nicholas and his 10-man gang five gallons of spirits as a reward. There would have been sore heads as well as muscles the next morning.

Inscription on Mrs Macquarie's Chair, also called Mrs Macquarie's Seat, Royal Botanic Gardens.
Inscription on Mrs Macquarie's Chair, celebrating the day Nicholas finished the road CC by Graeme Churchyard

I've already written about building Mrs Macquarie's Drive as well as the only part of the original road which now survives, the Macquarie Culvert. As the 200th anniversary comes even nearer I hope to post more over on the A Rebel Hand blog.

The oldest bridge in Australia, built by Nicholas Delaney: the Macquarie Culvert, Mrs Macquarie's Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney
The Macquarie Culvert, Mrs Macquarie's Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney CC via Wikipedia

There's going to be a big party in the Botanic Gardens on the 13th and I've heard from some fellow Delaney descendants that they'll be going. If only I weren't half the world away I'd be there celebrating my ancestor's achievement. But I can't get to Australia this year. You can bet I'll be keeping up via social media and other channels, though.

The next bicentenary of this year is of the trial and sentencing of Sarah Marshall, my 3x great grandmother, on 24 July, 1816, at the Lancaster Assizes. 

Written record of Sarah Marshall's sentence at the Lancaster Assizes, July 1816
Sarah Marshall's sentence via Ancestry

Sarah was convicted of 'stealing a petticoat valued at one penny, a bed gown valued at one penny, two caps valued at one penny, a pair of silk stockings valued at one penny and a sheet valued at one penny, being of the Goods and Chattels of John Oldham.'

And for fivepence-worth of clothes, she was to be 'transported to some part beyond the seas.' To New South Wales, in fact, like all my convict ancestors.

Australian Convict Transportation Records for Friendship II via Ancestry

Sarah's story - or what I can find out about it, because there are plenty of strong Lancashire brick walls surrounding her life before she half-inched the goods and chattels - includes two particularly dramatic episodes after her trial. She was sent out on a notorious convict ship, the Friendship, famous for the licentious behaviour on board during the voyage. Again, I'm planning to write more about that.

And she's popularly believed to be the 'Sarah's Ghost' who is said to haunt Castlereagh General Cemetery, having been murdered by a group of  lust-driven men. But the story's inaccurate. I'm glad about that. Poor Sarah, as if she hadn't suffered enough.

Sarah went on to marry, or live as if married to, John Simpson, a tailor, and his is the last of my trio of bicentenaries.

John was born in Yarm, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. On 8 November, 1816, he was charged with 'feloniously taking and carrying away two bales of goods, consisting of muslin and shawls' at Hope in the Derbyshire Peak District and committed to Derby county gaol. The Derby Mercury reported the facts on 21 November.

Derby Mercury newspaper masthead, 21 November 1816
 
John Simpson charged with theft and imprisoned in Derby County Gaol: newspaper report in the Derby Mercury
Derby Mercury report via FindMyPast

He was to stay in Derby Gaol until the Lent Assizes in March, 1817, when he was tried and sentenced to seven years' transportation.

John and Sarah's daughter Lucy Simpson married Thomas Delaney, the son of Nicholas and his wife Elizabeth Bayly, which ties up my three bicentenary ancestors neatly.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Trello - another tool for Genealogy

With a little help from Friends

a great way to collaborate or just get organised

What is Trello ? 
I think the best way to find out is to look at their tour.

DearMYRTLE and Cousin Russ have been using this to help them plan and organise their hangouts for some time now and here is a Mondays with Myrt where they show some of what they do with Trello.



Cousin Russ also recorded a video with genealogy blogger Becky Jamison on 6th May 2016, where they discussed a post she had made on her blog, about how she is using Trello, to help her get things organized. 

She has added some more posts, about using Trello, since recording this, so please take time to look at them all.

I thought that I might be able to make use of this and remembered having a look at Trello in the past. I went to sign up and realised that I had already signed up using my Google account. When I signed in, I found had already set up some boards, so decided it was time I started adding more to them.

Here are 2 short videos I have made explaining how I have set things up and what I am planning to do to make good use of this tool.




If you are not already using Trello and are thinking of trying it out please use this link to join it is FREE.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Worldwide Genimates

I'm a survivor!
Last month I blogged about my rash decision to join the 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I am pleased to report that I crossed the finish line on time last Saturday with around 1300 other bloggers.

