Monday, 31 October 2011

Find My Past - The Battle of Britain

The following is the trailer for episode 3 of the new Find My Past series on Yesterday. This week - The Battle of Britain:

About the episode

As Germany launched a massive aerial offensive over Britain during World War II, the RAF became embroiled in a sustained daily battle to prevent the Luftwaffe from gaining control of the British skies. This is the story of the famous “Few” who were all that stood between Britain and certain defeat. It was a combined effort from every branch of the RAF and it hinged on a tight network of command centres acrossBritain that intercepted German messages to build a picture of planned enemy bombing raids. This information was then used to determine intercept points where British fighters could engage the German bombers and attempt to bring them down before they reached their targets with their deadly payloads.


Jamie Naden is 20. He was at music college for 2 years in Guildford and plays the piano, drums and guitar for various bands. He currently works part-time as a volunteer for Oxfam but is hoping to go and work in the music technology department of Apple. He doesn’t know much about his family history but knows that some of his relatives were involved in the Second World War.

Timothy Parsons lives and works in Kingston-upon-Thames. He is very interested in his family history and has found out that he is related to Tony Blair through the Parsons side of his family but doesn’t seem to know about any Second World War connections.

Alex Sears is 22, a keen cricketer and training to be a PE teacher. He is vaguely knows that his grandparents were in the war but as he never met them he’s never asked about what they did. Doesn’t know anything about any family beyond that and is keen to learn about his family.

The episode airs on Yesterday on Thursday 3rd November at 9pm and is repeated daily throughout the following week.

Yesterday can be found at Sky channel 537, Virgin TV channel 203 and Freeview channel 12 and there is more info about the series at and their Facebook page at

Looking forward to it! :)

(With thanks to Lee Washington)


Discover my Past Scotland 37 on sale

The first of the bi-monthly editions of Discover my Past Scotland magazine has now gone online at

Discover My Past Scotland Issue 37 – November / December 2011

This 40-page A4 issue is packed with special features and how-to guides to connect you with your Scottish Heritage, including:
Queen Victoria's Sudanese wars - a Scottish officer's story
A peek inside the closet - ancestor's shocking secrets
Fashion in Scottish family pictures
Handloom weavers of Perth - top resources for your research
The very first Scots - discover more about our earliest ancestors
Spotlight on Greenock
Expert Q&A
Family history newsround, library and events
View this issue now

All for £2.50


Latest Broadsheet now out

The Scottish Council of Archives latest edition of Broadsheet (number 8) is now freely available online at


Happy Hallowe'en!

Hallowe'en is coming and the goose is getting fat
Would ye please put a penny in the auld man's hat
If ye havena got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If ye havena got a ha'penny, then God bless you
And yer auld man too!

Wee rhyme there from my childhood in Northern Ireland! It's Oidhche Shamhna today (Hallowe'en!), so a couple of resources to have some fun with!

One of my fave websites in Scotland is the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft ( which has details of nearly 4000 people tried from 1563-1736 for witchcraft, with evidence for many gathered by the local kirk sessions. There was a lot of hysteria at the time, with accusation and counter-accusations ruining people's lives - the following being just one example from the parish of Kirkpatrick-Irongray in 1691:

David Murihead of Drumpark and his wife being called before the Session and examined anent the strife betwixt them and Janet Sinklar submitted themselves to the will of the Session. Janet Sinklar also submitted to the will of the Session for saying that she doubted Drumpark’s wife of murder and witchcraft and is appointed to receive public rebuke before the congregation.

(Source: NRS CH2/1343/1 Kirkpatrick-Irongray)

Lots of juicy online resources for looking into witches stories, and their trials: - witch trials in Colchester - the Pendle witches - Essex witch trials - witchcraft in 17th century Flintshire - witches in Fife

Finally just to really scare you, here's my son in his Hallowe'en costume...

Sleep well tonight...!


Sunday, 30 October 2011

Black Watch suspends research service

The Scottish Military Research Group is carrying news that the Black Watch Museum is suspending its research service for the present time, whilst a major redevelopment project is carried out.

(With thanks to the SMRG)


Return of the British Empire Medal

The British Empire Medal will again be awarded following David Cameron's decision to reverse its abolition by John Major in 1993. The BBC takes a look back at both it and its past recipients at


Genealogists for Families initiative

Judy Webster has been in touch from Australia to ask me to give theGenealogists for Families initiative a quick plug. The scheme works by allowing genealogists the chance to make small loans of $25, via a non-profit organisation called Kiva, to low income families or businesses across the world. When the loan is paid back the genealogist can reclaim the money or re-invest it again. Genius!

