Saturday, 26 November 2011

Great War Medal Collectors Companion

The following book from Naval and Military Press looks like it might be a useful companion for First World War research:

Great War Medal Collectors Companion, by Howard Williamson
Hard Back, 571 pages plus index. £60
Illustrated in full colour.

This new book by Howard Williamson, which has taken over eight years to research and write, is the definitive volume on Great War Campaign and Gallantry Medals. Profusely illustrated in full colour, it contains much previously unpublished information & original research. This book will pay for itself many times over by enabling the hidden stories and value of medals to be unlocked. A visit to our website to read the truly impressive contents will show just what a tour de force this publication is.

For further details visit


Friday, 25 November 2011

The Parish of Longforgan

The latest Electric Scotland newsletter is out at, with the latest offerings including a new book, The Parish of Longforgan.

(With thanks to Alastair McIntyre)


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cruise progress - first report

Well it's so far so good on the Unlock the Past Scottish Irish cruise of New Zealand and Australia!

We started our cruise at Auckland, but prior to boarding on Monday I gave a series of talks at the city library last Saturday, in a session wonderfully hosted by Seonaid Lewis and the team there. On a day off we then managed to visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum, quite simply the best museum I have ever visited in the world to date so far. Quite apart from the Maori cultural performance (I need to learn the Haka!), my two boys were well impressed with the Spitfire on display and the First World War displays. For me though, the memorial part of the building was just superb, commemorating those who gave their lives in the New Zealand armed forces. Done exactly as it should be, with a lot of reverence and respect.

On board the Volendam, we set sail on Monday, initially for Tauranga. On board there are a few speakers taking part in the Unlock the Past cruise, including Perry McIntyre, Richard Reid, Keith Johnston, Shauna Hicks, Rosemary Kopittke, Jan Gow and yours truly, and I have managed to hear most speak so far, some amazing talks on Irish research from an Ozzie perspective. My first talk on board was a general intro to Scottish family history research on Tuesday, which was followed up with a talk on Scottish church records yesterday (Thursday). With Rosemary and Jan I also ventured to Hastings yesterday, in Hawkes Bay, for a brief hit and run talk raid to Hawkes Bay branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, which went down well! Today we have just arrived at Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, where I will be speaking on online Irish research and Scottish church records once more. We’re only four days into the cruise and already my two Scottish books have sold out, but we’ll be restocking in Tasmania next week, and those unable to obtain the book will be able to do so in due course freight free at the events we're attending.

Aside from the talks, my family and I had a great day on Wednesday in Rotorua, visiting the geysers there and taking my life in my hands on the Sky Swing. Freefall for fifty meters in a car, which then swings for a couple of minutes as a pendulum – on the top of a mountain! Hopefully the laundry bill won’t be too expensive…! We were travelling around the area during the day with Alan Phillips and wife Anthea, who have organised the cruise, and had a great time sightseeing.

It’s my eldest son Calum’s birthday today, now eleven, so we have a wee something lined up for him this evening – he’s already been impressed with the captain sending him a birthday card!

Anyway, ciao fer now, have to get ready for next talks in Wellington in a couple of hours time!

Pics - My boys deciding whether to become Maori warriors, the Holland America ship MS Volendam, the world's best museum in Auckland, and my testing warm volcanic rocks for sleep potential at Rotorua!


National Records of Scotland strike disruption

More strike disruption, this time from the National Records of Scotland (

Following a national ballot of members, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has informed the National Records of Scotland (NRS) that a one-day strike will take place on Wednesday 30 November. The Historical and Legal Search Rooms will be open as usual, but we will only be able to offer a restricted service.

We hope to be able to provide these services:

access to digital images in the Historical Search Room
access to catalogues and open-shelf library books

The following services will not be available:

document productions
copy orders
supervised locker facilities

The Garden Entrance will be closed, but access will be provided through the front door of General Register House, on Princes Street.

If you require assisted access to any building, please telephone: 0131 535 1334 in advance of your visit and we will make every effort to help you. If you have any queries concerning this notice, please telephone: 0131 535 1333.

Rob Mildren
Head of Public Services

22 November 2011


ScotlandsPeople Centre strike disruption

From the ScotlandsPeople Centre website (

Customers are advised that due to industrial action on Wednesday, 30th November, the level of customer service at the ScotlandsPeople Centre may be affected. If you have a booking for this day and wish to change it to another date, please contact the Centre on 0131 314 4300 or email us at:


My Heritage acquires World Vital Records

From My Heritage:

PROVO, Utah & LONDON, UK & TEL AVIV, Israel-- MyHeritage, the most popular family network on the web, announced today the acquisition of, Inc., maker of the family history content sites and This is MyHeritage's seventh and largest acquisition since 2007. The purchase marks a significant move into the US market commercially and operationally, and will boost MyHeritage’s offering to families with the addition of a vast database of more than 3 billion historical records. With offices and staff in Europe, Australia and Israel, MyHeritage will now be adding its first US-based office in Utah, the home of and often cited as the family history capital of the world.

“We are delighted to join forces with the talented FamilyLink team in Provo to deliver meaningful value to families across the world,” says MyHeritage CEO and Founder Gilad Japhet. “Combining close to one billion family tree profiles on MyHeritage with FamilyLink's massive library of historical data delivers a perfect one-stop-shop for families looking to discover and share their family history".

