Thursday, 31 May 2012

Irish News + Other Stuff

Bad news from Ireland, with the suspension of the National Archives' free genealogy service - details available from Claire Santry's blog. The same blog also brings us another update to the Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives.

More data has been made available at FindMyPast Ireland's website re. Ireland's Petty Sessions Order Books.

A brief (and not altogether favourable) review of the new Kent Library & History Centre is online here.

Interesting bit of news about DNA and genealogy from blogger Dick Eastman.

The seventh (and last) in the series of PRONI/OUI lectures, entitled 'Families', is now online at PRONI's YouTube Channel - click here for part 1. You can easily negotiate your way to the other parts (and the other lectures) via this link.

GenesReunited have published a comprehensive update on changes to their 'search' procedures.

Great spot by @BMSGH on Twitter: Old Bailey Online.

An easily overlooked source for the family historian is highlighted here.

The HistoryToday Magazine is now available in a number of digital formats - see here.

I order you all to sign this petition to help save history on BBC4!

Finally, it's not very genealogical, but as a rambler, map-lover and historian, I love this piece on trig points.

More news at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Interesting point made in this article about...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Family History Quiz

In the distinct absence of major family history news this week, I have decided to lay before you one of the quizzes from my Family & Local History Quiz Book. I will spare you any excessive sales blurb, but if you want to purchase a copy of the publication then click on the image in the right-hand side bar (prices start from a mere £1.90).

This quiz is categorised in the book as 'General Family History - Moderate'. Scroll down for the answers.

1.          In what year did parish registers commence in England & Wales?
2.          What is known as an “admon”?
3.          In which year did Hardwick’s Marriage Act come into force?
4.          In a parish register, what name is often shortened to “Jno”?
5.          What can be attached to a will in order to slightly change it?
6.          Which well-known genealogical organisation was founded in 1911?
7.          Between 1754 and 1837, all marriages had to take place in a Church of England church, except those of Jews and __________ ?
8.          Rose’s Act of 1812 brought in the use of what from 1st January 1813?
9.          What is palaeography?
10.        What is a “contiguous” parish?
11.        When was adoption recognised by English law?
12.        What is an “annuitant”?
13.        Which national genealogical organisation was founded in 1961 in Kent?
14.        What is a “CARN” card?
15.        What is an “indenture”?
16.        Which famous genealogical guild was founded in 1979?
17.        What is meant by the term “patronymic”?
18.        What does AGRA stand for?
19.        What work is commonly known as the “DNB”?
20.        What is a “toponymic” surname?


1. 1538
2. A Grant of Letters of Administration when a person dies without a will
3. 1754
4. John
5. Codicil
6. The Society of Genealogists
7. Quakers
8. Pre-printed bound volumes for the separate recording of baptisms, marriages and burials
9. The study of old handwriting
10. A neighbouring (bordering) parish
11. 1927
12. Someone in receipt of an annual sum of money, usually from a private settlement
13. The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies
14. ‘County Archive Research Network’ card – needed to use many of the UK’s record offices and archives
15. A formal agreement for the hiring of a servant or apprentice, or, sometimes, an agreement concerning property
16. The Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS)
17. A surname derived from a father’s first name (e.g. Robertson)
18. Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives
19. Dictionary of National Biography
20. One derived from a place-name

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Events this Coming Weekend

What, with it being the Jubilee weekend and all, there's not a huge amount happening events-wise - but here are a few bits and pieces (including a rare appearance by myself!):

Good news from The National Archives website, with the announcement that the 'Opening Up Archives' project is to be extended.

Here's a nice family history-related story from Scotland, and the new Forth Rail Bridge Memorial.

A second series of the Find My Past TV show is being planned - see here.

Are you slightly confused about the recent announcement from FamilySearch re. the IGI? Here are a few valid points from blogger Chris Paton.

Chris also brings to our attention a useful website dedicated to the history of the Irish postal service.

