Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are? Live Comes to Scotland August 2014

Hello All:

Just received an exciting news release from VisitScotland.  It looks like as part of the Homecoming celebrations in Scotland during 2014 that there will be a Who Do You Think You Are? Live event planned.  It is scheduled to take place in Glasgow at the SECC from Friday, 29th August to Sunday, 31st August, 2014. 

This is great news in congunction with this weeks WDYTYA? Live in London, which starts this Thursday, 20th February.  It is starting a bit earlier this year than in the past years.  It will still run for three days - Thurs morning - Sat. evening. 
Everyone can get their calanders marked and make sure that they come make it a great and successful show in Scotland.
Until Next Time . . .

Friday, August 02, 2013

A Couple Reviews Of Current Family History TV Shows

Hello All:

Long time, no blogging.  I know it has been a long time since my last post.  Things have been that busy around here that blogging gets put aside at times.  Well, as my title states above, I wanted to briefly give my thoughts on a couple family history tv shows that are on the BBC just now.  One of them is the latest series of WDYTYA and the other is a family history satire called "Family Tree."

The newest series of Who Do You Think You Are (UK edition) is just two weeks old.  It comes on BBC on a Wed. night at 9:00 pm.  The first episode involved Una Stubbs (Sherlock, etc.) and the second episode just this week was Nigel Havers (Chariots of Fire, etc.).  For me, this new series seems like the previous ones in that there are some episodes that are more interesting than others.  They also seem to focus attention on one or two particular ancestors in depth, which is really all one can do in an hour long show.  So, it can be a bit slow in getting to the point.  Some ancestors can be more interesting than others in everyone's family history.  I still find the show quite interesting and worth watching even for it being on for several seasons now.  I always hope that the celebs that are participating in these shows are genuinely interested in what they find out about their ancestors and not putting on any sort of "show" for the audience/cameras.  I particularly like seeing the different types of documents being searched.  In the Nigel Havers episode it was good to see how much newspapers were used in learning more about his specific ancestor he was trailing.  And with Una Stubbs' story, it was good to see how she learned that she and her ancestor both worked for Rowntrees Chocolate through employment records and archives.  Even though the show has been around a while and can be a bit predictable in its style, I still enjoy it and look forward to my Wed. evening tv night.

The BBC programme, Family Tree, is more of a satire or comedy and is entirely different from the WDYTYA type shows.  This show has also just started two weeks ago.  One can usually watch it on BBC2 on a Tues. evening at 10:00 pm (at least in Scotland).  I have watched both episodes and I am not too sure about it.  It is shown in a documentary style of the main character called Tom Chadwick played by Irish actor Chris O'Dowd.  The first episode was mainly introducing the characters of the show and the plot of Tom inheriting an old chest from his deceased aunt.  Tom goes through the chest and finds family items, photos, etc.  He finds an old photo of a man dressed in a military uniform and assumes it is a great grandfather, but when he goes to a photo expert he is told that it isn't a relative in the photo, but his relative took the photo.  The second episode involved Tom finding a 1948 British Olympic jersey and wanted to find out how it belonged to in the family.  He discovers that his grandfather was a boxer in that year's Olympics.  Tom goes to the boxing club where his grandfather trained and interviews older boxers that may have remembered him. 

As being a comedy, I haven't really found it that funny.  It can be a bit crude and some sweary words dropped from time to time from the characters, hence it being shown at 10:00 at night.  Tom's sister Bea can be a bit annoying with the monkey prop she uses all the time.  It also seems to have a radom feel to it, things just seem to hop around in an unconnected way.  I also find it a bit hard to make out what some of the characters are saying - their speech seems a bit fast and mumblely, but maybe it seems that way to my American ear.  I will still watch it, but I haven't really been able to get into it as a genealogist.  But, I suppose it really wasn't made or intended to be that genealogically serious. 

