Wednesday, 4 March 2015

British GENES first podcast - feedback and news on iTunes access

A huge thanks to all of those who have contacted me to say that they enjoyed my first British GENES podcast, and for the constructive comments suggested by a few of you - in particular it looks like the consensus so far is that you're happy with me just talking, and to avoid any gimmicky theme tunes or anything else like that! A question I have had from a few folk is - will it be available via iTunes? The short answer is hopefully, yes. I've spent much of this afternoon learning how to upload podcasts to iTunes from Soundcloud, and have now submitted the first edition, so once I get the confirmation that we are good to go, I'll let you know that it is available there (unless there is a reason that prevents it from appearing!).

In the meantime, if you have still to tune in, the podcast is available at or via the link to the right hand side of this page. I'll also put links to each edition at Soundcloud in the Podcast tab now available at the top of this page.


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Another frustrating day at the National Records of Scotland

I spent another frustrating day at the National Records of Scotland ( yesterday, trying to carry out research as much despite the facility as well as because of it.

My morning in fact went quite well. I successfully managed to carry out some work in the ScotlandsPeople
Centre (, before relocating to the Historic Search Room upstairs to look at some 18th century estate records. For the first couple of hours all went well - a document I had ordered in advance was there, and although part of a GD collection (Gifts and Deposits), it was one that I was allowed to photograph. The first problem really hit at about 1pm. In another GD collection, I found five references within a rental roll, which was in the form of a book, and I wished to have them copied - although you can't copy with your own camera, they offer a facility to do copies for you (I won't go into the crazy pricing system here, other than to say that in this case it would have actually worked in my favour). The book was very easily opened and did so completely flat, so I wasn't expecting any problems. Except, when I asked to make copies from it, I was told no - there was a minor tear on one page apparently, and so I was told their copier would not take it. I asked if that was the case, could I take photos from the book instead to compensate, and was again told no.

Now I had already transcribed the entries, but this wasn't the issue. The spelling for some place names can be distorted in older documents, and not easily recognisable, not to mention the issues with handwriting. In some cases a place that is not immediately recognisable may suddenly become apparent in the consideration of other documents - hence the need for a copy of the original. In this case, a document that was fit for production, and which under the NRS own rules could be copied, albeit by the NRS itself, could not be copied, because their machine can't handle it - and as I'm not allowed to do so, I can't get a copy. So, if you take the logic of this further, a document that was claimed to be too frail to copy, despite being fit to produce, can only be further considered by ordering it up again, and again, and again. So if it is 'frail' now, what will it be like after the next ten people have handled it? The NRS has a rostrum stand in the search room - why can't it have a cheap digital camera on standby as a back-up for just such circumstances where it retains copyright of any generated digital image? By comparison, here's the self-service scanner facility PRONI offers which can easily deal with such circumstances at just 30p per digital copy...

The only restriction with this machine at PRONI tends to be with large unwieldy documents (such as a large folded map, for example, which can be a monster to tame to get under the camera!).

But this was a minor inconvenience compared to the key frustrating issue. At about 2pm I ordered three documents up, and sat to wait for them. At PRONI and TNA, you can return a document at a time and order a new one in its place, with several orders coming and going all the time, so that if you have many documents there will always be one being fetched for you as you consult another - particularly handy if you have a lot to get through. At NRS, you have to order three at a time, and you can't do anything until they arrive in each batch. It doesn't matter if you return one at a time, no-one will fetch the next batch of three until all three are consulted. The NRS advises that it may be up to half an hour before productions arrive, but usually they arrive in about 10 minutes or so. After half an hour, with no sign of them arriving on this occasion, I went to the main desk and asked if they were on their way? The attendant looked at the computer and then told me that the computer said I still had a document out. I didn't - all had been returned. "We'll have to put the order in manually then" I was told - before having to wait another 10 minutes for it to arrive. After forty minutes waiting, they eventually arrived.