Founded in 2006, both and are subscription services which provide access to a huge database of historical content, covering several billion individuals within census, birth, marriage and death records, as well as the web’s largest archive of historical newspapers. This content will deliver new insights and value to the 60 million people who have signed up on MyHeritage in 38 different languages, creating more than 900 million profiles in 21 million family trees. When brought together under the MyHeritage umbrella, the company’s innovative Smart Matching technology will automatically match any of the new historical data to the relevant users' ancestors and relatives within the family trees.

“Our team of family history veterans couldn't be more excited about joining forces with MyHeritage”, said CEO Paul Brockbank. “This acquisition creates new horizons in exploring family history. People will receive the opportunity to search the most comprehensive historical content sources and make exciting new discoveries; share this information with their close family and save it into their family tree. Combined under the leadership of MyHeritage, the service will continue to flourish and add more value to millions of families”.

MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet adds: “The establishment of a US base for MyHeritage in Utah, the international center for genealogical research, is an important milestone in our growth and brings about an exciting opportunity for the company and the families we serve. MyHeritage provides the perfect service to collect the family’s treasured archive to share and keep for future generations in a setting that is friendly and secure – and now we're excited to top this off with vast amounts of content that will add more color and life to family trees. Through our powerful search engine and automatic Smart Matching technology we'll find your mother's yearbook, your great-grandfather's will and your ancestor's immigration record, leaving you with the time to marvel at, enjoy and share your family heritage. We'll do that on a massive, global scale, as we live in a world that is smaller and more tightly connected than ever before”.

This is the latest in a series of strategic purchases by MyHeritage since 2007 which have included Pearl Street Software, makers of and the Family Tree Legends software; free family tree backup service; European family social network market leader OSN (Verwandt) GmbH; Dutch family network ZOOOF; British family network and Polish family network

The majority of the employees will join MyHeritage, based out of the company’s new US office in Provo, Utah: bringing the benefit of their collective expertise within the family history and North American genealogy market. The CEO of, Paul Brockbank, previously CEO of Logoworks and GM of Hewlett Packard Web Print Solutions, will play a key role in supporting the transition over the coming months and will later join the MyHeritage advisory board. founder Paul Allen, previously a co-founder of, and's "We're Related" Facebook application, will not be part of the merger with MyHeritage.

In the short-term, MyHeritage will continue to operate the two sites and, with the intention of achieving full integration within MyHeritage in 2012. With immediate effect and for an introductory period, loyal subscribers and users of MyHeritage will be entitled to discounts of up to 50% on and subscriptions, and vice versa.

(With thanks to Laurence Harris)


Find My Past: Ripper trailer

Here's the trailer for this week's episode of Find My Past: Ripper

The episode airs on Thursday 24th November on Yesterday 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

(With thanks to Lee McKenzie)


Genealogical Publishing Company update

From Genealogical Publishing Company:

Genealogical Publishing Company ( is delighted to announce that hundreds of its publications are now printed in the UK and can be ordered from,, and other fine booksellers. These include the works of authorities David Dobson for Scotland, Brian Mitchell for Ireland and Northern Ireland, and Peter Wilson Coldham for England. To browse our collection, please visit, but be sure to order from a vendor on your side of the Atlantic.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

New Borders FHS publications

Borders FHS has the following new publications for sale:

Edrom Burials 1783 - 1799 & 1817 - 1828 £4.

Newlands Mortcloths 1709 - 1759 £4.95.

Minto Monumental Inscriptions (Gravestone Inscriptions) CD £7.

Parish Registers in the Kirk Session Records £4

For more information visit


Australian records from Archive CD Books

Australian offerings from Archive CD Books Britain and Ireland (

Starting with New South Wales we can offer you Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide 1870. This is the 2nd edition of this important 19th century gazetteer. It contains a wealth of information for historians and genealogists, and will interest the general reader as well. There are entries for towns and villages, lakes, rivers and creeks, islands, bays, hills and mountains, counties, hundreds, local government areas, electoral districts, stations, runs and other localities and features.

We are also pleased to have a CD book of Sydney University Calendar 1887. Old university calendars contain a wealth of information on people associated with the university as well as an insight into the courses of study offered and university life and culture generally. And this CD which is searchable on any name, subject or word you desire.

Continuing with an educational theme the N.S.W Educational Gazette Vol 3-1 (Jun. 1893) to Vol 4-12 (May 1895) contains a wealth of information for family, local and educational historians. Here you will find long lists of teacher appointments and promotions, other personal notices on occasions - deaths, retirements, resignations and some obituaries.

Other NSW titles include Yewen's Directory of Landholders 1900, "first broad attempt at publishing a complete directory of landowners in New South Wales ..."
New South Wales Post Office Directory 1904, New South Wales Telephone Exchanges list of subscribers, New South Wales Public Service List 1925 and 1934 and The Australian Contingent: A History of the Patriotic Movement in New South Wales by F. Hutchinson.

Our Queensland titles include Pugh's Almanac and Directory of Queensland 1895, T. Pugh. This is a very rare publication that is really fascinating. For anyone with connections to Queensland this is the title for you! Also available is Queensland Post Office and Official Directory 1905.

