11 March 2014

More NSW and South Australian records online

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
These seven record sets have been added to FindMyPast's Australian and New Zealand collection:

  • New South Wales, Junior and Senior public examinations 1867-1916

  • British Garrison deserters in South Australia

  • South Australia landowners 1835-1841

  • South Australia destitute women 1855-1860

  • South Australia cemetery inscriptions 1836-2005

  • South Australia naturalisations 1849-1903

  • South Australian ex-convicts

You will find them in the full list of Australian and New Zealand records on FindMyPast (one of my favourite sites for genealogy).

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30 January 2014

The British in India: an update for genealogy

2.5 million records detailing the lives of the British in India have just been added to FindMyPast. They include births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, wills and probate records, civil and military pensions, East India Company cadet papers, and applications for the civil service. Index searches are free. The 'births and baptisms' page has links to the other records in the collection.

The Families in British India Society (FIBIS) has provided some tips for using these records on FindMyPast.

Use the records in conjunction with the book Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors by Emma Jolly. It is a superb resource for family historians with a connection to India during the centuries of British involvement with that country.

The book discusses many sources for genealogical research, including British Library India Office Records, The National Archives, records of the armed forces, civil service and railways, and religious and probate records. A concise and vivid social history of the British in India makes this book even more enjoyable.

When I was in London I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Emma Jolly. In addition to being a well-known genealogist and writer specialising in London and the British Empire, Emma is also the author of My Ancestor was a Woman at War, Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census and Family History for Kids.

23 January 2014

Internal Migration (52 weeks of genealogical records: week 2)

Week 2 in the series '52 Weeks of Genealogical Records' is about internal migration (movement from place to place within one country). You may not realise it yet, but many of your ancestors probably did this (maybe only for a short time). In Australia it is especially important to be aware of such movement because each State and Territory has separate records for births, deaths, marriages, wills, electoral rolls etc.

Shauna Hicks recommends timelines to reveal gaps in your information, and certificates to find out about internal migration. Other sources that I use include:

  • British censuses:  To quote an example from my own family tree... George WEBSTER married Sarah GIBLETT in 1829, and various sources indicated that they lived in the Greater London area until they died in 1881. I was surprised when I discovered (from census returns) that two of their eight children were born elsewhere in England (Leeds, Yorkshire, c.1833, and Manchester, Lancashire, c.1843).

  • Hospital admission registers:  These are often better than death certificates; and they include biographical details for hundreds of people who went interstate (or overseas) during gold rushes and other mining booms. Many returned to their home State, and you may have no idea that they had moved temporarily. Some name indexes are online.

  • Wallangarra quarantine registers:  These give details of people crossing the Queensland / NSW border during the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic. The index is online.

  • Australian electoral rolls:  There are online indexes for at least two different series of 19th and 20th century rolls (and some rolls are more informative than others).

  • Strays Collection Australasia:  A 'stray' is someone who married, lived or died away from his/her place of birth. This index, compiled from many different sources, has details of thousands of interstate and international strays with a connection to Australia or New Zealand.

Examples (abbreviated, without the source citations) from the Strays Index:
  • ELLIOT Jeanie, widow of Max HEBDEN... late of Brisbane QLD, formerly of Rabaul PNG, Tenterfield NSW and Bangalow NSW...
  • GUNN Ian Morriss, late of Clontarf QLD, formerly of Uganda and South Africa...
  • JONES Gladys Ruebene (formerly HALLAM), born 1894 Texas QLD; married... Inverell NSW; died... Grafton NSW...

Tips on using the Strays Index:
  1. In FindMyPast's records for Australia/NZ, narrow your search results to Category='Directories and Social History', and Record set='Strays Collection Australasia'. 
  2. Enter a surname only; then click 'Search'.  In the results, ignore the event year/location. They have nothing to do with the person, and refer only to an index's publication date/place.
  3. Click on the icon beside the entry to view the document (a typed page on which the surname appears, perhaps multiple times - as shown below). 
  4. As you can see, beside the image of the page there is a section with details of the publication. Note the page number and dataset, which refer to one of several Strays Indexes published by the Queensland Family History Society. Those publications may perhaps give a better explanation of abbreviated source citations.

To find Strays Indexes for the United Kingdom (with references from census records, headstones, parish registers etc), go to GENUKI and search for the word 'strays'.

There are more research tips in my other posts in the '52 Weeks of Genealogical Records' series.

If you want to join in, or read what others have written in this '52 weeks' series, Shauna Hicks puts details and links on her Web site.

15 January 2014

Military Medals (52 weeks of genealogical records: week 1)

Photo o John Mustell Webster's medals courtesy of Nick Aldham and Elaine White
John Mustell WEBSTER's medals
This post is the first in a series called '52 Weeks of Genealogical Records'. Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge, and each week Shauna Hicks will add a new topic to this list.

The topic for week 1, military medals, is not particularly relevant to my own family, although a few of my direct ancestors' siblings served in WWI or WWII.