One show that I did enjoy watching and thought was interesting and very sad was ITV's Secrets from the Workhouse that was shown earlier this summer.  It was only a two part series, but it was very fascinating to learn the real history and horrors of the workhouse or poorhouse.  In the two part episode, presenter Fern Britton, actress Kiera Chaplin, actor Brian Cox, actress Felicity Kendal and author Barbara Taylor Bradford go back to the sites of the workhouses where their ancestors lived to find out what happened to them.  I felt that Brian Cox was a bit over the top in his reactions, but it is hoped that the feelings were genuine.  It was great to see him at the Glasgow Archives, but I didn't particularly like seeing him pound his fists on old documents - even with the archivist by his side. 

In my work experience as a professional genealogist, I have come across numerous client ancestors who unfortunately themselves were in the workhouses/poorhouses in Scotland.  Many of them having died in their elder years in such a place.  Watching such a programme as this makes one appreciate the way things are today.

If you have missed any of these shows that I have very briefly discussed above just go to the BBC website and the ITV website (not sure if the Workhouse programme is still available or not online) and put in the titles and you should be able to watch them online or you can watch them on "catch up" on BBC IPlayer.

Until Next Time . . . .

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Understanding Documents for Genealogy and Local History

Hello All:

Well, just got another book in the mail this morning.  It is one that I have been waiting to get since Christmas.  It is Dr. Bruce Durie's new book called, "Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History."  It is just newly published, so I have to wait a bit longer for it to come in from Amazon.  I haven't yet really read it cover to cover, but I just wanted to give my first impressions of it since I have had it. 

From the first glances through it, it does read similar to Dr. Durie's book "Scottish Genealogy."  However, it seems to go deeper than that with its focus on old documents (hence the name of the book).  It goes heavy into Latin, old terms found in the older documents, old handwriting (ie: palaeography), etc.  The book is seperated into three parts:  part 1 is entitled "Reading the Documents"; part 2 is called "The Documents"; and part 3 is "Glossaries."  The book is 448 pages including the index. 

It is a book that is mainly focused on Scottish legal documents, such as the Sasines, Kirk Sessions, Tailzies, etc. But, it also has chapters on English documents too.  It is a book that any UK genealogist can use and find helpful.  One of the great things about this book is that it gives examples of the documents and delves into how to read them - the structure of the documents.  In reading many of these old documents they followed a sort of legal formula, which does help when you know how to read them and what to look for - the formula tends to be similar with each document and you can step over the legal jardon and get to the nitty gritty of the who, what, when, and where.  In a way it has the feel of a college or university textbook - it really wouldn't be a book for a beginner to genealogy or family history.  It is definitely a book for someone who has had a bit of experience in researching their family and have gotten to the point of using the older documents (pre-1700s) and this is where this book will be very helpful. 

As I have said in the beginning, I have only really ran through the book at first glances, but from what I have read and seen in this new book by Dr. Durie it is a very good and needed reference book. I would say that it is a book that is important to have as it is such a great reference book for the old documents - it is one that is all one would need really as it is so jam packed full of information. 

Until Next Time . . . .

Friday, February 08, 2013

Book Review of Genealogy: Essential Research Methods

Hello All:

Like most genealogists and family historians I love books.  I have come across one fairly recently within the last couple months that is an absolute must read.  It is Helen Osborn's book, "Genealogy: Essential Research Methods."  Believe it or not, this is Helen's first book about genealogy.  However, Helen has been a professional genealogist and in the field of teaching genealogy for a long time here in the UK.  If any of you have ever done a Pharos course you may have had the pleasure of learning from Helen.

"Genealogy: Essential Research Methods" is a book that is different from those that one mainly sees.  It is more of a book that deals with technique and methodology rather than just sources.  It is not necessarily a book that I would recommend to a complete beginner.  It is much more involved than that.  However, I would definitely say that a beginner would benefit from it once they have a bit more experience in doing their research.  It is a book that takes genealogical research to the next level - way beyond basic sources and lookups.  In my opinion, it is a book that could well be used as a textbook in a genealogy/family history course. 

