Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ancestry's English probate collections updated

Two items of news concerning Ancestry and its probate collections for England, which may help if your Scottish ancestors moved south.

The first is the upload of the London, England, Wills and Probate, 1525-1858 collection. Unlike Scotland, England did not have a civil probate system in the aftermath of its reformation, it was instead administered by the Anglican church through a horrific network of church courts until 1858. This collection, sourced from London Metropolitan Archives does not include records from the highest of these courts, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (you''ll find these at the National Archives Documents Online site, or on the; instead the records come from one or more of the lower courts, though these are unfortunately not identified on Ancestry's description page at, which is something of an oversight which will hopefully be corrected in due course.

Perhaps more relevant for Scots is an update to the English and Welsh National Probate Calendar. John Reid at Anglo-Celtic Connections has picked up on the fact that the gaps in the incomplete calendar entries from 1861-1940 have been almost completely plugged, with the addition of records from 1900-1903 and 1910-1911. There are still entries missing from 1899, and a few after 1858 apparently, but this is a significant enhancement nonetheless.

The collection is particularly useful for Scots if you have ancestors down south, for if they had estate back north in Scotland as well as in England and Wales, a note of the Scottish confirmation (our version of probate) will be included in the English calendar - very handy in that at present the online Scottish wills only go as far as 1901, though there are plans afoot to extend this by a further 25 years in due course.

NB: the National Probate Calendar is the English equivalent of our Calendars of Confirmations and Inventories.

(With thanks to @RosemaryMorgan on Twitter and John Reid)


Irish Emigration Database

There's a new site concerning a replica famine ship called the Dunbrody based in Wexford now online at Amongst the gems online is a free searchable Irish Emigration Database, compiled from several sources. Here's a description from the site:

Today 40 million people in the US alone proudly acknowledge their Irish heritage.
Now you have the opportunity to access a huge database of emigrants who sailed from Ireland in the nineteenth century. This database has been compiled in collaboration with the Balch Institute Philadelphia, and the Ellis Island Restoration Commission, and the Battery Conservancy, New York from the original passenger lists of ships, which sailed from Ireland and the UK.

The database is directly accessible at

(With thanks to Irish Roots Magazine on Twitter @IrishRootsMag)


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Tayroots Genealogy Day

This is a bit of a pre-announcement, to let you know that Tayroots Genealogy Day will be held in Dundee on Saturday 24th September 2011. The venue has yet to be confirmed, but should be sorted in the next few days. There will be various groups and societies in attendance to help you research your tree or solve particular family history problems, and a few speakers, of which yours truly will be one.

I'll be taking an introductory workshop to Scottish family history research for absolute beginners - so if you know your granny was called Jessie and not much else, but want to know how you get started, this session will arm you with some of the basic tools, approaches and a general lay of the genealogical landscape to get you going. I'll also be doing a talk on the history and records of the weavers of Perth, discussing the existence and use of trade incorporation records, the boom and bust of the handloom industry and more, and including my favourite record of all time concerning a Perth based weaver, who tried and failed to put his masters in their place and paid the price! :)

Also provisionally booked to do talks are Bruce Durie of the University of Strathclyde, who will be discussing the university's Scottish DNA Project, and Andrew Nicoll of the Scottish Catholic Archives, who gave such a brilliant presentation at last week's SAFHS conference in Edinburgh on Scottish Roman Catholic records.

Lots happening, and more detail to come! Hopefully see you there!


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Industrial action to hit archives

Several archives will be affected by industrial action this coming Thursday 30th June, following the decision by the Public and Commercial Services Union to go on strike.

In Edinburgh, the National Records of Scotland ( will offer a partial service only. There will be access to self-service microfilm and digital images in the Historical and Legal Search Rooms, to catalogues and open-shelf library books, and adoption appointments will be upheld. However, there will be no document productions, copy orders or supervised locker facilities. For more information, call 0131 535 1365.

The ScotlandsPeople Centre ( is also likely to be hit, but its site merely states for the moment that "Visitors are advised that due to industrial action we may not be able to provide a full service next Thursday, 30th June."

In England, the National Archives at Kew ( will be closed altogether.

For other archives, do check in advance before you make a trip that may turn out to be in vain!


Spanish Civil War records

The National Archives in England has released a series of records to tie in with the 75th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War. For more information see - a feature on the release was also heard on this morning's Today programme on Radio 4, which can be heard on the BBC iPlayer.


National Family History Fair 2011

The National Family History Fair 2011 ( will be held on Saturday 10 September 2011 between 10.00.a.m - 4.00.p.m at Tyne Suite, Newcastle Central Premier Inn, Newbridge Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 8BS

Admission Price: £3.00 Accompanied Children under 15 Free

Exhibitors for 2011 include:, Anguline Research Archives, Bennor Books, Brian Elliott Books, British Association for Local History, CAB Search, Census Detectives, Chris E Makepeace Maps, Durham County Record Office, Family & Local History Handbook, Families on Film, Gareth Burgess Postcards, Guild of One Name Studies, Herbert Chapman, JiGrah Resources, My History, My Heritage, North of Ireland Family History Society, Northumberland & Durham FHS, Northumberland Archives, Pen & Sword Books, Picture The Past - George Nairn Postcards, Relatively Helpful, Scottish Association of Family History Societies, S & N Genealogy, Society of Genealogists, The Genealogist, The National Archives, Ulster Historical Foundation, UKBMD, Your Family History Magazine, Yorkshire Group of Family History Societies, Yorkshire Ancestors, Family History Societies, Books, Postcards, Maps and much more . . .

A series of talks and demonstrations will take place during the day.

Genealogy Advice will be provided by genealogist and lecturer Doreen Hopwood

Talks and Presentations will take place from 12.15.p.m. by:

Dr Nick Barratt - the historian and broadcaster.
He was the lead researcher and consultant for Who Do You Think You Are when first launched on BBC television His presenter roles include So You Think You're Royal; History Mysteries; Hidden House History; Secrets from the Attic and Live the Dream. He is also the on air expert for BBC Radio 4's Tracing Your Roots. He is the author of Who Do You Think You Are Encyclopaedia of Family History; Guide to Your Ancestors' Lives; Lost Voices of the Titanic. He is the Editor in Chief of Your Family History magazine; Executive Director of FreeBMD; the Research Director for Sticks Research Agency; President of The Federation of Family History Societies

Researching Irish Family History - Dr William Roulston - Research Director for The Ulster Historical Foundation He is the author of a number of publications including Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: the essential genealogical guide to early modern Ulster, 1600-1800 (2005). He holds a PhD in Archaeology from Queen’s University, Belfast, and has worked on several radio and television projects including research for Who Do You Think You Are?

Places are Limited. Tickets will cost £3.00 and will be available at the Fair.

In the heart of the City Centre the Newcastle Central Premier Inn is a short walk from Newcastle Railway Station, Monument Metro Station and City Centre Bus Routes. Easily access from A1 and A167M. Car Parking (On Street and Multi-Storey) nearby. Refreshments Available All Day.

The Hotel has 186 en-suite bedrooms and a restaurant. The hotel makes an ideal base from which to explore the local surrounds. Just a short walk from the historic Quayside, as well as great shopping, galleries, museums and theatres. Bookings can be made via

(With thanks to Bob Blatchford)

Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook

The following is an announcement from FindmyPast Ireland ( NB: This data has previously been released on a CD by Eneclann:


· Launch of most important record of most significant period of Irish history

· Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook features names of over 6,700 rebels, soldiers, casualties and government personnel

· Lists over 2000 British servicemen

Today sees the launch of one of the most comprehensive records of the 1916 Easter Rising released in a fully searchable structured index for the first time. The Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook was published by the Irish Times in 1917 and provides a fascinating insight into one of the most important periods of Irish History. It is now live and ready to explore on

The 1916 Easter Rising, the most significant revolt since the 1798 Rebellion, began on Easter Monday April 24th 1916. It was mainly a Dublin-based rebellion of Irish nationalists against British Rule in Ireland and was born from the British Government’s delays in the enactment of the Home Rule Bill, following the outbreak of World War I.

