Monday 30 May 2011

Mappy Monday - Maps you can play with

I have featured a number of interesting maps here, often from my own collection, and I have plenty more where they came from, but I thought I'd look at something different this time.

England Jurisdictions 1851 (FamilySearch)
It's great to be able to put a map or image online for everyone to share, but some sites do much more than that. My favourite map sites are the interactive ones, where you can zoom in and out, compare maps of different dates, click on hot-spots and so on. Many of use Google Maps, where you can go almost anywhere in the world, and explore much of it using Street View. You can use it to get directions, too; handy if you are (like me) too cheap to invest in SatNav. But have you used Google Earth? You need to download and install the software on your computer, but it is truly interactive; you can explore in even more detail than Google Maps, create your own maps and tours, and upload your own contributions. As well as viewing 3-D buildings, you can create and upload your own using a free program, Google SketchUp (which has all kinds of other design applications too - there's a thief of time if ever I saw one!)

If you are interested in something more focussed than maps of the entire world (and beyond - Google Earth goes to the Moon, too), there is plenty to choose from. I think the first online map site I ever saw that compared historic and modern maps was the Charles Booth Online Archive which compares the famous London poverty maps from 1889-1890 with the modern street map. A more recent site which does even more with old and new London maps is London Low Life  where you can see 27 historic maps of London, the earliest from 1788. Each of these is overlaid with a modern map, and a slider bar you can use to reveal as much or as little of the old map as you wish. This site also has a thematic map where you can see the changes in the size and density of London's population between 1801 and 1890, and the sites of hospitals, workhouses, prisons and more. It even has its own Victorian version of Street View, in the form of Tallis's Street Views, a series of very detailed engravings of some of London's main streets in 1838-1840. This is an absolutely unmissable site for anyone interested on London history.

London Remembers is a well-constructed site devoted to London's memorials. It is based on a Google Map, which you can search by the names of individuals (real and fictional), events or institutions. There is an intriguing 'Puzzle Corner' feature, where the site's creators are looking for help with identifying or interpreting some of the memorials and illustrations. They have a sense of humour, too. I particularly liked their disclaimer:   Caveat: Be aware that London actually has many more cars, fewer bikes, more rain and less sun than our photos show.

London is not the only served by imaginatively designed map sites. Cheshire's e-mapping Victorian Cheshire project contains nearly 500 tithe maps from around 1839-1851, together with their accompanying apportionments. You can search by name of owner, occupier, parish, township and even some field or plot names. You can view the results as a list, which you can download as a spreadsheet, or on a map. The map view shows the tithe map alongside a modern map of the same area, and you can zoom in and out on both of them at the same time. Don't you wish you had ancestors in rural Cheshire? Or if you have, lucky you.

Returning to the wider world, Historypin is a collaborative site where users are encouraged to attach their own historic photographs an stories to a Google map. You need a Google account to participate, which is free to set up, and you don't need to have a Google email to do do this. And returning to the present day, Openstreetmap is an editable street map 'The Free Wiki World Map' as it describes itself. But if you want a site with more features, and that has genealogical applications, you can register with Ancestral Atlas free of charge to share your genealogical data in a map-based format. You can enter details individually, or upload a GEDCOM file, and control how much of your information is made public. You can get access to additional features and an advert-free version of the site for a one-off subscription of £20. Ancestral Atlas links to another of my favourite sites a Vision of Britain through time for extra contextual infromation, and if you haven't explored this site already, then you really should! Another essential interactive map site for English genealogy is of course the FamilySearch England Jurisdictions 1851

Finally, here is an interesting collaborative project at Geograph to photograph every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland, which is 78.8% complete as of today - any offers?


Tuesday 24 May 2011

Digital microfilm at The National Archives

There are millions of document images available for download at DocumentsOnline. Most of those of  benefit to family historians have been name-indexed, and cost £3.50 per download. Some projects that had the benefit of external funding are free to download - 19th Century Poor Law Union and Workhouse Records are  particularly interesting.

But DocumentsOnline also includes some useful records that haven't had the all-singing, all-dancing treatment, and they are known as Digital Microfilm. These are records that are already available on microfilm, and have been scanned without any additional indexing; rolls of microfilm have been turned into PDF files that can be downloaded free of charge, so that you can access them at home instead of having to visit The National Archives at Kew, or at a Family History Centre. So apart from the fact that you look at the images on a computer screen rather than a microfilm reader, you do your research in these records in the old-fashioned way.