Our South Australian titles include 2 volumes of the South Australian Directory 1876 and 1881 - A directory of Adelaide listing residents in each street. An alphabetical directory of people and their occupations.

For Tasmania we are excited to have the Tasmanian Royal Kalendar and Almanack 1849, McPhails Directory of Tasmania 1867- this important early directory features over 160 pages of directory listings; and Tasmania Post Office Directory 1903.

Victoria's titles include Letters from Victorian Pioneers which includes a fold out map and 58 letters. Sands and McDougalls Melbourne and Suburban Directory 1865 containing street, alphabetical, and trade directory Melbourne and suburbs, together with a miscellaneous directory of useful information. F.M Dickers Ballarat and Ballarat East Directory 1865-1866 including Buninyong, Browns, Clunes, Creswick, Smythesdale and Scarsdale for 1865-66. Ballarat District Directory 1904 Trade and Professional Directory of Ballarat West, Ballarat East, Sebastopol and Buninyong, together with Illustrations and descriptive information.

Electoral Rolls are the nearest thing Australians have to census records, at least at the start of the twentieth century Bendigo Electoral Roll 1922 is therefore an extremely important, and useful resource.

Western Australia titles include the Western Australia Post Office Directory 1905 and a Centenary catalogue of farms and Stations Consisting of 95 pages plus large foldout map, this publication begins with a list of properties sold by Joseph Charles between January 1921 and April 1929.

Feel free to check out our General Australia catalogue for more titles.


Monaghan records added to RootsIreland

From RootsIreland (, news of new records for Monaghan (including some Church of Ireland records):

The Irish Family History Foundation's Online Research Service (ORS) are pleased to announce the availability of an additional 35,000 birth, marriage and death records from the Monaghan Family History Centre in Co. Monaghan.

The following parishes have now been added:
Church of Ireland Currin 1816-1922
Church of Ireland Errigal Shanco 1877-1974
Roman Catholic Tydavnet 1825-1826

Roman Catholic Aghabog 1836-1898
Church of Ireland Clones 1755-1939
Church of Ireland Donagh (St. Salvators) 1736-1897
Roman Catholic Donaghmoyne 1858-1886
Church of Ireland Ematris (St. John's & Kilcrow) 1795-1839
Roman Catholic Killeevan (Newbliss) 1867-1880
Roman Catholic Monaghan 1839-1900
Roman Catholic Tullycorbet (Ballybay) 1862-1884

Roman Catholic Aghabog 1840-1906
Roman Catholic Clontibret 1860-1882
Roman Catholic Donaghmoyne 1872-1880
Roman Catholic Drummully 1865-1881
Roman Catholic Ematris (Rockcorry) 1849-1890
Roman Catholic Kilmore 1836-1900
Roman Catholic Monaghan 1827-1926
Roman Catholic Muckno (Castleblayney) 1835-1920
Roman Catholic Tullycorbet (Ballybay) 1862-1876
Roman Catholic Tydavnet 1823-1881

NB: Records continue to be available for 3.50 Euros for the rest of November.

(With thanks to RootsIreland)


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Ancestry - beta image viewer available

Ancestry ( has news of a new beta image viewer on its blog at, to replace its former Advanced Viewer.


FindmyPast to widen access to international records

Well all is going well here in New Zealand, yesterday's opening sessions at Auckland City Library went down great, and some great topics throughout the day. In one of the talks from Rosemary Kopittke on the various FindmyPast websites around the world she outlined some future plans for the platforms which will be of great interest to many beyond New Zealand! I had heard about these a few months back, but this was the first I had heard of it in the public domain, so now's as good a time as any to share!

There are three FindmyPast websites at present, for the UK, Ireland and Australasia -, and At present, to use each site you need to purchase individual subscriptions. Around March of next year there will be a development that will allow you to purchase 'bolt-on' packages to the site that you mainly use, to draw in records from the other sites - in much the same way that at present you can purchase additional record sets for your Genes Reunited account, for example additional military records packages to your subscription. Indeed, my understanding from another source is that the GR platform technology is that being used as the basis for the new look FindmyPast platform.

In addition, for those using the Australasian site, there will be a revamp to the look of the site in December, which will reconfigure the collection categories along much the same lines as those of the UK site, and in the very near future the number of records on this version of the site will double, significantly enhancing the material available.

Exciting times ahead for FindmyPast in all its aspects!


Friday, 18 November 2011

New on Electric Scotland

Recent additions to Electric Scotland:

Electric Scotland News
What's new on
The Flag in the Wind
Historical Tales of the Wars of Scotland
R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Fighter for Justice
Through the Long Day
Nether Lochaber
The Social and Industrial history of Scotland, from the Union to the present time
Traits and Stories of the Scottish People
The Cottagers of Glenburnie
Jamieson's Dictionary of the Scottish Language
Scottish Poets in America (New Book)
Letters from the Mountains (New Complete Book)

For the latest newsletter, with further details, please visit


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Family History Show website

Nick Barratt's and Laura Berry's Family History Show, which launched initially on YouTube a couple of months ago, now has its own dedicated platform at Each month they plan to bring news and views via online 'vodcasts' (video podcasts), with the first edition including an interview with Millvina Dean, a survivor from the Titanic. The site also provides options for various social networking link-ups via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube etc.


