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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Ancestors on Board is the great website where you can search for details of passengers who sailed from Great Britain to ports around the world from 1890 onwards. The good news is that this site has recently been completed and now has all passengers’ names indexed up until 1960.

The website is a collaborative project between the National Archives in the UK and the commercial subscription website, Findmypast.com, and features the records from BT27 Outward Passenger Lists held at the National Archives at Kew. It records the details of passengers bound for destinations such as New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and Canada as well as Australia.

Searching and viewing the results list is free and you can view images of the original passenger lists on a pay-per-view basis. To start searching for your ancestors who may have left Britain during this period go to the website at www.ancestorsonboard.com

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

An Essential Book for Internet Genealogists


If there is one book I would recommend it is 'The Genealogist's Internet' by Peter Christian and published by the National Archives in Kew.

This is a comprehensive introduction and guide to researching British family history on the Internet.

The internet is proving an invaluable resource for anyone researching a family tree, but the sheer volume of information can make starting your search confusing and time-consuming. This much-expanded third edition contains everything you need to know about family history on the Web. It describes:

On-line records and web sites of national and local archives in the UK
On-line historical and geographical resources of interest to family historians
Services provided by genealogical organisations via the internet
How to use mailing lists and newsgroups to find advice and others who share your interests
How to locate genealogical information on-line
How to publish your own family history on the Web

This third edition contains a wealth of new material, including recent developments in on-line services in key areas such as censuses, wills, births, marriages and deaths records; historical maps; immigrant communities; and standards for on-line purchasing. It is the essential comprehensive guide to the internet’s resources for all family historians with roots in the UK.

On the books website you will find a list of its Contents, as well as a handy list of all the links contained within the book, as well as a bio of the author, Peter Christian, a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists.

I can guarantee you will find it an invaluable source of information for your researches.

Amazon.co.uk have it for £8.44 (normally £12.99) & Amazon.com have it for $18.96

What is a GEDCOM File?

If you use a computer for family history, you need to know about GEDCOM. It provides a way of moving family history information between different computer systems, and between different genealogy packages. GEDCOM is built in to most genealogy packages, and is also used for transferring information from databases.

GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communication. Think of it as a universal file format for sharing genealogy files between genealogy software programs. Recognize a GEDCOM file by its extension .ged. Even PC users may share their GEDCOM files with Mac users—it’s the common language for computerized genealogy around the world.

GEDCOM files are text only files. They will not preserve graphics or photographs of any kind. Your family tree is encoded in the GEDCOM language, which is actually fairly easy to decipher once you are familiar with the structure. For example, John Wesley McCorkle was born 01 April 1852 in Pocatello, Idaho becomes:

0 INDI 003
1 NAME John Wesley/McCorkle/
2 GIVN John Wesley
2 SURN McCorkle
1 BIRT
2 DATE 01 Apr 1852
2 PLAC Pocatello, Idaho

INDI refers to an individual and the other abbreviations are intuitive. Notice the numbers refer to the levels and are progressive. The first pair of twos (GIVN and SURN) relates to the level one (NAME) above them; the second pair of twos (DATE and PLAC) gives more information on the level one (BIRT) directly above them. That’s the language of GEDCOM.

You may save your entire family tree in a GEDCOM file in most any genealogy software program you use. Once saved, you may send the file as an attachment in an email to a relative where it can be imported and added to their family tree. You may upload your family tree in the GEDCOM file format to a website where it can be accessed by anyone who views the site. For privacy reasons, professional genealogists recommend you remove information on all living persons before you upload to a public site like the Ancestry World Tree. Many genealogy software programs have a feature to do this for you, and there are add-on utilities available if your program does not remove these names. Your GEDCOM files can also be sent to services to create heirloom quality books and wall charts to display your family history work.

GEDCOM files have eliminated the need for copying genealogy data by hand. Not only are GEDCOM files a valuable time saver, but this standardized file format increases the accuracy of information as it is transferred from one source to another, preserving precious genealogy records for years to come.

If you would like even more information on GEDCOM then WIKIPEDIA is a good place to start and ANCESTRY has a very good page on it as well or for comprehensive coverage try CYNDI'S LIST.

Tips for Census Search Success

Sometimes it is difficult for beginners, and even the more experienced family historian, to appreciate just how much their ancestors names can have changed over time. The spelling in the 1841 Census can be quite different from that in the 1901 depending on how a surname evolved or was transcribed, and when one goes even further back in time to the 16th & 17th centuries the difference is even more marked ( try doing a search in FamilySearch for your surname and compare all the various ways of spelling it to see what I mean). So don't be precious about how names are spelled and think outside the box. Below are the top tips for searching for your families names in Census's and other records.

Don't count solely on Soundex. While the Soundex search option, when available, is a great way to pick up alternate spellings, it may not get them all. OWENS and OWEN, for example, are commonly seen variations of the same name - yet they have different Soundex codes. Therefore, a search for OWENS will not pick up OWEN, and vice-versa.

Try a wildcard search. If you aren't sure how to spell a name, some census search engines allow you to use special symbols called wildcards to represent some unknown letter or letters in a word.

Check with the specific census index for specific wildcard rules and symbols, but most (including Ancestry.com) allow you to use an * to represent an unknown number of characters at the end of a word (a search for john* might return john, johns, johnson, johnsen, johnathon, etc.) Usually you need to have at least three characters preceding the *. Another commonly used wildcard character is the ? which is often used to represent a single character within a word (a search for sm?th would match both smith and smyth). A search for "Harriet Sto*" in the 1860 U.S. census, for example, helps find Harriet Beecher Stowe living in Andover, MA, even though her last name was actually indexed as "Stone."

Familiarize yourself with nicknames. It's not uncommon to find families providing census takers with their formal birth names in one census, and then using the names their friends and family called them by in another. Mary might be listed as Polly, Alexander as Alex or Al, and Elizabeth as Betsy, Bessie, Beth or Eliza. Familiarize yourself with the names your families commonly used, as well as common nicknames for popular first names.

Check the middle names too. You probably wouldn't believe how many parents listed all of their children by first name in the 1870 census and then by middle name in the 1880 census. Most people wouldn't even recognize them as the same family! As with nicknames, in many areas of the world it is common for an individual to be known to families and friends by his middle name. Be sure to search for middle names, baptismal names, and other alternate names.

Search by surname and location. When you're pretty sure you know where an ancestor was living but traditional searches just aren't turning him up, try searching by surname only - restricting by state, county, district, or town as necessary to bring the number of results down to a reasonable number for browsing. You may even discover previously unknown relatives!

Search for initials. When you can't narrow down the location enough to use surname only search, and you can't find them listed under their first name, check for initials. Sometimes those census enumerators were lazy! Initials may have been used for first name, middle name or both. M C Owens would come up under a search for either 'M Owens' or 'C Owens,' for example.

Search for siblings, children or other family members. When an every name index is available, don't forget about the rest of the family! Your ancestor's first name may have been hard to read, but her brother's may have been a bit easier.

Search for neighbours. If your ancestors have been living in the same place for a while, search for people who were listed nearby in neighbouring census years. If you find a neighbour in the index, then head to his page and check a few pages on either side for your ancestor.

Leave out the name entirely. When all else fails, and the search engine offers enough other options, forego the name and search by other known facts. Searching for someone living in Wilson County, NC, in 1850 who was born in Virginia in 1789 will narrow down the field considerably. Sometimes this is the only way you'll find those people whose names were seriously mangled during the indexing process. Searching by first name only, along with other identifying information such as date and place of birth, can also turn up possible matches for women who have married.