Monday, 26 January 2015

The Poor Had No Lawyers - Who Owns Scotland (And How They Got It)

Scottish land records are documents that I use regularly for genealogical purposes, but in Scotland just now, the system of land reform that currently sees some 432 folk owning half of the country's private land is something that is about to undergo some further and fairly major radical reform.

I am currently reading a book by Andy Wightman entitled The Poor Had No Lawyers - Who Owns Scotland (And How They Got It), which may be of interest to those of you not only fascinated with Scotland's land records, but with the systems that were created that generated them in the first place (for example, why the Registration and Proscriptions Acts were set up in 1617 which led to the creation of Registers of Sasines).

My review of the book is available on my other blog (entitled, err, Chris Paton's Blog!), at


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

Talks, conferences and exhibitions updates from PRONI

An update on forthcoming events in Belfast at PRONI (

Due to the demand, two additional Explore the Archives workshops have been added for 11th March and 22nd April - the first is now booked out, but there are spaces available on 22 April still. Here's the breakdown on the day:

Wednesday 22 April 2015 2.00pm - 4.30pm
Explore Archives Online, 2pm
Using the Documents (searching for, ordering and viewing original documents), 3pm
Using Ordnance Survey Maps, 4pm


YOUR FAMILY TREE - 10 week Talks Programme (11th Mar-13th May, 2015)

To help you start exploring your genealogy, PRONI will be running a ten-week lecture series, exploring some of the key archival sources you can use to trace your family history.

Starting on Wednesday 11th March 2015 at 1pm (and running every Wednesday until 13th May), the first talk will be based on ‘Getting Started’.

The program of talks looks like this:

11th March - Getting Started by Janet Hancock
18th March - Using Street Directories by Des McCabe
25th March - Church Records by Valerie Adams
1st April - World War One Ancestors by Ian Montgomery
8th April - Education Records by Valerie Adams
15th April - Board of Guardian Records by Janet Hancock
22nd April - Valuation Records by William McAfee
29th April - Landed Estate Records by Stephen Scarth
6th May - Courts, Prisons and Coroners records by Wesley Geddis
13th May - GRONI by Emma Elliott.

Contact PRONI to reserve a place.


Londonderry Papers Exhibition at Comber Library
When: 2nd February to 27th Feburary
Where: Comber Library

The exhibition will focus on the ‘Ark’ club set up by Edith, Lady Londonderry in 1915 and immortalised in the Dodo Terrace at her gardens at Mountstewart.

Members of the Ark club read like a roll call of the great and the good in British and Irish society at the time. Members were given a nickname, based on an animal or a mythical creature. So, Winston Churchill became ‘Winston the Warlock’ and Charles, Lord Londonderry, became ‘Charlie the Cheetah’

For further details please contact Comber Library on Tel. 028 9187 2610.


HALF-DAY CONFERENCE: ‘Seeking Refuge: Germany and Ireland in the 1930’s.’
When: 3 February – starting at 2pm
Where: PRONI

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, PRONI will be hosting a half-day conference examining the impact of the rise of the Nazi regime on Jewish communities in Germany and Northern Ireland. Speakers will draw from papers held in PRONI and other archives, exploring stories of individuals and communities as well as considering the wider political context. In keeping with this year’s theme of ‘Keeping the Memory Alive’ the conference will consider how these stories can be uncovered and made accessible for future generations.

The contributors will include:

Dr Bethany Sinclair (DCAL)
One letter, one voice, multiple archives: the case of Leopold Pollak;

Linda McKenna (Down County Museum)
‘Finding Refuge: The Millisle Farm Story’ developing an on-line learning resource for schools;

Lorraine Bourke (PRONI)
Relations between the United Kingdom and Germany in the 1930s with a focus on the papers of Lord Londonderry.

Ulster Scots Connections - People, Place and Practice

PRONI is working in partnership with the Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots, the Ulster Scots Agency and the Ulster-Scots Community Network, to host a six week talks series commencing 20 May 2015. Lectures will alternate between PRONI and Corn Exchange at 1pm. Speakers will include: Cormac McSparron, Andrew Gault, Laura Spence, Frank Ferguson & Kathryn White. More details to follow shortly.