The first digital microfilm was released on the site some time ago, consisting of some army and navy records. These included service records of the Coastguard service, which I tested by repeating some research I had done several years ago, and it worked. If you have coastguard ancestors you can try this for yourself, with the help of the Research signpost on the subject, and the linked in-depth Research Guide for more information.

Now a number of other records have been added, including Prerogative Court of Canterbury original wills and sentences 1643-1646 (PROB 10/639-642). The court was sitting at Oxford during this period, and the wills proved there are not included in the main series of registered wills in series PROB 11.

The series RG 43, indexes to overseas births, marriages and deaths, has also been added. The registers themselves in RG 32-RG 36 have been digitised and indexed on the pay-per-view site but it can still be helpful to see the indexes as a double check, and they include references to records that are held by the General Register Office, and not The National Archives, but that's another story...

PROB 10/642 will of John Tailer 1644
More digital microfilm will be added to DocumentsOnline in due course, so watch thsi space. As well as the advantage of access from anywhere with a broadband connection,  it is easier to make copies from digital microfilm than from regular microfilm, and you can save the images directly to your computer. You will need t have a fast broadband connection, though, since some of the files are very large, and can take some time to download. Happy searching.


Tuesday 10 May 2011

FamilySearch announce release of 100s of millions of Civil War records tomorrow

I'm not usually the sort of ace reporter who is the first to break news stories, I'm much too laid back and lazy for a start. But this one just fell into my lap, at Librarians Day, one of the pre-conference activities at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Charleston SC. I am typing this on my iPad, which doesn't support the Compose feature in Blogger, so it may look a little rough. I will tidy it up later.

FamilySearch have just announced the release tomorrow, 11 May 2011, of major Civil War service and pension records, both Confederate and Union. They will include the following:

Arizona, service records of Confederate soldiers of the civil war 1861-1863
Arkansas Confederate Pensions 1901-1929
Civl War pensions index
Louisiana Confederate pensions 1898-1950
Missouri Confederate pension applications and Soldiers' Home Admission Applications
South Carolina compiled service records of Confederate soldiers (NARA M267)
South Carolina probate 1671-1977
South Carolina probate records, files and loose papers, 1732-1964
United States 1890 census of Union veterans and widows
United States, index to General Correspondence of the Pension Office, 1889-1904
United States, Provost Marshall files of papers relating to two or more civilians, 1861-1866
US Civil War Soldiers Index 1855-1866
US Navy Widows' Certificates, 1861-1910 (NARA M1279)
US Registers of enlistments in the US Army, 1798-1914
US Veterans Administration pension payment cards 1907-1933
Vermont Enrolled Militia 1861-1867


Sunday 8 May 2011

Shopping Saturday - by Royal Appointment

Liberty & Co, London, royal warrant holder
You can scan the various online royal pedigrees if you like, to see if you are related to the Windsors (or the Middletons) but there is another way that your family might be connected with royalty.

If your ancestor served the royal family in some way there is a good chance that there will be a record of it somewhere. Some records of people were employed in the royal household might be held by the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, although earlier records are more likely to be at The National Archives.

There are online research guides Royal household and wardrobe before 1660Royal Warrant holders and household servants and Royal warrant holders and suppliers of goods after 1600.

I am particularly interested in the second and third of these guides, because they deal with references to shopkeepers and others who supplied goods to the royal household. A household of that size has always done a lot of consuming, much of it from regular suppliers; just think of all the places where you shop and how much you spend there, then multiply it by a large number (depending on the size of your family and how rich you are), and you will see that an awful lot of businesses must have sold goods or services to members of the royal family over the last few centuries.

One of the sources referred to in the guides is the London Gazette, where annual lists were published from 1900 onwards. Part of the list from 1905 is shown below; the entire list occupies 21 pages. It includes well-known businesses like large London department stores, but also businesses of all sizes from all over the UK and even further afield. Some of them are small shops near royal residences such as Sandringham, Osborne, Windsor and Balmoral; so if you discover an ancestor who ran a sweet shop or a dairy in one of these areas about a century ago, the London Gazette might be worth a look, you never know your luck. It's free to search and dowload - one of the best bargains in family history!