Friday, November 27, 2009

Help for UK researchers

Following on the heels of a similar success, one UK researcher's appeal to the Information Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Act "could unlock details from the 1939 National Registration of the UK - an emergency, census-like survey of the country at the beginning of the war," as noted in a recent BBC article etnitled, "Families on the brink of war."

"The National Registration enumeration, carried out on the night of Friday 29 September 1939, led to the issue of about 46 million identity cards for citizens the following month," the article reports. The records are currently closed to the public.

"The truth is, it's often far more difficult to find out about recent history than Victorian history and beyond," says family historian Guy Etchells. Etchells, credited as the "driving force" behind the recent release of 1911 census for England and Wales.

As we learn from Margaret Meade, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009 launches British Prisoners of War database

With the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two (September 1, 2009) approaching, has launched online British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945, which contains the records for more than 100,000 prisoners of war (POW) captured during the conflict, including the names of many ancestors of living Canadians. Nearly one-third of Canada’s population claims British heritage, which means that many Canadians with ancestors who fought for or alongside the British Army may be able to find ancestors in this collection.

As one of the few World War Two archives not subject to the UK’s ‘75-year rule’,  this collection is a vital resource for anyone looking to trace British and Commonwealth soldiers captured by German Forces during the war. The majority of World War Two records are not yet available to the general public as individual records are still protected by the rule.

In addition to the POW records, has also published online the UK Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945, featuring the records of all British Army personnel killed in action during World War Two.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

British WW I naval service records now online

As reported on the UK, "National Archives puts naval WW I service records online," the service records of 40,000 members of the World War One Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) are now accessible online via the The National Archives. The records, previously available only to those visiting The National Archives in Kew, family historians can now trace their WWI naval ancestors through this new online resource.

The records can be found at DocumentsOnline. For more information on tracing your British World War One ancestors, visit the National Archive's Military History pages.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

BBC offers WW I family history series

November 11 is Veteran's Day, known also as Armistice Day, a day marking the "symbolic" end of World War One. The signing of the armistice or treaty between the Allies and Germany took place at 11 o'clock in the morning, the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Although hostilities continued in other regions after the armistice, November 11 has continued as the day to celebrate the end of the war, and has become a day to honor all members of the armed forces.

In anticipation of this anniversary, BBC One is offering "My Family at War", a series combining family history with events of World War I. As reported on Scottish Genealogy News and Events, the program, similar in format to the popular "Who Do You Think You Are," features celebrities discovering their ancestors' roles in the war, ranging from Dan Snow's discovery that a relative was a general who ordered men to their deaths at the Somme, to Kirsty Wark's emotional discovery of a letter written by her great uncle prior to going over the top, The celebrities are ably assisted by top military historian Paul Reed on their quests. Paul regularly writes for Your Family Tree magazine and has also been acting as the series consultant since May.

Not available in the US, the three most recent episodes are available in the UK on the BBC web site, My Family at War, for a limited time, "12 days left to watch," as of Nov 6. Episode Four airs November 14.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

National Archives at Kew puts Indian Army medal index cards online

In a recent the press release, The National Archives at Kew (UK) announced the public can now search online and download the medal index cards of more than 20,000 soldiers who served in the Indian Army during World War One. The cards record the soldiers who were entitled to, or made a claim for, campaign medals - in particular the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Many soldiers were also awarded one or more clasps to go with the British War Medal, and this is also recorded on the cards. The Indian Army medal index cards can be found in the record series WO 372, within pieces WO 372/25 to WO 372/29. Unlike the other medal index cards, which have been scanned six per page, you will only receive one medal card per download.

For the first time you can now search and download service records of officers who served in the Royal Navy. These records were kept by the Admiralty from the 1840s and record service for warrant officers joining the Royal Navy up to 1931 and commissioned officers joining the service up to 1917, including King George VI.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

UK vital records web project halted

As reported August 16 on the, "Ancestry hunters stuck in the past as web project fails," genealogists reacted with anger . . . after it emerged that a government website, which promised direct access to 171 years of family records, had been delayed indefinitely following the failure of a Whitehall computer project.

An attempt to scan, index and digitise 250m records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day was supposed to result in a new public website that would let people trace their ancestors at the touch of a button next February. Now, three years after the government awarded the £16m contract to German computer giant Siemens, the deal has been terminated with only half the work done. It was hoped that the online record would slash costs and speed up the process of tracing ancestry. The collapse means family tree enthusiasts must continue asking for copies of documents by post, which can take seven days and costs £7 or £10 a time.

The failure drew strong criticism from genealogists who were already dismayed that last October the government removed access to paper ledgers that contained indexes of births marriages and deaths at the family records centre in London when it decided to launch the website.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

200 Years of Times (London) newspaper archive -- Free and Online


Aimed at setting the gold standard for an online newspaper archive, Times Online has rolled out an elaborate digital newspaper archive stretching back more than 200 years, according to an article in the Guardian, "Time archive offers 20m articles for free." The archive includes more than 20 million articles from every edition of the Times (London), excepting a small number of damaged issues, from 1785 to 1985.

