15 August 2019

Why we enjoyed DNA Down Under (genealogy conference)

If you're interested in why and how I've used DNA tests as a tool for family history, see this page (it opens in a new window).

Yesterday's DNA Down Under conference in Brisbane (which will be followed by similar events in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney) was a great success. I found it enjoyable, informative and inspiring, and I now feel even more enthusiastic about using DNA as a tool for family history. The conference also gave me a chance to chat to friends and clients... and, as a bonus, I met the wife of one of my DNA matches!

If you're going to DNA Down Under, you're in for a treat. On a scale from one to ten, Blaine Bettinger (the keynote speaker) is definitely a ten. He explains what you need to know to get started with DNA, and how to make the most of your results, but he does not overwhelm beginners with scientific details that they really don't need to know.

If any of my DNA matches were amongst the audience, I hope they were paying close attention when Blaine explained the benefits of adding a surname list and 'earliest known ancestors' in FamilyTreeDNA (under 'Account settings - Genealogy'). He also encouraged us to link at least a 'skeleton' family tree to our DNA results at each testing company. At AncestryDNA, I'd linked a tree that is private but searchable - and that does allow me to use 'Thrulines' and other features... but I now intend to link a smaller 'skeleton' tree, showing names, dates and birth places for my direct ancestors, and I will make that tree public.

This is what one of my clients (Keith) said about DNA Down Under:
The day was a real eye-opener for me. I've had DNA done - first by Ancestry and 23andMe and most recently by FamilyTreeDNA and still waiting for LivingDNA. However, I've done little with the results. Yesterday was excellent for opening my eyes to how to use DNA as part of a structured investigation of problems and hypotheses. I have also booked for the 3-day event in Sydney. Blaine is not only a great speaker but completely on top of his subject. It was a great day.

Note that the Sydney programme includes many talks that are different from those in the other five cities. Programmes and speaker profiles for each city are on the DNA Down Under web site.

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2019/08/why-we-enjoyed-dna-down-under-genealogy.html.)

21 July 2019

How I Found Sarah Sheppard's Parents

Over the years I've worked long and hard to trace descendants of my direct ancestors' siblings, and my efforts have been richly rewarded. On five occasions those descendants had very old family documents that have smashed through 'brick walls' in my family history.

My most recent success was the result of a DNA test. Because I'd traced side branches of the family from about 1800 right down to the 1980s, I could see that one of my DNA matches is a third cousin once removed. I contacted John and offered to exchange information. (I'd written to his mother thirty-six years ago, but she didn't reply, and I'd lost track of that line.)

I knew that my ancestor Sarah SHEPPARD, born in 1762, married Richard GIBLETT in Frome, Somerset, England. Imagine my excitement when John sent me photos of a bible (published in 1736) in which are written SHEPPARD family names and dates, mainly from the 1700s! The bible entries show (among other things) that Sarah's father was Benjamin SHEPPARD, and that he was married on 1st October 1746.

In the magnificent London Metropolitan Archives collection, I found an image of a parish register that says Benjamin SHEPPARD married Elizabeth BEEX on 1st October 1746. [London Metropolitan Archives ref. P91/LEN/A/008/MS07498/001, Saint Leonard, Shoreditch, Middlesex.]

Screenshot showing ancestors of Elizabeth Beck Webster
Ancestors whose surnames were used as middle names
I suspect that Elizabeth's surname may actually have been BECKS or BECK. My family has a document written in the late 1800s that says, 'Our maternal ancestor's maiden name was BECK.'

The family also had a habit of using ancestral surnames as middle names; and great-grandchildren of Benjamin SHEPPARD and Elizabeth BEEX include Elizabeth Beck WEBSTER, Elizabeth Sheppard WEBSTER, Richard Giblett WEBSTER, James Porter WEBSTER and George Harley WEBSTER. I had previously identified the origin of middle names Sheppard, Giblett, Porter and Harley. Perhaps this latest discovery explains Beck.

The family bible includes Benjamin's death date, and I found a burial register entry for him in Frome, Somerset.