The 308 page handbook now available on is made up of Irish Times articles relevant to the Rising as well as official lists, featuring the names of over 6,700 rebels, soldiers, prisoners, casualties and government personnel, including photographs and maps, creating the most detailed observation of the events of the 1916 Rising. It is an essential resource for those studying the people and events of the Rising, in particular those whose relatives fought or were injured.

The handbook is also a great resource for those with British military ancestors. Over 2000 servicemen are listed in sections detailing: honours and awards to military and police, high ranking officer’s in a Who’s Who of the handbook, Red Cross workers and members of the Officers’ Training Corps, who are credited with gallantly defending many of the city’s most historic buildings including Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, College Green.

Cliona Weldon, General Manager at, said: “The Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook is one of the most important documents of the time. Having such a momentous piece of Irish history available to our customers embodies our commitment to publishing family history records that are more than simply names and dates.”


Monday, 27 June 2011

The Memory Library

I've had Peter Gelardi from The Memory Library ( in touch to inform me about this online family memory archive site, launched in February 2011, which allows for the creation of family history timelines, the storage of photos, video clips etc. There are similar sites around, but this one seems at face value to be as good as others in terms of its offerings in terms of online storage. The site has three paid basic subscriptions (bronze, silver and gold) at various rates and with various levels of storage and other perks. There is also a free taster subscription offering just 8MB of storage, known as the LITE membership, which can host between 10 and 50 photos, depending on file size, and 8 minutes of video. If you are worried about the lifetime of the website and the permanency of your archive, you can also create a DVD once the timeline is completed.

You can also add a recorded interview to the site, using an online 'autocue' based set up which you can use from home in conjunction with a webcam, where you can prime yourself with the next question. I must admit that having previously spent years interviewing people for telly documentaries, at first I was going to hold a bible up to this and shout out 'Never' as high as my lungs would scream it, as autocues are used mainly for presented pieces to camera. But if you're recording your interview to a webcam this is actually what you'll be doing, and the site does offer some useful advice on how to use this method if you wish, including getting a friend to interview you to make it a more natural conversation. There's a well structured guide to this on the site at

Additional more professional options include having the project visit your house to carry out an interview (or you visit a studio), and to have an edited version of this provided also, though the costs are dearer than those advertised for areas more than 50 miles from London. No idea how that transfers to Scotland! There is no indication on the site (that I can see) as to who the videographers might be, though the online video guides and interview examples are well produced and executed.

Well worth a look, and the BBC Radio 4 interview from Archive on 4 in April (hosted on the site) is worth listening to also as this provides a more interactive demo.

(With thanks to Peter Gelardi)

UPDATE - for Scotland, I've been informed that the additional cost for the interview service etc would currently be about £100 on top of the advertised price to bring the site's videographer up, though it is envisaged that a video 'cell' will be established in due course in Glasgow, at which point the cost will disappear. Also, keep an eye on the site for a half price offer in the next few days on this front. (Thanks again to Peter)


Sunday, 26 June 2011

SAFHS 2011 conference - report

Yesterday was the 22nd annual conference of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies (, hosted by the Scottish Genealogy Society ( in Chambers Street. There were many vendors present and four main talks given, with some shorter lunchtime presentations.

Travelling through from Largs, I missed the first talk on Edinburgh resources, but my main reason for attending was to hear the second and third talks, by Tristram Clarke of the National Records of Scotland ( and Andrew Nicoll of the Scottish Catholic Archives (; the fourth by Duncan MacNiven was on the 1911 census, which I did not attend, as I heard him talk on the same census at the last SAFHS conference!

Both Tristram's and Andrew's talks were on religious topics, with Tristram dealing with the Scottish Episcopal Church and Andrew the Scottish Roman Catholic Church. Both were excellent, though ironically I think that I personally learned more on the latter than the former, having expected it to be the other way around. Tristram gave a fantastically well illustrated talk on the episcopal church, concentrating on its history from the Glorious Revolution onwards (rather than on the mainstream Kirk's various episcopal periods beforehand). This showed how the initial records remained similar to those of the Presbyterian Kirk, but changed as the new episcopal church progressed. It was interesting to note that non-juror ministers often did not baptise children as it was illegal for a time, and other points such as the aftermath of the 45 rebellion,when the 'piscies' could not worship in congregations of more than four people to one minister, having followed the Jacobite cause. It was also interesting to discover the nature of some congregations, from weavers in Girvan to English iron workers in Airdrie and hatters from Lancashire in Greenock.

At one point Tristram discussed records from Muthill in Perthshire and quoted a baptism from someone resident at Bellyclone. I have McEwan family from Bellyclone, and a CD with the episcopal records for Muthill, so need to have another look at this part of my tree with a fresh eye. Excellent stuff. Tristram is currently updating the essential NRS (previously NAS) guide "Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors", which I think I am right in saying should be out later this year. Definitely a key guide for Scottish researchers, detailing the collections held at the NRS.

Andrew's talk for me was more revelatory though, in that although I knew about the new records recently launched on ScotlandsPeople (, I wasn't so aware of the project that had actually led to their going online. There were two big revelations for me - I had assumed that the registers now online were the same as those previously available at the National Records of Scotland in photocopy format. In fact, whilst there were 250 registers available in the NRS, there are now in fact some 600 registers hosted on ScotlandsPeople, following a four year project to draw them all in from across the country. Amongst the new holdings, for example, is a register from Eigg going back to 1842. Moral of the story - if you previously drew a blank at the NRS when looking through Catholic registers and assumed it wasn't worth trying the online collection, have a rethink!

The other big surprise was to note the existence of the Catholic Heritage website ( site, which has an online catalogue of the Scottish Catholic Archives - I knew of the SCA's own website (see above) but I'd never heard of the other - what a resource! It also includes material from England and other countries, so worth a look if your Catholic heritage extends beyond Scotland. One other item clarified was the extent to which Scottish Catholic records can record an Irish place of origin - from what I now understand this is mainly for Greenock and Glasgow in the early pre-famine part of the 19th century. Andrew is currently updating the help material for the Catholic records on the ScotlandsPeople site, so look out for this in the near future. And at last - there's a definitive guide to Roman Catholic records in Scotland, written by Andrew and just published, entitled "Scottish Catholic Family History". I have a copy, and it is just brilliant, and will certainly soon get me up to speed on one aspect of Scottish genealogy I am not quite so familiar with, despite my Catholic wife's constant attempts to throw holy water over me! The book is published by The Aquhorties Press in Edinburgh, the SCA's publishing arm (ISBN 978-0-9557591-7-8), and costs £10 - not sure yet where to obtain it from, but I will publish a review soon in Discover my Past Scotland ( and hopefully have more then (or try the SCA for more info).