I finished looking at these documents, and then placed another order for three productions. It was now just past 3.30pm, and these were the least important of the records I had previously identified before my visit, so these were more a last minute consultation in the unlikely chance that they might yield something, rather than crucial 'must-see' documents. At 3.45pm there was no sign of them, so I thought I would check via the ordering computers to make sure that the order had gone through this time. Both of the 2 computers allowed for this were being used, so I waited, hoping one would become free. At 3.55pm, with no production and no free seat at the ordering terminals, I once again went up to the desk. At this point I noticed one of the productions I had previously returned was still sitting on the returns desk, so now biting my lip, I again asked if the orders were on their way? What then followed was a comedy of errors. One attendant told me that it was likely they were on their way, but the computer was down, another told me he couldn't check as he was locked out of his computer, the person who could check was away, and so on. After a couple of minutes watching this dithering, completely exasperated, I asked for my ticket back, and picked up my stuff and left, before I said something I shouldn't.

A few days back the NRS announced its core property strategy review, stating that in due course it intends to set up a new purpose built facility, but that is a very long way away (there is more about this in my new podcast at I have on many occasions publicly complained about the increasing problems at NRS being caused by storage issues, with records increasingly being stored off site on the other side of town and unable to be produced on the same day. That was a refrain I heard several times yesterday from staff to folk sitting around me asking if they could obtain a document "Stored off site, 24 hours notice", "Stored off site, 24 hours notice", "Stored off site, 24 hours notice". On one occasion yesterday I nearly jumped when a person sitting near me was told that a document he was told was unavailable earlier in the day, which would have to be ordered for a next day visit, had in fact suddenly arrived in the afternoon - he was luckily able to get access to it by chance, not by design.

But a new building to deal with storage problems is a separate issue to the archaic establishment of the current archive practice and facilities itself. NRS needs to buck itself up, and start to look at what can be done to provide a good service for its users, and not what just suits itself and its own long, tired, rusty and jurassic practices. Last Friday and this Monday the search room was in fact closed because it was "undertaking a significant computer system upgrade". I saw no evidence of this yesterday - the computer used to order documents took from a tedious 30 seconds to a minute at a time to return any data input into it for document productions, and the ordering system itself failed twice, causing me an unnecessary additional wait for productions. When you have to travel eighty miles to get to the facility, time really does mean money.

There is no point in having an archive that will not facilitate access to the very documents that need to be preserved. The most wonderful building, a historic location that is convenient to access, superb cataloguing and expert conservation - all of these don't count for anything if, at the end of it all, you cannot view what you actually go there to see in the first place.

Deeply frustrating...


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Monday, 2 March 2015

Forces War Records transcribes 100,000 records from WW1 military hospital collection

Forces War Records ( has now transcribed over 100,000 records from the "Military Hospitals Admissions and Discharge Registers WW1" collection held at the National Archives in England, catalogued under MH106. From the press release:

What remains of the records... – a sample comprising just 2% of the original, with the rest having been destroyed in space saving exercises – are housed at the National Archives, labelled MH106. Forces War Records is the only organisation to have digitised these incredible hand-written documents, and allows a search by name (the National Archives records are classified by Medical Unit only). If your relative is mentioned in the collection, chances are that this site is the only place you’ll be able to find his name if the survived the war.

Further details via the website.

(With thanks to Nicki Giles)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Last minute call for Scottish Research Online course!

A quick reminder that my next Scottish Research Online course from Pharos Tutors kicks off on Wednesday March 4th - there are still some places available!

For full details of what the 5 week course, taught entirely online, entails, please visit my previous post at A short video describing the course is also available below (please note that the price is now £49.99, not the previous £45.99).

(The video is also accessible at

Hopefully see a few of you there!


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Nottingham cemeteries on Deceased Online

From Deceased Online (

Two more historic Nottingham cemeteries' records now available on Deceased Online

All records for two of Nottingham City Council's most historic cemeteries are now available on

There are now approximately 430,000 records available online for five cemeteries and the crematorium managed by Nottingham City Council. See full details here.

The two most recently added sites are Rock (aka Church) Cemetery, opened 1856, and Basford Cemetery, opened 1870.

Our resident blogger, genealogist and writer Emma Jolly asks if Rock Cemetery is the most unusual cemetery in England. Read her latest two blogs and explore the history of both Rock and Basford cemeteries.