(With thanks to the PRONI Express newsletter)


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

PRONI launches conflict related records access guides

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland ( has launched a series of leaflets online, designed for those wishing to seek access to conflict related (i.e. Troubles related) records, such as court records and coroners inquests.

The guides are:

* Conflict-related Court Records
* Conflict-related Court Records - Making a Request Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
* Conflict-related Inquest Records
* Conflict-related Inquest Records - Making a Request Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

The guides, all available in downloadable PDF format, can be accessed at


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

Down and Out in Scotland - coming soon

I blogged last week that a revised second edition of my Irish Family History Resources Online guide book is now available from the good folk at Gould Genealogy - details on what it contains are available at

By way of an update, I have also now sent through the text for a new Scottish guide book, provisionally entitled Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis. A lot of books on Scottish genealogy (including many that I have written), have concentrated on records and sources that can be found to help trace back your family history. In this new guide, I've taken a slightly different approach to look into some of the situations where a family is often best recorded, when it faced its most perilous situations, and how those situations were documented by somebody close to hand with a quill and ink. These include periods of illness, poverty, debt, bankruptcy, rebellion, mental illness, criminal prosecutions, victimhood, and much more. I'll let you know more in due course about its availability!

In the meantime, for details of my other Unlock the Past published books on Scottish land records (and inheritance), Scottish church records, and Scottish civil registration records (both online and offline), as well as titles from other genealogists based around the world, please see Ebook versions are also available at, whilst details on how to obtain my titles in Canada and England are accessible at


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

Update to Ancestry's new UK death index collections

Ancestry has updated its pages for its recently released Scotland and Northern Ireland, Death Index, 1989-2013 and England and Wales, Death Index, 2007-2013 collections. See Via the update the records vendor has now confirmed on each page that the source data is from "GreyPower Deceased Data. compiled by Wilmington Millennium, West Yorkshire."

The site also states that the indexes "do not include the General Register Office (GRO) reference information" and that they contain "a small number of records for people in Jersey and Isle of Man".


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

Half term activities at Imperial War Museum Duxford

From the Imperial War Museum at Duxford (

February half term at IWM Duxford
Saturday 14 to Sunday 22 February 2015
How winning the war in the air and on the land led to Victory in Europe

Our February half term activities share stories from our collections about the people and the equipment that won the Second World War.

Daily, from 10.30am to 2.30pm, we’ll be marvelling at the impressive Avro Lancaster in our AirSpace exhibition and finding out about the bombing campaigns carried out by this type of aircraft. We’ll discover how the Lancaster works, the crew it carried and the role each played in a bombing raid. You’ll see, touch and try on items of uniform worn in the Lancaster bomber and find out about the experiences of the young men who flew in these remarkable aircraft. We’ll be hosting talks about our legendary Lancaster at 10.30am, 11.15am and 12pm. Hold and handle equipment and uniforms from the Lancaster bomber between 10.30am and 2.30pm.

From 10.30am to 2.30pm, we’ll be making aircraft-themed key-rings for school bags under the vast wings of the supersonic Concorde in AirSpace.

From 12.30pm to 3pm, the career of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein – popularly known as ‘Monty’ - takes centre stage.

Montgomery was commissioned in September 1908 into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. In 1914 he went to France and saw action in the early months of the First World War. He won the Distinguished Service Order for leading a bayonet charge at Meteren, near Ypres, on 13 October 1914, but was wounded in the chest and knee later the same day. He returned to France in 1916 and held staff appointments for the remainder of the war.

Between the wars, Montgomery gained a reputation as an outstanding trainer of troops. In 1938 he briefly commanded the 8th Division in Palestine and in 1939, less than a week before the outbreak of the Second World War, he took over the 3rd Division, which was destined to go to France to fight the Germans.

One of the most famous military commanders of the Second World War, it was ‘Monty’ who accepted the surrender of all German forces in Holland, North West Germany and Denmark, leading to Victory in Europe.