Then it was time to do the rounds - I caught up with fellow professional genies Carolynn McNicholl, Kirsty Wilkinson, Ali McDonald and the magnificent Maxwells, Graham and Emma, from the Borders! Carolynn recently joined ASGRA, and so I caught up on her experiences there (and shared the train back to Glasgow with her!) - her blog is at Kirsty has posted her thoughts on the event, and also news of a personal disaster on record keeping today, at - there's a clear case of a damsel in distress, if anyone can help sort out mouldy documents and certificates, please read her post! Ali is still ploughing away on the Scottish DNA project (and currently studying for a masters), and working hard in his capacity as Scottish representative of FamilyTree DNA (see his blog at, whilst the Maxwells continue to genealogically colonise the Borders with some amazing new transcriptions publications and a new binding service for family history reports, as well as the ongoing project to provide free access to early Borders censuses linked online to NLS maps in Edinburgh (see

I also met up with Nicola Osborne at Addressing History - some exciting news here with an extension to the original project now underway with post office directories from Glasgow and Aberdeen (see Deceased Online ( was also on hand with its new release of 300,000 records for Edinburgh under demonstration, and with LOTS more to watch out for in the next few months, both from Scotland and also UK wide, whilst Helen Grant was there also from Scottish Monumental Inscriptions ( with many new CD releases and more to come.

David McNay from the Scottish Military Research Group gave me a peak at the Daily Record indexing project for the First World War, which looks great. David blogged from the event at - one thing he has pointed out is that there are several projects currently underway from the group, which is continuing to expand, but as ever they require volunteers to help with the transcriptions. If you have an interest in military history, do get in touch with David and the project. Elaine MacGregor from the Families in British India Society ( was there also, in her first SAFHS show, providing help to those with Indian connections.

I had chats with many other gene genies, including Dee Williams (ScotlandsPeople), Alison Wallace (Brightsolid), Pete Wadley (NRS), Sheila Faichney (Ancestral Tourism Marketing Officer for Angus), Ken Nisbet (SAFHS), Bruce Durie (University of Strathclyde), Bob Stewart (Lanarkshire FHS), Marie Dougan (Ancestral Consultants), Alison Spring (LDS Glasgow), Elma Lindsay (former Stirling archivist) and many others - apologies to any others if not named!

My overall sense was that this was a busier conference than last year, with I believe about 150 conference delegates which I think was more than last year, and three floors filled with vendors, though this seemed to be busiest between 12 and 2pm. The scheduling was perhaps a bit unfortunate in that two other major events were also in play on the same day, the Armed Forces weekend in Edinburgh obviously drawing big crowds, and the York Family History Fair, one of the largest in northern England. The weather was also not great, so it was great to see it as busy as it was, all things considered, and I look forward to next year's - more info on that when I get it!

Just to top it all, I had a great night in Glasgow with my wife, where we both went to see Yes Prime Minister at the Theatre Royal, a nice prezzie for our wedding anniversary on Friday. As such, apologies for the delay in posting! :)

Trying to stay awake at the Theatre Royal after a long day! :)

(With thanks to SAFHS)


Friday, 24 June 2011

More on Edinburgh burial and cremation records

Following news yesterday that the Edinburgh burial and cremation records would be going online today via the Deceased Online website (see, some more detail now from the site itself on the scope of the data:

Seafield Cemetery, Seafield Place, Edinburgh, EH6 7QP

38,629 burials, dated 10 January 1888 to 2011, are available as Mortality register scans in various formats at between 34 and 40 entries per scanned page. These records also include the type of hearse used at the funeral.

Seafield Crematorium, Seafield Place, Edinbugh, EH6 7QP

49,502 Cremations, dated 3 May 1939 to 6 June 2009, are available as Cremation register scans at 7 entries per page.

Warriston Crematorium, 36 Warriston Road, Edinbugh, EH7 4HW

224,620 Cremations, dated 1 October 1929 to 13 June 2009, are available as Cremation register scans at 6 to 9 entries per page.
Records up to 1991 are available - records after this date are still being uploaded but will be available shortly.


For the purposes of the UK Data Protection Act, the names and addresses of funeral applicants and grave (lair) owners for burials during the last 75 years have been withheld from publication.

Edinburgh Crematorium Ltd have also requested that the addresses of the deceased and places of death not be shown in cremation register records for the last 15 years.

The records are available at


Who Do You Think You Are

The next BBC series of Who Do You Think You Are will be featuring the following slebs:

J.K. Rowling, June Brown, Alan Carr, Sebastian Coe, Larry Lamb, Emilia Fox, Richard Madeley, Len Goodman, Tracey Emin, Robin Gibb.

Further information at but no tx date as yet.

(With thanks to Else Churchill)

UPDATE: Next month apparently.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

St. Andrew's Church in Toronto

On Monday I had a the brief pleasure of a visit to St Andrews Church in Toronto - to see some snaps and to understand what records have been indexed, visit my other blog at (read the comments also!)


Deceased Online releases Edinburgh records

A major announcement from Deceased Online (

Edinburgh: 300,000+ burial and cremation records added to Deceased Online

Nearly 1 million Scottish burial and cremation records now available

• 313,000 records for Edinburgh’s Seafield Cemetery and Crematorium and for Warriston Crematorium are now on

• Nearly 39,000 burial records dating from 1888 to the present day for Seafield Cemetery feature scans of mortality registers (with many of them including details of the type of hearse used!).

• Over 49,500 records from 1939 for Seafield Crematorium are available as scans of cremation register pages.

• Records for Warriston Crematorium, numbering nearly 225,000 and dating back to 1929, are available as scans of cremation registers. Please note: records up to 1991 are immediately available – records after this date are still being uploaded but will be available shortly.

• The combined Edinburgh dataset of 313,000 means that the total Deceased Online database for Scotland now numbers just under 1 million burial and cremation records.

The Deceased Online team will be in Edinburgh on Saturday 25th June meeting delegates at the Scottish Association of Family Histories (SAFHS) national conference. They will be demonstrating the wide range of records that Deceased Online has for areas throughout Scotland including register scans, grave details, photographs of memorials with searchable inscriptions, and cemetery maps. Conference details are at:

NB: These records will go live in the early evening of Friday June 24th.

(With thanks as ever to Richard Gray at Deceased Online)


2011 census theft a hoax

Various reports from yesterday that the entire UK Census for 2011 had been hacked into and stolen have been confirmed by the Office for National Statistics as a hoax - here's the blurb (from

The Office for National Statistics reaffirmed today that personal census information is secure and an allegation made Tuesday 21 June, that it has been hacked is without foundation. Census Director, Glen Watson, said:

“I can reassure the public that their census records are secure. We have strict measures in place protecting the nation’s census information. The claim that hackers got in looks like a hoax and our investigation concluded that there is no sign of any suspicious activity. The alleged hackers have also denied any involvement.

“However, we are not complacent and will remain vigilant. The security and confidentiality of census data remain our top priority."

Meanwhile, the Scotland's Census team are looking for feedback on how the actual census campaign was run - to fill out the online survey visit - you have until July 1st to do so.


New Genes Reunited subscription options

Press notice from Genes Reunited (


Family history enthusiasts no longer have to pay for record sets they don’t use

Genes Reunited, one of the UK’s leading genealogy websites, today launches a set of new payment options that will enable users to tailor their subscription to the record sets they wish to use.

The choice of additional features will mean that members no longer have to pay one lump sum for access to records they have no use for; instead members will now be able to create their own package by adding the record sets they want to use.*

Initially the additional records package will include a collection of migration records, including passenger lists, passport applications and Indian records, with further record sets being added over the coming months.

Genes Reunited provides easy, online access to over 750 million records dating as far back as 1761. This allows family historians and novice genealogists to search for their ancestors among comprehensive collections of military records, census records, migration data, as well as the original comprehensive birth, marriage and death records.

Rhoda Breakell, Head of, says: “The new additional features system will enable members to have more flexibility when researching their family history, without being charged for records that are not relevant to them. Our new packages will make things even easier for family history enthusiasts and at a lower cost to our users.”