It seems a great idea, and I've just signed up and made my first loan - I'm sure they'd welcome yours as well!

(With thanks to Judy Webster)


Friday, 28 October 2011

Exploring Local History - PRONI & OUI lecture

For those who could not make it to PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland) for the first edition of the Exploring Local History Lecture Series by PRONI and the Open University Ireland (OUI), YouTube comes to the rescue! The following is the lecture delivered by Dr Janice Holmes with contributions from Professor Raymond Gillespie, Dr William McAfee, Roddy Hegarty and Dr Ann McVeigh (PRONI). Introduction by Stephen Scarth.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6


Family Tree Maker 2012 - video

Ancestry has uploaded a video showing some of the new features on Family Tree Maker 2012:

To purchase FTM 2012 visit


Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Bible in English - Edinburgh exhibition

From the National Library of Scotland (

Treasures Exhibition
The Bible in English: John Wyclif to King James VI
Daily, Tuesday 2 November 2011 - Sunday 8 January 2012

The history of Bible translations into English was anything but smooth, and the National Library of Scotland collections include significant milestones on this rocky road.

Beginning with a manuscript of a part of the New Testament translated by John Wyclif, the display focuses on 16th century Bibles in English.

The highlight of The Bible in English treasures display is a first edition copy of the King James VI version of 1611, marking the 400th anniversary of the most famous English Bible translation.

More information about our Treasures display is available on the NLS website.


Electric Scotland update

Latest books added to Electric Scotland (

Historical Tales of the Wars of Scotland
R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Fighter for Justice
Through the Long Day
An Historical Account of the Ancient Culdees of Iona
Nether Lochaber
Borrowstounness and District
The Social and Industrial history of Scotland, from the Union to the present time
Annals of Auchterarder and Memorials of Strathearn
The Leith Flag


New JISC funded mapping project

With thanks to Jean McKenzie for the following, sourced from the Vision of Britain blog:

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) have awarded the University of Portsmouth, and the GB Historical GIS project team, a new grant of £139,900 as part of their JISC Content Programme for 2011-13. The new project is called Old Maps Online: Finding and referencing historical mapping as a platform for research and teaching, and runs for fifteen months starting in November.

This is not another grant to extend the web site A Vision of Britain through Time. Instead, we will be creating a quite separate open access web site enabling users to search for online maps across many different digital libraries, based not on the titles of maps or who drew them, but on the places the user is interested in.

Our application was supported by the British Library, the Bodleian Library, the National Libraries of Scotland and of Wales in the UK; and by the David Rumsey Collection, the Harvard Geospatial Library and the New York Public Library in the US. Because the project is based on existing software, we will be launching the first version of the portal at historic map-focused one-day meetings in New York on February 25th 2012 and London on February 29th; more about those meetings later.

That first version will probably be limited to the Rumsey Collection, the National Library of Scotland and ourselves, but during the rest of the project we will add access to our other partner libraries, and hopefully recruit additional partners. Our funding is about improving access to existing digital content, so we cannot help map libraries scan their collections, but we may be able to assist with geo-referencing, and advise on software for making map images viewable on the web. Note that the latter software does not need to have any geo-spatial capabilities, as those will be provided by the portal.

For the full story visit the Vision of Britain blog post at


The Irish Family and Local History Handbook - video & review

Last Sunday I was in Dublin for the highly successful Back to Our Past event. Whilst here I managed to catch up with Bob Blatchford, who along with wife Liz, was literally being swept off his feet in selling the new Irish Family and Local History Handbook ( I grabbed a few words with Bob on my trusty camcorder - so here's the man himself, and thena few words form me on my thoughts on the book...!

I have literally been reading this book non-stop since I returned from Ireland, as it is packed with all sorts of articles of great interest to me. I've contributed to the book myself, but rather than blab about what I've done for it, here's a quick run down on some of the articles that I've read that have really stood out for me.

By far the article that has impressed me most has been Joseph O' Neill's Famine, Fear and Fraternity, discussing the migration of the Irish to Liverpool and Manchester during the famine. Two words to sum it up - bloody hell. It's a really powerful account of the hardship, discrimination and more that they faced in their new home. I've come across the situation in Scotland, but never really read an English account, and this one is absolutely top notch.