It was a hard slog that ate into my precious time but it was worth the effort. One of the unexpected benefits was that it introduced me to a number of genealogy and history bloggers from around the world. I even discovered that one of my Surname Study contacts was a prolific blogger.

The result is that the number of feeds in my RSS reader has grown significantly.

Reading others' blog posts confirmed my bias towards reminiscing and stories hence the two standout blogs for me were from two Australians, a new contact and a social media mate. If you fancy trips down memory lane do visit Linda and Maureen.

While I saw many old friends in the challenge list some of the new to me blogs I discovered were:

GenWestUK - Ros - England
History Roundabout - ? - England
Molly's Canopy - Molly - USA
My Genealogy Challenges - Dianne - Canada
Old Scottish Genealogy and Blog - Penny and Fergus - Scotland
The Past Whispers - USA
Roots and Stuff - Mary - USA
Southern Graves - Stephanie - USA
Treetrack'n - Mary
The Writing Desk - Ros - England

But wait, there's more - Pauleen has compiled a list of geneabloggers who participated in the challenge.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Lost in 1939 - The Misleading Map

When Findmypast launched the 1939 Register, Infographic maps which pin-point the place of residence were heralded as a valuable extra.  My grandparent's household at 30 Manor Road, Birmingham is pinned like this:
1939 Regsiter location map for 30 Manor Road, Birmingham

See the problem? The pin is in Sutton Coldfield, not Birmingham.

Mapping locations is a revealing technique for family and local history when the source contains spatial information.  The 1939 Register contains 3 pieces of location information for each household:
  1. Borough or district.  Counties were divided into four  types of units, County borough (C.B), Municipal Borough (M.B.), Urban district (U.D.) and Rural district (R.D.).  These units are listed in Understanding 1939 Registration Districts.
  2. Enumeration district.  Boroughs and districts were divided into manageable areas for an enumerator to cover.  They are denoted by the E.D. letter code.  The One Place Studies blog published a helpful explanation of the 1939 enumeration districts and provide a list of these administrative units.
  3. Street address. No explanation needed.
Extract of 1939 Register with location information highlighted

My grandparents lived in Stechford which was in the Birmingham County Borough.  A Vision of Britain through Time is a comprehensive resource for jurisdictions in the UK.  Sutton Coldfield was a Municipal Borough until it was merged with Birmingham in the 1974 re-organisation of local government.  In 1939 the boundary of Birmingham County Borough was:

Birmingham County Borough, with Sutton Coldfield and Stechford highlighted.  Source: A Vision of Britain.

Sadly smaller units like enumeration district QBEZ are not mapped in A Vision of Britain.  Census enumerators books included a place to enter as description of the area covered, but I don't know if 1939 Register booklets did.  Browsing the 23 images in the district reveals that only pages with personal entries have been published, so the context of the enumerator's work is missing.  From the street addresses, it is possible to gain an insight of the area covered.  Seven roads are named: Lyndon Road, Manor Road, Church Road, Station Road, Rosemary Road, and Yardley Fields Road.

All of the roads in enumeration district QBEZ are incorrectly scattered around Sutton Coldfield on Findmypast's maps.  Here is a Google maps comparison of the real locations and Findmypast's locations:
Enumeration district QBEZ.  Roads denoted by lines are actual locations, those denoted by pins are the 1939 Regsiter locations
 
A road is a linear feature, so is better represented by a line than a point.  Road names like Manor, Station, and Church are common. There are even several Lyndon Roads. These roads have been matched with other roads of the same name.  Matching locations using a gazetteer, a geographical index of place names with co-ordinates or grid references, is fraught with difficulty.  Red House, Rosemary and Yardley Fields roads were all pinned to the same spot as the incorrect Manor Road pin.  It is likely that the more uncommon road names could not be matched, so were assigned to a pin thought to be in the enumeration district. 

Findmypast's pins mislead even when correctly placed.  A point or pin suggests accuracy, so one might expect it to identify a house.  An jurisdictional area like an enumeration district or borough is best represented by a polygon, a shape which denotes the boundary of the feature.

Mapping technology is now widely and freely available.  Findmypast used open source mapping software, Leaflet, to present the maps, delivering a smooth user experience.  That was a smart move.  Using the digitised historical maps from the National Library of Scotland and modern OpenStreetMap was another smart move.  All of that came free.