Such a newspaper archive is a real time machine, taking you back in time for real time coverage of momentous historical events. As reported in the Guardian article, the archive includes Thunderer's coverage of events such as the Battle of Waterloo, the first convicts arriving at Botany Bay and the execution of Marie Antoinette. Other issues cover the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888 and Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932. The archive also includes letters to the editor, photographs and adverts, with each page presented as it was printed in the paper on a parchment-coloured screen.

Anne Spackman, the editor-in-chief of Times Online, said that the Times wanted the project to set the gold standard for an online newspaper archive for "arguably the most famous newspaper in the world." The archive is currently free, and Spackman says no decision will be taken about whether it will remain free or require a subscription until it has generated a solid userbase. . . . Work will begin soon on digitising the rest of the Times editions, as well as the extensive archive of the Sunday Times from 1822 to 2000.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Over 1 million records added to UK National Burial Index announced that it has added another 1.2 million National Burial Index records to its existing online collection of UK family history records, according to a recent column on The new records cover the counties of Somersetsire, Dorset and Essex and have been contributed by he Somersetand Dorset Family History Society as part of an arrangement with the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) to transfer their local family history society records to

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Monday, September 24, 2007

UK National Archive nonconformist records go online

As posted on, "National Archives aids genealogy with new web birth, marriage & deaths service," the UK National Archives' collection of nonconformist birth, marriage and death records from 1567 has gone online for the first time. A new partnership project between The National Archives and S&N Genealogy Supplies means that you can now access images of these records online. BMD Registers provides access to the non-parochial and nonconformist registers 1567-1840 held in RG 4 and RG 5.

The National Archives holds 5,000 registers of a huge variety of nonconformist congregations, including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Protestant Dissenters (known as 'Dr Williams Library') and Independents. There are also registers from a small number of Roman Catholic communities. Basic searching is free of charge, but there is a fee for advanced searching and to download images.The entries are rich in detail and may include material about up to three generations of a family.

When the project is complete you will also be able to access further miscellaneous birth, marriage and death records from the series RG 6-8, RG 32-36 and BT 158-160. These include records of Quakers, of foreign congregations in England and of clandestine marriages before 1754, as well as miscellaneous foreign returns, and records of life events occurring at sea.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Tips on obtaining burial information in the UK

If you've ever bumped into a problem locating burial information in the United Kingdom, you re not alone, according to an article by Shelley Poblete, "UK Burials: The Value of Persistence." In addition to persistence, she suggests, an "understanding of English burials can be extremely useful."

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

New family history web site launched in UK

According to an article on New Media Age in the UK, "Telegraph launches family history site," and the Telegraph Media Group today launched a white-label family history site, Telegraph Family History.

The has agreed a deal with to take on a white label version of the site that will be branded Telegraph Family History. The move will mean that visitors to the Telegraph site will have access to findmypast's historical records. The site offers unlimited and pay per view access. The new site will be available from the front page of the as well.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920

As reported on Web User, "WWI pension records online," a collaboration between the National Archive and genealogy site has seen the pension records of one million men who fought in the great war posted online. Now all the pension records that exist - many were destroyed by fire after bombing raids in the Second World War - are online. managing director Simon Harper said: "The completed British Army World War One Pension Records provide vital information on this brave group of men and are an important resource for anyone interested in researching virtually any soldier who sustained illness or injuries whilst serving in the First World War."

According to Ancestry web site, each file typically contains date and place of enlistment, tours of duty, medical history and former occupations, and may also "contain next of kin information.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Records of transported convicts published online

According to an article published on, entitled, "Records of transported convicts published online," the records of around 160,000 deportees sent to Australia have been placed on the web site. The transportation records date from 1788 to 1868 and include all but a few thousand of the 163,021 convicts who were sent to Australia. Information contained in the records includes name, date and place of conviction, length of sentence, name of ship, departure date and the colony to which they were sent. Additional information in some cases includes occupation, marital status, religion and the date on which freedom was finally granted. Josh Hanna, a spokesman for, estimated that more than two million Britons are directly descended from the deportees, meaning that there is a one in 30 chance of Britons having a convict ancestor listed among the records.

A related article in Scotsman, "No mercy shown in the prison ships era," provides insight into the those who became prisoners, often as mere children, "poverty struck young servants who dared to steal a trinket from their wealthy masters' family silver, desperate men who snared livestock to feed their families, young husbands banished for years and leaving behind penniless wives, middle-aged women torn from their children and those who would today be classed as pensioners. All were condemned to a journey in conditions so harsh it would claim many lives." Many such prisoners were shipped to the U.S., as well.