Claire Barlow's article on John W. Dulanty, effectively Ireland's first ambassador to the UK, is another unputdownable account, whilst William Roulston's articles on general Irish research and on Ulster Presbyterianism are close to definitive, as is Ann McVeigh's guide to the goings on at PRONI. Another enjoyable account by Stephen Wade looks at Dublin Castle and the mystery of the stolen crown jewels! FindmyPast Ireland's Ross Weldon provides a good backdrop to the online collection, accompanied by a case study, whilst Jayne Shrimpton's article on photography in Ireland is a useful guide also. There are also many useful explanatory articles on other collections, including from Karel Kiely (RootsIreland), Audrey Collins (National Archives) and various others.

I'm actually enjoying this more than the UK edition, but only because so much more of it is relevant to my background. Definitely a worthy accompaniment to the UK run, and looking forward to the next one!


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Coming soon: Irish Family History Resources Online

My next major book project is about the murder of an ancestor of mine, which will be published next year, but whilst working on that I have also managed to put together another guide for Australian based publishing company Unlock the Past, provisionally entitled Irish Family History Resources Online. The book will describe how much research can be done online if you have Irish connections and will conclusively show that the glass is definitely half-full with Irish research, rather than half-empty! :)

I'll announce when it is published soon, and details on how to purchase a copy - in the meantime, Unlock the Past has a whole range of titles for sale at, predominantly for the Australian and New Zealand markets, though including many titles of equal interest on this side of the world. Amongst those offerings you will also find another title which I produced for them earlier this year, entitled Discover Scottish Church Records, which I am delighted to say has been doing really well down under!

More news soon...! :)


Find My Past: Titanic - trailer

Trailer for the forthcoming episode about the Titanic on Find My Past - this Thursday, 9pm on Yesterday.

(With thanks to


Monday, 24 October 2011

Forthcoming FHS events

Borders FHS will be holding talk on October 30th by Gregory Lauder-Frost, who will be discussing two families, Renton of Billie and Lamberton and the Jaffrey/Jeffrey family in Foulden and Mordington. For more details visit

Lanarkshire FHS will be holding two events soon - Eric Graham's talk "Clyde Built - Blockade Runners of the American Civil War" on Thursday November 10th, at the GLO Centre in Motherwell, and the Gathering Their Memories day long programme on Saturday 19th November, at The David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre. For more details, see

Meanwhile, my next Scottish talk will be on November 9th, entitled "The Ruhleben Story", and concerning British WW1 civilian POWs interned in Germany. It will be held at Central Scotland FHS, Stirling, with more details at


Back To Our Past - report

I'm just back from three days in Ireland, two with family in Kilkenny and today at the Back To Our Past event at the Dublin RDS. This is the second year of the event, but my first attendance - and it's a cracker!

With my wife and boys in tow, we touched base first of all with Bob and Liz Blatchford, who have been doing a roaring trade with the newly releasedIrish Local and Family History Handbook ( Having contributed four articles to it I received a contributor's copy and so had a great read of this on the way back at Dublin Airport and on the plane and there are some top notch articles in there from William Rouslton, Karel Kiely, Ann McVeigh, Jayne Shrimpton and many others. This is the first time that there has been a dedicated Irish edition, and Bob and Liz couldn't sell them fast enough. I did a short video interview with Bob about the book which I will upload tomorrow to allow you a better look.

I then did the rounds and met many people I already knew and many more I did not. Julie Phibbs was having a great show with Irish Roots magazine (, as was Tony Beardshaw from Yorkshire based genealogy supplies company MyFamily (, so after catching up with them I started to see what news I could glean.

I spoke for some time with Brian Donovan of Eneclann ( and FindmyPast Ireland (, which has just launched the prison registers for the Republic from 1790-1920. Unfortunately the northern records are not included as they are held by PRONI, and not the National Archives of Ireland, but it is hoped that they might be included at some stage - although from what I can gather the remit of PRONI has something of a stumbling block with regards to any kind of commercial involvement, so it may be a while. The southern prison registers, however, were clearly doing the business for the team today, as the area was PACKED! Brian mentioned that petty session records will be going online next year as another major development from the company, and there were a couple of other developments with FMP that we discussed off the record, but suffice to say, there are some interesting things happening in the near future.