ScotFamTree back online

From ScotFamTree:

Hello all SFTers ! This is just a wee message to let you all know that our
forum is back online.

Not all sections are open yet but we're working on this,please feel free to
log-in and take a look around.

For all Tier 1 AND 2 members,there is a message posted in the ''chat'' area.

Hope to see you online very soon.

There's a new web address at - the forum has had a bit of trouble in recent weeks whilst migrating to a new platform, but thankfully now looks to be back on track!


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Short intermission from Scottish GENES...!

I am flying to New Zealand tomorrow for a two week Scottish & Irish genealogy cruise, as well as a shore based talks tour from Auckland to Sydney, as part of a venture organised by top down under genies Unlock the Past ( As such, there will be a restricted service from this blog for the next three weeks, simply because I won't be able to guarantee internet access on a daily basis. I will, however, do my very best to keep you up to date, as and when I can, and will share a few photos and videos from New Zealand and Australia hopefully when I return!

In the meantime, if you are down under, the full shore based programme can be accessed via (I will not be speaking in Tauranga or Melbourne, but will be at all other venues). Lots of great speakers including Rosemary Kopittke, Shauna Hicks, Perry McIntyre, Richard Reid, Helen Smith, Jan Gow and Brad Manera - hopefully we'll see you there!

PS: have set Sky+ to record Find My Past while I'm away...!


Trace Scottish ancestors in Quebec

Quebec Family History Society is holding a one day workshop entitled Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors, with presentations from Jackie Billingham, Susan Gingras, and Gary Schroder at the society's library on 173 CartierAve, Pointe Claire QC, from 10am-4pm on Saturday 26th November 2011. Admission is $30 (Canadian).

For more visit

(With thanks to @BIFHSGO on Twitter)


Monday, 14 November 2011

Trojan warnings on genealogy sites

A huge thanks to Alasdair MacDonald from the University of Strathclyde for a warning about two well known genealogy websites which appear to have been hacked by trojan viruses. The first is, the site detailing migration to New York prior to the establishment of Ellis Island - the second is the Clan Donald DNA Project site. I've not listed the actual web addresses as I don't want to tempt fate, but Ali comments that several of his students have been hit by a trojan from the sites, which neither AVG or McAfee picked up, although Ali himself uses Avast which did pick them up.

You are hereby duly warned!

(Thanks to Ali)


Find My Past - Mutiny on the Bounty

This week's episode of Find My Past looks at the Mutiny on the Bounty - here's the trailer:

About the episode

The mutiny on the Bounty was a mutiny that occurred aboard the British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty on 28 April 1789. The mutiny was led by Fletcher Christian against the commanding officer, William Bligh. According to most accounts, the sailors were attracted to the idyllic life on the Pacific island of Tahiti and repelled by the harsh treatment of their captain. Eighteen mutineers set Lieutenant Bligh and 18 of the 22 crew loyal to him afloat in a small boat. Mutineers then settled on Pitcairn Island or in Tahiti. The Bounty was subsequently burned off Pitcairn Island to avoid detection and to prevent desertion. Descendants of some of the mutineers and Tahitians still live on Pitcairn island.


Penelope Geoghan is 70 years old and lives in Southfields, London. She loves and took a ‘gap year’ aged 56 to spend time with friends abroad and stop off wherever took her interest. She is excited to find out about her fascinating family history.

Ken Ford is 67 years old and lives in Andover. with his partner and son. Also has a grown-up daughter. He works part time for the police and has had a very varied career including spending sometime in the Merchant Navy. Ken qas incredibly shocked to find out his ancestor was involved in the Mutiny on the Bounty and is excited to learn more.

Marysia Stickland is a mum of 3 young boys and lives in Northwood. Her husband is in the Royal Marines. Marysia wants to learn more about her family history so she can share the stories with her sons when the get older.

The episode airs on Thursday 17th November on Yesterday 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

(With thanks to Lee Washington)


Glasgow poor law records talk in Belfast

Irene's off to Belfast! From the website of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (

Dr Irene O’Brien, the City Archivist for Glasgow will be giving a public presentation on Scottish Poor Law Records. This will take place in the Lecture Theatre at PRONI at 2pm on Friday 25 November. Irene will highlight the wonderful riches within the poor law records in Glasgow City Archives. The wide-range of biographical information about so many of the poor makes these records one of the most important sources for family history. The large number of Irish applicants means they are a vital source for those with Irish ancestors.

Admission is FREE and open to all but booking essential. Please contact PRONI / email to secure your place.


Europeana: Remembering the First World War

From Europeana (

Europeana Collections 1914-1918: Remembering the First World War

Europeana Collections 1914-1918 will create by 2014 – the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War - a substantial digital collection of material from national libraries and other partners from eight countries that found themselves on different sides of the historic conflict. See:

The First World War was a conflict on an unprecedented scale that affected the every-day lives of virtually all Europeans and many people living in other parts of the world. The memory of the war, its events and consequences, its victims and victors, remains very much alive today. It has become part of the individual and collective memory of Europe.