Without the names and dates in the SHEPPARD family bible, I may never have identified the correct family. Tracing descendants of all of your direct ancestors' siblings, and contacting those descendants, is a research strategy that I highly recommend. It has worked well for me on many occasions. Give it a try!

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2019/07/how-i-found-sarah-sheppards-parents.html.)

8 June 2019

Why I'm going to DNA Down Under

2 cities
See details on www.dnadownunder.com
I've made a lot of progress since I first wrote about my plans to use DNA tests as a tool for family history research. Although I was interested in finding out whether my 'ethnicity estimates' contained any surprises, my main reasons for using DNA were (1) to confirm or disprove relationships that seemed likely (based on my traditional research), and (2) to put me in contact with others who share the same ancestry.

My parents died before DNA tests became affordable, so in 2012 my 91-year-old uncle agreed to have his Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA tested. Tests for autosomal DNA are the most popular with family historians, because they have the potential to identify descendants of all ancestral lines (maternal and paternal) within about the last six generations. Autosomal DNA is inherited (by both males and females) from mother, father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.

It was important to test my uncle, not just myself, because that gets me a generation further back when looking for ancestors in common with his matches. The more relatives who are tested, the more useful the results will be. I can now compare my uncle's DNA with that of his nephew, two nieces, and fifteen other known relatives ranging from a first cousin once removed to a fifth cousin once removed. That data has helped me to work out how some of his other DNA matches must be related. To do that, though, it is usually necessary to know the start and end points of matching chromosome segments. Annoyingly, that information is not provided by AncestryDNA - so I persuaded relatives who tested there to either test with, or transfer their AncestryDNA raw data to, FamilyTreeDNA, who provide a very useful Chromosome Browser.

I started with my uncle (who has since passed away), but I've also had my own DNA tested at FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA and LivingDNA, and I've uploaded my data to MyHeritageDNA and Gedmatch. Other links that I found helpful are on my Web site.

Thanks to DNA results, I've contacted dozens of previously unknown relatives (DNA matches) who have shared their knowledge with me. Some even had letters written by my direct ancestors! Although I've already made progress, I know that I could make better use of all the tools that are now available to help us analyse our DNA data. There's lots more to learn, and that's why I'll be attending 'DNA Down Under'.

'DNA Down Under' is a world class DNA-themed conference and road show featuring respected genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger. The August 2019 events in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney will include topics suitable for all levels (beginner to expert). The Sydney programme is almost entirely different from those in the other five cities. You can go to your city's page and book the two-city bundle at $30 off the price of booking the two cities separately. The admission cost includes a light lunch, morning tea and afternoon tea/coffee.

If you have not done a DNA test and want to know how it can help with your family history, or if you have tested but are unsure how to make the most of your results, 'DNA Down Under' is for you!

(Disclosure: As an appointed DNA Down Under 'ambassador', I receive free admission to the one-day event in Brisbane... but I would have booked a seat even if I had not been offered a free ticket. #DNADU)

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2019/06/why-im-going-to-dna-down-under.html.)

24 May 2018

More parish registers for Kent, England, will go online

Saint Mary's Church, Hinxhill, Kent (photo by Barry Marsh)
Photo by Barry Marsh
For the county of Kent (England), thousands of fully indexed images of original Anglican parish records (baptism, banns, marriage and burial registers from the early 16th century up to 1918) will be made available online for the first time, exclusively at Findmypast.

The first records will be published later in 2018. In addition to using the search function, we will be able to browse the images page by page.

Once fully digitised and indexed, these new additions will join Findmypast's Canterbury collection and existing collections of Kent Family History Society records to form the world's most comprehensive online repository of Kent parish registers.

To find out what Kent records are currently online, go to the full list of UK records on Findmypast and search for the word Kent.

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2018/05/more-parish-registers-for-kent-england.html.)

28 November 2017

Major Changes at Findmypast

(Megaphone image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Today Findmypast announced that they are now offering customers the opportunity to sign up to three new package tiers (Starter, Plus and Pro) - and the 1939 Register is (for the first time) available to monthly subscribers to the Plus and Pro packages.