Land Warfare is home to the Monty exhibition which features the three campaign caravans in which Field Marshal Montgomery lived, worked and planned campaigns. They are exactly as Monty left them at the end of the Second World War.

Monty’s map caravan was the centre of his tactical headquarters from June 1944 until May 1945. Here, he received daily reports of developments at the battle front from his team of Liaison Officers. Maps showing the daily progress of the armies under his command were hung on the walls of the caravan, which was also equipped with telephones so that he could speak directly to his generals. Monty was working on the large map in this trailer when the Germans came to his headquarters to surrender on 4 May 1945.

Of his bedroom caravan, Monty said: “I would turn out of this caravan for only two people – the King, George VI, and Winston Churchill.” It was his living quarters from May 1943 until the end of the war and is equipped with a bed, wardrobes, a washbasin and a bath. Monty’s bedroom caravan was captured by the British 8th Army from Italian Field Marshal Giovanni Messe in May 1943. It had also been used by Monty’s great adversary Field Marshal Rommel.

It was on the steps of his office caravan that Montgomery introduced himself to his staff when he arrived in North Africa to command the 8th Army on 13 August 1942. The portraits of the German Generals that can be seen in this vehicle adorned the walls during Monty’s campaigns.

In a later interview, Monty said: “I used to look at the photograph of the general I was up against at the moment and try to decide what sort of person he was and how he was likely to react to any moves I might make against him. In some curious way this helped me in the battle.”

In the foreground of these historic vehicles, we’ll follow Monty’s battle plans for El Alamain, the crossing of the Rhine and the surrender of the German forces and work out how his strategy was so successful.

At 12.30pm, our history interpreter, dressed as a member of General Montgomery’s 8th Army, will explore the battle of El Alamain. He’ll start by showing you Monty’s tank and caravans, looking at the markings, designation and purpose of each vehicle. We’ll then move to a recreated map table to discover how Montgomery planned out his military strategies and tactics. Using a map, flags and models, we’ll follow Monty’s plan and find out how it led to victory in Africa.

At 1.30pm, we’ll discover Monty’s strategy for the crossing of the Rhine and how his caravan-based tactical headquarters contributed to his success in this campaign.

At 3pm, we’ll see how Montgomery accepted the surrender of the German forces and find out how terms were carefully negotiated before the surrender was publicly announced, ending the Second World War in Europe.

February half term activities are included in general admission to the museum.

(With thanks to Esther Blaine at the IWM)


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

Friday, 23 January 2015

Ulster Historical Foundation launches records video tutorials & new FAQ guide

The Ulster Historical Foundation has launched a couple of video tutorials online at its Ancestry Ireland website at The aim of the tutorials is to help you become familiar with its online records databases - vital records for Antrim and Down, and a fair few other collections from across the island.

The society's William Roulston has also revised his online Genealogy FAQs research guide at

(With thanks to the UHF)


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

NIFHS to expand its research centre in Newtownabbey

The North of Ireland Family History Society ( has a dedicated research centre in Newtownabbey, not far from Belfast and my old haunt of Carrickfergus. It was not too long ago that it opened at these premises, but the good news is that demand has been so heavy that they are now seeking to expand the facility.

The Antrim Times has the story at about the development, which includes a good interview with the organisation's Sarah Ardis, NIFHS education and development officer, outlining how to get underway with research, as well as a wee bit about the society itself.

There are 12 regional branches - Ballymena, Belfast, Coleraine, Fermanagh, Foyle, Killyleagh, Larne, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, North Armagh, North Down and Ards, and Omagh. It's the only society that I am currently a member of, and it is worth every penny, with some great and friendly folk - recommended!

(With thanks to Eddie Connolly @teddiec via Twitter)


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

Recent UK death indexes released on Ancestry

Ancestry ( has released a couple of interesting, if not somewhat bewildering, death indexes on its site, as follows:

Scotland and Northern Ireland, Death Index, 1989-2013

England and Wales, Death Index, 2007-2013

The source has simply been listed as 'Various sources', however, genealogist Karen Cummings (@CummingsPFH) has contacted Ancestry via Twitter to ask what the source is, to which they have responded "The source of this collection is GreyPower Deceased Data, compiled by Wilmington Millennium". Wilmington Millenium appears to be this company online at, noted as offering "intelligent consumer data suppression and lead generation products created in conjunction with leading industry partners". There is no mention of a partnership with Ancestry on its site however.