The records now available comprise:
  • digital scans of original burial and grave registers
  • details of all grave occupants In each cemetery
  • maps indicating the section in each cemetery for all graves

We're still working on records for one more historic Nottingham City. The General Cemetery dates back to the 1830's:

(With thanks to Deceased Online)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Famberry search and GEDCOM upload

From Famberry (

Famberry launches “Famberry Search” & GEDCOM Upload

London, England (February 27th, 2015) Famberry (, the private collaborative family tree builder, is please to announce the release of “Famberry Search”, an interactive search facility that uses key indicators from your family tree to give you the most relevant search results and an opportunity to connect with related family. The more you add to your family tree the better the Famberry Search results.

In addition to the standard checks for matches as you grow your family tree on Famberry, the Famberry Search facility will help users who have hit brick walls with certain names and want to check for any other families that have connections to specific names.

As part of the announcement Famberry is also releasing GEDCOM import and export facilities to allow users to transfer family tree information from their private applications to the sharable family tree environment of Famberry.

“Famberry Search is for people who want to connect to more than a name, they want to connect to a whole family tree.”

Sign up for free at to upload your GEDCOM files and start finding connections to family with Famberry Search.

(With thanks to Steve Bardouille)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Society of Genealogists' workshop programme at WDYTYA Live Birmingham NEC

The Society of Genealogists' workshop timetable for Who Do You Think You Are Live 2015 at the Birmingham NEC from 16th-18th April is now available at, with plenty of interesting talks from a range of great speakers. I've not submitted any proposals this year, so hope to be able to attend one or two (I've yet to attend a single talk since I first started going!)!

I will however be at the event helping out on the Unlock the Past stand to help promote the company's genealogy cruises and range of books, many of which are published in the UK by My History also (see

For more on the WDYTYA event, including how to boo tickets, please visit

Hope to see you there!


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

TNA podcast - the Wellcome Library’s Special Collections work

The latest podcast from the National Archives in England ( is entitled Big Ideas: ‘An heroic, slow-motion cataloguing of life’: ethics and digitisation. It's a 38 minute talk by Helen Wakely, looking at the work of the Wellcome Library’s Special Collections team.

To listen to the podcast visit or download it for free via iTunes.


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

PRONI Conference: Looking at Lissan - The Staples family and Lissan House

From the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (

½ Day Conference: Looking at Lissan: The Staples family and Lissan House, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone
When: Thursday 19th March 2015 2-4.30pm
Where: PRONI

PRONI will be hosting a half day conference examining the Staples family of Lissan, Cookstown, Co Tyrone. Speakers will draw from papers held in PRONI and elsewhere to consider the family’s estates, highlight some of the more colourful members of the Staples family, examine the significance of Lissan House and discuss the work of the Lissan House Trust.

Contributors will include:
Dr Neil Watt, Lissan House Trust
Dr Anthony Malcomson
Jayne Greer, Lissan House Trust

Contact PRONI to reserve a place

(With thanks to the PRONI Express)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at

Ireland and Gallipoli Conference in Belfast

From the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (

Ireland and Gallipoli Conference - A joint conference by PRONI and Antrim and Down Western Front Association branch
When: 30th April 2015 10am to 4pm
Where: PRONI

PRONI is pleased to invite you to a joint conference on Ireland and Gallipoli with Antrim and Down Western Front Association branch. Supported by Living Legacies 1914-18 engagement centre.

The Gallipoli Campaign, known to the Turkish as the battle of Canakkale, still remains controversial. France, Britain and its dominions fought to eliminate Turkey from the Great War by landing on the northern bank of the Dardanelles, marching on the Ottoman capital Constantinople to open the Dardanelles sea channel to Russia. A brilliant strategic plan was marred by tactical failure and poor execution. The initial naval attack was repelled and subsequent land campaign also failed at a cost of 250,000 allied casualties which led to the invasion force being evacuated in January 1916 after 8 months of fighting. This conference seeks to examine this campaign 100 years on with special focus on the experience and role of Ireland and Irish people.

Speakers will include: Dr Timothy Bowman (University of Kent); Dr Myles Dungan
(Historian and broadcaster); Professor Keith Jeffery (Queen’s University Belfast); John
Lee (author and historian); and Tom Thorpe (Kings College London)

Contact PRONI to reserve a place

(With thanks to the PRONI Express)


For details on my range of genealogy guide books please visit To commission me for genealogical research, please visit my research site at