I found the book to be easy to read and follow. One of the good things about what Helen does in the book is give real life examples of what she is trying to teach the reader.  To me this is important.  It is no good to just read concepts and methods without having some sort of example of what they are about.  It helps the reader to understand and learn better and to be able to take the techniques into their own research.  Some of the topics Helen tackles in this book are:  effective search techniques, analysis of sources, research planning, source citations, organization, understanding the records (not just what they are but why they were created), problem solving, just to name a few.  The book is 272 pages (including the index at the back), but due to the subject matter it could be more than this.  Genealogical methodology and technique can be a very detailed subject with numerous pages; however, Helen does a good job of keeping things to the point and in "plain" terms.  This is a major plus as it doesn't try to go over the head of the reader and be too technical and fancy.

Helen's book is one that has been really needed for British genealogical research for some time now.  I have read books by the American genealogy "guru" Elizabeth Shown Mills, and this book in my opinion is right up there with Mills' books, which is just my opinion. I don't think I am alone in praising Helen's debut publication.  The book, from what I have read online and in the UK family history magazines that have reviewed it, it is a real hit with folks and they are quite impressed with it.

Well, don't want to say too much, but really just to say that this is an excellent book and one that should be in every genealogist's bookshelf - beginner to the professional.  I hope to see more writing from Helen - don't know what can top her first book though.

Until Next Time . . .


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Scottish Ancestral Tourism

Hello All -

It has been a long time since I last posted on this blog.  Things have been busy on this end of things, so not much time to blog.  I read recently in Dick Eastman's blog (a must read for any genealogist and family historian) about the need for Scotland to refocus its attention to ancestral tourism.  There is an article that Dick links to in his post from the Scotsman Newspaper online.  It can be found here:

An interesting statistic from the above Scotsman article shows a very promising and untapped resource in people of Scots ancestry.  The article states, " The study found ancestral tourism in Scotland is worth more than £400 million a year but that the market still had untapped potential. The £2.4bn figure is based on Visit­Scotland converting 20 per cent of the 50 million people with Scots blood around the world into potential visitors.  Of these, 4.3 million are said to be already interested in taking on planning a holiday in the next two years while more than five million are waiting to be attracted from key areas.  Of the 50 million, the Scottish Government estimates 9.4 million are American, 4.7 million Canadian and 1.5 million Australian."

This is a staggering bit of information.  I know in my own professional genealogy research for clients, many of my custom comes from these countries.  You can also add, New Zealand and South Africa to the list.    I know that many people visit Scotland every year, but out of all those how many come for researching their ancestry themselves, or after doing research into their family want to come to visit where their ancestors lived and worked.  To some this is a trip of a lifetime and being able to see and walk the same streets as ones ancestors can be a little emotional if not educational.  Seeing names, dates, and places on a sheet of paper is one thing, but being able to come to Scotland and have an "ancestral experience" makes it all come alive.

I have a few friends and colleagues who do engage in the Scottish Ancestral Tourism market.  If you are interested in going on an Ancestral Tour of Scotland, I can highly recommend the following folks to you:

Marie Dougan of Ancestral Consultants (West Lothian):

Steven McLeish of Scotia Roots (West Lothian):

Frances Black of Scottish Ancestor (Fife):

Until Next Time . . . .

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Potential GRONI Digitization Implications for Scotland

Hello All:

There are some "rumblings" out in the genealogy world about the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) planning to digitize their birth, marriage, and death records by the end of 2013 (source being in Sept. 2012 YFT).  If this comes to pass, which I really hope it does, it will have huge benefits for those in Scotland.  It is a given how great this will be for those in Ireland itself.  The records would be Births 1864-1913, Marriages 1845-1938, and Deaths 1864-1963.  The intention is to have this potential GRONI digital records be similar to the ScotlandsPeople website.  We all know how wonderful a site that is.  It has really shown the way of how to do things - England/Wales should take note.  At this point there has been no announcement about pricing, but I hope that it would be in line with ScotlandsPeople.

