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 . . .