* The initial ‘Travel and Overseas’ additional feature package will be priced at £14.95 for 12 months and is available to those who upgrade to the platinum package. Platinum membership currently costs £6.67 per month on a 12-month subscription.

Comment - this threw me for a bit, as I could not see the new option on the GR website, so assume the site will be updated soon.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Tracing Your Cork Ancestors

Thanks to Jim Ryan of Flyleaf Press for alerting me to a new edition of "Tracing Your Cork Ancestors" by Tony McCarthy and Tim Cadogan - you can obtain a copy from

The book is €13 Retail from Ireland and $22 (inc Post/Packing) to US.


Scottish nicknames in Glengarry, Ontario

Dianne Bergstadt has tweeted a link to a site which notes the nicknames used by Scottish settlers who settled in Glengarry County, Ontario. The list was first typed up by Alexa Pritchard, who noted:

"I was given the list 10 years ago by Donald Fraser who is now 97, and is/was the local historian. It was clearly an old list even in 1990, pages are yellowed. I'd lost it in my office papers and it surfaced on the weekend. Too valuable not to be shared."

Only a handful of the names are derived from Gaelic e.g. 'Mary Vech' for Mary MacDonald, which comes from Mary Bheag, Little Mary. Most are English names - eg. John MacDonald known as The Feathery Taylor. All of the aliases can be accessed at

(With thanks to Dianne, @scotsinamerica)


Todd Knowles recognised for Jewish database

From FamilySearch (

FamilySearch’s Todd Knowles Recognized for Contributions to Jewish Genealogy

Todd Knowles, a FamilySearch British reference consultant and Jewish genealogy specialist who works in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, was recently added to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain’s Roll of Honour at their annual meeting in London. Knowles was recognized for his distinguished service in the development and publication of resources relating to the Jews of the British Isles. His free online database (search the Knowles Collection) contains linked and sourced entries for more than 100,000 Jews from the British Isles and over 100,000 Jews from other parts of the world. The online collection provides invaluable information for those researching their Jewish ancestors.

Knowles received the award from Mark Nicholls, chairman of the society. Knowles is the 15th recipient of the distinguished award in the 20-year history of the society. His name will be listed in the West London Synagogue on a wall plaque with previous recipients.

Knowles was surprised by the award and deeply honored. “To be recognized by the people I love so much and respect is overwhelming. The [Knowles] collection started out as my way to get in touch with my ancestry—to learn more about who I am. I continue to be amazed at how it is quickly growing into a large collection representing Jewish communities worldwide,” commented Knowles.


FindmyPast adds militia records

FindmyPast ( has added militia attestation papers to its site from 1806-1915. An index to the British records from 1886-1910 has previously been available on, as well as 1872-1915 for Ireland, but these are the actual documents themselves, and for a considerably longer period, all sourced from WO96 at the National Archives (Kew). Here is the description of the content from the site itself:

What are the Militia Attestation Papers?

These records are brought to you online in association with The National Archives (TNA). The TNA record series number is ‘WO96’: WO simply indicates that the records were created by the War Office, the precursor of today’s Ministry of Defence.

The Militia was a voluntary county-based part-time force for home defence. It ceased to be summoned after the Civil War but was revived in 1757, when the Militia Act established militia regiments in all counties of England and Wales.

Why are these records useful to the family historian?

These records provide rich detail and colour to your ancestors’ lives at a level that is difficult to find elsewhere. Many of your ancestors will have served in the militia, often as a precursor to serving in the British Army so these records will provide a useful addition to our British Army Service Records.

You will often find physical descriptions including distinguishing marks including tattoos. In the absence of photographs, these records are an essential tool in imagining what your ancestors were like - although some of the later records do include photographs. You’ll also be able to see the individual’s signature.

Whereas many other military records provide information about officer class soldiers, these records include papers from ordinary soldiers of other ranks. This makes it more likely that you will be able to find details about your ancestors. If searching the censuses leads to a dead end, it is possible you can find who you are looking for here. Men often attested into one corps and out of another.

What exactly will I be able to find out?

The Militia Attestation Papers provide a record of service as they were annotated until the date of discharge. They also have information about birth date and place.

What else is special about the Militia Attestation Papers?

They contain details which are largely unavailable elsewhere. These records are useful in finding out information about ancestors from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and overseas.

This is the first time these records have been scanned, transcribed and published online.

With thanks to FindmyPast - the search page is available at and a blog post is available at There are half a million records available - including the soldiers' signatures.

Happy hunting! :)


New television and film archive catalogue

Thanks to the Guild of One Name Studies for the heads up on this.

A new federated film and television catalogue has been launched at, which collates the search engines of nine different collections, including the Imperial War Museum, and stretching back to 1896, with some 13 million records. The project is a collaboration between the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) and Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL).

I've already found a useful film listed from 1918 showing the Ruhleben POW camp in Germany - need to pop along to the IWM now to have a look!


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

FIBIS sessions in Edinburgh

From the Families in British India Society (FIBIS)

Edinburgh drop-in surgery

Holy Cross Church Quality Street, Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh, Scotland

FIBIS trustee, Elaine MacGregor, will be giving a general talk and presentation on researching British India family history and afterwards she and other experienced FIBIS members will be holding a FREE drop-in ‘surgery’ to offer advice to anyone wishing for help in furthering their British India family history research.

For directions visit

Start Time: 14:30
Date: 26 JUN 2011

All are welcome at the talk! (FIBIS will also be at the SAFHS conference)

(With thanks to FIBIS)


Monday, 20 June 2011

Cyndi's List upgraded

The mega genealogy listing site Cyndi's List at has just received a major upgrade with several new features. Alona Tester from Australia's Gould Genealogy has all the details at

(Cheers Alona!)


Kelso poor law and ragged school records

A new CD is available from Borders FHS, concerning Kelso Poor Law and Ragged School Records. It costs £10 - for more details, visit


Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre plans revealed

Plans for the new Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre have been unveiled by the National Trust for Scotland. The site is due to open in 2014, in time for the 700th anniversary of the battle. For more, see

I've not heard anything lately about the next Homecoming Scotland event which had also been proposed for 2014 - if anyone knows if this is still on the cards, do please drop me a note!

(With thanks to @ScottishHistory via Twitter)


World Archives Project developments

Ancestry's World Archives Project continues to generate indexes to new collections. I've just checked the latest sit-rep on the site, and a few collections of Scottish interest are coming soon. The Valuation Registers (valuation rolls) project from 1857-1899 for Perth is now at 96% completion - one final push and we'll see this go live folks! lol Don't forget that some additional rolls for Dumfriesshire have been made available by Graham and Emma Maxwell at and that rolls for Glasgow from 1913-14 are freely available also at In due course there are plans for some rolls from 1855-1915 to go online at ScotlandsPeople, hopeefully some time this year. These will be at mid decade intervals (1855, 1865 etc), with censuses providing similar head of household information for records every other five years (1861, 1871 etc). All are digitised and available for the whole period at the National Records of Scotand (

Also coming soon through Ancestry's WAP, having been completed and now 'in processing', are British Postal Service Appointment Books ( and England, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures 1710-1810 - no idea if the latter includes Scotland, and just badly named, or if they've literally confined it to England; if the latter, I think that would be a little odd, as the indexes are mixed for both countries and already available on FindmyPast up to 1774 (sourced from the SoG in London). Will just have to wait and see!


Canadian developments

A couple of quick bits of local news before I head back to Scotland!

