Friday, 9 October 2015

Grandparenthood – a family historian’s perspective

Family History is all about relationships but how often do we consider what those relationships actually mean. When my grandson was born last year, I reassessed my outlook on grandparenthood. Edward Leo does have a direct male line of course but that is for his other grandmother (also a family historian) to pursue. I therefore concentrated on grandparents on my side of his family.

So how has the grandparent-grandchild relationship changed? On this side of the family, Edward has one living grandparent – me. I am younger now than any of my grandparents were when I was born. I have (so far) two grandchildren and they live 300 miles away. In the past this might have meant that I saw them rarely, if ever and unless I was comfortably literate, even the occasional letter would have been unlikely. It is too soon to say what aspects of my appearance or personality will be reflected in my grandchildren but I can see echoes of my own grandparents in me.
My mother’s parents lived within walking distance and we saw them weekly. They were able to provide regular support for my mother. Equally she was on hand to help my grandmother when my grandfather was ill and then when she was widowed. When my grandmother herself became unwell she came to live with us.

Ivy and Gwen‘Granny’, Ivy Gertrude Woolgar, was 63 when I was born and died a month after my seventh birthday. She was a wonderful lady and the archetypal granny in everything except build. We played together regularly, she taught me to knit, recited nursery rhymes and did all the things grannies are meant to do. My first family holidays were on the Isle of Wight and Granny came too. My memories of Granny are a role model for my own grandparenting. Although I lack her dainty size, physically I have inherited most from this grandparent. In fact I wonder why, when I look in the mirror, she looks back.

Picture1My maternal grandfather and youngest grandparent, was Frederick Herbert Smith; he was 61 when I was born and he died the following year. Despite this I do remember sitting in the sunshine on his desk in the back bedroom that was his office. According to other relatives he was happiest with his own company. A Chartered Accountant by profession, his main hobbies were stamp collecting and train spotting. I suspect that in today’s world a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome might have been applied. He did everything he could to avoid family gatherings but nonetheless played with me and taught me to count his keys. There were thirteen but somewhere someone must have suggested that thirteen was not to be mentioned so I always counted ‘eleven, twelve, fourteen.’ What then has come to me from this grandparent? Physically, my short-sightedness but some aspects of my personality, such as the attention to detail and my self-sufficiency are his too. I wish I could have had the chance to get to know him better; I think we would have got on rather well.
Albany Home Guard

My paternal grandparents were much more aloof. We visited, perhaps monthly and occasionally went to Battersea Park, together with my parents. I was certainly never alone with them and have no recollection of anything that could constitute play. Albany Braund, ‘Grandpops’, a railway porter, became a grandparent at the age of 67 and died when I was six. He was also the only one of my grandparents to grow up in the countryside and I now live closest to his birthplace. I was always a little wary of his gruff manner. Although I didn’t realise it at the time it is likely that my maverick tendencies and my willingness to challenge authority come from this grandparent.

Elizabeth Ann Hogg 1912My fourth grandparent, ‘Grandmums’ Elizabeth Ann Hogg, was 69 was I was born, the eldest of my grandparents, yet she lived the longest, dying when I was ten. My relationship with her was a distant one and memories are shaped by her diabetes. We always had to shop for PLJ for her to drink and diabetic chocolate, neither of which were easy to obtain. I can’t identify how Elizabeth Ann has contributed to my genetic mix. I clearly remember the journeys to their house and the house itself but the personalities of my paternal grandparents elude me. Perhaps that in itself suggests that they were not child orientated. When one considers their background this is perhaps not surprising. Albany was only five when his widowed mother married again and left him to be brought up by his grandmother and then an older aunt, who had children of her own. He had contact with his three surviving grandparents, all of whom lived close by. In contrast, although three of Elizabeth Ann’s grandparents lived until she was a young adult they lived many miles away in Northumberland and Buckinghamshire, whilst Elizabeth’s parents had brought her up in London. Elizabeth’s mother died when she was twelve and family stories relate that her Northumberland grandmother came to look after her.

Unusually for their generation, three of my grandparents grew up as only children, the exception was Ivy; this probably had an impact on their ability to form other family relationships, certainly Ivy was the most family orientated of the four.

So young Edward, what will come down to you from all these ancestors and of course from your equally significant ancestors on your paternal line and the forebears of your maternal grandfather, whom I have not celebrated here? You will of course just grow up to be your own very special person but maybe sometimes echoes of your genetic forbears will travel down the generations and show themselves in you.

We often race back through the generations of our family tree but sometimes we need to stop and reflect on our more recent forebears. I challenge you to consider your own grandparents, their personalities and what they have contributed, through nurture or nature, to you.

Janet Few

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

It's Raining, It's Pouring!

      Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, fires, floods and many other natural disasters can suddenly impact your home. Some with no warning.
  These last few days in SC have brought record breaking rain and floods. We are used to preparing for hurricanes on the coast but rain of this magnitude was not imagined.

My Neighborhood

    Property has been damaged, homes flooded and families evacuated. Watching the scenes play out in my neighborhood and throughout the state the question kept coming to me. What if it was me? What if the water in the road comes up any higher?
   What have I done to prepare?
   What do I need to take with me?

My Daughter's Street

 Of course, my priority would be my family, pets and fireproof box along with food and water.
  My genealogy road has been a long one with thousands of pictures, documents, ephemera and heirlooms collected over the years.  What about all of those treasures? Could I get them all out?
 The answer is probably no. There are too many and in most disasters, time is of the essence.

   Thankfully, the rain has subsided, and the sun is out. There are rivers still to crest, but my home should remain safe. Today is a day to think about preparing for a time when it might not be.

  Computer- My data is saved in the cloud, on a portable hard drive and on flash drives.  Continually backing up and keeping copies of computer files in various places will protect many years of work.

 File Cabinets- My family files are slowly being scanned.There are many years of email communication, documents and notes on my family lines. These files would be too heavy to take in an evacuation. Scanning will preserve the information held in each.  These cabinets are kept on the second floor of my home to keep them away from high rising water.