All three options (Starter, Plus and Pro) aim to simplify Findmypast's offerings for the UK market. They have been specifically tailored to family historians. Whether they are looking for a simple way to begin exploring their family history, to take existing research further or to uncover detailed facts about the lives of their ancestors, customers will be provided with access to the records they truly need at each stage of their research.

The 1939 Register is now available to monthly subscribers for the first time; and both 'Plus' and 'Pro' subscriptions include unlimited access to that wartime 'census'. This essential resource, only available online through Findmypast, plugs a vital 30-year gap in British records, and it is the only surviving record of the civilian population of England and Wales between 1921 and 1951.

The new subscription options include:
  • Starter package to help beginners on their journey. This offers the simplicity of starting with essential birth, marriage, death and census records, and it includes full access to Findmypast's family tree hinting system, allowing users to quickly trace their family's story back to 1837. As it's designed specifically for beginners, the package also includes Findmypast's search functionality, support content, live chat and instant help - and all new subscribers will receive a free Getting Started guide. Prices: £8.95 per month or £72 per year.

  • Plus package with 1939 and all the essentials for the keen hobbyist. This is designed for those wanting to take their research to the next level - which is why, for the first time, Findmypast has included the 1939 Register in a monthly subscription. This unique record set will now be available to even more members of the genealogy community, enabling more people than ever before to discover their civilian ancestors in England and Wales at the start of World War 2. Beyond the 1939 Register, all parish, military, education, institutions and social history records as well as all electoral registers, directories, and travel and migration records will help Plus subscribers delve deep into their family trees. Prices: £12.95 per month or £120 per year.

  • Pro package to bring the serious genealogist's research to life. This package contains everything the serious or professional genealogist needs to explore the lives of their ancestors in detail. It includes access to all of Findmypast's global record sets and advanced resources such as PERSI, the 1939 Register, and the largest online collection of British and Irish newspapers in the world. And with priority customer support, exclusive Webinars and advanced education aimed at experienced genealogists, Findmypast will help Pro subscribers expand their research every step of the way. Prices: £15.95 per month or £156 per year.

I've had a World subscription to Findmypast for many years. It will be interesting to see what proportion of new subscribers choose each of the three subscription packages.

(This post first appeared on https://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2017/11/major-changes-at-findmypast.html.)

31 January 2017

Australian Electoral Roll Indexes, and Who Could Vote

You can do either a name search or an address search in the Australian electoral rolls collection at FindMyPast.

The search page explains which State and Commonwealth rolls are included. More will be added in the future, but right now (31 Jan 2017) these are available:
  • Queensland:  State electoral rolls 1860-1884, and Commonwealth electoral rolls 1895-1915 and 1903, 1906, 1913, 1922, 1934, 1941, 1949 and 1959. Only 45% have images of original rolls, but transcriptions for 1860-1884, 1903, 1913, 1922, 1934, 1949 and 1959 are very useful.

  • New South Wales:  State electoral rolls 1903 and 1913, and Commonwealth electoral rolls 1935. 100% have images.

  • South Australia:  Commonwealth electoral rolls 1939, 1941 and 1943. 100% have images.

  • Western Australia:  Commonwealth electoral rolls 1939, 1943 and 1949. 100% have images.

  • Tasmania:  Commonwealth electoral rolls 1916, 1934 and 1943. 66% have images.

  • Northern Territory:  1895, 1906, 1922, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1937 and 1940. No images.

  • Victoria:  Currently available as a browse-only set.

Index searches are free. To see transcriptions or images of original records, I recommend either a one-month or twelve-month subscription ('World' or 'Australia').