One FindmyPast development is of course the big newspaper project with the British Library. Amy Sell from the UK branch of the company had been in Dublin on Friday and Saturday to demonstrate the collection, though I knew she would not be there today. The site itself was not actually demoed from what I can gather, rather Amy gave a Powerpoint demonstration, but it sounds like there are some real gems being unearthed. My understanding now is that there will be newspaper records from this launched leading up to Christmas but that any Irish material may not make it onto the site until well into next year. No idea about Scotland or Wales, but I can only add that the site at is still only discussing the launch of English titles at present, so it may be that additional material elsewhere in the UK might come in subsequent phases.

On the Irish newspaper front, however, there is some other brilliant news -Irish Newspaper Archives ( is about to expand. This site carries digitised copies of both old and new titles, so here is the update:

By December 2012
Donegal News 12/01/1980-14/12/2001
Fermanagh Herald 9/2/2011- current
Strabane Chronicle 10/2/2011-current

To be added 2012-2013
Limerick Leader
Sligo Champion
Skibbereen Eagle
Butte Independent (Montana)
An Gaodha (Boston)
18th century Trade Directories
- Slater's Directory
- Irish Parliamentary Records
Parish Records
18th Century Ordnance Survey Maps
18th Century Photographic Archive (Lawrence Collection)

But here's the real goody - the Belfast Newsletter is to be digitised imminently. This is exciting for two key reasons - 1) loads of my family come from Belfast; and 2) it is the complete collection, not just the material available already on the British Library's 19th century Newspaper Collection (currently carrying 1828-1900). The paper was first established in 1737, and is the longest running continuously published English language newspaper in the world. An incomplete index to the title for the years 1737-1800, is available at although there are gaps in the coverage (particularly from 1737-1750).
But to see the whole thing online - including the 20th Century copies - is going to make one hell of a difference! :)

I caught up with Ann McVeigh from PRONI ( and had a discussion about developments. The online Northern Irish wills project, currently up to 1943, is being extended, and will potentially keep going from what I understand up to the present day, subject to funding etc. It is already sorted well into the 1950s, though Ann was unsure if the new additions have gone online yet. There is another major project Ann referred to which she said she could not mention yet, which is moving slowly - however, although she could not tell me, in an article she has written for the new Irish and Local History Handbook, she does reveal that there is a project underway to digitise the Re-Valuation Books held at PRONI under VAL/12B. In other words, the sequel to Griffith's Valuation.

Richard Griffith's valuations from 1847 to 1864 were the primary valuations, but a series of revisions were made to those records annually up to the 1930s in big decade long volumes. The potential for this is going to be quite frankly, phenomenal for those with Northern ancestry, allowing people to trace the changing ownership of a property for the duration, and adding further weight to my theory that God may well be Northern Irish... The other possibility that Ann may have been referring to is the 1939 National Register which is also being looked at, as I understand it - we'll just have to watch this space and see what pops up next!

New sites I came across include Irish Gathering ( - not to be confused with The Gathering announced by the Irish Government a few days ago, but instead a social networking site which offers you your family coats of arms and a chance to explore clan affiliations etc. Hmmm... I'm personally not a great one for sites that say "Buy your clan coat of arms - buy one get one free!". But there may be more to it. Another new site is Irish Lives Remembered, one I was more impressed with at A very straightforward proposition, simply providing a place where you can create online memorials to Irish ancestors, but it looks great, and well worth exploring.

Two final discussions to mention - I finally had a chance to meet John Grenham, a man who may well put a hole in my theory concerning God's Northern Irishness, because he might well be a candidate for being the Big Yin himself (and that was definitely not a northern accent he was using!). John's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors is the modern bible of Irish genealogy - and he is now working on a fourth edition which he reckons will be out March/April next year, with significant additions concerning online resources and other materials. He is also running an online genealogy course in partnership with the Irish Times, which is aimed at those starting off - see - which seems to be doing well.