Pictures-Pictures from many generations are in a to -do box for scanning and then filing. Work on it has been slow. Although in an upstairs room, water coming in through windows or other places would have destroyed them. Completing the scanning process needs to be a priority as well as finding a safe, waterproof container to keep them in.
 The pictures that I have already scanned need to be protected. They are placed in archival sheets, but this may not be enough.

Heirlooms-Jewelry, furniture, clothing, toys and other items have been given to me over the years. A collection of family bibles is very precious to me. The majority have been photographed. Most are in glass cases. All would not survive a natural disaster.

Ephemera-Those precious collectable items like ticket stubs, and scrapbooks. The extra things found along the way that give rich detail to our ancestor's lives.  Again, scanning is a good way to make sure they are preserved for future generations.

Does your emergency planning include your genealogy and family history? How are you preserving your treasures?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Autumn - Time to Reflect

Autumn Park - by Graeme Weatherston
image courtesy of ID-1003803

Back in May, I blogged about the books on my Spring/Summer reading list. In June I blogged about all the events (graduations, weddings, and a family reunion) that were on our family's horizon. And then for the next 3 months I went quiet. It was a busy summer and I don't know where the time went. How was your summer?

After much discussion over the past few years, my parents in early June decided to put their home on the market - and it sold that first weekend. The scramble to find a new place, make decisions about what was going to their new home, what would be given to family or friends, and what would be given away was compounded by the fact that this was a tremendous downsize in house. Not only do you move out of your home, but you also have to move into a new home and get comfortably settled. That is where the children come in - to help clean, sort, pack, move, unpack and help arrange things in the new place. Taking on a project like that is easier when you are in college and/or moving into your first or second place (and have lots less "stuff").

One of the books on my May reading list came in handy and really made me think. In the life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo suggests that we only keep the items in our house that "spark joy."  She considers that organizing before you decide what to have in your home is a never-ending process of putting stuff away. Getting rid of the clutter and simplifying our lives are the keys to having more time to spend with family and friends, more time to spend on the activities that we enjoy, and more time to spend on the projects that bring us happiness and purpose. After finishing our parents' move I certainly have a new appreciation for this mindset and I am determined to simplify things at my own home.

Our family reunion weekend (scheduled for Eastern Washington in August) collided with the wildfires that devastated the area - serious firefighting and recovery efforts took precedence over our family trip. The end of summer and beginning of the school year and back to work schedule is always a bit of a scramble. Added to that this year was the first Guild of One-Name Studies' USA Seminar. My hat is off to those volunteers who work on seminar planning (and follow-through) - oftentimes they work in the background over many months to make sure that an event or seminar comes off without a hitch (and that is no small feat). I am happy to say that our seminar was a success and huge thanks goes to the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, our partner in the seminar.

And that brings me to another book on my May reading list - The Road to Character by David Brooks. Many times during the past few months I have seen, heard or read about people in the genealogy world and in the bigger world who are doing or saying things to make themselves the Big Me - emphasizing external success. David Brooks writes about the necessity to re-balance the scales "between our resume virtues - achieving wealth, fame and status - and our eulogy virtues, those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty" focusing on inner character, being part of a larger cause, taking care with the relationships we form and the actions we take.

I appreciated that two of his inspiring leaders were Frances Perkins and Dorothy Day, as they are two women whom I have always admired. What they accomplished with their lives and how they thought of and worked on behalf of others continues to inspire me. I was thrilled that Pope Francis gave the life work of Dorothy Day a shout out on his recent visit to the United States. I learned something about leadership and sacrifice from the chapters about George Marshall and A. Phillip Randolph. The lesson from each chapter is that living according to a moral code is about "quieting the self", humility, modesty and maturity. We see too little of that today. Of course it is not easy and requires constant self-examination. Would that all of us work on re-balancing our lives to avoid the Big Me.

And now we are on to Autumn (here in the northern hemisphere). I have changed the background theme on my computer monitor to reflect the bounty and crispness that is Autumn - pumpkins, apples, cranberries, nuts and leaves. And I keep The Road to Character on my nightstand (still working through the chapter on Augustine - that is a tough one) and think about the eulogy virtues - and what I can do each day to be more kind, brave, honest and caring.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Going Wayback

In a recent post on my GenAus blog I lamented that I had not kept files of all the websites I had developed over my 20 years on the World Wide Web. Quick as a flash one of my readers, Kylie Willison, reminded me of The Wayback Machine from The Internet Archive. Why didn't I think of that?

Wikipedia describes the Wayback machine thus "The Wayback Machine is a digital archive of the World Wide Web and other information on the Internet created by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization, based in San Francisco, California. It was set up by Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat, and is maintained with content from Alexa Internet. The service enables users to see archived versions of web pages across time, which the archive calls a "three dimensional index.".

So taking on Kylie's suggestion I tried to fins some of my old sites in the Archive but didn't have much luck as the search requires a URL and I couldn't remember the exact URLs of my sites. I'll have to go through some old emails and files and see if I can find them.

What I did remember was the URL for my GeniAus blog. Entering that in the Wayback Machine I discovered that it had first been captured by The Wayback Machine in January 2011 and had been "Saved 53 times between January 27, 2011 and September 5, 2015".  I often play around wiht the design and layout of my blog but forget to take a screenshot before I make changes. I intend going through all of those 53 captures and creating a personal archive of my blog changes. My blog is also captured by The Pandora Archive from The National Library of Australia so it should be accessible via one of these platforms for a long time to come.

First capture of the GeniAus blog by The Wayback Machine.

I wondered about my family site and found that "  has been "Saved 72 times between July 20, 2009 and October 2, 2015". Ain't that grand.

Of course, when I started writing this post my mind turned to the Worldwide Genealogy Blog and I thought I'd see what I could find in The Wayback Machine. I discovered that it has been "Saved 13 times between February 9, 2014 and September 6, 2015.

Here is the very first screenshot.

First capture of Worldside Genealogy Blog to The Wayback Machine
The post from February 9th about using Evernote for family history was from Diane Hewson in Australia.