It is clear that the jurisdictional boundaries from A Vision of Britain weren't used.  Adding that data layer could have unleashed the power of spatial queries, eliminating the type of errors discussed here.  The data seems to be available only for academic use, but the website was built over a decade ago, so would greatly benefit from serious investment.  Investing in the development and expansion of A Vision of Britain would be, well visionary.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Past Life Styles Before the Internet

Last month, I was in a slump and missed my post. I was moving back to the house my husband and I built when we were young. We had such high hopes for it and slowly began working towards those goals while having and raising 6 children.  As you can imagine, it was S L O W. We abandoned it to live in my mother’s home when
         1. She moved into an assisted living facility because of early onset of dementia and...
           2.   My sweetheart had stage 4 col-rectal cancer. 
It is a story and a half house, so my children were concerned about long range challenges for me and my knees. 
Oh well, who know what will happen in ten years. The biggest challenge has been overcoming the pain at seeing what he had worked so lovingly to make had fallen into disrepair. Some reading this know me on social media such as Facebook. I frequently talk about comments from the tree house. My son remarked that it was an apt description as it was a cross between the Swiss Family Robinson’s and the Bernstein Bear’s home. 
Now you can understand a little of the confusion and disorientation I have been experiencing in planning ahead. Well, that coupled with family calling and asking for assistance with their personal problems. What’s a mom to do, say no? I think not. That is what life and genealogy is all about.
An experience I have had as I have been moving back home, is unpacking my genealogy files. Many times, it makes me smile as I see, notes written on scrap pieces of paper, and no reference as to where I found it. 
Today, moving in the professional world of genealogy, I hear chastisement in my head for not having a research plan sheet, or writing down my documentation. I have empathy for those who find themselves with genealogy information and not a clue as to which book it was they found it in. Let me explain.
Going back to building a house and finishing it ourselves while raising 6 children, will help you understand a little bit. I worked as a public health nurse or school nurse while my children were growing up, and helped my husband with work projects he had as well. We are member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which as most know emphasize finding your family history. We were the only members on both sides of family, who were members. No one had a clue about their family’s history, it all fell in my lap to find it, along with all the above. To shorted this story, I will just say the way it happened was, aside from a few planned visits to major libraries, I would swing by the local library for a 30 minutes to grab some research time when I went grocery shopping or was running errands. My sweetheart would look at me when I got home (days before cell phones) and say “you sure took a long time, at the library again?”  And that is how notes were scratched on odd pieces of paper and now, random information found without documentation. It was almost a lifestyle. Grabbing moments to recreate life times, it is why I am going back and filling in the blanks now. Life before the internet was not easy, nor was it always organized. That is my personal family history finding story.

Has anyone else experience a lifestyle so random or am I the only one? 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Finding ancestors in the 'wrong' year in records

If you're fortunate (or dedicated) enough to trace any ancestors back to before the 1750s, and they were from Britain or its colonies, you may come across some odd-looking dates in documents from the early months of each year. They might be in letters, books, newspapers or parish records.

Here's an example, from the parish records for Merioneth/Meirionnedd in north-west Wales:


It looks as if nobody was baptised, married or buried between March 21, 1748, and March 25, 1749 - which isn't very likely. But not understanding this record could cause problems.

Suppose you're looking for Hugh Ellis and all the evidence points to him being born in Cae Gwernog in 1749 - and you found this record. You might think your other information was wrong, because it looks as if he was baptised on 21 April, 1748.

You might find a parish record which is even more puzzling (but gives a clue to the solution), like this one for the baptism of Mary Roberts of Tarporley, from the Diocese of Chester parish records:


She was baptised on 1 January, 1744. But wait a minute - just above her in the baptism of Thomas Garnett, on 30 December... 1744. Couldn't these people keep their records in order?

And yes, of course, they could. It's just that the calendar was organised in a slightly different way until 1752 in Britain and its colonies.

Old Style

From the late 12th century until 1751, the legal year began on Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrated on 25 March (exactly nine months before Christmas Day). So the year changed on that day: 24 March, 1750, would be followed by 25 March, 1751, and the year's length was calculated according to the Julian calendar. It seems odd to us, but since it was the way things had been for centuries, it was easy to understand.

Except...

New Style

Except that in October 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new calendar. By then, because the length of a year under the Julian calendar had been slightly over-calculated as being 365 days and six hours, with the six hours being added together every fourth year to make a leap year, the date of Easter had drifted too far away from the Spring equinox.