For those who aren't aware of it, here's a great website about WWI (website currently being re-jigged).

I like this write-up about what is allegedly the world's oldest surviving wooden church.

OK, so I'm a bit late with this one, but it seems that you can get yourself a 10% discount on any FindMyPast subscription at the moment by using the code SUB10 at checkout. So get yourself to their website at, have a look around, then consider subscribing using the said code.

Epitaph of an infant, 8 months old:

Since I have been so quickly done for,
I wonder what I was begun for.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Plenty of Reading

Many of you may remember my short article on the subject of 'The English Diaspora' (see here). Well, the organisation concerned has published its May newsletter - click here and follow the relevant link.

The latest Parish Chest Newsletter is now available - remember to scroll down for all the new releases.

The latest Eneclann Newsletter has also been released, with its county focus on Kildare and Meath.

Another newsletter to hit the market is the British Library's 'Preservation Advisory Centre' bulletin.

Gresham College (London) has issued its list of free public lectures & events for June.

More entertainment is available via the latest TNA Podcast (colonial records).

The Two Nerdy History Girls have their regular round-up of history links, here.

A couple of pieces of Irish news from Claire Santry:

FamilySearch have made a long-overdue alteration to their online IGI - see here. Another interesting development at FamilySearch is the 'My Source Box' - announcement here.

Blogger Dick Eastman has brought to our attention an interesting video for the 'techies' among you relating to the computing power behind the genea giant brightsolid - see his post here.

The Ulster Historical Foundation/BooksIreland have a list of discounted books.

A fair few other interesting news items and stories are available via the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

From Whitby Churchyard:

Sudden and unexpected was the end
Of our esteemed and beloved friend;
He gave all his friends a sudden shock,
By one day falling into Sunderland Dock.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Something for the Weekend 10

This week we look at the influence of those who went before us …

In the Shadow of Our Forebears

Every living person feels a connection to their ancestors. This sometimes awkward, sometimes reinforcing emotion (if one can call it that) shapes our lives, moulds our personalities and has a major influence, in turn, on the way in which society as a whole perceives us. Rightly or wrongly, we are judged, to a large extent, by our family background. But what if your family tree was rooted in pure evil?

This question was brought sharply into focus this week by an excellent BBC documentary, Hitler’s Children, in which the lives of the living descendants of some of the Nazi regime’s most heinous figures were scrutinised. It was a thought-provoking exercise in family and social dynamics, as the relatives of Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Hans Frank, Rudolf Hoess and Amon Goeth laid bare their innermost thoughts (still available on the BBCiPlayer until 30th May). 

Quite apart from the high drama and mixed emotions of the men and women who were subject to the programme’s probings, the whole idea of the carrying forward of responsibility and guilt from one generation to the next provided a fascinating philosophical quandary. Such private feelings are, perhaps, understandable, but what of the judgement and opinions of others? Is it fair for society to judge individuals on the reputation of their ancestors?

Conversely, why are we so proud of our ancestors when we discover that they have been especially good, proved themselves to be an asset to society, or simply triumphed over adversity? OK, then, pride, I suppose, is fine; but so often we bask in their achievements - their glory, even – in a manner in which we have no right to. No right at all.

The five German descendants talked of ‘carrying guilt’, being ‘ashamed of who they are’, and even of not being to ‘trust’ the German people – and this from a German! One man, the grandson of Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Hoess, squirmed uncomfortably in front of a roomful of Jewish students in the grounds of the present-day ‘museum’. In what amounted to a cathartic release for the poor chap, the viewer was left to ask, simply: why? He even stated that he often thought that the meaning of his very existence was to carry the burden of guilt on his grandfather’s behalf. It was all very strange.

Throughout history, the individual has always been judged on the reputation of their forebears. The feudal system, the class system, one’s ‘breeding’ – men and women (and children) have always suffered, or benefited, from the actions, reputation and standing of former kin. These days, we usually manage to get over it, of course, but we shouldn’t have to.