Have you checked The Wayback Machine to see if your sites or blogs are being archived?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A September Update

Yes, it's me.  I'm back.  The last few months have been a blur.  I've missed two postings.  I am apologetic and not without remorse.  We have had an illness that led to the loss of my sons beloved wife.  You've heard that " life gets in the way".  Well, I have learned the truth of that.  Papers, bills, documents and other obligations have been piling high.  Perhaps I will get a handle on it all, perhaps not.  For now, I am most satisfied to give a quick update and status report.

My progress in the "Genealogy Do-Over" has not been steady.  In fact, I am on the third repeat of the "Do Over". I now have a file for every family member, a check list I use to record what I have on each individual and what I am needing to look for, and a waterproof box in which I can store the files.
Starting with myself and progressing thru my grandparents, I have re-examined each of these seven individuals and entered their data into a second genealogy program.  I am using Legacy now.  No, I have not given up my trees on Ancestry.  My intent is to simply have a back-up in a different program. Eventually, I hope to be able to use my Legacy tree to go back and correct errors and fill in blank spots on the Ancestry tree.

My work on "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" has also suffered.  The last post to that project was completed for Fathers Day when I wrote about my dad.  The next post that I complete will probably be in memory of my sweet daughter in law when I feel ready to write it.  While not an ancestor, to generations yet to come, she will be and she deserves to be remembered.

I would feel somewhat remiss if I did not post a quick warning to those seeking help from professional genealogists across the sea.  My relationship with my chosen researcher in Poland has soured.  Sadly, I did not get an estimate from him nor a contract.  While he did obtain and send me some welcome documentation, the real "meat" of the research has never been completed.  Since I paid him in increments to which he was in agreement, I did not pay him the full fee.  I have since learned that his fee was very much " out of line" with other professionals.  I have had no communication from him unless I write and ask him specifically for progress updates.  He has told me that the documentation that he was requesting from the Warsaw archives is slow to come.  It has been six months.  I do not think that anything more will come and I am out a significant amount of money.  Just be careful.  Deal only with reputable researchers who can provide references.

Until November, be safe, healthy and happy.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Honoring the Firefighters in Our Family, Past and Present

(Author’s note for Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration Blog readers: Although we usually write about our ancestors in genealogical blogs, when I began thinking of occupations and professions lately, I realized I wanted to know not only about people in our past, but current, living family members who held similar occupations. Using some of the occupational record hints that Sue Scot shared with us in her post Sept. 8, 2015, “Occupational records”, and newspaper archives especially, I was able to glean career information about ancestors and of course able to directly interview living family members. I have found this mixture to be extremely interesting and informative for myself and other family members. I had started in September highlighting educators as schools all over the world reconvened. Moving on to other professions, the firefighters in our family were front and center considering all of the wildfires being fought currently in the USA which are threatening so many people and have destroyed so many homes. I hope you will enjoy this story, but I wanted you to know there was a design, a rhyme and reason behind this approach, the mixture of the living and the ancestors as well.)

The image above is so very true! No one and nothing is a more thankful sight than a firefighter and his engine or truck pulling up to save you, your family, and or your home when fire strikes! We usually concentrate on our own fear, then thankfulness, and relief, as we watch these brave men and women risk their very lives saving ours! Only afterwards, or if we have family members who are firefighters, do most of us truly embrace the sacrifice and courage, the dedication it takes to always put others' lives before your own as you fight such danger as fire! With that in mind, I wanted to embrace the firefighters in our family, past and present, whom I could identify. 

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I knew that I had a Great Grand Uncle who had been with the City of Richmond Fire Department for over fifty years! His name was John Francis Raffo, 1867-1951, I was two years old when he died. I really didn’t know much more than that, except that his parents were both born in Genoa, Italy, a fact which always intrigued me as the Italian branch of our family! I very much wanted to know more. From GenealogyBank, I was able to find an archive of his obituary which got me started on my search for more information. I learned that he joined the Fire Department of Richmond, Virginia in 1886, and on Feb. 1, 1919 became a Battalion Chief. On July 1, 1937, he was appointed Assistant Chief for the whole City of Richmond Fire Department. I found several articles describing his valour and heroism as he and the other firefighters worked to save lives and property day in and day out! I am very proud of him and he honors our family history with his great work.
"Flames in Midtown Richmond, Virginia witnessed by Thousands", August 6, 1937, Richmond Times Dispatch, from Genealogybank

John was married and had eight children. His son Nicolas Raffo served as a firefighter in Richmond, Va. and rose to Captain, as well as several of his nephews. This branch of my family was full of policemen and firefighters, and mainly Irish and Italian. A very interesting combination that worked well for us to other people’s apparent amazement. 

 One of my second cousins, Pat Nichols of northern Virginia, served as a firefighter most of his career, retiring as the Captain of a Quantico, Virginia Fire Station in 1999 with 25 years as a firefighter under his belt. Pat and I were friends as well as cousins as children. We have been blessed to renew our friendship as adults, reconnecting through a family reunion. Pat talks often about trips to the fire stations in Richmond,Virginia where his Grandfathers Frank Nichols and William Scroggins took him when he was a child. I can tell what a major influence that was on the future of the little boy they were educating and inspiring. He even recounts that in high school at one time, his baseball coach, football coach, homeroom teacher, and his guidance counselor were all volunteer firefighters as well! Pat also talks about his other mentors along the way, like the Chief of Fairfax County, Virginia who went on to serve through the National Fire Academy, and another who became the Chief of the Virginia Beach Fire Department until he retired. These men obviously influenced Pat and his career choices.

In 1968 he volunteered at his first fire station, but got drafted for the army about the same time. He was able to join a Petroleum Fires Training School. Pat recalls one incident when he was home in Virginia on a 3-day leave from his Army post in Savannah, Georgia. He was visiting the firehouse, Dunn Loring Station in Fairfax County,Virginia, where he was a volunteer, when they got a fire call. First reported as a brush fire, they were soon called in as the fire was “over the treetops” at the now famous, but then under construction, Wolf Trap Amphitheater,  part of a large performing arts center in Vienna, Virginia. They had been told the fire hydrants had been inspected and passed just that very day, but when they arrived, the water had been turned off and they had to use three miles of hose to attach to hydrants at a housing development three miles away! That meant losing precious minutes in fighting the fire, it also meant three miles of hose to clean afterwards! Tanker trucks from Dulles Airport were called in to supplement the supplies. Pat tells us that "at one point they had a "master stream" in the balcony flowing 500 gallons per minute on the proscenium." Wow!
  Of his three day leave, one whole day was spent travelling, or half of two days, one whole 24 hour period was spent fighting this fire, which left very little R&R (rest and recuperation) time for this weary soldier. 