The three-year project will make over 400,000 WWI sources publicly and freely available online for the first time – content that is often rare and highly fragile because of the deteriorating quality of the paper it was produced on and generally only accessible in reading rooms.

The digital collection will span the full range of national library collections including books, newspapers, trench journals, maps, music sheets, children’s literature, photographs, posters, pamphlets, propaganda leaflets, original art, religious works, medals and coins.

This material will highlight the importance of the First World War for a common European identity and reflect the experiences of people from different ethnic, linguistic, political, social and religious communities on all sides of the conflict, including those opposed to the war. It will permit new interpretations of history that go far beyond traditional military history and include artistic and cultural reinterpretation of the experiences of 1914-1918.

Professor Sir Andrew Motion commented on this project: "It is wonderful to learn that the British Library will work with partners from across Europe to digitise material relating to the First World War, and to make this accessible to all online. This is a tremendously important project that will transform access to Europe's shared cultural heritage in the run-up to the anniversary of the War's outbreak in 2014."

All the digitised collections will be made available through, where they will join related material from other institutions as well as family papers and memorabilia from the war digitised by private individuals in Germany and the UK.

Jamie Andrews, the British Library’s Head of English and Drama said: "I am delighted that the British Library is working with Europeana, and with colleagues from across Europe, to build an online collection of material relating to all aspects of the First World War, and the ways that it touched civilians and servicemen from all parts of the world.”


Sunday, 13 November 2011

War, women and why? Three books to explore!

Next Wednesday I will be heading off to New Zealand for a while, and have sorted some reading matter to take with me, so figured I'd give a few quick plugs before I go! They are all new releases from Pen and Sword (

Women's Lives: Researching Women's Social History 1800-1939, by Jennifer Newby

OK - Jen's the editor of Family History Monthly, and as I've known about this coming out for a while, I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in! It is quite a weighty tome, and is packed with six key sections broken down into chapters, with the individual sections looking at women in domestic service, those who worked on the land and in the factories, as well as middle class women, aristocratic women, and criminals. A nice wee additional gem is a four page timeline of relevant developments and acts tucked in at the very end before the index.

Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians
, by Phil Tomaselli

This looks a good meaty take on the war for genealogists. In flicking through it I have just been somewhat delighted to note there's a good section on how to search for people at Bletchley Park - Catherine Paton, I will find you! - and lots of other goodies, covering all the services in some depth. There are twelve many chapters, with several sub-sections, and also a look in the final one at Commonwealth and Empire research. Like Jen's book, this is also published by Pen and Sword.

Family Matters: A History of Genealogy, by Michael Sharpe

This one looks an absolute cracker! It's a hardback book at £19.99 providing an account of the history of what I and many others do for a living, and one that as a former documentary maker therefore really appeals to me. Never mind what it is that genealogists do for a living, whether as a hobby in quiet times or as a merchandiser or vendor providing a service, just what was the sequence of events over the last few centuries that led us to the situation where we are at today? There are nine chapters included, and at 258 pages, this is definitely going to be an indepth read - from what I can make out, it predominantly looks at the English situation, although goes beyond England's shores and borders on occasion, but I can't imagine the situation will have been that much different in Scotland or elsewhere.

Finally, I've just gone into a mad phase of wanting to find out more about the Anglo-Irish War and the subsequent Irish Civil War, and so in the last two weeks have read two useful books on the subject: Essential Histories: The Irish Civil War 1922-23 by Peter Cottrell (Osprey, 2008) and British Voices From the Irish War of Independence 1918-1921: The Words of British Servicemen Who Were There, by William Sheehan (2007, Collins Press). I'll be taking a book on the history of Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary with me to read also, as I want to try and find out what my wife's lot got up to! :)


Friday, 11 November 2011

British Newspaper Archive beta - initial thoughts

The British Newspaper Archive has now launched a beta version of its website at which will be available until Monday, November 14th. Despite it being a beta, the site is charging those who have previously registered with it a sum of £6.95 for 1000 credits - to view a page costs 10 credits, about 7p, which seems a fair price for a page, as that's about 100 pages worth, not bad. The beta intro page asks that none of the material is copied as yet, including use of screengrabs, so this is a non-illustrated preliminary assessment based on what I have seen so far.

The project is a partnership between the British Library and Brightsolid, the company behind A rough tally suggests there are 157 separate titles available, though the range of what is available varies - there is a title for Ayr, for example, with only one edition online! When originally previewed the site seemed to imply that only English titles would be made available in the first batch, and I'm happy to say that this is not the case - though this really should be qualified. For Ireland, for example, I can see three titles available for Belfast, Dublin and Cork. That's the good news - the slightly weirder news is that the titles for Belfast and Dublin are already freely available via library based subscriptions to the British Library 19th Century Newspaper Collection. For Scotland, the situation is better - there are new titles for Stirling, Dundee, Elgin, Falkirk, Motherwell, Dumfries and Dunfermline - but equally, the titles for Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and one for Dundee, are also freely available in the 19th Century collection, if you have access. I have not checked how much duplication there might be with English or Welsh material, though I see the Illustrated Police News there, which is on the 19th C collection. So it is worth checking against the 19th C collection via local library access before purchasing something that you might actually be able to get for free elsewhere.