What I mean when I say the digitization of the Northern Ireland vital records having implications for Scotland is that many Northern Irish migrated to Scotland throughout its history.  There is no counting how many times during research for clients in the Scottish records that an ancestor was from Ireland (particularly Northern Ireland).  Usually things would have to stop at the point once the Scottish records have been exhausted, and the need for an Irish researcher would have to take over from the point left.  If this project of digitizing goes forward in earnest research can "jump" across to Northern Ireland from Scotland within a blink of an eye, and without leaving your house or office.  This will help bridge the gap in Scottish research as well as for Irish research.

It must to stressed that this potential digitization is for Northern Ireland only.  The Republic of Ireland seems to have digitized its civil registration records, but they have not made them online to the public.  Hopefully they will do so soon.  These records too will be a great benefit to all, especially those in the USA who have numerous Irish immigrants.

Another bit of Irish digitization news is that the Irish Military Pensions are in the works of being digitized too.  The company Eneclann has been awarded the project.  It is expected to be completed in early 2015.  These records are for those veterans and or their dependents who served duty from April and May 1916 to the end of September 1923.

A big congrats to Northern Ireland for wanting to get this done.  I really hope that it isn't just talk, but will go full throttle to get it completed and online to the public.  It isn't just a benefit for those in Ireland, but for the UK and the world.

Until Next Time . . .

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Professional Genealogists Have the Gift of the Gab

Hello All -

I am sure you are wondering what the post title is about.  There is a new group out here in Scotland for those in the genealogy profession (researchers, archivists, etc.) to meet up and have a good ol' natter.  It is called Scottish Genealogy Network.  It has been running since about March of this year.  It got started up by those who were attending the Who Do You Think You Are Live in London this past February.  I didn't attend this time, so I was a bit out of the loop.  I noticed a post regarding it on LinkedIn and jumped at the chance to attend their meeting.  There is nothing currently like this for professional genealogists and family historians in Scotland - it is an idea whose time has finally come.

This past meet up was in Stirling.  This month it will be in Perth.  The group is very informal and I think that those who attend like it that way.  It is a good chance for those of us in the professional to meet each other and "talk shop."  Most of us in the genealogy profession work by ourselves (self employed) without too much contact with others in the field.  However, once a  month those of us working in Scotland can get together.  You know of peoples names and faces, but you don't necessarily get a chance to speak in person to them.  This monthly meeting is a good chance to do that.

Speaking for myself, I had a great time.  There is nothing like meeting up with those who share your profession and being able to talk about all sort of topics associated with working day to day in genealogy and family history.  It was hard to tear myself away from it all, but I had to go in order to get back home in time.  You can easily loose track of time as all the conversations can be interesting and educational as well as a good laugh.  The topics of discussion can range from DNA, genealogy books, client research, and even general non-genealogy topics such as the Olympics.  The meet up is usually the last Saturday of the month and the locations are different each time.  There would be some travel involved, but it isn't too far and it is only once a month.  It is well worth it in my opinion.

If you haven't been to one of the monthly meetups and you are in the genealogy/family history profession in Scotland (you don't have to be a researcher) please join in.  It is very informal and a really good time.  As I mentioned earlier in this post, the next meeting is in Perth on the 25th August.  This time around we are planning on taking a quick tour of the A.K. Bell Library in Perth - it will mainly be the local studies/archives area of the library if able to do so at the time.  We are to meet at the library's main entrance at 1:00 pm, then have a quick tour about, then meet over at the Salutation Hotel for our informal get together.  It sounds like a really good outing. 

If you need any further information and details about this month's get together or about the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) in general just contact Chis Paton by email:  christopherpaton  at  tiscali.co.uk. 

As I mentioned before, these get together's are very informal and friendly.   All are welcome who are in the genealogy/family history profession in anyway shape or form.  If you wish to read other blog posts about our group please view the links below:

Here is Kirsty Wilkinson's blog:

Here is Chis Paton's blog:

Until next time . . .