However, when he got out of the Army, Pat chose to become a professional firefighter, and joined the Herndon Station in Fairfax first. Pat remembers vividly when a 25 story high rise building under construction collapsed and they spent a week searching for survivors! I think most of us cannot imagine this kind of work unless you have taken part. Dangerous, daring, and not for the faint of heart.

Pat worked at a fire station in Quantico, Virginia for most of his career. He became their Captain, and although he had the opportunity to be promoted to Chief more than once, he wanted to serve actively, not to be an administrator, so he chose to remain a Captain for over fifteen years until retirement. This picture shows his Battalion in 1979 in Quantico.

Pat Nichols, Captain, third from left in front row, Security Battalion MCB Quantico, Virginia, Station 531, in front of their 1979 Seagrave Ladder Truck.

You can well imagine that you don’t serve as a giving firefighter all of your working life and retire to do nothing. Pat’s wife, Dianne Tate Nichols, was an EMT on ambulances. Soon Pat was also. He rode on the ambulance, drove, and served. Later he and Dianne both served on the Board of Directors for the Dumfries Triangle Rescue Squad for years, Dianne as the Chairman. This is another family, another man, another woman who honor our family history with their work, with their courage, and their service to mankind. Thank you Pat and Dianne, and John and Nicolas Raffo for your service, your courage, and sharing your skills to help all of us!

If you have a firefighter in your family, feel free to leave a note about them in the comments section of this blog post, it's one small way to honor our loved ones who sacrifice so much for us. Until we meet again, wishing you the very best, Helen

Friday, 25 September 2015

Writing about World War I Soldiers

As I am writing my book about my great great great grandfather, Robert Muir (1800-1869), and his descendants, I discovered many Scottish young men who served in World War I. As I went to explore  the available records, I quickly became confused. I realized I needed to back up and stop researching specific ancestors and focus instead on the War itself and what records were kept by the British military and why.

I stopped writing and researching and started reading. That reading confirmed what I've vaguely remembered about World War I. It was a war that started almost by accident, seemingly by unwilling participants. It was supposed to be over by Christmas; it lasted four years. Generals fought with outmoded tactics against new weapons and technology wreaked destruction on a scale never seen before. No war is good, but World War I was a particularly bad war.

Nine European monarchs at King Edward VII's funeral in 1910; photograph
courtesy of Wikipedia

As the war drug on into early 1915, Britain discovered itself woefully unprepared and scrambled to keep up. The available records reflect that. The Military Service Act of 1916 was tweaked more than once so that more young men would be available to be drafted. When the war began, the British Army numbered about 730,000 men. By standards of the day, it was a small, professional force. By the end of the war more than seven million men and women had experienced service in the British Army.

Unfortunately, records about their service are spotty at best. German bombers struck the War Ministry repository in 1940. More than half of the military service records pertaining to World War I were destroyed.

Damage caused during September 1940 German bombing raid of London;
photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Unlike researching U.S. military personnel, there was no concept of a serial number, which stayed with the soldier when transferred to different units. Instead, soldiers in the British Army were assigned regimental numbers. If they changed regiments, they were assigned a new number. At first I thought these regimental numbers were next to worthless. But I learned you could search soldiers with numbers close in range to your ancestor's and learn something of their service, such as when they were likely transferred into a theater of war and to what regiment.

On the rare occasions when I could find service records, I didn't understand them. The abbreviations and military jargon were indecipherable. I hired an expert, Chris Baker, of The Long, Long Trail: The British Army in the Great War, 1914-1918. I had been using his website to understand when regiments were formed, where they saw service, and when they were disbanded. I used his forums to ask questions. I learned from Chris how to work around the lack of a military service record by using operational unit war diaries. These are official day-by-day accounts kept by individual British units within the Army. Though they rarely mention a soldier by name, they often describe the action in vivid, though understated detail.

Oswald Dykes Riddell Dick Statement of Services record for a period of military
service before World War I; image courtesy of the UK National Archives

Chris Baker's report included the results of his searches through each available record, including newspapers. If service records didn't exist, he reviewed the regimental numbers before and after my ancestor's and described their service. It is likely my ancestor had similar experiences. Two of the ancestors he researched for me were killed during the war. He provided maps of the action and described it in ways I could understand. He also provided contact information for the museum most relevant to specific regiments. His deliverable also included unit war diaries and written regimental histories.

Cover page of Chris Baker's report on Oswald Dykes Riddell
Dick's military service; personal collection

As a result of his help, I believe I was properly able to honor Private William Lively (1899-1918) and  Lance Corporal Oswald Dykes Riddell Dick (1888-1918).

Both men's lives were filled with tragedy before the war. William Lively had lost his father in a fatal wagon accident in 1906 and his mother to tuberculosis in 1910. He was an orphan at age 11. By 1917 he lived in Darwen, England. He served with the 1/4 Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment and was killed in action on 27 May 1918 during the Third Battle of Aisne when his unit was completely overrun by the enemy and decimated. William's body was never recovered but he was memorialized on the Soissons Memorial in the town of Soissons.

Oswald Riddell Dykes Dick lost his first wife in August 1914 to pneumonia and three months later a son died of tuberculosis. He was left a widower with three young children. He married his first cousin in 1917. During the war he served with the 1/5 Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders and was killed on 21 July 1918 during a British counterattack near Champagne, France. He was interred at the Terlinchtun British Cemetery in Wimville, France.