This also resulted in 'removing' 10 days from the calendar to make up for the drift. The new calendar, known as the Gregorian, was adopted by Catholic countries. But the English-speaking world was officially Protestant, and Protestant states weren't having anything to do with a change decided by the Pope. They stayed with the Julian calendar.

This caused confusion in dating letters, reports and documents which crossed the time zone between Protestant and Catholic countries.

To avoid this confusion, people often dated their papers using OS (Old Style) and NS (New Style), or gave two alternative years for those awkward days from 1 January to 24 March, like 1700-01, or 1700/1.

Here's how one newspaper, the Newcastle Courant, coped with the date problem:




You'll notice that in the latest edition the paper is dated 1744, but the first article mentions a date as being in OS - it's a report from (Gregorian, NS) France.

Just to add a little more confusion, the legal year in Scotland was changed to begin on 1 January in 1600, and after the Union of Parliaments in 1707, this caused more legislative problems.

Parliament wasn't happy. In 1750, it stated that the use of the Julian calendar was 'attended with divers inconveniences, not only as it differs from the usage of neighbouring nations, but also from the legal method of computation in Scotland, and from the common usage throughout the whole kingdom, and thereby frequent mistakes are occasioned in the dates of deeds and other writings, and disputes arise therefrom.'

And so the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 was passed. It ruled that the English-speaking world would make two changes in 1752: that year would start on 1 January everywhere; and there would be 11 days removed from the calendar, since the drift had widened another year since 1582, when the Gregorian calendar came into force.


Still with me? Phew! I think we both deserve a picture to help explain the effect this had on record-keeping.


These are burials from the parish records of St Stephen's Church in Norwich. You'll see that 1750 burials go from 31 March to 14 March; 1751 burials are from 25 March to 24 December; and 1752 burial start on 2 January.

The other part of the changes brought about by the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 was the removal of 11 days. Here's the law:



So you went to bed in the evening of September 2 and woke up on the morning of September 14. Which was not much fun if your birthday or other special day fell into the 'lost' time.


The Whitehall and General Evening Posts tried to explain the whole muddle on the morning of 14 September, NS:



Until recently I believed the story that the loss of 11 days caused widespread riots, with people furiously demanding: 'Give us back our eleven days!'

Unfortunately, it seems that this is an urban, and rural, myth, though the phrase was well enough known at the time. It appears, as 'give us our Eleven Days', on a placard at the bottom of William Hogarth's satirical painting An Election Entertainment:




But the missing 11 days isn't just a story about how daft the uneducated people were. A very recent blog post has pointed out that, though poorer people's wages, which were often paid by the day, fell by a third in September 1752, their rents did not. A good reason to be angry.

The taxes still had to be brought in, and so (rather than lose 11 days' tax) the government ruled that the new fiscal year should start 11 days later than Lady Day. And an extra day was added in 1800. That's why the UK tax year begins on 6 April - it's the old Lady Day, plus the (now) 12 days' drift.

Finally, as everyone's going Shakespeare mad, with the 400th anniversary of his death on 23 April, here's a brain teaser:
Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on the same date - but not on the same day. How can that be?

Notes:

Believe it or not, I've simplified things a lot here. The original Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 can be read online, if you really want to
All images are from FindMyPast, except for the Hogarth painting, An Election Entertainment, which is CC via Wikimedia, and the extract from the Calendar Act
If working out OS/NS dates is too much of a time-waster, there's a handy online date converter to do the work for you

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Conferences and Genealogy Shows What's the Difference?


Photograph from the conference of Guild of One Name Studies held in Birmingham, England 
1st - 3rd April 2016

Conference or Show what do you get for your money?
Are they the same?
Does it depend where in the world you are?

Last year I wrote about going to Rootstech / FGS 2015 in Salt Lake City, my first impressions and compared it with WDYTYA Live which had just moved to Birmingham.

This year I was only able to catch the livestream and videos at Rootstech. However I did attend my first Guild of One Name Studies Conference held the weekend before Who Do You Think You Are Live. Both were in Birmingham the first at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole and the latter at the National Exhibition Centre the same as last year.

I have not attended anything in Australia and I know there are other conferences in the US. Pauleen Cass wrote a post on this blog last April about conferencing and she has quite a few references in this post to help give a more balanced view.

I did enjoy my Guild conference and have every intention of going to next year's conference which is being held on the outskirts my home city of Southampton. I am hoping to make the most of it by incorporating a research trip to the local archives in Southampton and the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester.