So don’t be ashamed of your ancestral heritage, nor too proud. It has nothing to do with you.

Mick Southwick

If you’d like to write a piece for the ‘Something for the Weekend’ feature, run it past me - I'd really like to hear from you. There is no need to be an expert, a published author, or qualified in any way. You just need to have something interesting to say – or maybe you’d like to promote a product, a research technique or even show off your expertise! And you can even give something a little ‘plug’ if you wish (a book, or whatever). Get in touch with me at . Oh, and it’s OK to be controversial!

Friday, 25 May 2012

S&N Newsletter + Queen Vic Bonanza

First up is another great e-newsletter from the folks at S&N Genealogy - their 'Jubilee Edition' can be found here. Lots of items of interest, especially for English researchers + a couple of Scottish items, and there are some articles + an offer or two in there as well (BTW, no, I don't have a vested interest in the company, but I just like their newsletter!).

More Queen Victoria stuff has popped up online. Best way in is to follow this link to TNA's latest announcement, where you will find other leads to follow (including the splendid new 'private journals' website!).

Thanks to Philippa McCray of the FFHS and her informer for pointing out this course at Keele University which is of great interest to family historians.

Are you curious about who may be considered the greatest ever world leader with Irish roots? If so, take a look at this from FMP Ireland.

Here's an odd one: a 'Genealogy Bus Trip' of Ireland (well, a bit of it, anyway). How interesting!

Some of you may wish to have a browse of the latest special offers from Pen & Sword Books.

Thanks to @GuildOneName on Twitter for flagging this website on English place-names.

Addendum to yesterday's post re. Ancestry from Arthur Kennedy:

I was interested to see your note on BI-Gen about the Poll Books at Ancestry. As far as I can make out they will be the ones that used to be at the Guildhall Library, and according to the entries in the Gibson Guide to Poll Books, this should include a fair smattering from all over the country. I was pleased to find the 1818 Poll Book for Hull - not many places have a copy, and there aren't any modern transcripts/copies of it. One of my ancestors went from Leeds to vote in Hull, and subsequently disappeared, according to a notice in the Leeds Intelligencer from the beginning of 1819. Now I know that he made it as far as Hull and cast his vote - even though the question remains of what happened next.

- thanks Arthur. Oh, and there's more comment on the topic from John D Reid, here.

Finally, here's the usual Friday helping from the BBC's HistoryExtra website:

(strangely, one TV programme not listed in the 'On Demand' section is the excellent Hitler's Children - please try to catch it on the BBC iPlayer if you can, as it's all about family history. Look out for a short follow-up article regarding the same on the BI-Gen Blog tomorrow)

More news and other bits & bobs at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Epitaph to a glutton?

Here lies Johnny Cole,
Who died, on my soul,
After eating a plentiful dinner;
While chewing his crust,
He was turn'd into dust,
With his crimes undigested, poor sinner!

[unknown location]

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bits from Ancestry and Ireland

The more observant among you may have noticed the appearance of another record set on Ancestry. As their 'updates page' states, this is described as 'UK, Poll Books and Electoral Registers, 1538-1893.' Various commentators have tried to ascertain exactly what is included within the same, but as the data-set was complied from the holdings of the London Metropolitan Archives, I think you get the general idea - basically, English records, primarily from the south-east (but not exclusively). May be worth a quick rummage.

A couple of sources (bloggers Chris Paton and Claire Santry) have flagged another forthcoming event of note: a Book & Map Fair on Monday 4th June at the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Co.Meath - see here. BTW, Claire also mentions a couple of Irish local history courses/schools coming up later this year, here and here.

Might as well stay in Ireland for this really interesting YouTube video about how historians have recreated records 'lost' in the infamous bombardment of the Four Courts in 1922.