Once I learned how navigate the National Archives website, I ordered many documents. The Lives of the First World War website has also come a long way since I began. When I first started using it, I found only two record sets. Many, many more are now available -- some free and some not. For paid subscription websites, I discovered to be the best for British military records. I also spend a lot of time communicating with the regimental museums.

Writing a Family History
He Died on a Flanders Field
Killed in Action During the Spring Offensive

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Collaborative Geo-referencing of Maps

Last month Pat Richley-Erickson's contribution Google Earth for Genealogists brought our attention to overlays of historical maps available on Google Earth. The historical maps were georeferenced  to create overlays that are in the correct place. Once maps have been georeferenced, they can be compared and integrated with other mapped data, which can lead to better understanding of their contents. The best way to understand the process and its limitations is to try it for yourself.

The National Library of Scotland, British Library, David Rumsey Map Collection and other institutions use the online Georeferencer application for their collaborative map georeferencing projects. Due to differences in scale, projection and accuracy the historical map will not match a modern reference map. Imagine the historical map was printed on a rubber sheet, which you can stretch and pin it down to the modern map at known points. By the magic of mapping technology, Georeferencer does all the calculations behind the transformation.

An example from the British Library is a map of the parish of Thompson, a village in rural Norfolk, England a few miles from my home. It was published in a book about the history of Thompson published in 1892, but it was redrawn from an earlier map dated to around 1725 which shows open fields, a farming system from medieval times.

Having selected this map and opened it in the British Library georeferencer, my first job was to locate Thompson on the modern map and zoom in so I could see features marked on both maps. I started with the church, a good bet in rural England where churches may stand for centuries. Other features required some interpretation and local knowledge. Rivers and roads may change course so are not good candidates for control points. In this case the parish boundary has remained the same so points where it intersects other features or sharply changes direction are helpful. I needed to use several of the supplied reference maps and satellite images to find enough features for 10 control points.

control points
Control points on the Thompson map on the left match reference maps and satellite image on the right.

The visualize tab gives 2D, 3D and side by side viewing options. The 2D option lays the historical map over Google maps, and the slider changes the transparency of the historical layer. The 3D option opens Google Earth in a small window, so you would do better to click on the 'Open KML in Google Earth' link. Notice many of the field boundaries follow older features. I had not realised that Thompson Water is a modern feature!

Overlay of Thompson map in Google Earth
Overlay of Thompson map in Google Earth

A harder example, from The National Library of Scotland, is a map of Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland, dated 1654. Many of the place names on the historical do not appear reference maps. Variant spellings of place names add to the challenge. Notice that the historical map appears distorted compared to the modern map.

Comparison of Islay map on left with modern map right, with control points
Comparison of Islay map on left with modern map right, with control points

Eventually I managed to locate 36 control points. In the process I gained an insight that I would never have realised otherwise. This map was drawn from the perspective of someone at sea. The relative positions of settlements as seen from the sea is emphasized. At the time this map was made, sea travel predominated. Geographic accuracy is compromised and, even with a lot of correction, only achieves a poor match to the modern map.

Transformations of Islay map, increasing correction from left to right.  Left:affine, centre:polynomial, right: TPS
Transformations of Islay map, increasing correction from left to right.  Left:affine, centre:polynomial, right: TPS
Is the 1654 map of Islay a bad map? It was produced before projections had been invented, so it is not really fair to expect it to conform to modern thinking.

All maps lie because representing the earth's surface on a flat piece of paper always requires compromise. Although we think of the earth as a sphere, in reality it is flattened at the poles and very lumpy. The mathematical transformation of geographic co-ordinates onto a flat plane is called a projection.  Projections preserve one of area, distance or direction while distorting the other two. The most familiar Mercator projection preserves direction, important for nautical navigation, but distorts the area of objects near the poles.

Ready to explore for yourself? Go and have fun discovering things were not as you thought.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Family Associations

I am working on a project to identify and add Family Associations on a FamilySearch Wiki page Click here to view.  It would be awesome if it was found and added to by those organizations/associations that would like to find new members.  
The reason for the project is to support and encourage families to continue with their associations and organization.  
I have been saddened to find many associations struggling or not active any longer.  I would have to say though, I have also been a bit surprised that with the resurgence of interest in family history and family trees, that the associations have not been revitalized.  
The existence of family associations serve to bond families and assist, as well as facilitate collaboration of researching surnames. Sometimes a family will drift apart because of family disagreements, sometimes it was distances, and other times it was disinterest in making the effort on the part of one generation. Then a new generation will pop up that begins to wonder about their ancestors and who their family was or if anyone knew stories or had pictures of them.  
I had this experience.  My father's generation seemed to have the attitude, "let the dead bury the dead"... just take care of the living.  That translated into, I don't share stories about my life nor did I know anything about my grandparents, no one talked about them. 
One day, I decided I had enough, I needed to know about the family and better yet if there were any still living I needed to know them.  At the same time a cousin called and said we haven't seen each other in 30 years we need to visit.  Well... that was an invitation I was looking for.  We collaborated on research some, but it was another ten years before we were able to start reaching out to others.  I will say Facebook has been very helpful in the development of a loosely formed family group.  We formed a Family Group labeled the ancestor's name and emphasized we were searching for descendants. While we have not been able to make it to a formal organization yet, we have found and pulled three generations of descendants from all six of the children of my great grandfather and five of the eight children of my grandparents.
Benedict and Sarah Jane Hankins Langley family portrait.
The young adults are hungry for the information, but don't seem to be either willing or comfortable sharing their questions or memories.  They want to sit back and watch, in our case that semi works because the rift in the family left a void, and just developing personal relationships and a sense of family seem to be the order of the day.  My cousin and I are hoping to develop something that will last after we are gone.  Which takes me back to my project...