A typical search yields the following info - name, gender, age, birth date (variously reported as a year or with the full date), death date, residential place at death, and a postal code district.

Without a decent provenance for the source, i.e. any understanding of what it is, I would suggest that any entries on this be treated simply as a finding aid that should be pursued via the usual sources through the three respective General Register Offices of the UK. These are as follows:

Scotland - records can be ordered via (£12 each)
Northern Ireland - via (£15 each)
England and Wales - via (£9.25 each)

Scottish finds can be partially corroborated online via ScotlandsPeople (, which does index death records within the last 50 years, but does not provide the digitised register images, as with earlier records. (All records, including up to the present day, can be accessed at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, or at other centres in Scotland providing access to the same database, for £15 unlimited access). No online GRO indexes are available for Northern Ireland in this period, nor for England and Wales.

I have read many reports from users saying that the databases are not complete. Scotland seems to be better covered than Northern Ireland, and my own mother's death, in Manchester, England, in November 2013, is not included. I have found my grandmother's death in Carrickfergus - her date of death is given as 22 JUL 2011, and her birth year as 1922, both correct. her name is simply given as Mrs Martha Graham though - her full name was in fact Martha Jane Elizabeth Watton Bill Smyth, so don't be expecting too much in the detail!

So it is an interesting resource, one that needs handling with caution, but potentially useful. But no substitute for the placing of indexes online by the English, Welsh and Northern Irish GROs, as has been done by Scotland via ScotlandsPeople.


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

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Irish Poverty Relief Loan records on FindmyPast

From FindmyPast (

Findmypast makes Irish Poverty Relief Loan records available online for the first time to mark Irish Family History Day

With the addition of exciting new record sets, leading family history website Findmypast is now the best place to research your Irish ancestry

Dublin, Ireland. 23 January 2015. Findmypast has digitised and is publishing the Poverty Relief Loans records from The National Archives in London online for the first time. This release - together with the addition of a new, easier to search version of the Ireland Census 1911 - makes Findmypast home to the largest online collection of Irish family history records anywhere in the world.

New records: Poverty Relief Loans

The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor’ – those most affected by poverty and famine.

This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Potato Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world. Now anyone can go online and research individuals and families to find out more about where they lived, their financial situation, their social status and more besides.

Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

Caroline Kimbell, Head of Licensing at The National Archives in London said “This collection is one of very few about individual Irish families from 19th century held at Kew. We are grateful to Findmypast for bringing these remarkable testaments to light.”

These new records complement an expansive collection of Irish records - including Irish Petty Sessions, Irish Prison Registers, Irish newspapers and Irish Births 1864-1958, to name a few – that make Findmypast the best place to bring Irish family history to life.

Exclusive Irish records – digitised for the first time

As well as the Poverty Relief Loans, Findmypast has today added other new Irish record sets, including the Clare Electoral Registers, which reveal early women voters and is only available online at Findmypast, the Ireland Census 1911 and over 800,000 Irish marriages dating back to 1619.

The Ireland Census 1911 is an excellent starting point for anyone researching their Irish ancestors. Findmypast’s powerful search will for the first time allow family historians to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name – all making it easier than ever to trace Irish ancestors.

Irish Family History Day

This year, Findmypast’s Irish Family History Day – an annual celebration of Irish heritage – takes place on 23 January.

It will be marked by the launch of exciting new record sets, as well as webinars, guides and advice, information on the records and exclusive offers to access Findmypast’s extensive Irish record collection.


As part of Irish Family History Day, Findmypast will be running an online webinar and Q&A session hosted by Irish family history expert, Brian Donovan. The webinar will cover getting started with Irish family history, as well as hints and tips on getting further with your research.

The webinar will be held at 5pm GMT on 23 January. Brian will be on hand to answer questions after the webinar. For more information, and to register interest, visit

(With thanks to FindmyPast)


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