The site itself is quite friendly on the eye, and seems to work fine. One thing that might irritate a few people is the fact that with the lists of titles presented, there is no date range given - I can't imagine that that would be a big deal to implement, but when addressed on the sites FAQs it suggests that it is because they will be adding more material. That's fair enough, but can't they just amend the date range when they do?!

This site is going to be GREAT, but I'm just surprised to see as much repetition as there is from the other British Library newspaper project. I had been given the nod a few weeks back that there would not be much by way of Irish material, and that is certainly the case, but I am really pleased to see such a wide range from Scotland, probably more than I was expecting. A point to note is that the earlier 19th C newspaper project is going to stand still, but this new site will continue to expand over the next 10 years - so a site to keep returning to for a while me thinks!

A major new resource, but please - add year ranges!

Now off to have a really good play...! :)


War Horse movie trailer

I saw the trailer for War Horse today - suspect Spielberg may be about to do with the First World War what he did with the second in Saving Private Ryan - a good job. Here's the trailer:

Definitely one to see.


Military records on Genes Reunited

From Genes Reunited (


To coincide with Remembrance Day, UK family history site Genes Reunited have added to their growing number of military records.

From today people interested in tracing their ancestors with military backgrounds can visit The new release includes The National Roll of the Great War 1914 -1918 which has brief biographies of soldiers who survived the Great War and also information on those who supported the War, such as nurses and civilians, who rarely feature in other WW1 Records.

The complete list of the new military records added to is below.

1861 Worldwide Army Index
Paddington Rifles 1860-1912
Royal Fusiliers Collection 1863-1905
Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933
Army Roll of Honour 1939-1945
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
Distinguished Conduct Medals
National Roll of the Great War
Royal Marine Medal Roll

The 1861 Worldwide Army Index includes soldiers who served across the World in Queen Victoria’s empire states. The index is also useful for members to identify men missing from the 1861 census.

The newly added military records are available online at and can be viewed on a pay per view basis or Platinum members can choose to add on one or more of the record sets to their package at a low cost.

Rhoda Breakell, Head of Genes Reunited comments: "We are proud to be adding to our growing number of military records on Genes Reunited especially on such an important and symbolic day".


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Navy Lists added to Ancestry

Ancestry has added three Navy Lists to its site:
  • October 1908
  • April 1914
  • November 1914

From Ancestry's site

Published regularly since 1814, the Navy List is a good starting place for researching the career of an officer in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Nursing Service, Coast Guard, and other naval entities. The list includes both commissioned and warrant officers, and along with names, lists can indicate rank, seniority, decorations, and other details.

The Navy List includes numerous groupings. For example, officers are grouped by rank. These include admirals, commanders, captains, lieutenants, chaplains, carpenters, boatswains, artificer engineers, gunners, surgeons, and others. There are also lists of ships with their officers and current stations, as well as lists of pensioners and retired officers.


Series 2 of WDYTYA US to be shown in UK

The second American series of Who Do You Think You Are is to be shown from November 16th on BBC1 (except BBC1 East by looks of it). Most of the network gets it at 22.45, with Northern Ireland and Wales at 23.15.

Interestingly it looks like each episode is 30 minutes only - which is shorter than the US original version, implying a significant amount (up to 10 mins or so) has been edited out. The first edition features Steve Buscemi, an American actor - the transmission order is not the same as the US run, therefore, which commenced with Vanessa Williams (from Ugly Betty fame). All eight programmes of the series are due to be broadcast, though it is unclear as yet as to whether that will be in a single run.

I have seen the second series already, and it was a great improvement on the first - though an edited version may be a bit of a backwards step, as the US version is quite punchy compared to the UK edition. The second series also removed a lot of the dreadful advert breaks repetition at the start of each part, so quite what is being cut remains to be seen.

(With thanks to @debbiekennett on Twitter)


Remembrance: a civilian story from WW1

Last night I had the great pleasure to give a talk at the Central Scotland FHS in Stirling about the 5500 British and British Commonwealth civilians interned at the Ruhleben POW camp in Germany during the First World War, amongst whose number was my great uncle, John Brownlie Paton.We regularly commemorate the sacrifices made by the military in the war - quite rightly - but sacrifice came in many other forms. The loss of freedom for four years, as experienced by those interned was one example, but there were others.

My own family remembers the First World War for a very different reason - the loss of my civilian great grandfather in Brussels in 1916. The following post was originally made on my Walking in Eternity blog a year ago, and is reprinted by way of as tribute to those whose names are never remembered in the official narrative of the war:

Every time a war anniversary comes along, we of course commemorate the sacrifice of the fallen. Yet that commemoration almost always focusses on the military side of the war in question. For my family, the First World War led to a completely different ordeal, entrapment for my great grandfather and his family for the duration as civilians in occupied Brussels. It was a decision that would cost the life of one and misery for others.

Blackford born David Hepburn Paton (right) was the manager of two shoe shops in Brussels, working on behalf of R & J Dicks, a shoe factory based on Glasgow Green. When war was declared, like many David assumed it would all be over by Christmas. His eldest son William, also an employee of the firm, left for Scotland to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. David instead made the fateful decision to stay behind to look after the two shops in his care on behalf of his company. With him were his wife Jessie (from Inverness), and sons John, Charles (my grandfather) and his daughter Annie, all born in Brussels.