Toronto Branch of the OGS is bringing Audrey Collins to speak to them on Monday 19 September 2011. Here's the blurb:

The Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society is pleased to announce a special evening for family historians with British ancestors. Audrey Collins, Family History Specialist at The National Archives, UK, will be presenting a two-part lecture entitled “What’s On at TNA”, commencing at 7:30 p.m. This lecture will be held at the Burgundy Room, North York Memorial Community Hall, 5110 Yonge Street, Toronto, at the North York Centre subway station. Discounts are available for OGS members. For details on cost and how to register for this event, visit

Audrey is a great speaker, I introduced her talk last year at the National Family History Fair, and then enjoyed an hour of some top info about the UK's largest archive - well worth going along. Oh, and did I mention she's a Glaswegian..?! To get a taste, here's an interview I recorded with her at WDYTYA this year in London:

Also from Canada, John Reid from Anglo-Celtic Connections has announced a new blog from BIFHSGO, now available at, and an interview he has recorded with Helen Osborn from Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd. Well worth listening, and don't forget to check out the Pharos site for family history courses on all sorts, including two on Scottish resources, at

(With thanks to Gwyneth Pearce)


Google signs deal with British Library

The British Library and Google have entered into an agreement to digitise 250,000 out of copyright books from between 1700 and 1870, as held by the library in London.

For more on the story visit


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Toronto - days two and three

It's been a busy couple of days here in Toronto. On Thursday evening I started with the two Irish Resources Online sessions, and it ended up as something of a Carrickfergus reunion! A lady called Elayne Lockhart approached me to ask if I knew of a property called Scout Bush in Carrick, and I had to admit that at first I did not, but when she showed me a book about the place, I realised I had actually walked past it for about eight years every day whilst doing a newspaper delivery round as a kid! We were then approached by another lady who said "Scout Bush? You have a connection to Scout Bush?". She too had a link to this part of the town, and as they got talking it transpired that one of them had an ancestor who had bought the property from the other's! The book, incidentally, is called "Scout Bush - the people, the place, their lives", by Ian Alexander.

It reminded me of when I lived in Bristol - as a student I worked in an ASDA store, and whilst serving on a deli counter one day a gent approached to buy some cheese. Noting he had an Ulster accent, I asked where he was from, and it was Belfast. I mentioned being from nearby, and he mentioned he had often gone to Carrick in years past on Sundays and had occasionally had lunch with a lady at a place called Robinson's Row. Yup, my gran! There's a saying about Ulster - everyone knows everyone through everyone else - and that clearly extends to Ulster folk in Toronto also!

The talks went well, and I was delighted with a comment yesterday from someone who also attended the Scots sessions, when she said she'd learned more on doing Irish genealogy in 2 hours than she had in the last 20 years. Och, one tries to help...! :)

Friday provided an opportunity to go up the CN Tower, seriously high, and now offering an option to go for walks outside at the very top with only a safety harness and a clip. Interesting option, but myself and Linda Reid opted instead for a lunch in the restaurant. I managed to see St Andrew's Presbyterian Church from on high, and learned about 'air rights' - buildings selling air space above them as a preservation technique. Skyscrapers everywhere, but a building with the air space above it sold off cannot be knocked down for a higher building to take its place, as the air rights have been sold to the skyscraper building next door. So they may as well keep the church! Brilliantly bonkers, and it works! :)

Yesterday then was the main event, with myself and the wonderful Marian Press and James Thomson talking about all things Caledonian throughout the day to an appreciative audience. I did a Taggart voice when I announced that "There's Been a Murrderrr..." - I think I got away with it! The society had ordered copies of my first two books, but they ended up stuck in customs - but no probs, if you couldn't get one, the society is taking orders, and apparently did well on the pre-sales front, so thanks to anyone who has already picked up copies - I hope they help! I unfortunately did not get to hear Marian's talks as they ran in parallel to mine, but I did catch James' second talk on 'Doing Scottish Genealogy from the GTA'. Some great resources here in Toronto. At one point James mentioned the General View of the Agriculture of... books from the 19th century, each on a different county. Many are on Google Books, and a must have read alongside the Statistical Accounts, but James mentioned there is also a complete run in Toronto - I believe at the University of Toronto Library, but best to check with the Toronto Branch of the OGS, just in case I'm telling porkies and it is somewhere else!

I also managed to catch up with an archivist (and reader of this blog!), who had asked me to go through a will with her mentioning a land arrangement concerning a feu and a trust being set up in Glasgow's Blythswood area, and working through it together we think we've established a possible date of death for one of her ancestors, so nice to get a bit of actual research in also!

After the event, some members of the Toronto Branch of the OGS met for a drink in the hotel I was staying at, including Marian and James, and Linda and Pierce Reid, and we had a good old chinwag on all things Scottish, from restoring castles, the use of tee names and issues surrounding adoption and identity. And some nice wine! I ended the evening with a great meal with Linda and Pierce, where I got a real insight into life in Canada, the various provinces and more.

A brilliant couple of days, but more to come - I'm heading out in a few hours to meet the Scottish Interest Group of the Toronto Branch of the OGS for a brunch, looking forward to it!!

(With thanks to Linda for the pics!)


Thursday, 16 June 2011

BT27 Passenger lists added to Genes Reunited

From Genes Reunited (


* A two year old Elizabeth Taylor, and a 56 year old Alfred Hitchcock found in the records
* 24 million passengers who travelled on long-distance journeys from UK ports
* Records cover the period of mass migration to Australia between 1947-1960

From today people will be able to view passenger lists online at UK family history website, The lists include people onboard ships departing British ports for long-distance voyages across the world from 1890 to 1960.

The passenger list records offer a range of information from simply the passenger's name and age, to much more detailed information; the departure and destination ports, the ship's name, date of travel as well as actual descriptions of the passengers themselves, such as, UK address, year of birth, marital status, occupation and nationality. Through these records it is possible to find some truly unique information about ancestors who voyaged overseas.

As well as the range of detail that can be found in these records, there are also some famous names which can be discovered, in particular Hollywood royalty such as a two year old Elizabeth Taylor, a 56 year old Alfred Hitchcock, a 22 year old Audrey Hepburn and finally a four year old Olivia Newton-John who was on her way from London to Australia.

Some shipping lines produced passenger lists in duplicate or even triplicate for the Board of Trade. This means that there can be two or even three originals of some of the passenger lists within the BT27 series. Such duplicates were written out again by hand (not produced using carbon paper). The differences between these different copies of the same list are usually cosmetic but there are sometimes also minor differences in content or in the Board of Trade's annotations or stamps upon them.

These duplicate lists have been scanned to preserve the integrity of the BT27 dataset. Researchers should note that this means that occasionally you may see two entries for the same individual which correspond to two different original copies of the same list.
A solution is being designed so that customers will only be charged once for the information contained within these duplicate pages.

The passenger records cover the period of mass migration to Australia between 1947 and 1960 when an estimated 710,000 people travelled there from Great Britain. This 'golden age' of migration to Australia was prompted by the launch of the Government's 'Ten Pound Pom' scheme to encourage Britons to emigrate to Australia and enhance the nation's skilled workforce driving its economy forwards.

Similarly to today, the records reveal a high number of retirees also travelled to Australia to spend the rest of their lives in the sun, with 17,385 retirees emigrating from the UK during the 1950s. Furthermore, 140,511 housewives travelled to Australia in the same decade. The records also show that there were 58 divorcees and 215 widowers listed who may have journeyed to the country to make a fresh start.

Rhoda Breakell, head of Genes Reunited, comments: "The wealth of passenger list records now available on Genes Reunited is an invaluable resource for people tracing relatives they believe may have left the UK from 1890 onwards. The passenger records may very well provide a missing link for many family historians who have hit a brick wall in their research, as well as helping those outside of the UK to trace back to their British and European heritage."

The easily-searchable and user-friendly database will enable would-be genealogists and family historians alike to view digitised images of the original ship passenger records online, which contain over 1.1 million pages, listing the 24 million passengers who travelled on long-distance journeys from UK ports.