The early developers of  many Associations had hoped they were building a lasting organization, only to find there weren't any young adults willing to spend the extra time in making the organizations last and the older ones were not able to travel to reunions or meetings to continue to work together.  I know of a few that are struggling to continue but have and air of quiet desperation.
When I come across a healthy Family Association I want to cheer and do a happy dance.  It always feels like the family had over come that pain and challenge of when the pioneers had moved away to come back together, and there is a mother in heaven doing a happy dance.  
I have up to this point worked on mostly United States organizations, but I am now trying to identify international and foreign association / organizations, because the possibilities of families reuniting and learning as well as bonding are great.
If you know of an association and it is not on the pages, it is a wiki, you can add to it.  
'Til next month... Did your family have a reunion,or at least a get together?  Know of any associations... can always use help. 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Tidbits From My World:: Reflection's Dreams. Headstones. Fortunes. Critters. Scientific Fistic.


Man and I are already dreaming of escaping for the winter - when our Heritage RV, Tana heads south. First, however, lets talk headstones, critters, fortunes and scientific fistic.  Yea, let's.

Last summer and earlier this year, I shared with you the experience of ordering three memorial markers at one time.  Three markers, three different cemeteries, three different set of rules.  One could say I live dangerously, err, an exciting life.  One could say, I might be just a little crazed.

But, all's well that ends well and Man and I are very pleased with the results.

And, so, I unveil a photo of the last of the three.  (To see the first two, see this post from June 2015.)

And, the memorial marker for Man's paternal grandparents.  Yes, he has two names.  Yes he is one of my most interesting research subjects.  He IS the reason I became addicted to family research. Good ole "Archie".

If you care to read my report on the day we went to the cemetery, it is here, on Reflections.  It was quite the day. Hopefully you will find some humor in it at my expense.

Now, about those fortunes, critters, and scientific fistic.  I spent a few hours this summer transcribing news articles. I have collected news articles here and there over a few years. I have more to transcribe. It is tedious work that transcribing. Tedious, but, also enjoyable. The articles add so much color to my data base. Stories, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad.  Over the last few months, I have published some interesting ones over at Reflections.  And, here are the links.

One of Man's ancestors, a uncle of some generations removed, Aaron Lashbrook took me on a bit of a fortune hunt.  The hook, from 1892,  that caused me to search more, is here.    And, in 1902, the report of the failed hunt.

Oscar Lashbrook, son of our fortune hunter Aaron, was involved in a horse story.

Aaron has his own horse stories, here is one.  Believe it or not, Aaron was probably the subject of this dog story.

Orville Lashbrook, another of Man's kin, was a police officer in Kansas City, Missouri. Over the years I have found quite a few little tidbits that are interesting on Orville.  One post at Reflections covered vice squads, safes and opossums.  Really.  Tis here.

Next I found Orville testifying about, of all things, honey bees.

And, Aaron, our dear country veterinarian from Kansas, was also the subject of this piece, on scientific fistic.

Newspapers, do you research them??  Really you should.  I followed one Lashbrook young man from the first articles on the draft for World War I till he went off to war and returned home.  It was a fascinating, eye opening, experience for me.  One time I found a report of all the new cars sold in a month.  Yes, indeedy, a Lashbrook was listed.

And, there you have it, dreams, headstones, fortunes, critters and scientific fistic.

Till next month.  Come October, Man and I will, hopefully, be in the crazy packing and organizing extravaganza that goes on before we head south.  

Hope to see ya on the road, in a library, archives or a cemetery some time soon.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Do you think they'll remember?

Familiar with his verbal intonations, I realized Dad was gulping back tears as he voiced that heartfelt question. My reply was similarly choked up. "Yes, Dad, I know they'll remember."

Oh, how I recall that tender conversation as I drove Dad's wheelchair van from the Anacortes ferry terminal. We had celebrated our family tradition of visiting Orcas Island, Washington, just as crabbing season opened. It proved to be Dad's last trip with us that late July 2007, for he died a few weeks later.

Years before, Dad and our beloved step-mother had attended a medical association retreat to Rosario, and discovered the peaceful allure of Orcas, long before the island became a destination with a capital "D." Although throughout the years Dad took the boys up camping to Cattle Point and other San Juan Islands spots, Orcas was always the treasured family place.

IMAGE: The author's daughters Tam, Carrie and Stacey at
Crescent Lake on Orcas Island, circa 1985,
from the author's private collection.

Dad loved family get-togethers of any sort. Salmon bakes at home - what's that secret recipe anyway? Ivars on Lake Union either via car or boat. The Space Needle dining level for special occasions. I particularly remember the sheer fun of watching Dad interact with my toddler daughters as we "went in the boat for dinner" to the little kiddies' favorite McDonald's up in Kirkland. The pièce de résistance was and is a family retreat on Orcas Island.

IMAGE: Glen S. Player, MD as he surveys the
crab catch of the day, circa 1995, from the author's private collection.
A little too weak to get into the Apple A Day for the 2007 afternoon trip to Jones Island,  Dad encouraged us to make the trip while he'd stay back at our Smugglers' Villa rental. My brother Mike by now had owned Dad's boat for many years, so "Uncle Mike" cheerfully ferried everyone from the nearest point on Orcas, namely Deer Harbor. And so began that afternoon of picnicking and climbing. Yes, Dad. We are talking our children and now grandchildren and we tell them how you first brought us to this glorious place.

IMAGE: Dad's boat and family, 2007, Jones Island, Washington,
from the author's private collection.

It isn't about Orcas, as much as it is about family being together. Orcas provides the backdrop, including poor cell phone and internet access, so you end up talking, listening, laughing, playing, and exploring the island's treasures together. Three generations just hanging out together doing nothing, yet making the most precious memories.

IMAGE: 2007, from the author's private collection.

This past summer Mr. Myrt and I met with family once again up on Orcas Island. On the way out and back, my eyes teared up as we passed the spot where Dad had asked "Do you think they'll remember?" and I choked out once again these words:

"Yes, Dad, I know they'll remember."

Monday, 14 September 2015

UK National Archives webinars - a new genealogy resource

The UK’s National Archives (TNA) at Kew has started a new initiative for genealogists – interactive webinars. I took part in one last week and thought I’d pass on my experiences to the Worldwide Genealogy community.

The National Archives, Kew, © Copyright Chris Reynolds and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The National Archives © Chris Reynolds  Creative Commons
If you’ve got ancestors from the UK or its former colonies you may have already used TNA’s catalogue, Discovery, its online collections or its podcasts. You may even have visited the archives at Kew. Now these webinars may be another way to learn more about genealogy and how to research different aspects of your own family history.

