Sunday, April 25, 2010

The cancellation button

I really did it, I followed through on my decision to cancel my subscription.

Incidentally, the good folks at Ancestry must keep an eye on the blogosphere as they spotted my initial post and lodged an incident report offering to check on my renewal quote as the prices apparently haven't increased in the last year. I've checked that the amount I was quoted for my renewal was the correct current price, so that suggests I might have been undercharged for some reason last year (I have the confirmation emails for each year from 2006 onwards so I know exactly what I was charged each year). So I shall count my blessings for the enjoyment I've had over the last year, and move on to focus on other resources in the coming year.

Some other websites that I didn't mention last time that also offer a range of
online English records are:
* British Origins who offer a reasonable 72-hour access package. In the past I've found their various indices never provide quite enough information in the index to be sure it's my own family member, but I may well do another 72-hour stint at some stage to see what I can find.
* doesn't have anything at the moment that looks like an intriguing lead (sadly none of my lot were posh enough for public school) but I'll be keeping an eye on any new databases they add.
* Roots UK has surname distribution maps that may well tempt me.....
* The National Archives Documents Online services has more than just the PCC wills and it will be interesting to see what pops up in future. I've just spotted some free-to-download poor law union correspondence - if I find anything in here that covers the poor law unions my ancestors lived in that correspondence will be colourful background reading.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Plodding on

As promised, I've been plodding on making sure I'm getting as much research done as possible in before my subscription expires. In a move that's sure to prove foolhardy, not everything is making it into my PAF file at the time I discover it - I now have a sturdy stack of printouts to add "when I get around to it", mostly for siblings of my direct ancestors. There's been some lovely discoveries, like signatures of witnesses on marriage certificates, and yesterday I even located a long-standing missing entry for one of my ancestors in the 1861 census (still no sign of the elusive Elizabeth Gardiner in 1901 though, grrrr).

I've also remembered to grab the last couple of WO363 military records for Wing-born men, so Wing has not been forgotten.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

London addresses

I'm currently wrestling with exactly how to load London addresses into my genealogy file. This isn't such a problem for non-London addresses as the parish and village are generally the same and the street name is often non-existent.

In the source attached to any event I've been quite specific in listing full parish name (eg St David West Holloway), then the broad suburb (eg Islington), then county (eg Middlesex). However in terms of actually filling in the address field of the event the lines get blurred.

Part of the problem I think stems from the fact that PAF only has a certain amount of space to print addresses, so I know it will abbreviate parts of it to initials only when I print out the individual's summary page - understandable, but useless in practice. This means I have a tendency to try and abbreviate things myself - no point putting "24 Alfred Street, St David West Holloway, Islington, Middlesex" when I know on printouts it will just show "24 Alfred Street, SDWH, I, Middlesex". I'm thinking I might change my self-imposed rule and just put the Chapman code for the county instead of spelling out the county in full but this won't get me back that many characters.

Another part of the problem is the fact that I'm not a Londoner myself so my geographical grasp of suburbs is probably pretty shaky - it bugs me that I don't know if I'm using the name it would actually be known as in practice! I've just printed out most of the sections of this excellent 1877 parish map, and I think I could standardise this by using the poor law union name as the suburb name.

My brain also wants to use "London" rather than "Middlesex", even though London should only really be used for the City of London area.

And don't even get me started on the frequent parish boundary changes and name changes for those London parishes!

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how they approach this? Do I really need to include the parish name as part of the address so long as I've got it in the source? Am I overthinking the whole thing?

Friday, April 09, 2010

I'm Ancestor Approved!

Thanks to the lovely Sheri over at The Educated Genealogist for the nomination. [UPDATED - also to the lovely Greta at Greta's Genealogy Blog *blush*]

Disclaimer: official rules state disclosure of 10 things you have learned about your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you, plus ten other blogger nominations. Ten seems an AWFUL lot, and it's Friday evening and I've already opened a cider, so here's three things I've experienced from this week's research in the (virtual) London Metropolitan Archives, and a virtual cider for everyone who reads this blog - thanks for being part of my online genealogical journey.