An interesting item has popped up on the Family Tree Magazine blog about the so-called 'Nation of Storytellers' project by self-publishing outfit Blurb (closing date is 31st May).

Those keen for as much Jubilee news as they can get their hands on may wish to take a look at the latest announcement from TNA re. relics of Queen Victoria's two big days in 1887 and 1897.

More news and stories available via the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Simpler times...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Libraries Given Prime Time Slot

The recent trend of library closures, campaigns against said closures and volunteer efforts in the field were featured last night on the BBC's One Show - see here (3mins in). Nice to see the subject matter make it into such a prominent time slot.

Following on from their recent 'Nurses' records release (see yesterday), FindMyPast have unveiled another batch of records today - namely, this little lot for Suffolk and NW Kent.

FindMyPast Ireland takes a look at the country's Petty Sessions Order Books in this helpful article.

Not sure how long this has been out, but I've just noticed that the May issue of the ScotlandsPeople Newsletter is now available.

Ancestry have updated their 'National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966', so it may be worth rechecking the same for any entries pertaining to your own research.

The 'Uncovering Our Connemara Roots' event in Clifden is highlighted by blogger Claire Santry. Oh, and Claire also brings us a little taster of forthcoming Irish bits and pieces, here.

The June issue of BBC History Magazine is now on the market.

The latest Podcast from the HistoryToday Magazine's website is available here.

Ruth Blair provides a whistle-stop tour of the archives of the English-speaking world, here, where you may find a lead or two to follow.

Teesside University Library will be closed from tomorrow, 24th May, whilst the building undergoes major refurbishment. This will mean that the institution's Archives & Special Collections will be unavailable during 24th May - 26th June - with full access not resuming until 3rd September. See here.

Lots more at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Epitaph from Connecticut, USA:

Here lies, cut down, like unripe fruit,
The wife of Deacon Amos Shute;
She died of drinking too much coffee,
Anno Domini eighteen forty.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Nursing Records + Genea Events

FindMyPast have unveiled their latest new record set - Military Nurses who have been awarded the Royal Red Cross. The records span 1883-1994 and include almost 9,000 entries.

As usual (for a Tuesday), here are some forthcoming events:

Details of the FFHS's 2012 Competition have been released - see here.

The SoG's blog is carrying a story about an appeal to family historians from the BBC.

The May issue of the British Library's 'What's On' newsletter is now available.

A couple of items from the blog of Chris Paton:

It seems that we in the UK had 'pavements' (sidewalks?) before the Americans...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Lost Cousins Newsletter + Other News

It's time for another instalment from Peter Calver and his Lost Cousins newsletter - if you haven't checked it out before now, well, it's about time you did. It's always a great read - and, funnily enough, the Lost Cousins set-up also features prominently in this excellent blog post by Nicola Elsom.

A Family Tree Maker 2012 update is available from Ancestry. Ancestry have also published an article entitled 1911 UK Census on the Interactive Image Viewer which many may find helpful.

East Sussex researchers may wish to check out a recent post on The Wandering Genealogist's blog, which concerns news on the county's currently-being-constructed resource centre ('The Keep') - see here.

I do believe I forgot to mention the release of the latest WDYTYA? Magazine last week.

If you're looking for a bit of further, general reading today, then check out The Armchair Genealogist's 'Monday Morning Mentions'.

Blogger John D Reid provides his usual regular update on the popular FreeBMD website - see here. The website itself is here.

John also flags a useful website for Norfolk (& Suffolk) researchers.

Readers may also wish to check out the latest news from the GenealogyInTime website.

The HistoryToday website has a 'History Around the Web' round-up.

And here's the Two Nerdy History Girls' weekend round-up of history links.