Staying with education, I also talked to the University of Limerick about their MA in the History of Family, and their Certificate in History of Family and Genealogical Methods. I'm sorely tempted on the MA front, though having spent a substantial amount already on a postgrad diploma at Strathclyde in Genealogical Studies over two years, the MA is a serious amount of money for the year long programme - 7595 Euros if studied in a year online, or 4611 Euros if part time over 2 years (the Scottish MSc is about £800 by comparison). The course itself, has a really good take on it, looking at context within which families lived as well as genealogical practice, including all sorts of sociological and other aspects - but that is a lot of money. Further details on that at,_Humanities_&_Social_Sciences/History_of_the_Family. The certificate programme by comparison, is a much more affordable 684 Euros - see

And finally - the Titanic! BIG exhibition kicking off next year in Belfast - though I've misplaced the leaflet I picked up, so will bring you more on that in due course! :)

Overall, the show at the RDS was one of many features at an over 50s expo essentially, and so the family history section was relatively small compared to something like Who Do You Think You Are Live in London - but the key thing is it had exactly the same buzz. And whereas WDYTYA Live is usually beginning to die by 4pm on the Sunday, by 4pm today the show was getting busier and busier. I have no doubt it will be phenomenally successful - and I'll definitely need to return again next year!

(With thanks to Bob Blatchford, and all those I managed to speak to in Dublin at the event)


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Scottish trade directories added to Family Relatives

Family Relatives has added a series of Scottish trade directories to its online holdings at The following are the additions:

Pigot's Directory Scotland 1825-1826 (all counties)
Pigot's Directory Scotland 1837 (all counties)
Scotland - The County Directory:
* 1902 (1901-04)
* 1912 (Decennial Issue)
Trade Directories 1889

A full list is available at

(With thanks to Family Relatives)


Dundee Science Festival family history event

Family histories revealed at Dundee Science Festival

People wishing to bring their family history to life are being offered a unique opportunity as part of Dundee Science Festival (Sunday 6 November 2011).

Dundee-based brightsolid, one of the country’s leading online publishers and owners of and, is holding an event aimed at helping people trace their family history. Experts from the different family history websites will give talks throughout the day, helping people start their research and, ultimately, build a family tree.

Throughout the afternoon, brightsolid’s team of experts, from, and ScotlandsPeople, will give an insight into where to start a search, the power of community to support a search, how to access the Scottish records, and the process of building an online family tree. One-to-one support will also be available for those wishing to explore the online world of genealogy. The event is free, non-bookable and will be held at DC Thomson, Meadowside Counting House, Dundee. Talks will take place hourly from 12-4pm.

Now in its third year, the fortnight-long Dundee Science Festival (Saturday 29 October – Sunday 13 November 2011) is set to explore the fun, excitement and relevance of science to all, with over 60 events, twice as many as last year, more partners and a diverse range of over 25 venues.

Dundee Science Festival, coordinated by Dundee Science Centre, is supported by the Scottish Government, Dundee City Council, Research Councils UK (RCUK) and The Gannochy Trust.

Other supporting partners are EventScotland, Skills Development Scotland, University of Dundee and University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee College, Dundee Waterfront, Medical Research Council, James Hutton Institute, as well as Dundee Science Centre.

For further information, please email, visit or telephone Alexandra Forrest, festivals and Events Officer, Dundee Science Centre on 01382 868609 .

(With thanks to Carolynne Bull-Edwards)


Friday, 21 October 2011

Irish Prison Registers 1790-1920 online

Major news from FindmyPast Ireland (


· Launch of exclusive access to the Irish Prison Registers 1790-1920
· Over 3.5 million entries across 130,000 pages
· Drunkenness the most common offence – accounting for 25% of cases

Today, launched online for the first time the Irish Prison Registers 1790-1920, one of the greatest untapped resources for those tracing their Irish roots.

The original Prison Registers, held at the National Archives of Ireland, cover all types of custodial institutions, from bridewells, to county prisons, to sanatoriums for alcoholics. They contain over 3.5 million entries, spread over 130,000 pages, with most records giving comprehensive details of the prisoner, including: name, address, place of birth, occupation, religion, education, age, physical description, name and address of next of kin, crime committed, sentence, dates of committal and release/decease.

The registers offer a real insight into 18th-19th century Ireland. They present evidence of a society of rebellion and social confrontation, where rioting and assault of police officers were everyday occurrences, and of rampant poverty and destitution, with the theft of everything from handkerchiefs to turnips.