AAAAAA! - I discovered new (shortlived) baby siblings for my grandmother and great-grandmother. Don't you love those genealogical discovery moments when you go "aaaaa!" just a bit too loud and scare the cat? Hilda Alice WHITE (1903) and Edwin Leslie HALL (1904), welcome to the family!

OOOOOOH - "Blown Up" or "Kill'd by Explosion of Powder" is not something you want to read on a burial record. I'm glad to live in a time when the chance of being blown up by the local gunpowder mill is fairly minimal.

HMMMMMM - I found a probable baptism for my Charles AUGER which claims his parents were George and Lucy Auger - except Lucy was unmarried according to subsequent census records. Frankly I'm more inclined to believe Lucy managed to get away with telling fibs when baptising Charles.

Thursday, April 08, 2010 - The Decision

Today my car had to go to the doctor for the third time this year. I believe this is the universe assisting me with my Ancestry subscription renewal decision - so the decision is in, and it's a No.

This means I have to stay very focused and organised over the next three weeks to maximise my access before it ends. I've been spending quality time with the London Metropolitan Archives databases this week and have found many useful parish register entries. In particular I was very happy to see that a sizeable chunk of the records for the two churches in Twickenham 1800-1900 were now included, as I have multiple lines going through there, and going page by page through all the pre 1812 unindexed entries for Twickenham St Mary's has also proven valuable - although sadly my Alexander and Jane HUGHES appear to have married prior to 1800 (or perhaps not in Twickenham, as I have found a potential Alexander and Jane marrying in St James Picadilly Westminster in April 1800 - from what I've seen this name combination isn't common so it just might be them).

Monday, April 05, 2010

GRO orders - removal of reference checking

I was ordering some certificates today ahead of the fee increase at the GRO tomorrow, and it seems there has been a further late change to this. They are now scrapping the reference checking facility altogether effective tomorrow, 6 April. In the past, if a reference check was specified and it turned out to be the wrong certificate you were only charged a partial fee - now you will have to take your chances and pay to have the certificate issued regardless. So if you have any you think may fall into that category, order them today!

Historical Streets Project

The reason I was meandering through's Help yesterday was because I have just realised that Old Search enabled you to search a particular census by piece and folio number, but New Search doesn't as far as I can tell. Very annoying - I was looking for one of my ancestors in the 1871 census, who as luck would have it had banns read in late March and married in early April 1871, both with the same street address given as his residence. I therefore had the address he *should* be living at in the 1871 census, and just needed to locate the page for that address. I was able to find the piece and folio numbers thanks to the excellent Historical Streets Project of the National Archives, but had to switch back to Old Search on Ancestry in order to utilise that information.

After all that I found the page for that address in St Pancras but my Edmund WHITE is not there. Some extensive digging later I discover an Edward White of the right age and occupation but no birthplace given, a visitor at an address in Paddington. The streetname looked vaguely familiar - and lo, it was the same address my Edmund was known to be living a year later, so I'm happy that Edward is in fact Edmund. Happy dance!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

1911 census summary books

While meandering through the Help database in, I came across the following:

1911 England and Wales Census Summary Books
Question: When will the 1911 England and Wales Census Summary Books be available?
Answer: Early Release of the 1911 UK Census - We have now reached an agreement with the National Archives to release the 1911 England and Wales Census Summary Books. The Summary Books are projected to be released some time during 2010.

This item was last updated on 31 December 2009. One could speculate from this that we won't see the household pages themselves on Ancestry any time soon (perhaps they will end up waiting until the non-redacted versions are available in 2012) but the summary pages (the supplementary lists with one line per household showing the address, occupier name, and headcount) will be coming shortly.

Suffice to say, those summary pages would be *extremely* useful for the Wing One Place Study.