Comment: The records have previously been available for some time on and on a dedicated site,

(With thanks to Natasha White at Genes Reunited)


Bound for Botany Bay - UTP Expo in Queensland

Unlock the Past's Queensland Expo is on June 21st in Cairns, with a special feature being Mark Cryle's talk "Bound for Botany Bay: the Irish in Australia in Story and Song". The company has released a short video tease, based on Mark's talk recently at Coff's Harbour - well worth watching, and well worth attending by the looks of it!


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Toronto trip - day one

Well I've arrived safely after a good flight (arriving an hour early!), and was met by Linda and Pierce Reid of the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, who kindly brought me to the hotel where I am staying at in North York. We had a brief chat about researching family history in Canada, where I learned that the country can be quite strict on various issues concerning privacy and records releases. One particular impact from that was the 2011 census, which had a short form and long form, the long version being the one with all the info but which was not compulsory - John Reid has blogged quite a bit on this before on his excellent Anglo-Celtic Connections blog, so I was vaguely familiar with the story, but had not realised just how big an issue privacy can be here. (We're extremly lucky in Scotland on that front!).

Having checked in I then spent the afternoon doing what any self-respecting full blooded Ulsterman would do - I went for a dander (for the unwary, that basically means going for a walk and seeing what happens!). Within ten minutes I had stumbled across a graveyard - York Cemetery and Visitation Centre - so clearly the genealogical imperative kicked in and I had to take a peak. I came across a Sherman tank inside the grounds, acting as a war memorial, and several Scots graves - the following had this inscription, which I thought was a tad sweet:

Till the seas gang dry my dear,
And the rock melts wi' th sun,
Oh, I will love thee still my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run

This was found on a plaque commemorating an Edinburgh man born in 1890 who passed away in Toronto some years ago. I took a few photos, but will have to upload these when I get back as I've left the thingummyjig to connect the camera to the laptop back in Largs!

Looking forward to the two Irish sessions tomorrow evening!

Oidhche mhath! :)


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Toronto bound...

I'll be heading off to Canada early tomorrow morning in order to visit the Toronto branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (, where I will be giving a series of talks on Thursday (Irish Resources Online) and Saturday (four Scottish based talks on God, land, weaving and murder!). I'm very much looking forward to going, to meeting members of the society and hopefully to reporting on any developments of interest on the blog either whilst there or when I return. Not quite sure how frequently I may be able to post, but will do my best to keep you up to date with anything I come across whilst away!

If any Icelandic volcanoes plan on erupting over the next few days, please do reconsider...

A quick reminder that the SAFHS annual conference is next week, on June 25th in Edinburgh, with more info available at I sent off a cheque for my ticket yesterday, so hope to be there for the talks (particularly the two church records based talks!) and to visit some stalls, so hopefully I may see some of you there!


Monday, 13 June 2011

BBC TV Centre up for sale

Based in London, the BBC's Television Centre, the main hub of the BBC's UK broadcasting operation since 1960, is now officially up for sale. For full details of the announcement visit


Film stars directories on Ancestry



Thousands of stars of the early silver screen detailed in Motion Picture Studio Directories – online today at

* Includes records of Charlie Chaplin, “Fatty” Arbuckle and Oliver Hardy
* Directories reveal ‘vital statistics’ stars probably didn’t want you to know…, the UK’s favourite family history website, has launched online records of the original Hollywood film studios, which profile the superstars of silent cinema at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Motion Picture Studio Directories feature thousands of leading actors, actresses cinematographers, writers, editors, directors, producers and screenwriters of the day – at a time when cinemas were selling more than 100 million tickets a week.

Actors’ entries include details of past film roles, age, birthplace, physical description (including weight for most female entries), other personal details and even a home phone number in some cases. The biggest stars often paid to include photos in order to attract greater interest from film executives (images available).

The records are littered with recognisable names such as British-born Charlie Chaplin, who reached the height of his fame during the silent film era by using mime and slapstick to great effect. His records describe him as 5’ 4” with brown hair and blue eyes, and list his address as the Charlie Chaplain Film Co on La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles. By 1921 (aged 32), he labels himself a producer/director, and interestingly his record states his birthplace as Paris rather than Walworth in London.

In fact, several actors omitted or amended their information to make them more marketable. The entry for one of the most famous of all silent movie actresses, Gloria Swanson, has the date of birth omitted, despite being just 32 at the time, and Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle - one of the highest paid actors of the silent era - has a number of facts excluded, notably his weight.

Much like today’s online film and actors database IMDB, the directories were compiled by executives of the ‘big five’ studios – Warner Bros, FPL Corp (Paramount), RKO, MGM and 20th Century Fox. ‘Up & coming’ studios also contributed to the records, among them Universal, Columbia and United Artists.

Digitised in partnership with California State Library (where the originals ledgers are held), the records are now fully searchable online for the first time by name, birthplace and date of birth.

Some further famous names listed include:

• Oliver Hardy – The ‘big man’ of comedy double act Laurel & Hardy, Hardy appeared in hundreds of films in a career spanning over 30 years. His directory entry includes his industry nickname ‘Babe’, his unusual height for the era (6’1”) and weight (350lbs/25st).

• Lillian Gish – One of the leading actresses of the silent era and considered to be one of the greatest of all time, Gish played a lead character in The Birth of a Nation – the largest grossing of all silent movies, which made an estimated $10 million in 1915.

• Buster Keaton – Known for his constantly stoic, deadpan expression during his comedy appearances, Keaton earned the nickname “The Great Stone Face”. He is listed as having taken part in military service, fighting for the US in WWI. It is during his service that Keaton developed an ear infection which left his hearing permanently impaired.

• Mary Pickford – Known as the “American Sweetheart” or “Girl with the Curls”, Pickford was a world-renowned actress. Her records detail her career starting as early as five-years-old and list her address as 4500 Sunset Boulevard, LA. International Content Director Dan Jones comments: “These records paint an intriguing picture of how the early film industry operated and include some of the first and biggest names ever to appear on the silver screen.

“It’s fascinating to see the details that would have been kept reserved for film executives of the day and perhaps the details within might provide the link needed to prove your relation to a film executive, famous director or even one many movie stars found in the directories.”

The collection can be accessed at

(With thanks to Annabel at Ancestry)


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Agricultural labourers - balancing the books in Perthshire

If you've ever wondered who much an agricultural labourer earned in the 1790s, visit my other blog at to see the income and expenditure of a labourer from Auchterarder with a wife and seven children in the 1790s. The costs of items and ages varied across the country of course, but find out how to check out your area of interest in the post!


Alyth burials transcriptions completed

Alyth Family History Project has completed a database of 1700 burial records transcriptions. The Perthshire project can help if no headstone has been erected, but if a stone is present, this has also been transcribed. Based at Alyth parish kirk, the database can be accessed at the site from 10am to 12pm on Saturdays and 2-4pm on Sundays. Also available are old parish records on microfilm dating from 1623 to 1854 and an archive of 5000 photos.

For more on the story visit The Courier's coverage at - for Alyth Family History Project visit

(With thanks to @HebConnections on Twitter)


Eneclann half price sale

Irish vendor Eneclann is holding a half price sale until tomorrow (Sunday) of several products to celebrate the launch of its new website. For more visit

(With thanks to Eneclann)


Friday, 10 June 2011

Wicklow marriages to go online

Just picked up on a tweet from RootsIreland that 95,000 County Wicklow marriage records have just gone online at from both the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland faiths. I've had a look and can only see birth/baptismal records and Griffiths Valuation records for the county on the site, so assume that the marriages will be going online imminently.