Brussels was occupied by the German army on August 20th 1914. At first the civilian 'alien' population was monitored, but by the end of October the German public was demanding retaliation for the arrest of several German civilians in Britain. Although mass internment was the last thing the German government wanted, it was forced to concede to public demand, and on November 6th the order was given for all British males of fighting age to be arrested and taken to Ruhleben, near Berlin.

We cannot be certain, but it was almost certainly at this point, or just prior, that David went into hiding in Brussels. He was kept in a series of safe houses, and for the next sixteen months remained undiscovered. But in early 1916 he became seriously ill after collapsing, and tragically died on March 12th 1916. Family tradition has it that he died in the house of a Dutch gentlemen who had been hiding him, and had collapsed after an argument. His body was said to have been left out on the street for the authorities to find, for fear of others being arrested as collaborators. David's son William received the following letter from David's Glasgow based brother Joseph, whilst in service with the RAMC at Gallipoli:

Dear William

By the time you get this letter, I suspect you will have learned the sorrowful news, that your poor Father, has been unable to stand the strain any longer of what he has been passing through since war began, and we have indirectly got word of his passing away. I would rather keep such news from you but perhaps you would rather that I should tell you. I went to your Colonels wife (Mrs Thomson) and she very willingly offered to write to her husband, asking him to break the news to you, and I would follow with a letter giving you what details we have which are very few.

Mr Van D' Endon (Leige) was in Brussels on Business some few weeks ago, and on returning send word to Mr Traill that Mr Paton had died of shock due to nervous breakdown. Mr Traill of course wrote Greenhead, and Mr Hay told me the contents of the letter. What a pity they did not all clear out of Belgium when they could have. Of course, you must understand I was almost going to write false news, but one hardly can discredit the report of a man connected with the Firm, who was in Brussels so lately, and I think we must accept it as being too true. As to your Mother and the rest we have no news. I thought on writing your Mother, and paid a visit to the Belgian Consul to get his advice. At first he said Yes I could risk writing, but he had in his office a Belgian lady whom he called in he said the only way was via Holland. If I knew any one in Holland, I was first to write a letter to your Mother, send it on to Mr Traill (for I told the lady of him) he was to re-write the letter and send it on to Brussels. This, of course, could be done Willie if Traill was willing, but how do we know that they are living at Rue de Mont Blanc now. The chances are very much the other way, so I hardly know what to do. We will get the full and correct account of everything by and by, but the suspense is very trying, worse than if we knew the very worst.

I am very sorry indeed to have to give you such sad news, but sorrowful things are happening daily just now. First we thought of withholding the news from you for a time but then we thought of this plan being the best. I have not told Inverness yet. Do you think I should. I will do so, if you wish it. As to date of your Fathers death we gather it is on or about March 15th nothing definite. You will feel the loss very keenly as we all do and we hope that God will spare you to come home and look after those (being the eldest Son) whom he has left. No more at present will write to you again.

Hope you will bear up and stick to your duty. God bless you.

Your loving Uncle Joe

The circumstances of David's death were further explained in the company AGM minutes from 1916 , as held at Glasgow's city archives in the Mitchell Library:

In addition to material, we have given many men to the war. Our Roll of Honour consists of 135 names. Of these, all were volunteers. Out of the eligible men of military age, 94 per cent offered themselves voluntarily. Out of these ten have been killed, ten wounded, one "gassed", and one is reported as missing. Besides these we have lost the manager of our shops in Brussels; after the German occupation he remained for many months in concealment, doing his best for the Company's interests. I regret that the strain and anxiety cost him his life...

But that was not the end of the story. David's widow Jessie remained in Belgium with my grandfather and his brother John. John was soon after arrested by the Germans and transported to Ruhleben camp, where he was interned for two years, having just turned of age. As inflation hit Belgium, things grew increasingly more difficult for the family. A letter from Jessie to her brother-in-law James Paton, a manager of a Singer Sewing machine factory in London, explains how uncomfortable life was becoming:

British Legation, The Hague. July 16th 1917

The Netherland Legation (British Section) at Brussels present their compliments to His Britannic Majesty’s Minister at the Hague and on behalf of Mrs J. Paton, a British subject residing 100 rue d’Espagne, Brussels, have the honor to beg Sir Walter Townley, if possible, to communicate the following message to her brother Mr. James Paton, Singer Works 42 St. Paul’s Churchyard, London E.C.:-

“Dear Jim, As things here would have become impossible for us, I should like to know what you would advise me to do. Matters concerning the Firm here have been decided & an indemnity of three months given. Viz until the 15th Sept. 1917 when the 75 francs I have been receiving since the 16th March 1915 will cease. Then of course I shall be entirely without means. Myself & the two children who are still with me. The small sum left after the exceptionally heavy expense of poor David’s illness & death is gone & had I means I should be allowed only to touch a very small sum monthly. The cost of living here at the present moment is 10 times (and in some cases 20 times) more than in 1914 so you can well imagine my extreme anxiety in case we will be as we have been. Over the winter in such case I shall be in a bad way. Kindly write to the firms and explain as I could not explain myself properly from here. I shall leave it to your good judgement as to what you will say & arrange for me as I know you will do everything in my interest. Kind regards to every one. We three are pretty well, hoping this will find you all the same. Your loving sister J. Paton”

Brussels, July 9th 1917.