I decided to go to Birmingham on the train and managed to get a direct train both ways with a table seat for most of the journey. Both trains were crowded as it was the Easter holidays. Before I arrived at the hotel I could tell we were going to have an interesting and possibly noisy weekend see this tweet from Janet Few.

Chris Braund pointed me in the right direction and after registering, up to my room with the luggage, then back for a much needed drink before the first talk about DNA. 
Our first meal was followed by the quiz which I soon learnt was quite a challenge.

Unlike the likes of Rootstech the conference had 2 full days. The first part of the first morning was the AGM and the business side of things being swiftly dealt with we arrived early for the morning break. 

Next up was an interesting presentation about life on the canals. This guest was surprised when he actually sold out of the books he had brought with him. 

The session after lunch can be a real challenge and there was a lot of information to take on board. If you have anyone who lived and worked in British India the wealth of information available is incredible. Families in British India Society (FIBIS) has a lot on their website. They also had a big presence at WDYTYA Live this year and the celebrity I saw on the Saturday had gone to India to find out more about her family.

Anita Rani talking about her experience on WDYTYA at the Live show on Saturday 9th April 2016

The next speaker was from Twile but I will not expand further here as I plan to do a post on my own blog later this week.

Our final session for the day had to be changed at extremely short notice Paul Howes Chairman of the Guild did an admirable job and we heard some interesting stories from him and several other members.

Unlike Rootstech the Guild has a Reception and Dinner on the Saturday night a chance to chat and get to know other attendees a bit better.

A short church service first thing on Sunday was followed by 2 presentations. The first looked at presentation of your study using that member's own study. The second was looking at key sources outside the UK for finding your surname across the world.
Lots of information here and "food for thought" as to how to get the information and then how to put it into a useful format.

The session after lunch on Sunday was another change looking at how we might find living people. As one namers we often find the best information comes from members of families especially if you need individuals for DNA studies. Finding clues in the records and knowing where to look is crucial. The techniques shown were those I had used in doing my own family research and have reaped dividends in terms of family photographs.

The final session of the conference looked at example sources for emigration and immigration. This rounded off an interesting weekend. 

I had three days before the WDYTYA Live show and I will write about these on my own blog if you are interested.

For the first 2 days of WDYTYA Live I offered to help out on the GUILD stand. Here are some photographs that I took.





This was just across the aisle from the replica Spitfire that was on display at the Forces War Records stand





Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, My Heritage and The Genealogist all had their own stands. There were relatively few commercial vendors and several non-genealogical charities had their own stands. Much of the Society of Genealogists area was taken by Family History Societies although many local societies did not attend. A full list of exhibitors can be found here.
There was much more in the way of workshop sessions that could be attended and the interest in, and availability of, DNA testing appears to be growing.
Family Tree DNA sponsored a raft of free lectures in their theatre.

Having everything in one large hall with sections partitioned off for sessions can be a disadvantage but with well set up sound systems and microphones the only problems seem to be when technology failed.

As regards costs the ticket prices for Who Do You Think You Are Live can be found here. The website of The Guild of One Name Studies can be found here if you want to know more about who they are and the benefits of becoming a member. Rootstech has a different pricing structure to WDYTYA Live and details can be found on the FAQ page. Pricing for this year's FGS Conference is not yet online you can find their website here. The FGS Conference has more in common with WDYTYA Live than Rootstech in regards to the topics for the presentations. This is not surprising given that The Society of Genealogists and The Federation of Family History Societies are similar organizations to FGS in the US.

Comparisons between events in different countries are difficult as the audience and how they interact can be affected by the numbers that attend for just a single day. In the US conference attendees are more likely to stay overnight in the area rather than travel on the day. Up until this year I travelled on the day, this was cheaper than finding overnight accomodation, this makes for a long day which means that a single day is all that most would feel up to attending.
Whether more would be willing to stay if evening activities were included it is difficult to know. It can be a problem organising events and then not getting sufficient uptake for them to take place. Having cancelled a day of the WDYTYA Live event in Glasgow the organisers are unlikely to want to take on any additional evening entertainment.

If you have attended other genealogical conferences or shows elsewhere in the world I would be interested in your comments.
If genealogists don't tell the organisers what we like or don't like or how we think they could improve the experience for us then we risk falling attendances. 
Many societies are seeing falling membership numbers. 
What do those researching want from them and what can we as members contribute? 
Why do you belong to a society? 
Have you allowed your membership to lapse? 
If so, why did this happen?

Why are some societies not attending national events?