(With thanks to @rootsireland)


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Win a copy of my internet book

This one's easy - Your Family History magazine is offering a copy of my new Tracing Your Family History on the Internet book in a competition once it has reached 1300 fans on its Facebook page!

The magazine's page is at - keep your eyes peeled for details, the competition will be very soon - they are currently at 1249 followers!

Good luck to the winner!


Free access to 1911 English & Welsh census

The 1911 census for England and Wales is now freely available in a restricted form via the FamilySearch website at

A returned search will list name, age, gender, birthplace and registration district where recorded for the census. No indication of others present in the household is provided, nor is this possible as the source information is not included. In an example, I looked up my great grandfather's brother, James Paton. It states he was 50, male, born in "Lanark, Glaslow" (sic) and resident in the registration district of Croydon, sub-district of South Croydon. For all results, a link will take you to the FindmyPast website ( and access to the original image and full details, for the requisite fee. Nevertheless, if you wish to make an initial enquiry concerning someone's presence in an area, a useful tool.

It is worth pointing out that a free search can be done on FindmyPast itself without logging in, but all that is returned is name, age and registration district, so the FamilySearch site does offer the advantage of listing place of birth also.

(With thanks to John Reid's Anglo-Celtic Connections blog)


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Edinburgh City Archives temporary closure

With thanks to Beryl Evans from the Federation of Family History Societies ( for the following:

Would you please circulate to any readers who may be wishing to visit the searchroom of Edinburgh City Archives ( that we will be closed from Thursday 28th July 2011 until Tuesday 11th October 2011. This is to allow us to move the majority of our archival holdings from our existing out-store accommodation to a new substantially improved, customised facility. This will be of great benefit to our users, and to the service itself.

People can still contact us for information and advice on 0131 529 4616 or email us at

Many thanks, Vikki Kerr


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Find My Past - the TV series

Today's Media Guardian is reporting that Lion Television is to make a ten part television series for digital channel Yesterday, part of UKTV, entitled Find My Past. From the Guardian article:

"Each week the show, which is being made by independent producer Lion Television, will use the website to focus on a famous moment – such as Dunkirk or the Jack the Ripper attacks – to connect "three seemingly unrelated members of the public".

The show will be the UK's first series to feature product placement, and is sponsored by Brightsolid,'s parent company.

For more on the story visit

(With thanks to @GuildOneName on twitter)

UPDATE: here's the press release!

UKTV signs first ever product placement deal with Brightsolid for Yesterday

• PP deal involves interactive placement for
• Carrying it’s sponsor’s name, Find My Past is UKTV’s biggest co-funded AFP
• 10x60” series is Yesterday’s highest volume commission to date

Award winning broadcaster, UKTV, has inked its first product placement (PP) deal with brightsolid for its free to air factual channel, Yesterday. This agreement will see the online publisher’s genealogy sites receive interactive placement within a brand new 10x60” history series commissioned exclusively by Yesterday.

Produced by Lion Television, Find My Past is Yesterday’s highest volume commission to date. It will be co-funded by the brightsolid-owned family history site and Britain’s most popular history channel in what is UKTV’s biggest advertiser funded programme (AFP) deal ever. Premiering in Q4 2011 exclusively on Yesterday, each of the ten hour long episodes of Find My Past will focus on a well-known moment in British history and use genealogy to connect three seemingly unrelated members of the public to that very familiar event, be it the evacuation of Dunkirk, the sinking of the Titantic or the Jack the Ripper attacks in Victorian London.

This high-profile PP and AFP deal has been put together by UKTV’s Head of Commercial Partnerships, Sally Quick, with brightsolid online publishing’s Marketing Director, John Robertson, alongside Zenith Optimedia’s Managing Partner, Tim Brady. The ten part series has been commissioned by UKTV’s Director of Commissioning, Jane Rogerson, and UKTV’s Commissioning Editor, Catherine Catton, who will also be executively producing the series with Lion TV’s David Upshal.

UKTV’s Sally Quick says, “ already has a strong commercial association with us as Yesterday’s main sponsor, so finding and developing a fresh genealogy TV format to co-fund has been a natural next step.”

Quick continues, “Born out of what was originally an AFP deal, Yesterday’s Find My Past offers brightsolid the perfect product placement opportunity as we’re able to seamlessly integrate its websites into the content via interactive exposure by the contributors themselves.”

Brightsolid’s John Robertson comments, “Connecting people and places is at the heart of our business, so this investigative, historical format with a gripping human interest storyline is a natural fit with As a company with pioneering family history brands, we’re very exciting to be leading the way in advertising funded programming.”

UKTV’s deal with brightsolid will incorporate integrated sponsor titles and end credits, branded beginning and end of parts (a total of eight BOPs and EOPs per episode), front of screen exposure in every show, alongside branding on all online activity and marketing materials associated with the brand new Yesterday series.

In each of the ten episodes of Find My Past, three members of the public are brought to a particular location and told that they have an ancestral link with that place and to each other, before they are tasked with researching their family trees and discovering their shared connections ahead of the final reveal. For instance, Yesterday’s Dunkirk episode - much filmed on and around the beach itself - will focus on one of the 850 vessels hastily assembled to evacuate the 338,226 troops stranded at Dunkirk, and will re-connect descendants of that particular boat’s owner, a rescued soldier and a soldier from the same platoon who perished on the beach before being rescued.

UKTV’s Catherine Catton adds, “The wonderful thing about Lion’s brilliant new genealogy format is that it makes familiar historical moments three dimensional. By selecting one moment and finding three real, personal perspectives on the same story, this series will bring key events from Britain’s past to life in a way that Yesterday viewers will love.”

Since launching in March 2009, Yesterday has grown to become the UK's favourite factual channel, three times the size of Discovery Channel and with a weekly reach of 7.8million viewers. Yesterday has increased its viewing share by +75% year on year (2010 vs 2009) and climbed ten places up the channel ranks to assume a top 20 channel position, beating BBC4, Quest and The History Channel. Some of Yesterday's highest rating programmes are its commissions. First Day of the Blitz peaked at 389,000 viewers while Battlefield Britain attracted a particularly upmarket audience with a 59% ABC1 profile.

(With thanks to Amy Sell and Katie Hayward)


Further news on British Library newspapers

I recently flagged up that the new British Library Newspapers website at has listed several projects being digitised from England for the first phase of its releases in Autumn, but none from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland (see

On the back of this I emailed FindmyPast to find out if Scotland and the other non-English countries of the United Kingdom would be represented on the site in autumn in the first phase. FMP kindly contacted their British Library contacts to try to clarify the situation further and received the following statement:

“At this time it is our intention to make available a wide range of titles covering most parts of the UK, including titles from each home country. Further information on these titles will be given out nearer the launch.”

I have to say that is not exactly a definitive confirmation from the British Library of any additional content, merely an 'intention', and 'at this time'. All we can do is wait and see what happens.

(With thanks to FindmyPast)


FamilySearch batch numbers return

FamilySearch ( recently reinvented its website, and in the process annoyed just about everyone who believed in the mantra "If it isn't broken, don't fix it". One of the biggest complaints from many was the removal of the batch number field from the original version of the website, which was handy if you wished to search within a parish for all occurrences of a particular surname. You simply typed in the surname, place and batch number, and then clicked search and voila.

Thankfully FamilySearch has listened and has now reinstated the batch number field into the new version of the site. In fact clicking on the batch number, presented as a hyperlink, provides a listing of everyone's record photographed for that batch, which could be useful if you simply wanted to start at the surnames beginning with an A and then work your way through!