I have been told (but I have not confirmed) that my second cousin twice removed, John Mustell ('Jack') WEBSTER (son of Ernest Edward WEBSTER and Alice TEAGUE) was awarded the 1914 star, British war Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal and Military Medal. (This photograph was kindly provided by Nick Aldham and Elaine White.)

Lost Medals Australia, who do a great job of returning medals to family members, sought my help in tracing the next of kin of Terence Edward Downing WEBSTER (a cousin once removed, but a stranger to me). I was able to put them in contact with a descendant of Terence's sister.

Records available on FindMyPast include an index of nominal returns of Colonial Forces who made applications for the New Zealand War Medal, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations 1914-1920. The latter set of records is very important because it includes full citations, which are not always found in unit histories.

There is a British Army Medals index at http://britisharmymedals.blogspot.com/.

4 December 2013

Getting cheaper copies of wills and certificates (Thrifty Thursday)

I frequently find information about a direct ancestor in records of his/her siblings or other relatives. Genealogists always strive to use original records, but if I cannot afford to buy certificates and wills for all family members, I look for ways to obtain cheaper copies. (See Free Certificates in Archives Files.)

Record offices often hold copies of wills for people who died in other States or other countries.

Example 1:  Julia WEBSTER died in 1900 at Orange NSW, and her original will went through the Supreme Court in New South Wales - but a copy of her will can be downloaded (free) from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). Why is there a copy in Victoria? The explanation is in Julia's will, where she mentions (quote) 'my interest in the estate of my late brother Malcolm John CAMPBELL, late of Newry, Gippsland, in the Colony of Victoria.'

Julia WEBSTER, incidentally, was my great-great-grandmother. Because I wanted to see her signature, I made a point of inspecting her original will in New South Wales, not just the transcription held in Victoria; but the PROV's free downloads allowed me to get wills and other probate documents for Julia's sister and brothers and many people from other branches of my family tree.

PROV entry re the will of Julia Webster, Beecroft, died 1900
PROV entry re the will of Julia WEBSTER who died in NSW

Example 2: Queensland State Archives have a probate file for Ellis READ, who spent a lot of time in England but died in Mexico in 1890. Ten years later his widow applied for administration of his estate. He owned land at Burketown in Queensland, and when it was sold, a grant of probate was required so that a certificate of title could be issued. The file includes details from Ellis's death certificate from Mexico (his age, native place, occupation, wife's maiden name, father's name, mother's maiden name, and his cause of death and burial place).

Some early probate files for Queensland are available on microfilm through Church of Latter-Day Saints Family History centres - but a word of warning...

The old 'card index' listed in FamilySearch had a huge number of mistakes, so you should use the new (corrected) index 'Supreme Court, All Districts Wills 1857-1900' (four PDF files) on the Qld State Archives Web site. Note that it covers ecclesiastical files only, and many other wills are in the Intestacies (Supreme Court Public Curator orders and elections) series. There is an explanation of this in Tips for Queensland Research.

Have you succeeded in getting cheaper copies of wills or certificates by these or other methods?

('Thrifty Thursday' is a theme used by Geneabloggers.)
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23 November 2013

Tips on Using FindMyPast for Genealogy

Yesterday, in FindMyPast or a Coffee?, I pointed out that some FindMyPast subscriptions only cost about $5 per month (not much more than a takeaway coffee).

Kylie commented, 'I got a world subscription through FindMyPast.com, the USA site, because it was cheaper at the time than the Australian and the UK sites. I don't seem to get the same search results as if I searched from their Australian site or their UK site.'

I am not an expert, and FindMyPast may change in the future, but here are my thoughts.

* Some of the United Kingdom data may not yet be fully integrated into the World Collection. In that case the UK data would be best searched through the UK site or the Aus/NZ site. Work systematically through the UK record categories rather than trying to search everything at once (a tip I learnt from Rosemary Kopittke.)

* I have sometimes found a particular entry with a search on one site (eg, Aus/NZ) but not another (eg, UK). When I noted the country, collection and record set, then went to that country's site and that record set, I always found the entry even though it didn't appear in the initial search results. (You can switch sites quickly via links at the bottom of FindMyPast's Web pages.)

Searching UK records from FindMyPast's Australian site gives a result like this
(a Richard GIBLETT - but not this one - was my ancestor)

* On each FindMyPast site, look for links to 'search tips', 'video tutorials', 'help/advice' etc.

* Different search strategies are required with fully indexed records (where you use name fields to search) and digitised records that have been processed with Optical Character Recognition software (where the keyword field is important). This applies particularly to the Aus/NZ site. There is a good explanation in the book The New Findmypast.com.au: Gateway to the World Collection, by Rosemary Kopittke.

* Tips on how to best use FindMyPast.com.au:

Part 1 (Basic Searching)
Part 2 (Filtering)

* At Rosemary Kopittke's talks about FindMyPast (eg, at Unlock The Past events), you often get an excellent handout explaining search strategies for each site (not just the Aus/NZ one).

If you have any helpful hints about using FindMyPast, please add a comment below.

22 November 2013

FindMyPast or a Coffee?