I found out about the webinar I took part in because I’m signed up to TNA’s enewsletter, but you can also see upcoming events on their home page.
You have to book your place on a webinar via Eventbrite, and you’ll get a confirmation email and, nearer the date, a link and instructions. They suggest using a PC or laptop rather than your phone as the sound quality will be better. If you’ve got headphones, better still.

It’s a good idea to go to the webinar a little early to get used to the layout and to iron out any possible glitches as well as to sign in. You’ll see an e-curtain where slides will display once the webinar gets under way, and on the right hand side a small dialogue box where you interact with the TNA mods and other participants. This is also where you post questions for the speaker to answer at the end – you can ask questions at any time and some people’s queries were answered by other participants during the webinar I attended. Above this is a video feed of the speaker.

TNA says:

This webinar will identify relevant record series at The National Archives and help you trace individuals from this period.
We will also show you some key primary sources available to help you with research around this topic.
Webinars are interactive, online seminars designed to support and develop research skills. You access this event from the comfort of your own home, by logging in on your pc, tablet, smartphone or other device. Being online, you will be able to take advantage of the expertise of The National Archives' staff from your own computer or tablet, without having to travel to Kew. During the session (which will last no more than an hour), you can interact with staff members and fellow researchers taking part in the webinar, as well as listening to, and viewing, the presentation on screen.

How was my first TNA webinar? Instructive and enjoyable, with only a few minus points. There were some glitches with the sound. At first there was none, then it was too low, and later on I and another participant heard a very distracting echo which made it almost impossible to follow what the speaker was saying. This wasn’t too bad while there were slides on the screen, but made the Q&A at the end impossible to follow.

In addition, the dialogue box was supposed to stay on screen after the session ended so that attenders could go on talking for a while, but it disappeared.

I’m sure these were just teething troubles. I found the TNA staff very helpful and keen to sort out the problems. They generously offered to send us the slides and a link to the audio so we could catch up with the bits we missed.

Apart from these small problems, it was a very positive experience. The slides were clear and left on the screen for long enough to take notes from (though I did take a few photos as well), and the speaker, Dr Katy Mair, used several documents from TNA’s collection to illustrate points, which was an added bonus.

She was excellent at explaining the sources available from the National Archives and how to search them. And it’s always a joy to hear an expert speak.

I’d definitely recommend taking part in a TNA webinar if you can. Some older ones are also available on their website.

Finally, a few notes about the session I attended. With this being the 300th anniversary of the Jacobite Rising of 1715, TNA is marking the event with some commemorative events, including a small display in their Keeper’s Gallery. This talk was about tracing Jacobites (supporters of the exiled King James) in the National Archives.

There are no sources online (apart from State Papers Online, a subscription site only available to institutions), so it’s necessary to go to TNA or get someone to do the research. Discovery, their online catalogue, has descriptions of the relevant series. They are:
  • State Papers (SP) – the key series
  • Various legal series – Treasury Solicitor (TS), Kings Bench (KB)
  • Forfeited Estates Commission (FEC), Patent Rolls (C66)
The State papers fall into two categories, State Papers Scotland (SP 54), letters to the Secretary of State from Scotland, and State Papers Domestic George I and II (SP 35 and 36), letters to the Secretary of State from England.

Flora MacDonald, captured in 1746 (Wikimedia)
In addition, SP 41 (State Papers Military) covers the risings of 1715 and 1745, with letters and papers directed to the Secretaries of State in their military capacity; SP 42 (State Papers Naval) holds correspondence from the Board of Admiralty; and SP 44, which covers letters sent dealing with warrants, pardons, petitions, licences and reports.

Katy also talked about women prisoners taken after the Jacobite Risings and about what happened to the people captured and convicted – if not execution, then banishment, pardon on enlistment or transportation.

She showed us lists in CO 1 (State Papers Colonial) of Jacobites transported to British colonies in America and the West Indies, where they were sold as ‘indentured servants’ to plantation owners.

Britain used its American colonies for transportation until the independence of the United States, after which it turned to New South Wales... but that’s another story.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Family Milestones

Not Your Typical Milestone!

Whilst the photograph above is not a typical milestone, it does indicate the distance to the places but not by road. It is situated as you may have gathered beside the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire.

Typically, family historians, record major events in their families, such as births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials, they also compile information  about occupations and military service details.
Family historians however want to do more than record dates and places.
To truly understand our roots we need to be able to put ourselves in their shoes. Many of those who live in the United Kingdom or have roots in these countries will have ancestors who were employed by others as servants, agricultural workers or in cottage industries or more recently factory workers. Some of the occupations of yesteryear no longer exist or have altered due to the introduction of machines, this makes it much more difficult to visualise what life must have been like for them.
Major historical events have always influenced the way people live, wars may have both a direct and indirect effect on the population and the generations to follow.

If you are recording your family history consider carefully what you want to record. That story that your aunt told you may not be entirely true but by recording it you are reflecting how someone perceived a moment in time. Our perceptions and feelings are going to be as important as the facts to our descendants. We may have the advantages of photographs and videos to pass on our memories but will our descendants be any clearer about how we perceived our lives.

Start with your oldest living relative and ask them to tell you in whichever way they wish to describe the milestones in their life. 
What do they remember?
Do they have any photographs or other items that trigger memories for them?

Do the same for everyone in your family?

If you are fortunate enough to have a family get together, then get out the photographs, along with pencils or pens and small notelets, and ask everyone to write down anything they associate with a photograph or just who is in the photograph and when it was taken.
Provide envelopes so that the notes can be kept with the photographs and then get digital images of the photographs & notes, or type up the notes and attach to the photograph. 

Each memory is a milestone in the life of someone and can point us in the right direction to understand who they are or were.

Collect and Share your memories and bring a smile to someone's face.   

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Occupational Records

If our aim is to portray a rounded picture of the lives of our ancestors, then researching occupational records is a must.  