The reasons for incarceration cover all types of crime but unsurprisingly perhaps the most common offence was drunkenness, which accounted for over 30% of all crimes reported and over 25% of incarcerations. The top five offences recorded in the registers are:

1. Drunkenness - 25%
2. Theft - 16%
3. Assault - 12%
4. Vagrancy - 8%
5. Rioting - 4%

The nature of these crimes was significantly different from those recorded in the UK. The rate of conviction for drunkenness and tax evasion was three times greater, and the rate of both destruction of property and prostitution were double what they were in the UK for the same time period.1

The records are full of individuals who were arrested for very minor offences, for example a record from the Cork City Gaol Court Book lists an arrest for Giles O’Sullivan (26), with no education and no previous convictions, on the 30th of March 1848 for being “a dangerous and suspicious character”. Other examples of the heavy hand of the law can be seen in the case of John Cunningham from Finglas (21) who was arrested for “Washing a car on a thoroughfare” and young Christopher Doyle (14) arrested “for being an idle, disorderly rogue and vagabond”.

The Irish population averaged 4.08 million over this time period2 and with over 3.5 million names listed in the prison records, it is clear to see how almost every family in Ireland was affected somehow.

Brian Donovan, Director of, comments: “These records provide an invaluable resource for anyone tracing their Irish ancestors, as during the period covered almost every household in Ireland had a convict in their family. These records provide such a wealth of information that they are sure to shock and surprise almost anyone looking for the missing links in their Irish family tree.”

NB: This release contains records for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland only.

(With thanks to Ross Weldon)


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Who Do You Think You Are Live 2012

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012 has issued an online media pack for those who may potentially wish to hire a table or spot at the event.

The themed areas of interest next year will be a series of workshops, the WDYTYA? Theatre, a photography gallery, ask the experts, a DNA area, a military pavilion, and Eric Knowles will be acting as an heirloom detective.

(With thanks to WDYTYA Live)


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

First Viking boat burial on mainland Britain

A Viking boat burial has been found in the remote Ardnamurchan district of Scotland, the first such fully intact burial found in Britain.


Find My Past - spoiler free review

I've just had the privilege to watch the very first episode of the new Find My Past TV series, which will be broadcast on the Yesterday channel on Thursday at 9pm. The following is a spoiler free review, but for a quick summary, two words - thumbs up!

The first episode follows 46 year old David, 31 year old Lara and 30 year old Lulu as they trace their connections to Operation Dynamo and the events of the Dunkirk evacuation. Their stories are connected - two particularly so - and they have no knowledge of those connections, but work their way through their own individual tales before a final meeting ties their stories together.

The first thing about the programme to note is that this is not just a series sponsored by, but actually a series quite heavily branded as an extension of that platform. Due to the historic nature of the way that the series has been funded - Britain's first major product placement series essentially - there are of course the requisite numbers of sequences involving the website, though ironically for an event that took place in the Second World War, those sequences are by necessity short. Nick Barratt is the series genie who pops up to get the 'tree business' out of the way fairly quickly. I would have to say, in this episode, it works to an extent with one of the characters, although perhaps a bit tokenistic with the others, but thankfully it is all out of the way quite quickly. I say thankfully, because this series' strength isn't going to be about what the FindmyPast website can necessarily do for you - though you will definitely want to use it! - but about something far, far more fundamental which it nails brilliantly.

Many will want to compare the series with Who Do You Think You Are, but this is a very different creature entirely. There's no John Hurt wanting to be Irish, no Jeremy Clarkson looking for the missing millions, and certainly no Carol Vorderman walking into a shop and bumping into someone who just happens to have the answers! The main character is in some ways not the three individuals at all in fact - it is the story itself which rolls along chronologically, but which the three characters' journeys appropriately reveal at the right points. So why have them in at all? The reason is simple - this series is about connection. If you want to tell a tale of Dunkirk with just the facts and some nice footage, hire Simon Schama. But if you believe that the truth of a major story is always going to be more powerfully told from other people's smaller stories explored from the bottom up - essentially the revolution in history teaching that the wave of interest in family history has slowly been unleashing over the last few years - watch Find My Past.

The programme itself is quite punchy and does go at a rate. Being on a commercial channel it is in four parts, each topped and tailed with reprises and previews, but you're soon back into the swing of things after the ads. Chris Hollins is a competent presenter who works well, not meeting the three people featured until the end and competently narrating the relevant history throughout.

My overall feeling is that Who Do You Think You Are often asks the question, but rarely answers it - it tells you often about a celebrity you may have never heard of, and along the way occasionally reveals some interesting historical developments - but Find My Past will enthuse you to try to make that connection, particularly with the selection of topics that in most cases will have a broad appeal.

Looking forward to the second episode now on the Titanic - my great great grandfather helped to build it! :)

Where to find Yesterday: Sky channel 537, Virgin TV channel 203 and Freeview channel 12.