More, of course, at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Careful, folks...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Genealogical Oddities

From the Yorkshire Evening Press, 17th April 1899 -
A Serious Blunder at a Wedding:
A singular report comes from Langport [Somerset]. A marriage party having arrived at the Register Office, the official requested the witnesses to be seated, and addressing the bridegroom and lady who remained standing, solicited from them solemn declarations of knowing no lawful impediment to be joined in matrimony. Having called those present to witness, they took each other as man and wife, it remained only for the bridegroom to slip the ring on the bride's finger, when, much to the astonishment of the registrar, the bridegroom mustered courage to ejaculate in the Somerset vernacular, "This be the young woman I wants to get married to over there," pointing to one of the patient witnesses. It was then discovered that the bridegroom had married his own sister. The marriage ceremony had, of course, to be performed again with the proper principles.
[thanks to David C Poole]

From the Houghton Regis, Beds, PR -
13th September 1761
A very memorable thing - three bastards christened the same time.
Someone adding alongside in a later hand:
Not so remarkable for Bedfordshire.

From The Hull Packet, 2nd August 1833 -
The Choice of a Wife:
I knew a wise old man, who used to advise his young friends to choose wives out of a bunch; for where there were many daughters, he said, they improved each other, and from emulation acquired more accomplishments, knew more, could do more, and were not spoiled by parental fondness, as single children often are.
[spotted in the Cleveland FHS journal of Oct 2011]

Epitaph from Kingsbridge, Devon, dated 1795 -
Here lie I at the chapel door,
Here lie I because I'm poor;
The farther in the more you'll pay,
Here lie I as warm as they.

From the Sir William Turner Hospital Registers, Kirkleatham, Cleveland, 1676-1805 -
William Joudeson died Aug 17 1759 of a mortification in his leg. He lived 3 days after his foot fell off and though in his perfect senses never found out the loss of it till about an hour before his death when he was told of the defect by those who attended him. He wanted a few weeks of 90 years of age.

Remember, if you'd like more such oddities please consider purchasing 
Dead End Hobby: 
Oddments from the World of Family History 
(for as little as £2 - see here)

Friday, 18 May 2012

Devon, Scotland, Ireland & New Mags

FindMyPast have unveiled a new set of records pertaining to Plymouth/Devon containing some 3.5million entries. Essentially, they include baptisms, marriages and burials 1538-1911.

Chris Paton nicely summarises the recent passing of the National Library of Scotland Bill north of the border. Not much in the way of fine detail (which is probably quite boring anyway), but I think we get the general idea.

Check out the Irish Genealogy News blog for an important announcement re. the Skibbereen area of West Cork.

The June issue of Family Tree magazine is now out - see here.

As, indeed, is the brand new edition of Your Family History.

And I see that the HistoryToday Magazine is now available in digital format. Oh, and here's their latest Prize Crossword.

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

Remember to check out the BI-Gen Twitter feed for more news - including items on early civil registration problems in Yorkshire, Forth Rail Bridge memorials, 'baby time-lapse' trend (?), and much, much more.

From the Isle of Man...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ancestry, TNA & more

It's been a few days since I directed you towards Ancestry's updated/new collections page - there have, in fact, been some recent updates to the 1911 Censuses for England & Wales, their England & Wales Marriage & Death Indexes 1916-2005, as well as the addition of Middlesex's 'Convict Transportation Contracts 1682-1787'. Check them out here.

The National Archives have made available their latest e-newsletter. Included therein is a chance to meet TNA's Chief Executive, Oliver Morley.

Additional Kent probate indexes have popped up on the website - see here.

I see the famous FamilySearch website and are (sort of) teaming up to help make the images and locations of gravestones across the globe available to all online. Well, it seems that the index, at least, is going to be available at FamilySearch. See the story, here.

I don't usually mention new book releases unless I've seen a copy for myself, but this article on the HistoryToday website contains several interesting snippets from the new book, Thicker Than Water. One to look out for maybe (but not at £35, thank you).

Came across a website for tracing living relatives this morning - you have to buy credits, etc., but you can do an initial search for free. Check them out here.

