Page Translator

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Now you can track your name online!

It is a question that not even Google can answer: where in the world are all the other people with my name? It sounds impossible, but it can now be answered thanks to a remarkable new website launched yesterday, which enables the names of most people in the English-speaking world, and a sizeable chunk of the rest of it, to be tracked to the places they live.

Set up by geographers at University College London (UCL), the site,, will provide a remarkable tool for tracing family history and also a powerful aid for governments to keep track of intra-national and international migrations.

The database behind the site holds 300 million names of people in 26 countries, representing a population of about a billion, or nearly a sixth of the world.

It contains 10.8 million individual surnames and 6.5 million forenames, and can pick out which of the latter are most closely associated with the former.

It covers most of Europe and the Anglophone countries, as well as Japan, India and Argentina, although much of the rest of the globe, including Africa, is so far untouched.

The site, launched at the annual conference in London of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers, shows in particular how Anglo-Saxon and Celtic names have spread over the globe with the English-speaking diaspora, with the result that they are sometimes more frequent in the former colonies than they are in the country of origin.

For example, the British Prime Minister might be interested to know the commonest country for Brown is Australia, by a slight margin over Britain, although the commonest region (as the site defines it) is Scotland, where it belongs to nearly one in a hundred people.

The commonest forenames associated with Brown are Robert, James, David, John and William.

His predecessor might like to learn that the country where the surname Blair is commonest is New Zealand - well ahead of Australia, then the US, then Canada before Britain - with New Zealand's Gisborne region being the locality where the name is most frequently found.

John, Kevin, Robert, David and William are commonest forenames that go with it.

Typing in my own name, I found that Coghlan is most commonly found in Ireland, and within Ireland, in the south-west. Nothing new there.

Professor Paul Longley of UCL's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, which has developed the website and the concept behind it, explained that this was one of the glitches still to be ironed out - the Irish dataset is so far only done by counties, rather than cities, so Cork City is not picked up.

But he still made high claims for the power of the system.

One of the things the website could do, he said, was "disaggregation" - that is, to separate out ethnic mixes by name, geographically, in a given area.

Thus you can pinpoint London's many ethnicities - not just white, Afro-Caribbean or Asian, as has been done in the past - you can also locate London's Greeks or its Poles.

This is already being done on an associated website,, which will show you for example, where most of London's Poles are currently living n mainly in a curving sweep to the west of the capital, centred on Ealing and Acton.

Furthermore, said Professor Longley, the data based on electoral rolls, phone directories and mailshot listings, was much more up to date than census data (the last British census was in 2001).

"The system enables us to create very detailed maps of ethnicity, at scales from the neighbourhood to the global," he said.

"It offers us a fresh and vivid picture of the scattering of individual families across the globe. Users can find the countries, regions and settlements in which their names were originally coined, and the parts of North America and Australasia in which they are now concentrated."

This article first appeared in the Independent.

Monday, 18 August 2008

North American & Canadian Sources

A very good place to start your American or Canadian research is to visit the Genweb Projects for these two countries. The USGenWeb Project is a group of volunteers working together to provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. This Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free genealogy access for everyone.

Organization is by county and state, and the website provides you with links to all the state genealogy websites which, in turn, provide gateways to the counties. The USGenWeb Project also sponsors important Special Projects at the national level and the website provides an entry point to all of those pages, as well.

Clicking on a State Link (which you'll find on the left of the page) will take you to the State's website where you will find a vast amount of information for each state. Clicking on the tabs on the header will take you to additional information and links.

The same holds true for theCanada GenWeb Project.

What Passenger Lists are Online? is a terrific list of links to transcribed Passenger Lists and records, not just for the USA & Canada but many other countries as well.

Genealogy Links have a large collection of links for American & Canadian genealogy websites.

CYNDI'S LIST is also an excellent source and has a huge page of links to genealogical information and websites specific to the USA as well as one with a list of individual States.

There is also a comprehensive CANADIAN list

Just by visiting these few sources you will have more than enough information to get your researches off the ground and sustain them for some time to come!

Relevant Post:
American Immigration
US Census: What's it all about?

Monday, 11 August 2008

American Immigration

If your ancestors emigrated from Europe to America and you would like to trace them on passenger lists there are a couple of good sources worth trying.

Between 1892 and 1924, over 22 million people passed through Ellis Island and the port of New York. They included, immigrants, passengers and ships crews. The ships companies that transported these people kept detailed passenger lists. These lists are now available on line in a gigantic searchable archive at the Ellis Island website. Sadly a catastrophic fire in 1897 burnt the original wooden immigration buildings to the ground, destroying years of valuable immigration records dating back to 1855.
Tips for searching Ellis Island Passenger Search
Ellis Island Passenger Search

The ISTG (Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild) have over 9000 passenger manifests which have been transcribed by volunteers. You can search easily by surname, captain's name, port of arrival/departure or name of the ship. HERE is an example of a transcribed ships manifest for 1851, the Favorite out of Cork, Ireland. And HERE is an example of the results of a search for the surname COGHLAN.

Learn more about the ISTG and do your own search HERE (scroll up to see information). In addition to its own records the 'Compass' area of the site has a large collection of links to other passenger lists sites.

If your ancestors were Irish they may have emigrated during the Great Famine. You can search the Famine Ship Records Index for free, but will have to pay to view the actual records if you find any relevant ones. The Famine Ship Records currently hold approximately 1.5 million records on individuals who emigrated from Ireland or via Great Britain to the United States during, immediately prior to or after the Great Famine (1845-50).

Cyndi's List has a Ships and Passenger Lists page which among other things has links to many more lists and ships arrivals.

Another site with lists of transcribed Passenger Lists is What Passenger Lists are Online?


Related Posts:
North American Sources
US Census: What's it all about?