The article adds: Criminal records - dating from 1800 to 1994 and including those of people transported to the penal colonies - are held at the National Archives of Scotland, West Register House, Charlotte Square. Online searches at, or go to

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Site brings Empire's Children together

A recent article on DigitalArtsOnline, introduces a new, user-driven web site created by Illumina Digital, designed to complement the six-part TV history series, Empire's Children. The series – to be broadcast from July 2nd – examines how the dismantlement and legacy of the British Empire have impacted on modern Britain and shaped our national identity. The aim of the site is to create an online space that enables anyone with connections to the Empire to trace, record and share their own family history online. As a specialist online resource the web site will contain a research guide with advice and information on tracing Empire lineage, alongside country histories and an interactive map to guide users through the rise and decline of the Empire. Anyone with an interest in the history of the Empire will also have access to a wealth of archive images and videos from the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Researching illigitimate births

This week we would like to welcome Shelley Poblete as a new writer for GenWeekly. In her first article, "Illegitimate Children" a Search for British Parentage," Shelley addresses the subject of illegitimate birth, providing us with a little historical background and some tips for researching. As most of us know, many researchers find one or more illegitimate births in the course of building the family tree. Having discovered the fact is one thing, trying to unravel the parentage is another. Understanding a little more about the historical traditions surrounding illegitimate birth may suggest new places to look.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New subscriber web site for British records

An article in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, "Web site offers gateway to British records." introduces a new subscriber genealogy web site. If you have ancestors from anywhere in the United Kingdom, a Web site to visit is Find My Past. Located at, this site offers the subscriber a multitude of British records online, with a search engine that looks through all of the records for a surname of interest. The site offers various subscriber options, including pay-per-view, unlimited access, and a voucher system.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

May is Museums and Galleries Month in the UK

As reported in Qultures, May is Museums and Galleries Month in the UK, with the theme "People - Who are we?" To get an impression of the range of exhibitions and events, the 24 Hour Museum web site can be recommended. This is the UK's National Virtual Museum, updated daily with at least two new stories including arts and museum news as well as exhibition notices, reviews, features and trails. You can search the site for what's on by place, date or by any subject you choose. The site aims to encourage visitors out into attractions around the country, not only during the Museum month, but also all year round. The theme - "People, Who are we?" - is in keeping with a seemingly global trend. It aims to explore the relationship between museums and identities, the musuem explores this question, suggesting "identity is so much more than our ancestry . . . determined by events and actions of today, more so than by events of the past." The article directs the reader to various resources and related links.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Britain colonial slave records online

As reported in an article on, "Britain's slave trade records go online," the records of nearly 100,000 British colonial slaves and their owners become available for free on the Internet for the first time. It is hoped the Black History collection on www. will help people fill in gaps in their family histories. The database contains the names of 99,349 slaves and their owners from registers in Barbados between 1815 and 1834 – the year slavery was abolished in British colonies.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Auto maker sponsors "Who Do You Think You Are" LIVE event

An article in MarketingWeek, "Daihatsu celebrates centenary with BBC genealogy show," reports Japanese car marque Daihatsu is to sponsor the first Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE event as part of its strategy to celebrate its centenary. The live show is a spin off of the hugely successful BBC television series, following celebrities as they discover their ancestry. It takes at Kensington Olympia May 5 to May 7, and Daihatsu says it has decided to link to event as it ties in with its 100-year-history, while the visitor profile fits its target market. Other brand partners at the event include The National Archives, The History Channel and Alongside exhibits the event will host talks, workshops and an historical fashion feature. Guests at the event include genealogist Nick Barratt and historian David Starkey, as well some of the celebrities who featured in the BBC TV series, including Colin Jackson and Ian Hislop.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Genealogists Discover Descendants on Anti-Slave Trade Petition

The UK Parliamentary Archives web site at has seen a flurry of activity since it went live, March 19, 2007. The site features a digitised, transcribed version of the petition from Manchester 1806 which is the biggest surviving parliamentary anti slave trade petition. Already individuals are finding names believed to be ancestors. David Prior of the Parliamentary Archives said: "I am bowled over by the feedback we are receiving from people who have recognised names on the petition. Anyone whose ancestor signed the petition will have a unique insight into that person's opinion on this issue at that time."

The 1807 Act of Parliament to abolish the British Slave Trade was the culmination of one of the first, and most successful public campaigns in history. The petition supported the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill of 1806 and was signed by inhabitants of Manchester. It was laid before the House of Lords on 14 May 1806. Also available online is part of the 1807 Act itself and a much smaller pro slave trade petition. These documents along with others will feature in a comprehensive web site being launched by the Parliamentary Archives in May. Both the Manchester abolition petition and the 1807 Act will be key exhibits in The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament and People exhibition in Westminster Hall from 23 May to 23 September 2007. It will be open to the public, free of charge. For further information please contact Ruth Cobb, at 24 Hour Museum.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Irish Roots event to be held in London

History notwithstanding, a special Irish genealogy day is being arranged for March 10 in London with expert advice on tracing your Irish family history. The day features talks by experts from the National Records Office in Kew, Britain's Family Records Centre as well as a host of others. To find out more about the event, see Organizers are advising people to book as early as possible.

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Genealogy services a new feature on travel web sites

Genealogy travel is becoming ever more popular. An article in The South African Star, "Getting back to your roots in the UK," points out that many tourist organizations are now presening genealogy content and searches on thier web sites, catering to this group of travelers. Focusing on travel to the UK, in particular, the article notes with "over nine-million emigrants sailed from Liverpool alone in just one 100-year period (1830-1930), imagine how many more millions around the world can trace their ancestry to the UK."

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