Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Pen and Sword Books on Kindle

This post will be short because I am engrossed in a book that I have coveted for a long time. It is Tracing Your East Anglian Ancestors by Gill Blanchard. Its British publisher called Pen and Sword Books has titles in two major categories – military and family history.

I have been tempted to order an armload of their wares but was deterred by the shipping and handling costs from the UK that almost doubled the price of the books. Now they are available on www.amazon.com – some in Kindle format. I received my copy in less than one minute for $9.99 instead of over $30.00 from the publisher direct. I just love a bargain and my Kindle!

Blanchard is a trained historian who researches and teaches genealogy in Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk and Norfolk and her book is very detailed in a ‘good’ way. Her background in history adds a great deal to the content. She seems to know all the repositories big and small, and her description of these smaller libraries and museums sets the book apart. There is much here for the beginner and more seasoned researcher.

Blanchard writes very well, and the book is easy to read and understand, but I would be remiss not to mention the editing or lack thereof. The electronic version does not have all the appropriate words capitalized. I offer no explanation and have no idea if this carries over to the printed version or not. In a list of three rivers, why are only two capitalized? If it happened once, it would be a typo, but this is too pervasive and distracting.
Most of the family history books from Pen and Sword begin with the phrase, ‘Tracing Your…’ Dr. Ian Maxwell has written at least three that like Blanchard’s are specific to an area, like ‘Tracing your Northern Irish Ancestors’ and ‘Tracing Your Irish Ancestors.’ Another series uses the same phrase but is specific to an occupation, such as ‘Tracing Your Medical Ancestors.’ The prices for the Kindle versions range from about $6.00 to $13.50.

The military books from this publisher cover all wars ever fought by the UK. That is not an exaggeration. Check it out by putting “Pen and Sword Books” into the search line at www.amazon.com.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Scottish Parish Records

Have you ever wondered if there was an online alternative to ScotlandsPeople for Scottish parish records? This is a question posed recently at a UK Special Interest Group meeting. It seems wise to check www.ancestry.com  and www.familysearch.org  first. Then I recommend consulting The Scottish Association of Family History Societies at www.safhs.org.uk.  

Because it is free at most public libraries, I will describe how to find out if www.ancestry.com has any parish records for Scotland on the library version of the program. On the home page, under the box asking you to input a name, there is a list of censuses on the left and to the right a list of other databases. There is the phrase ‘all databases’ at the very end of the second list. Click on those words, and it will bring you to a screen where on the left you can enter ‘Scotland’ as a Keyword. Although far from a specialty, a few databases are available, including Roxburghshire, Scotland, Extracted Parish Records.
On the home page of www.familysearch.org, scroll down to ‘Browse by Location’ and click on ‘United Kingdom and Ireland.’ From the list on the left, select ‘Scotland’ with eight databases listed; six are the Scottish Censuses from 1841 to 1891. The other two show some promise – one is Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 and the last is Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910. Although the two databases contain almost 11.5 million records, familysearch clearly states that they represent only a fraction of all the records while being unclear about what parishes or districts are included.

Another avenue to pursue is the transcriptions done by local volunteers and posted on the sites of local Family History Societies. Much of this work is online in the ‘Members Only’ section of a Society’s website.  
First go to www.safhs.org.uk and see if there is a Family History Society that covers your geographic area of interest. There should be a link to the local society’s website. Membership in these groups tends to range from £10 – 20 per year. Not every group clearly advertises what is in their ‘Members only” section. I suggest you email them and ask if they have the parish records you want.

I recently found the inscription on my great great grandmother’s tombstone in the ‘Members only’ section of the Norfolk Family History Society’s website. I stood in the cemetery one cold rainy October day and must have missed it. Perhaps it was in the rear with the high wet grass - the part I gave up on.  Moral - Never give up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Scottish Research Sources

Like all genealogical research abroad, language is an issue when looking in Scotland. On September 19, 2012, I wrote about www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk and http://www.dsl.ac.uk, two potent sites in your Scottish search. Today I’d like to review these sites and add a few more that contain glossaries that will help you.

If you go to ScotlandsPeople and click on “Research Tools” and then “Help & Resources”, you can find three glossaries. There are separate lists for medical terms, occupations and ‘unusual’ words.
The Dictionary of the Scots Language at http://www.dsl.ac.uk is a growing site and the most comprehensive of them all.