A love-hate relationship has been messing with me today.

Firstly, I found my grandmother's baptism by manually browsing the London parish and year I had been told she was baptised in. Hurray!

However she doesn't come up easily on a search as her forename has been mispelled - given the underlying record I'll give Ancestry the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Secondly, I discovered she had an older sister - a surprise, and hurray! I did this by searching for her parents names in conjunction with the parish name that my grandmother was baptised in.

However, her parents names are George and Alice Martha. I wanted to see if they perhaps had other children I didn't know about baptised elsewhere, so I removed the parish name, and included mother Alice's middle name with the "Exact" box ticked. Hey presto, it doesn't find ANY entries, even the two I know are in there! I know for a fact that Alice's middle name is included on the transcription because I can see it on the two entries I found earlier. So, Ancestry, why does your search engine do this?

The surname is a very common one, so if I remove the Exact tickbox on the forename it finds 27,395 possible entries and doesn't show the George and Alice Martha ones first. *Sigh*

Saturday, April 03, 2010


In yesterday's post you may remember that I mentioned there was quite the backlog of information to process in relation to the Wing One Place Study, and also that I wanted to spend time this year concentrating on my personal genealogy. As always, good intentions have flown out the window....

I rediscovered It's a one-place-study's dream, particularly if that one place happens to have its own civil registration subdistrict as Wing does. From the annual reports of the Registrar General I've downloaded statistics on the numbers of births and deaths registered in Wing in the 1841 to 1881 period (still to get the later years). Who knows what other gems are hiding on that website to jump out and distract me?

Here's 1871's report with Wing near the bottom of the page (click to enlarge) - 15 illegitimate births registered that year out of 112 total.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A world without

Yesterday I received my annual renewal reminder email from Last year I had difficulty affording the annual subscription fee - and this year it has increased by 29%. The exchange rate between the NZ dollar and the UK pound might be the best it's ever been (so it didn't actually convert to as high a number as I was expecting) but it's still getting up there.

Has the time come for me to put my money where my mouth is - i.e. firmly at home with the in-tray full of resources waiting to be studied, transcribed and incorporated into my personal genealogy, the one-place-study and the one-name-study? But what would my genealogy world look like without the instant gratification of immediate access to Ancestry? I've never contemplated such a thing before. Although I use a wide range of online and offline resources Ancestry is fairly central to my genealogy workflow, but perhaps it needn't be that way.

I certainly have more than enough to be going on with as far as the Wing One Place Study is concerned - frankly, the discipline this exile might impose is probably a good thing! But I was determined to make serious inroads into my father's side of things this year and this would definitely make that task more challenging.

Some of that money I wouldn't spend on Ancestry would no doubt (in an emergency only of course, but let's not kid ourselves that emergencies don't exist even though everyone involved has been dead for decades if not centuries) end up in the pockets of the alternative sites. Options like:
* who I see offer a 20% loyalty discount on their subscription renewals - something which would have made a difference to my current opinion of Ancestry had they had a similar deal. Nothing like being a continuous subscriber for several years and not getting any discount at all to make you feel valued!
* who I'd never been tempted to give any money to as their website did a really bad job of providing specifics about what you might actually get for your money - however I see that they have improved in that respect.

After the initial shock, I have to admit I'm actually not so scared by the idea of going cold-turkey. So what do you think - should I embark on this, my great experimental Ancestry-free year? Or shall I save that for 2011, when the impact of exchange rate changes will likely give me a much larger shock?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April update

Here's what's new to the website this month.

* Memorial inscriptions (for the BRAY, CUTLER, KENNING, PIDGLEY and RANDALL families) - if you have photos or transcriptions of your family's gravestones at All Saints Church that aren't yet included, please email me the details

* Some new marriage strays for the CUTLER family

* A bit of a rejig of the For Sale page - times change and the census records for 1841 to 1901 are now pretty much available anywhere!

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