I recently wrote about why I like using FindMyPast (link opens in a new window). My world subscription is through their UK site, but I have also registered (free) with the Australia/NZ site because I want to receive their newsletter. (In 'My account - Personal details', tick the box beside 'Please send me an occasional newsletter'.)

The newsletter often has competitions and special offers (discounts, free pay-as-you-go credits, etc). Today's newsletter offered 20% off subscriptions if you join by 30 Nov 2013.

Subscriptions available (6 months or 12 months) are:
  • Australia / New Zealand
  • Britain & Australia / New Zealand
  • World (this lets you view records from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, America, Canada and beyond).
Depending on which subscription you choose, the cost (without discounts) ranges from about $5 to $25 per month. In other words, going without one takeaway coffee per month would save you almost enough to pay for an Australia/NZ subscription. Most people reading this blog probably have British ancestry, and for you the Britain & Australia/NZ subscription may be better value. I chose a world subscription because some branches of my family were in Ireland and Canada.

Not sure whether they have records that will be useful to you? Have a look at the full list (worldwide). More datasets are added each month. Note the inclusion of the British Newspaper Archive and various other digitised newspapers.

If you are thinking about getting a FindMyPast subscription (or if you already have one), see Tips on Using FindMyPast for Genealogy.

Screen shot showing the least expensive subscription (without a discount)

24 September 2013

Why I use FindMyPast (Tuesday's Tip)

I am a big fan of FindMyPast for genealogy research. For records that are on both FindMyPast and other sites, FindMyPast's indexes and transcriptions are (in my experience) much more accurate. This is particularly obvious with British census records.

A 'world subscription' to FindMyPast allows you to search records for Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, USA and Canada (including Irish newspapers and the British Newspaper Archive). In mid-2013 there were more than 1.8 billion records available, and that number is growing rapidly. In Aug 2013, for example, FindMyPast added ten new data sets (2 million records) for Australasia alone, plus many records for other areas.

Follow the links below to see (for each region) a full list of categories and all the record sets currently available within them, with descriptions of what each record set contains and what detailed information you can expect to find.

Searches are free. (HINT: Try entering a surname in the Keywords field. This finds entries in records that are searchable PDF files, such as digitised books and newspapers.) To see transcriptions or images of original records, you need to buy either pay-as-you-go credits or a subscription. There is a 10% loyalty discount for renewing a 12-month subscription.

I have been using FindMyPast's census records and parish registers for many years. Recently other data sets (including passenger lists and Royal Household records) have provided some exciting discoveries. I was surprised to find that two of my British families went overseas (one to South Africa, the other to Canada) for a short time - but were back in the UK for the next census!

Postscript, March 2014: In my 'Genealogy Leftovers' blog I have highlighted some recent improvements at FindMyPast.

('Tuesday's Tip' is a theme used by Geneabloggers.)
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20 July 2013

Three new indexes on FindMyPast

Biographical details of more than 16,000 people, many of them from overseas and other Australian States, are in these three series of historical records at Queensland State Archives - and the names and exact source references are now on FindMyPast.

  • Applicants for the old age pension (Qld) 1908-1909
  • Croydon Hospital (Qld) admission registers 1888-1925
  • Brisbane Hospital (Qld) patient records for part of 1887, 1900, 1901 and 1902

The hospital records usually give details similar to those on a (very informative) Queensland death certificate, plus ship of arrival, place of residence, marital status, father's present residence, and sometimes other information that is very useful for family history. Details provided by a patient at the time of admission are usually more accurate than those on a death certificate.

During the early years of the Croydon gold rush, 70% of patients admitted to the local hospital were born in Britain or Ireland, and about 15% were born in Australia's southern states, especially the Victorian goldfields.

The old age pension records give information about people who received the pension and also those who were rejected. These registers give the place of residence of many people who were not on electoral rolls, including some who were not British subjects, not naturalised and thus not eligible to vote.

My Web site lists (on separate pages) the names from these three indexes. To see all 16,200 names as a combined alphabetical list, use this customised link to FindMyPast. If you use FindMyPast to get exact source references, you can personally inspect the original documents at the Archives, or order a copy.

You may be surprised at what you find in these records, which have allowed many people to make rapid progress with their family history. Even if you are not aware of a Queensland connection, I urge you to check these indexes.

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13 July 2013

Genealogy Serendipity and the False Identity Story

From the cover of 'Inside History'
A few days ago, in False Identity and other Eureka Moments in Family History, I mentioned my article (published in Inside History magazine) about 19th century immigrants to Australia who travelled using false identities.

Today I received an email that stunned and delighted me. It said,
You came to Coffs Harbour and gave us a talk some time ago... I have just read your article in Inside History regarding John and Peter Anderson travelling under false names on the Hannah Landels. John Anderson is my great grandfather... I have searched and searched and had the Oxley Library and others in Queensland look for me and we couldn't find them on the passenger list.
The chances of a descendant reading that article must surely have been very small - and yet it happened, and the descendant is someone I've met. This is just amazing - and, for that descendant, a big Eureka moment!
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