However, sometimes we need something just geared to our present research. If you need terms from legal documents defined, try www.scan.org.uk/researchtools/glossary.htm.  This is the site of the Scottish Archive Network. The other research tools under this tab are a currency converter, family history guide, and weights and measures.
For place names, try The Gazetteer of Scotland at www.scottish-places.info, a site created by the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. In the upper left side, chose ‘Glossary’ from the list. Here are the definitions for brae and cairn. Notice the old maps, and archaic and modern descriptions of places also. As the site’s home page says, find the “bens and glens from the Scottish Borders to the Northern Isles.” 

The Scottish government has a similar website at www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk. In the upper right, you can search for a place by name by typing in a town or parish. Directly under that at the extreme right is a place to click ‘Scotland A to Z’ to view a list of place names, not a glossary. To find out some definitions of terms used, look to the list on the left of the home page and click ‘Scottish Place Names’. Here you can find out what a Royal Burgh is.
©2013, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: historicaldirectories.com

A group at the University of Leicester is digitizing and posting historical directories for England and Wales on this easy to remember website, www.historicaldirectories.com.  Like their U.S. counterparts often called street directories, these reference books have lists of names that fall into two categories – heads of households living in the area covered, and lists of people by profession or job. Not every household head was listed. It appears that social class made a difference. The directories also tend to have a description of the village or city at the time of publication, including its population and names of churches and chapels.

I have not see U.S. equivalents for two other types of directories included on the site. One type is called Post Office Directories which have street lists used for mail delivery. Trade or business directories, on the other hand, only list commercial companies and professionals with work addresses.

While the site has directories from 1750 to 1919, it was the 1850s before the directories were published widely. The website is very easy to use and has its menu on the top left of the home page. There are three ways to search for a directory – by location, by decade, and by keywords.  After you select a directory, you can search by surname.

Selecting 'History Notes' from the menu at the upper left, you will find a list of genealogy websites, many that have been described on this blog.

In the 1869 Directory of Cambs, Norfolk and Suffolk, there were 62 hits for my family name ‘BRETT’, but it was really more like 31 because each person was in the household list and the professional list. My GGG grandfather was a shoemaker. He had a son, John BRETT, who was a shoemaker in Upwell, Norfolk in the 1851 and 1861 British Censuses. I have lost him after that and was quite happy to see a John BRETT, shoemaker in Caston, NFK in the 1869 Directory.  In the 1871 Census, the Caston John BRETT, claimed to have been born in Rockland St. Peters, home of another large BRETT clan, and he was a couple  of years younger than my John. Worse for me, he has an 18 year old daughter who was born in Caston, so he probably wasn’t living in Upwell in 1851. Alas no match this time.
Thanks to my friend, Edy Browne, for introducing me the www.historicaldirectores.com.

                                                                                                                ©2013, Susan Lewis Well


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Research in Wales

Recently I was leafing through a book that gave advice about researching in various countries and noticed a heading for “Wales.” I always tell my students that England and Wales were merged during the reign of Henry VIII, so from the 1530s English and Welsh research is the same. Maybe that is a little hasty of me.

According to both of my sources, surnames are the challenge of Welsh research. Parts of Wales began using fixed surnames in the 16th and 17th centuries. The last areas of Wales adopted fixed surnames in the early 1800s. Before then, a patronymic system was in place where a male child was given a first name followed by the syllable ab, ap, mab or map, then his father’s name was added. For example, Llywelyn ab Owain should be thought of as Llywelyn son of Owen. A daughter had a first name, the syllable verch, ferch or ach, and then her father’s name.
Some documents may list several generations back in a chain of abs and aps. Which syllable meaning ‘son of’ was inserted depended on whether the first letter of the father’s name was a vowel or a consonant.  So it is ab Owen and ap Richard. As time passed, shortened forms appeared so that ab Owen was “Bowen” and ap Richard became “Pritchard.” Some Welsh simply added an “s” to their father’s name. As a result we now have the surnames Johns, Jones, Jenkins, or Richards, Williams and Davies. Many documents were written in Latin or English, but occasionally, they would insert the Welsh spelling of a name; for example, Dafydd for David. In a recent sense of national pride, some Welsh are going back to the old naming patterns.

The resources listed below can help you through the name maze, including the meaning of names and the meaning of place names.  All of the Rowlands’ books are available from their publisher at www.genealogical.com.   

Morgan, T.J. and Prys Morgan. Welsh Surnames. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1985.
Rowlands, John and Sheila Rowlands. The Surnames of Wales for Family Historians and Others. Balltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996.

Rowlands, John and Sheila Rowlands. Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research. Balltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008 (Second Edition).
Rowlands, John and Sheila Rowlands. Second Stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry. Balltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999.

Sources for this blog:
Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004 Second Edition.

Nevius, Erin and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine, The Family Tree Guide Book to Europe. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2003.
©2013, Susan Lewis Well