Scottish genealogy workshop at SoG

The London based Society of Genealogists will be holding a Scottish genealogy workshop on November 5th 2011, with talks from Alan Stewart, William Cross and Else Churchill.

For more information, and booking details, please visit

(With thanks to Else Churchill via Twitter)


Sneak peak at British Library Newspaper project

A look at the British Library Newspaper Project behind the scenes, from AlJazeera Television - with thanks to Brightsolid via Twitter:

Can't wait for the release, which will be soon via


Unlock the Past cruise - shore seminars

Hi folks,

As part of the Unlock the Past Scottish and Irish genealogy cruisearound New Zealand and eastern Australia, our talks team will be also be doing several shore based talks at various port stops, and also before and after the cruise.

Full details of the programme can be found at, but the following are my scheduled commitments on the tour, and details of other speakers and talks:

Saturday 19 November at Whare Wānanga, Central City Library 10am-4pm

10.15am - Chris Paton - Irish resources online
1pm - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
3.45pm - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish land records
Additional talks from Rosemary Kopittke (11.15: FindmyPast) and Shauna Hicks (1.45: Google your family tree: tips and tricks), and Seonaid Lewis offers a tour of Central Auckland Research Centre at midday

Monday 21 November at Whare Wānanga, Central City Library 9am-1pm

I won't be speaking at this, but talks from Dr Perry McIntyre (10.30: Beginning Irish Research) and Dr Richard Reid (12:00 Emigrant Journey to 19th Century Australia/New Zealand), and Seonaid Lewis offers a tour of Central Auckland Research Centre at 9am

Wednesday 23 November - at Arataki Community Centre, Zambuk Way, Arataki (near Bayfair Shopping Centre)

Provisional programme:
9.30am - Chris Paton - Irish resources online
10.15am - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
Additional talks from Rosemary Kopittke (11.15: Findmypast), Shauna Hicks (11.45: Google your family tree: tips and tricks), Dr Perry McIntyre (1.15: Irish Parish Registers) and Dr Richard Reid (2.00: Key Irish documents)

Napier (Hawkes Bay)
Thursday 24 November - at Stoneycroft, Omahu Rd, Hastings

3.30pm - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
Also a talk from Jan Gow (4.15: Hitting the Ground Running: Preparing for a research trip)

Friday 25 November - at Conference Room, Archives NZ, 10 Mulgrave St. Wellington

1.00pm - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
1.45pm - Chris Paton - Irish resources online
Also a talk from Rosemary Kopittke (3.00: Findmypast)

Akaroa (near Christchurch)
Sunday 27 November - at Little River Rugby Club Rooms, Little River Domain, Little River

Provisional programme
1.30pm - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
3.15pm - Chris Paton - Irish resources online
Also a talk from Helen Smith (2.15: Help! I’m Stuck - Breaking Down Brick Walls)

Port Chalmers (Dunedin)
Monday 28 November - Dunningham Suite, 4th Floor, Dunedin Public Library, Moray Place,

1.30pm - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
2.15pm - Chris Paton - Irish resources online
Also a talk from Rosemary Kopittke (Findmypast)

Friday 2 December - time, venue and cost to be advised

Provisional programme
Chris Paton - Irish resources online
Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
Also a talk from Rosemary Kopittke (3.15: Findmypast)

Saturday 3 December - venue to be advised (probably in Melbourne CBD)

Indicative program only - subject to change
Sorry folks - day off for me as I will be meeting up with family
But talks from Dr Perry McIntyre (10.00: Beginning Irish Research), Dr Richard Reid (10.45: Key Irish documents), Rosemary Kopittke (11.30: Findmypast), Jan Gow (1.15: ScotlandsPeople), Dr Perry McIntyre (2.00: Get to know Ireland: what is a province, county, townland, parish, poor law union etc.), Dr Richard Reid (2.30: Emigrant Journey to 19th Century Australia/New Zealand)

Monday 5 December at State Records NSW seminar room 10am-4pm

Provisional program
10.00am - Chris Paton - Discover Scottish church records
10.45am - Chris Paton - Irish resources online
1.45pm - Chris Paton - Scottish censuses 1841-1939
Also talks from Rosemary Kopittke (2.30: Findmypast) and additional talks TBC, 11.30: Irish convict or military topic, and 1.15: 1942-War comes to Australia: Darwin bombed, Sydney attacked

The full programme along with booking information is available at the link above - hopefully see you at some point down under!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fact, Fiction and Fairy Stories in the Borders

On November 19th, Fred Kennington will be giving a talk entitled Fact, Fiction and Fairy Stories in the Borders at the Anglo-Scottish Family History Society.