I've put this one last, but in many ways it's the most important item of the day - being an analysis of proposed changes to the way in which the governments of the EU deal with 'public sector information'. Could have far-reaching effects on the activities of the likes of FMP and Ancestry. If you really feel that you're up for it, then get a pot of coffee, a pair of matchsticks and put aside a fair chunk of time - see the report here. [thanks to @OpenGenAlliance on Twitter]

More news at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

A sad tale from the days before the 'Welfare State'...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

On Your Marks ...

Get yourself in the mood for the Olympics frenzy which is set to engulf us with this topical announcement from TNA - and they have a podcast on the topic, too. Oh, hang on a minute, there's also a blog entry, here! I suspect that this is not the last we'll hear on the subject matter in question...

The May edition of the FFHS's E-Zine is now available. Always plenty of interest to run your eyes over, so do have a look.

Developments regarding the availability of post-1858 wills for England & Wales is outlined on the FFHS website.

Some Irish news from Claire Santry...

Talking of missed events, here's another one - the Glamorgan Family History Day, again on Saturday 19th May, at Rhondda Heritage Park.

Nice story at the FindMyPast Ireland blog about the considerable Irish connections of the great inventor, Marconi.

US blogger, Randy Seaver, provides a nice overview of English parish registers on the FamilySearch site - see here.

Those following the success story that is Europeana may wish to check out this report on their recent get-together.

And whilst we're on the international front, take a look at these splendid time-lapse maps of Europe.

More bits and pieces available at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Not exactly an epitaph, but an epigram - to Frederick, eldest son of King George II, who died in 1751:

Here lies poor Fred
Who was alive and is dead;
Had it been his father,
I had much rather;
Had it been his brother,
Still better than another;
Had it been his sister,
No-one would have missed her;
Had it been the whole generation,
So much better for the nation.
But since 'tis only Fred,
Who was alive and is dead,
There's no more to be said.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Events Listing + Other Genea News

Here we go, then, with Tuesday's events listing...

Important news for the National Library of Scotland. [thanks to @scotsdiaspora on Twitter]

Another news update on TNA's new catalogue, Discovery, can be found here.

This is an Australian website, but it's a great general resource for family history material: Trove. Give it a try. [thanks to @BMSGH on Twitter]

Here's an interesting story about the demise of the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum - follow Chris Paton's lead-in, here.

I have been asked to give a quick mention to a new surname distribution & mapping service called 'Surname Origins' - covering the US, England, Ireland and/or Scotland. Not tried it myself, but you can check it out here.

Several sources have pointed out that the Library of the Society of Friends (Quakers) has launched a new blog - see here.

This is from a week or so ago: the release of the latest issue of Ireland's Genealogical Gazette.

More news at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Two 'Questionable Advertisements' now...

Monday, 14 May 2012

US Genea Show to End

The US version of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? has been brought to an end with the failure by broadcasters NBC to commission a fourth series. I first spotted the announcement here.

Chris Paton takes a lengthy and detailed look at the future of Scotland's Catholic archives, here.

Big changes are afoot at the Borders FHS - see this entry on their blog.

Yet more Scottish news with an announcement regarding the National Library of Scotland's Discover NLS magazine.

Ever wondered how everyday, compulsory school life kicked in during its early days of the 1870s? This blog post provides an entertaining insight.

Those with an interest in that most turbulent period of Irish history, 1913-1921, will want to take a look at this post from the Irish Genealogy News blog.

The family history of actress Brenda Blethyn is examined on the FMP blog.

Those of you of a certain age may wish to partake in the 50+ Awards - which has a few history/heritage/family history-like categories. The genealogy 'service provider' nominees are about three-quarters of the way down the list.

Here's the weekly instalment of history links, etc., from the Two Nerdy History Girls.