* Who could vote *

Details below are derived from Electoral Pocketbook (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005).
  • 1901:  State franchises applied at the first federal election (NSW, VIC, QLD, TAS men over 21 years; SA and WA men and women over 21 years). Enrolment and voting were voluntary.
  • 1902:  Most men and women over 21 years were allowed to vote at federal elections. However, Aboriginal natives of Australia, Asia, Africa or the Pacific islands except New Zealand were excluded from enrolment and voting unless they already had the franchise at State level. Women over 21 years were allowed to vote in NSW elections.
  • 1903:  Women over 21 years were allowed to vote in TAS elections.
  • 1905:  Women over 21 years were allowed to vote in QLD elections.
  • 1908:  Women over 21 years were allowed to vote in VIC elections.
  • 1911:  Enrolment (but not voting) became compulsory.
  • 1915:  Queensland introduced compulsory voting in State elections.
  • 1920:  Nationality Act 1920 gave British subjects all political and other rights, but South Sea Islanders were still unable to vote despite being British subjects.
  • 1924:  Voting at federal elections became compulsory. Enrolment had been compulsory since 1911.
  • 1925:  Natives of British India living in Australia were allowed to vote.
  • 1949:  Aboriginal people were given the right to vote at federal elections provided that they were entitled to enrol for State elections or had served in the Defence Forces.
  • 1962:  All Aboriginal people became entitled to enrol and vote at federal elections.
  • 1973:  Qualifying age for enrolment for federal elections was lowered from 21 years to 18 years.
  • 1984:  Enrolment and voting for Aboriginal people became compulsory. Franchise qualification changed to Australian Citizenship (but British subjects on the roll immediately before 26 Jan 1984 retained enrolment rights).

Queensland has four separate series of electoral enrolment records. Differences and advantages are explained on Queensland Genealogy and Archives Research Tips.

This is the address search screen at FindMyPast.

If you can't find someone in the Australian electoral rolls collection at FindMyPast, check (on that page) the list of records included in the collection at that time, and (above) the legislation regarding who could enrol to vote. You should also try the electoral rolls on Ancestry.com.

I've seen a case where a man used his real name on State electoral rolls and a completely different name on Commonwealth rolls. I only discovered that after I saw the alias mentioned in his Supreme Court probate file. If you've found any big surprises in electoral rolls, I'd love to hear about them.

(This post first appeared on http://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2017/01/australian-electoral-roll-indexes-and.html.)

27 September 2016

Wiltshire Baptisms (Tuesday's Tip)

GIBLETT baptism extract
Extract from Findmypast's transcription for the 1748 baptism of Sarah GIBLETT
This posted was updated in August 2017 after more entries (for dates up to 1917) were added to the index.
If you're looking for baptisms in the county of Wiltshire (England) between 1530 and 1917, start by searching the record set Wiltshire Baptisms 1530-1917 at Findmypast.

The transcriptions there (created by the Wiltshire Family History Society and by Findmypast) give some details (such as parents' residence in a different parish) that are not shown in Wiltshire baptism transcriptions on Ancestry.com.

The illustration shows part of the entry for Sarah GIBLETT, whom I suspect may be a sister of my 4xgreat-grandfather Richard GIBLETT.

If you're researching any GIBLETT, HYDON or HINWOOD family with connections to Warminster (Wiltshire) or Frome, Glastonbury or Shepton Mallet (Somerset), I'd love to exchange information with you. My email address is in the sidebar here.

('Tuesday's Tip' is a theme used by Geneabloggers. This post first appeared on http://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2016/09/wiltshire-baptisms-tuesdays-tip.html.)

1 April 2016

Will Books 1800-1952

Archives in a particular region usually hold wills or probate records for many people who lived or died in other regions. That's why I deliberately chose not to mention a location in the title of this post.

I've found an amazing amount of information about people in other States and even other countries in NSW Will Books 1800-1952. Countries mentioned include England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand, Canada, USA, South Africa, Germany, Fiji, Mexico, India, Holland, China, Papua, New Guinea, etc.

The original books are held by State Records New South Wales. Before 1924 they contain handwritten copies of the wills. Between 1924 and 1952 the copies were typed.

Images of the Will Books are on FindMyPast. Searches are free (you only pay if you want to see an image or transcription). My search tips are shown below. Start with strategy no.1, then try no.2, and so on.
Search screen for NSW Will Books 1800-1952
  1. Search for a name in 'Who' (you can use asterisks as wildcards). 'Death year' is optional, and you can select 'give or take' (+/-) up to 40 years. For now, ignore the 'Residence' field.