For more details see

(With thanks to Borders Family History Society's blog)


Times Digital Archive to extend coverage

The Times Digital Archive (available in most public libraries) is to extend its coverage from 1785-1985 up to 2006, and provide a new user interface. Full details are available at, whilst another page at implies that here might be an annual update - "the archive will continue to grow by one year each year".

Watch this space!

(With thanks to @HelenEDTovey on Twitter)


Maxwell Ancestry update

Maxwell Ancestry ( have made the following publications available for sale:

1851 Kirkcowan
1851 Mochrum
Tinwald Marriages 1832-54
Lauder Burials 1827-1838

(With thanks to Emma Maxwell)


Monday, 17 October 2011

Find My Past TV show - tralier

Find My Past - the trailer - starts this Thursday at 9pm on Yesterday channel.

(With thanks to @findmypast)


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Lanarkshire military and family history day

Lanarkshire Family History Society ( has announced details of an event in November:


The National Trust of Scotland's DAVID LIVINGSTONE CENTRE and LANARKSHIRE FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY are proud to host a

Military and Family History Day

on Saturday 19th November 10:00am - 4:00pm at The David Livingstone Centre Blantyre

Admission Free

Family History Advice/Help Desks
Family/Local History Bookstall
Military Medals and Memorabilia Display
Military Information Desk
Display of Ex-Military Land Rover Vehicles

Programme of Talks £2
Donation gives entry to all talks.
(Donations going to the Erskine Hospital)

10:30 Starting Your Family Tree
Ian McNeill

12:00 Lanarkshire Yeomanry
Campbell Thomson

13:30 War Memorials in Lanarkshire & Cameronian War Diaries
Allan Colthart

15:00 The Battlefields & Cemeteries of France & Flanders
Joseph O'Raw

To book a place at the Talks and for further information:
phone David Livingstone Centre on 0844-493-2207

(With thanks to Lanarkshire FHS via Facebook)


Saturday, 15 October 2011

WW2 European POW escapes

FindmyPast ( has uploaded over 10,000 cards from the National Archives' WO208 series, which outlines servicemen's attempts to escape or evade capture in Central Europe during the Second World War.

The announcements is available on its blog at and the collection fully searchable at

(With thanks to FindmyPast)


Friday, 14 October 2011

Burns Monument Centre offers ScotlandsPeople

The Kilmarnock based Burns Monument Centre ( is now offering unrestricted access to the ScotlandsPeople databases for £15 a day, and will also be providing access to digitised kirk session records from November 10th.

I attended the centre before its official opening a couple of years back and at that point it was hoped that there would be access to the same computer system that is available at the ScotlandsPeople Centre. In fact, the agreement now in force will be for access to the external website i.e. - this means that you will have access to the Roman Catholic records also (I think I'm right in saying they are not yet available at the centre), but at the same time there will be online closure periods - 100 years for births, 75 for marriages and £50 for deaths - which is not the case in Edinburgh.

The kirk session records that have been digitised for Scotland up to 1901, and which have already been made available at several archives in Scotland, will be available at the Burns Monument Centre from November 10th, following a launch event on the 9th. The event is free, but ticket only - though I believe it is now fully booked.

(With thanks to the Burns Monument Centre)


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Find My Past - the TV show starts next week

The television series Find My Past starts next week, and being sponsored by Brightsolid, the FindmyPast website ( now has a page outlining details of each episode

There are ten episodes, to be fronted by Chris Hollins:

EP1: Dunkirk
EP2: Titanic
EP3: Battle of Britain
EP4: Bounty
EP5: D-Day
EP6: Ripper
EP7: Shot at Dawn
EP8: Suffragettes
EP9: Tay Bridge
EP10: Royal Scandal

The show starts 9pm Thursday 20th on the Yesterday channel.


Hugh Wallis batch numbers site update

Further to my past last month on the Hugh Wallis batch numbers website (see, FamilySearch has now made an announcement on plans to correct the issues that have affected his site following the reinvention of the FamilySearch databases.

The announcement is at

(With thanks to Genealogy in Time)