And more news can be found at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Free access to the 1911 Census for England & Wales during 11th-14th May

(you need to register - it's free)

Here lies a lewd Fellow, who, while he drew Breath,
In the Midst of his Life was in Quest of his Death;
Which he quickly obtain'd for it cost him his Life,
For being in Bed with another Man's Wife.
[epitaph of unknown origin]

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Something for the Weekend 9

This week we look at oral history…

According to Auntie Mavis…

Oral history is becoming rather popular these days. And why not. With the many recording devices and methods we have at our disposal, we should make every effort to get our thoughts and memories down on paper, CD, or whatever other fancy digital format may come along. Thing is, though, oral history isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

By their very nature, tales, stories and ‘evidence’ passed down to us by word-of-mouth are surely the least reliable of our family history facts. Where’s the paperwork to support it? Do other family members back auntie’s version of events? Is there even any circumstantial evidence? Is there, in fact, any corroborative data at all?

By academic standards, oral history stinks, frankly. It is unreliable, cannot for the most part be substantiated, and an unhealthy percentage of it is simply wrong. That is not to say that all of it is misleading, of course – indeed, most of it is probably perfectly fine. It’s just that we usually can’t prove it to be true, even if it is. And time and time again enough of it proves to be horribly wrong.

One of the most famous of these genealogical wild-goose chases was that which bedevilled John Hurt in the 2007 series of Who Do You Think You Are? (see here and here). During the exercise, the actor was led a merry dance by tales passed down through the family – nearly all of which turned out to be false leads.

But we’ve all been ‘had’. My mother’s family line, the Lothians, hailed, of course, from Scotland – or so I was always told. So off we trotted to ‘genea HQ’ in Edinburgh to chase back her line (this was back in the late 1980s) – only to find not even the slightest sniff of Celtic blood. Turns out they were all from Cumberland – every piece of 'proper' evidence I could turn up confirmed this. To this day, I have no idea where the 'Scottish link’ came from – other than that someone, perhaps, looked at the surname and made an assumption. I have some absolute howlers on my father’s side, too, which I could fill a book with.

There are all sorts of other reasons for oral ‘porkies’, too, of course – primarily, fanciful links to the aristocracy and, of course, family ‘cover-ups’. After all, society wasn’t always as broadminded as it is today, and bending the truth was a good deal more preferable than leading an ‘honest’ life of shame and embarrassment. Even a little white lie is likely to become, over time, a whopping great fairy tale as a story changes with each retelling.

Deliberate mistruths are plentiful enough – and in some instances understandable. But then there are the little misunderstandings that become accepted as the truth over time. Oral histories are no different to other forms of evidence: this implies, too, that the further the teller is from the source of the story, the less reliable their version of events is likely to be. And in fact, evidence which is first-hand is only marginally more likely to be accurate than that which is second-hand – for one thing, is the teller being objective or subjective? It’s important. Ditto diaries, personal accounts and memoirs.

Personal accounts of the old days are great. But remember that oral history is not actual history – unless it is backed up by strong documentary evidence.

Mick Southwick

If you’ve an idea for the ‘Something for the Weekend’ feature, run it past me - I'd really like to hear from you. There is no need to be an expert, a published author, or qualified in any way. You just need to have something interesting to say – or maybe you’d like to promote a product, a research technique or even show off your expertise! And you can even give something a little ‘plug’ if you wish (a book, or whatever). Get in touch with me at . Oh, and it’s OK to be controversial!

Remember to take advantage of this offer from Ancestry during 11th-14th May...
(you have to register for a free account - it's easy)

Friday, 11 May 2012

1911 Census for England & Wales FREE!

Access to the 1911 Census for England & Wales is free during 11th-14th May at - though you will have to register for a free account (easy enough). This is too good an opportunity to miss for any non-members!

Here's an interesting one: it's 200 years today since the murder of British prime minister, Spencer Perceval - the only PM to be assassinated (well, so far!). Read the story on the The National Archives' blog, here.