By March 1918, things were becoming desperate:

Mr. de Kattendycke,

I hope that you will forgive the liberty I take in writing to you, but the expense of living here at the present moment is impossible. The £3 which the firm of R. and J. Dick allow me is really not enough for food without speaking of other expenses.

I am entirely depending on what the firm sends me, having no other means whatever. My boy of thirteen is ill through nothing but privation and I can see things getting worse every day. I have no idea what arrangements will be made with the firm after the war, but in the meantime we must live and at the rate things are, £3 is just equal to £1, therefore what I receive is not enough.

I should certainly not trouble you if there were any other way of doing, and believe me I appreciate and am very much obliged for the kindnesses you have already done for me.

Hoping to hear from you as soon as possible, I remain

Yours truly,

Mrs. D. H. Paton

The thirteen year old son ill from privation was my grandfather Charles (right, as photographed in Brussels in 1907).

None of this story was known by my father when I first started my family history research over a decade ago - it has all been slowly pieced together through tracing previously unknown cousins in Glasgow and London, sourcing materials from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the National Archives at Kew, from a three day research trip to Belgium a few years ago to retrace the family's footsteps, and many other sources.

If there is one legacy of the whole story it is perhaps this - when the Second World War approached in the late 1930s, Charles, by now married, moved from Scotland to Northern Ireland with his Scottish wife; his mother and sister were also hurriedly moved to Inverness from Glasgow by his brother William. Did Charles move to Ulster because he was fearful of a German occupation of Britain, having witnessed the blitzkrieg sweeping through Europe, and having already experienced life under an occupation? It is a fascinating question to which I will likely never get an answer - but it may well be that David's decision to stay in Brussels in 1914 led to me being born as an Ulsterman and not as a Scot (or a Belgian for that matter!).


Family Historian version 5 news

From Calico Pie, a news update about my favourite family history software package!

Family Historian 5 - Coming Soon and a Free Upgrade Offer Now

10th November, 2011. Calico Pie today released details of version 5 of Family Historian, the UK's leading genealogy software program. The new version is due for release in February 2012, but thanks to a Christmas offer, anyone who buys Family Historian 4 now from a participating stockist, or as a download, will get a free upgrade to version 5 when released.

Version 5 - a Great Christmas Present
Although version 5 isn't quite ready yet, you can still effectively give it as a Christmas present! This is how:

While stocks last, customers who buy the full version of Family Historian 4 on or after November 10th, from participating stockists only, will be sent a free CD upgrade to version 5 when it is released. So you can give friends or relatives version 4 to unwrap on Christmas Day, with the upgrade to follow shortly. Or you can just keep it yourself of course...

Also - anyone who buys the download version of Family Historian 4 now (full version) will get a free downloadable upgrade to version 5 when released.

For full details of this offer, including the list of participating stockists,

What's New in Version 5
* New tool for creating family tree books and booklets
* Much improved website generation and support for family tree CDs & DVDs
* New Fan Chart diagrams
* New 'flat' style All-Relatives diagram (much-requested)
* Improved data entry - especially with regard to date-handling and date validation
* New query for detecting possible errors with dates in existing records
* Enhanced 'How Related' tool shows graphically exactly how people are related
* Improved, more comprehensive backup-and-restore
* Improved import and export, including direct import from other program formats
* All reports have enhanced performance and features, including optionally an index
* Silhouettes can now be used in diagrams where required
* Much improved support for background pictures in diagrams
* Much faster diagram loading
* New reports, including a new 'how-related' report
* New tool for marking lines connecting individuals & branches in diagrams
* New 'shapes' toolbar for diagrams, including 'smart shapes' such as arrows
* Extensive new formatting options for diagrams
* Enhancements to the query capability for searching & analyzing records
* Support for plugins - a new way of extending the power of the program
* Integrated access to a new Plugin Store, with numerous free plugins adding even more features - such as a new mapping tool - and more being added all the time
* Numerous improvements to make the program even easier and more enjoyable to use
* And much more...

In the coming weeks, we will be adding more details about version 5 and the new features on our website, at


Free WW1 records on Ancestry

As announced on this blog on Tuesday, Ancestry ( is making its WW1 records collections for service and pension records, and medal index cards, available for free until November 13th.


Gathering Their Memories event in Blantyre

From Bob Stewart at Lanarkshire Family History Society:

The National Trust of Scotland’s DAVID LIVINGSTONE CENTRE and LANARKSHIRE FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY are proud to host Military and Family History Day

Saturday 19th November 10:00am - 4:00pm
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. This donation to

10:30 Starting Your Family Tree - Ian McNeill
12:00 Lanarkshire Yeomanry - Campbell Thomson
13:30 War Memorials in Lanarkshire and 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


HMS Dasher talk in Alloway

From Barbara Finlay of Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FHS:

Tuesday 15th November 2011- Alloway Church Halls 7.30 for 7.45pm
“The sinking of the Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier HMS Dasher off Arran 1943”. Speaker J. Steele.
Visitors welcome £1.50 includes light refreshment.