Hugh Wallis's IGI batch numbers site at allows you to search for the relevant batch number for a parish in Scotland (and elsewhere), and to perform a search from there, with the results linked to the results page of old FamilySearch, still temporarily available. Whether in time this will be redirected to the new site is not known, but at least the site is no longer in danger of going redundant in identifying relevant batch numbers for online use. The Scots Origins website ( also has a similar search function, allowing you to look for baptism and marriages at the parish level, using the batch numbers, but in this case with the numbers hidden and only the parishes identified by name. Again, this is directing searches to results returned on the old site, and I have no knowledge as to whether that in time will also be redirected to the new FamilySearch site also.

(With thanks to Peter Calver's Lost Cousins newsletter)


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Embezzlement at National Library

A member of the IT staff at the National Library of Scotland ( has pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to embezzling half a million pounds of money from the budget to digitise the library's holdings. 33 year old Edinburgh based David Dinham stole the money over a four year period between September 2006 and June 2010, though precise details on how the crime was carried out have yet to be revealed.

The Scotsman has the story at In the piece Martyn Wade, national librarian and chief executive of the NLS, is quoted as saying the following: "This was a complex and sophisticated crime committed by a senior manager and budget holder who had a detailed knowledge of internal processes and procedures. Our systems identified discrepancies and as soon as these were confirmed, appropriate action was taken and the police were notified. Internal procedures were immediately reviewed and strengthened. A planned upgrade to a new financial system has recently been completed, which should prevent any future misappropriation of this kind. To date, over £146,000 of stolen funds has been recovered and the National Library of Scotland is continuing legal proceedings to recover as many funds as possible."

No longer employed by the NLS, Dinham is now facing prison, though sentencing has been delayed until June 21st in order for background reports to be carried out on him.

Comment: Considering how important the NLS's digitisation programme is for all of us in Scotland researching our family histories, this is indeed a series blow to the library's project. However, with a glass half full approach, I personally think that whilst some money-grabbing piece of filth wants to better his lifestyle by illegally appropriating money for his gain from the tax money paid by you and I, there are also decent hard working folk at the NLS who spotted the irregularities and contacted the police. To them should go our utmost thanks. Let's sincerely hope it does not happen again, and that this has not in any way damaged the library's digitisation programme.

The story has also been picked up by the BBC and the Daily Record.

(With thanks to the EOGN Newsletter for the original story spot)


Friday, 3 June 2011

Celia Heritage joins Pharos Tutors

I'm delighted to say that Celia Heritage is joining us on the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Limited ( tutorial team. Here's the official word from the latest Pharos newsletter:

We are welcoming a new tutor to the Pharos team! Celia Heritage, as well as having a very appropriate name, comes to us with over 25 years of experience in family history.

Celia is a regular lecturer at the Society of Genealogists in London, Canterbury Cathedral Archives and the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies in Canterbury. She could also be heard speaking at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? at Olympia, where she lectured and took part in expert advice sessions.
Celia is quite a media star as a regular contributor to family history magazines and radio shows, so we are delighted she is also finding the time to join the Pharos team of tutors!

We’ll publish details of Celia’s course shortly, but can reveal it will be based around local history. Celia will also be helping us to develop some further courses.

To learn more about Celia, take a look at her website at:

I had the pleasure of having a meal with Celia and a few other genies recently in London at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, and without a doubt I can say that we were all equally astounded that she has single handedly cornered the market on genealogically appropriate surnames!

A top genie with bags of experience - keep an eye on for more news soon on Celia's courses, but also to check out other course offerings from Sherry Irvine (Ireland and migration), Helen Osborn (one name studies and professional genealogy), Gill Blanchard (various), Jeremy Palmer (Australian), Simon Fowler (military), Guy Crannum (Caribbean and TNA), Hannah Baker (get the kids involved), Barbara Baker (FamilySearch), Chris Pomery (DNA), Brian Drescher (wring family history), Ruth Davies (old handwriting), Liz Carter (various) and some wee shug from Largs going by the name of Paton (Scotland)!


Easyjet - cheap flights for Titanic exhibition

Just got this from Easyjet ( for anyone in Scotland interested in seeing the Titanic exhibition at Cultra:

Belfast from £25.99* one way

Visit Belfast for a picturesque location, sparkling new developments and a top festival scene. The cultural offering is also second to none - make sure you don't miss a hundred years of TITANICa at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum! We fly to Belfast from Edinburgh and Glasgow, from £25.99*.

*Price one way, inc. taxes. For travel between 16 June and 31 July 2011.

For more information on Titanic visit

Tempted to go... my great great grandfather helped to build the thing!


PRONI exhibition on a century of conflict and change

Thanks to Gavin McMahon at PRONI ( for the following:

Launch of PRONI Exhibition – A century of change, conflict and transformation

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is pleased to announce the opening of its first exhibition at the new state-of-the-art Headquarters in Titanic Quarter, Belfast. The exhibition entitled 'A Century of Change, Conflict and Transformation' covers the period 1911 up until the present day, and depicts not just changes in society but also changes in the records that we keep. The exhibition opened at PRONI on 25th May, and runs until 2012.

The exhibition touches upon the major events of the period and makes particular reference to the themes of governance, leisure, economy and society. There is a centrepiece display on the Blitz experience in Northern Ireland, which includes a replica Anderson Shelter. The exhibition also charts the changes in the type of media used to record information over the years and how the digital age may affect how future generations access their 'history'. Starting with 1911 diaries, it concludes with social network blogs.

Director of PRONI, Aileen McClintock said: “The exhibition showcases some of the treasures contained within the archives held by PRONI. It is a tremendous opportunity to display the archival heritage of Northern Ireland in this dedicated exhibition space. It marks an opportunity for us to reach out to whole new audiences such as school groups who will be able to see actual archive material on display. We would encourage anybody with an interest to come and visit the exhibition. There is something for everybody, from World War 2 ration books to photographs of the Delorean sports car”.

The exhibition comprises storyboards, interactive audio visual content and three cabinets displaying original documents and artefacts. Particular documents of interest include a diary of Molly Duffin containing a narrative of day to day life of a 19 year old girl growing up in Belfast in 1911; World War II pilot’s log book and medals of Wing Commander Ken McKenzie; applications to work in Northern Ireland (under the New Industries Act) received from Austrian Jews escaping persecution in Europe; correspondence relating to the debate on Capital Punishment.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

South Ayrshire History Fair

The South Ayrshire History Fair will take place in the Walker Halls, Troon on Saturday 4th June 2011 from 9.00am-4.00pm.

Speakers for the day will be :

* Tom Barclay, Local Studies Librarian, South Ayrshire Council.
* Dr John Burnett, Curator of Scottish Ethnology, National Museums of Scotland.
* Dr Matthew Hammond, Lecturer in Scottish History, University of Edinburgh.
* George Geddes, Archaeological Investigator with the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and co – author of “The Archaeological Landscape of Bute” RCAHMS 2010.

There will also be a range of stalls available from 9.00am-4.30pm, including Family History Societies, Local and National History Organisations and professional and commercial businesses.

For more information visit

(With thanks to @RCAHMS on Twitter)


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Discover my Past Scotland 32 on sale

The latest Discover my Past Scotland (issue 32, June 2011) is now on sale, packed with the usual goodies of Caledonian class!

This month:

Park life - a breath of fresh air for our ancestors
Back to school - Scottish public school records
Family history in Brisbane (yours truly tracks down Paton ancestry in Queensland!)
Wick's Past - preserved for the future
Steps to trace relatives in the shoemaking trade
Spotlight on - Galashiels
Expert Q&A
Family history newsround, library and events

Downloadable on PDF for your tablet or computer, or readable online at, for just £2.50 of Her Brittanic Majesty's finest coin!