There's more from the TNA in the shape of a little presentation about the organisation's new catalogue, Discovery.

Oh, and TNA also have another Podcast for us: 'Medieval Queens in The National Archives'.

Claire Santry has a few Irish bits and pieces over at her Irish Genealogy News blog.

Looking for something to do on 1st June? Check out the SoG's Jubilee street party!

The usual Friday offerings from the BBC History website:

More news and stories available at the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Oh, one more thing. Not very historical, but two amazing videos to check out. Follow this link for the first, then look in the 'comments' for the second. And there are more similar offerings in the YouTube bar at the RH side of the second link. Hope you enjoy them.

How to shock a German tourist...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Virtual WWI Exhibition + Other News

What promises to be an outstanding online historical resource is Europeana's WWI Project. To get a glimpse of some of the wonderful objects and stories unearthed by the scheme of late check out their 'Virtual Exhibition' on the topic.

I see the British Library has appoint a new CEO, with Roly Keating taking over in September. Read all about it here.

I've just spotted this on YouTube: the British Newspaper Archive's very own 'channel'.

Next, a promised mention to the Clann O'Byrne's new website at www.clannobyrne.comClan O' Byrne embraces Byrnes and their various off shoots such as Burns, Burn, O'Byrne, O'Broin, etc., and hails from the Irish province of Leinster. The website pretty much speaks for itself, so do call in if you're interested. [Thanks to Roland Byrne]

An interesting article about the new generation of TV historians has caused quite a stir over the past day or two - see here

I liked this piece on the MailOnline website about the hijacking of a ship-full of female prisoners. Leaves you yearning for more information! [thanks to @CharlotteFrost1 & @GeorgianGent on Twitter]

Archive CD Books have release a batch of new products, including several Irish items + some English & Scottish borders stuff - see here.

Don't forget the weekly updates to Electric Scotland - see here.

The brightsolid blog has a short but sweet post about, erm, sweets! Take yourself back to your childhood here.

And finally, are you a football fan (soccer, that is)? If so, you're probably aware that a couple of years ago I wrote a book entitled England's First Football Captain: A Biography of Cuthbert Ottaway, 1850-1878 (website here). Well, I'm currently in the process of helping to organise a fund-raising campaign for a memorial for the man. If you feel that you could pledge a few pounds/dollars/euros, then check out the dedicated webpage here. BTW, the book is still available, too!

Don't forget to call in at the BI-Gen Twitter feed for more news, etc.

Breathe it all in, kids! ...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Old Film, Old Docs & Old War Dogs!

Folk interested in 1950s Britain will want to have a browse of The National Archives' latest offering - a bringing together of a document collection dedicated to the decade. Read all about it here.

On a similar topic, you may have missed the news of the release of several dozen films by the British Council.

Check out these two great military-related articles from the MailOnline website:

Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of the Public Libraries News blog. Anyone who has an interest in the future of our libraries should keep tabs on the website, but three recent posts provide especially interesting reading, namely, those for the 6th7th and 8th May.

An article on Ireland's 'Landed Estate Court Rentals' has appeared on FMP Ireland's website.

Essex Record Office have published their e-bulletin for May, which includes a list of upcoming events.

Further to yesterday's brief mention, I see that Claire Santry has provided instructions for any folk who want to jump on board at the last minute as regards the Irish Genealogical Research Society's London get-together - see here.

Chris Paton mentions important developments for Wiltshire researchers (and a few other English counties!).

There's also an interesting piece on the National Library of Ireland's blog about eye-witness accounts from the Easter Rising of 1916.

And remember that there's a certain amount of 'industrial strike action' around tomorrow, 10th May, so do check with your local library/archive before setting out on a research trip!

More news, etc., available via the BI-Gen Twitter feed.

Epitaph of a Coroner who hanged himself:

He lived and died
By suicide.

Want more 'oddities'? Ask for my FREE PDF - see top of right-hand column.