  2. In the separate field called Heirs' or executors' last name, enter a surname (you can use asterisks as wildcards), but leave both of the Who fields empty.

  3. If you use the Residence field, use wildcards. You'll understand why if you search for *Brisbane*, with asterisks before and after, and note the residences shown in results! Data in the Residence field is not entered in any set format. It may be just a town, or just a State, or just a country, or town+State, or State+country, etc (with or without punctuation, which makes a difference to the results). Sometimes places are abbreviated (eg, Queensland / Qld).

  4. Experiment with other variations and combinations. Keep a list of the search criteria that you use, because you may later think of other ways to search.

  5. When you use the Heirs' or Executors' Last Name field, be aware that the results may be incomplete. For example, you won't find heirs and executors of Julia COUTTS because (although they are shown in her Will Book entry) the names have not been included in the transcription. Presumably you could add them to the database by clicking 'Report an error in this transcription' and entering the names in the appropriate fields.

  6. It is essential to view images of the original Will Books, because a 'transcription' does not include the will itself.

  7. Click 'Learn' above the search boxes to find out more about the collection.

Although only a few of my ancestors were in New South Wales, I've already found fifteen wills - and that's just from random searches 'off the top of my head'. Imagine what I might achieve if I get organised and do systematic searches in Will Books 1800-1952!

(This post first appeared on http://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2016/04/will-books-1800-1952.html.)

I use and recommend...

25 February 2016

Why I Use and Recommend FindMyPast

Updated 16 Sep 2019

I am a big fan of Findmypast for genealogy research. For records that are also on other sites, Findmypast's indexes and transcriptions are (in my experience) more accurate (and this is particularly obvious with British censuses). I also love the fact that Findmypast lets us sort the search results. Searches are free, so give it a try!

Findmypast includes an especially good collection of Queensland records, and I have also been using their British census records and parish registers for many years. Recently I made exciting discoveries in NSW will books 1800-1952 (which include information about many non-NSW people), passenger lists, Royal Household records, the 1939 Register, East India Company and civil service pensions, and non-conformist baptisms, marriages and burials. For example, UK outwards passenger lists showed that between one British census and the next, some of my families went to South Africa and Canada and then returned to England.

See the updated version of my article Why I Use and Recommend Findmypast, which highlights some of the most outstanding features of the site.


31 January 2016

CuriousFox (gazetteer and genealogy message system)

Logo on www.curiousfox.com
CuriousFox is a gazetteer and message system that connects genealogists and local historians. Collaboration between these two groups is immensely beneficial.

In CuriousFox, every town and village in the United Kingdom and Ireland has its own page. There is also a USA version, which I have not personally used.

Things I like about CuriousFox include:
  • Exact map locations and historic maps.
  • Free to join, add entries, and search by village or surname.
  • With surname searches, finding relevant entries is easier because you can work at town / village level.
  • You can search for 'nearby' entries.
  • It is easy to edit or delete your entries.
  • Google searches will find your entries (so 'new relatives' can contact you).
  • No spam (your email address is not visible).
  • Privacy (the system sends messages between members, and you decide whether to give a particular member your address).
  • Advantages of being a paying member (about five pounds per year) include:
    • Contact and be contacted by all other members (free or paying).
    • Receive email alerts when people add entries for towns of interest to you.
    • Publicise your Web page or blog.

Entry screen for my ASHTON message
  • Give some thought to the wording of your entries. They should be concise, with surnames (and only surnames) in capital letters. Specify dates, and use appropriate punctuation.

  • For large towns with many entries and multiple pages, delete your entry every year and immediately resubmit it (updated if necessary) so that it reappears near the top of the list for that town. I did this recently, and within 24 hours a local historian contacted me and offered to send transcriptions of land records for that surname/town!

I hope you will try Curious Fox and share your success stories in a comment here.

(This is an updated version of a post that originally appeared on http://uk-australia.blogspot.com/2010/08/curiousfox-follow-friday.html for 'Follow Friday', a theme used by Geneabloggers. I also published it on http://worldwidegenealogy.blogspot.com/2014/08/curiousfox-gazetteer-and-message-system.html.)
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