You may find records relating to an ancestor's working life in your local archive centre, though a lot does depend on the particular type of employment.  Here are some examples from England and Scotland  that I have come across in the course of my research. :

ARCHITECTS - A Dictionary of Scottish Architects is  a database providing detailed biographical information and job lists for all architects known to have worked in Scotland during the period 1840-1980, whether as principals, assistants or apprentices.  A "must consult" item if this is your ancestor's background.

Being a COUNCILLOR   might seem rather dull,  but Scottish Burgh and County Council  Minute Books, which go back to the mid 17th century,  give a full description of local affairs and council discussions and can reveal interesting sidelines,  such as the councillor in the 1880's who was petitioning in support of woman's suffrage, long before it was close to becoming a reality. 
Most  of us can count farmers, shepherds, hinds (farm servant or ploughman), carters and  ag. labs amongst our ancestors, but how to find out more about their lives?  Realistically records on individuals  are likely to focus on  landed gentry and tenant farmers, rather than their workers.  I live in a rural region and my archive centre has a wealth of information that can provide background on estates,  and life in agricultural communities.  For example:
  • Advertisements of sale of stock 
  • Auction Mart records
  • Drawings of farm machinery
  • Field name surveys
  • Farmers' Club & Pastoral Societies - members lists and minute books
  • Individual farm records - day books, account books etc. 
  • Postcards of farms and farm workers - with an image below of "bondagers"  from my local community heritage group Auld Earlston 
  • Valuation Roll showing owners, tenants & occupiers of property - very useful in indicating the size of farms & estate, and the type of workers employed. 

Bondagers were female farm workers in south east Scotland and Northumberland.   As part of their husband's contract (or bond) with the farmer, he would undertake to  provide another worker (usually his wife) to help as and when  required. They wore a distinctive dress with bonnet, described as the last remaining peasant costume in Britain.
One of the most significant farming collections held at my local Archive Centre. the Heritage Hub, Hawick,   belongs to the Border Union Agricultural Society, with material dating from 1813,  when the Society was formed.   Included are minute books,  subscription books,  letter books, financial paper and lists of prize winners at the annual show which remains a major event in the local calendar today.  

Here is a record showing that A. S Pringle won prizes in 1876 in the class of "Implements of Husbandry"  for "a self acting horse rake" and "a turnip topping and tailing machine".

MARINERS -   I used the enquiry service of Tyne and Wear Archives who provided me  information on the life of my husband's ancestor, Robert Donaldson   (1801-1876),  a master mariner of South Shields.  “A Dictionary of Tyne Sailing Ships:  a record of merchant sailing ships owned, registered and built at the Port of Tyne 1830-1930”, compiled by Richrd Key  is a complete A-Z of Ships, master mariners and owners, detailing ships, voyages, disasters and share-ownerships, and much more - an indispensable for anyone with maritime ancestors in this region.

The entries make fascinating reading, with all six ships on which Robert Donaldson sailed, having an eventful history and coming to a sad end (though not under his charge).  

Lloyds Captain's' Register provided information on the ships under the command of another mariner ancestor, Matthew Iley White.  His journeys took him to the North Sea ports of Belgium and Holland, to Spain & Portugal, the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Adriatic Sea,and north to the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland.   

[Above right - another ancestral master mariner - John Moffet of South Shields]

MINERS   - my husband's Armitage and Hibbert ancestors were miners in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and County Durham, where the  history of mines, mining and miners  is well documented on the Internet.

The website provided detailed  information when I was researching the Spowart family of Fife.   

An early insight into life in mining areas was given by Robert Franks in his report to the Children's Employment Commission in 1842 who commented  "The domestic condition of the collier population presents a deplorable picture of filth and poverty" .   

He conducted interviews with children including 15 year old Helen Spowart who  was described as  a “putter”, with the task of propelling   a loaded coal-hutch from the coal-face to the pit-bottom by means of a series of shoves or pushes.

The report noted "Began to work in mines when nine years old and has done ever since. Helen added  "It is very coarse, heavy, cloughty work, and I get enough of it, as am never able to do muckle after hours from the fatigue".

POLICEMEN & PRISONERS  -  if your ancestor was a constable or even  on the other side  of the law, police records are a great resource and include mug shot photos of criminals, lists of prisoners, plus constable registers with personal details including a description, service record,  next of kin and family etc.

A long-held family story recollected a lost photograph of a relative in a top hat serving in the River Tyne Police. A silver uniform button (left)  was still held by the family. Tyne & Wear Archives provided some answers, finding that not only Henry,  but also his older brother Matthew Iley White,  were members of the river police force – both with rather a chequered history.

The Nominal Roll of the Tyne River Police showed that Henry, a single man, joined 9th January 1882.  By the time of his promotion seven months later in July, he was married.  The Police Defaulters Book recorded his misconduct for "assaulting a seaman A. W. Hanson and other irregularities on 11th June 1889"  Henry was fined 2/6 and transferred to Walker Division at his own expense.  The Nominal Roll of 1904 noted his age as 42 and that he had 22 years of service, with a wage of 29/6. 

With three of my Danson ancestors working as POSTMEN,  I  upgraded my Ancestry subscription, so I could access their Post Office Records.   All I got was a name, date of appointment and place, so I can't really say it added anything to my family story. Also if you are looking for a popular local name, it will be difficult to confirm which is "your" entry.  Still we all consult records in hope of finding something worthwhile!

TEACHERS  -   School Records are the place to look - with Log Books recording daily  school life, and School Board Minute Books and Education Committee Minute Books recording appointments - and dismissals!   Here is an example from a school log book: 

1873 - At Glenholm, Peeblesshire, a school inspector reported "This small school was taught by Mr Grieve in an intelligent, painstaking and efficient manner". We would all love to find such a  testimonial on an ancestor.  

 Archive image courtesy of the Heritage Hub, Hawick 

Occupation Records are  a fascinating example of how family history can take you in so many diverse directions.  So many of these records are not available online, and the message is -  search the online  catalogue of the Archive Centre relevant to your research,  and use their enquiry service if you cannot visit it.

Good luck with your research!