Tuesday 12 July 2011

Celebrating the Census - 1 October at The National Archives, Kew

This is where the day job and the spare-time blogging become totally intertwined. Since this is Census year in the UK and a number of other countries, we thought that an event to mark the occasion would be in order. After all, here at The National Archives we hold not only the census returns for England and Wales but a lot of other related records. So we will be Celebrating the Census on 1 October 2011 at Kew.

As a Scot with Irish ancestry, I am pleased to say that we have speakers from Scotland and Ireland as well as from England. Ironically, two speakers on the English census are Scots, and the speaker from Scotland in English. How's that for integration. We will also hear from FamilySearch about census returns in other countries, and from the creators of two wonderful non-genealogical websites, HISTPOP and A Vision of Britain Through Time. Two of the sessions concentrate on the 1911 census; one on the mammoth task of preparing the original records for scanning, and another on the Suffragette boycott of that census. At the other end of the time-scale are the many early census-type listings held here and elsewhere, and if you want help with finding people in the online censuses, Ancestry, Findmypast and Genesreunited will be providing hands-on tutorial sessions.

The cost is £30 for the day, including lunch, tea and coffee, with an Early-bird discount if you book by 31 July. Follow the link above for more details, including the full programme and online booking form.


Mappy Monday - British Isles industries

I didn't realise that I had this map; I came across it when I was looking for something else, often the best way of finding things. It's a fold-out from 'Cassell's Encyclopaedia: a Storehouse of General Information'. The encyclopaedia comprises six volumes, with some very high quality illustrations and maps. Unfortunately there is no publication date, but the contents suggest it is c1900.

It reminds me of some the maps from the geography books we had at school, and you don't see this kind of map very much outside of specialist historical atlases. That's a pity, because a visual representation is much more memorable than any amount of text, especially if you are not familiar with the British Isles.


Sunday 10 July 2011

Digital microfilm - the Army List, free online

Army List 1787

If you are researching an officer in the British Army one of the first sources you want to look at is the printed Army List. This is an annual, and sometimes more frequent, publication listing all the officers, arranged by regiment (I should now apologise to military specialists for a gross over-simplification of what the Army List is about, but you know what genealogists are like, we just love lists of names). It is available in major libraries, and some volumes have been published on CD, or are available on commercial websites.

A run of volumes from 1754 to 1879 has now been made available for free download on the Digital Microfilm section of DocumentsOnline, in record series WO 65. There is a separate pdf file for each volume, and they can take a long time to download so you need a good broadband connection. But they are definitely worth the wait; this is not just a scanned version of the printed lists that you may have seen in a library, but the set from the War Office library. Each volume was bound with alternate printed and blank sheets, to allow for hand annotations of commissions, promotions etc during the year.

Honble Arthur Wesley's first commission

The example here is a page from the 1787 volume, which shows the very first appearance of the Duke of Wellington in an Army List. He received his first commission as ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot on 7 March 1787, and his name is crossed out because in December of the same year he was transferred to the newly-formed 76th Regiment. Before he was created the 1st Duke of Wellington, his name was Arthur Wellesley, but he appears here as the Honble. Arthur Wesley, the original spelling of the name.

I have no family connections in the officer class in the period covered by these lists (my ancestor who fought in the Peninsular War was one of the 'poor bloody infantry'), but I wish I did, because this a great resource.


Wednesday 6 July 2011

Work in the workhouse

Advertisement in the Local Government Directory 1891
The workhouse was given its name for a reason. The Poor Law Union might have an obligation to look after the needy and the destitute, but it also had an obligation to its ratepayers. So the running of the workhouse would be done as economically as possible. This involved seeking out the best bargains from suppliers of food and other essentials, and getting the inmates to do as much of the work themselves as possible, such as cooking, cleaning and so on. The inmates could also generate income for the Union, which could take on contracts from businesses looking for a cheap source of labour. These were typically repetitive low-skilled occupations such as oakum-picking, wood-chopping and so on. There is more information, and some pictures, on work in the workhouse on Peter Higginbottom's excellent site The Workhouse

I love old reference books, as much for the adverts they may contain as the reference material itself. The advert above is from the Local Government Directory of 1891, and is full of information for and about local government and Poor Law institutions, and the people who worked in them. It includes, among other things, long lists of the printed forms required by various officials in the course of their work - available at a modest cost from the publishers of the Directory, of course! But the advertisements are the most interesting feature, partly because they may include pictures, but mainly due to the insight they give into  their particular world. There are adverts for laundry, hospital and kitchen equipment, but Glover & Co's Firewood Bundling Machine caught my eye; 'Being so powerful, yet easy to work, little boys and girls, also old men and invalids are enabled to use and knock off a load of work.' 

Good to know that the aged, the infirm and small children need not be kept in idleness by the hard=pressed ratepayers! 


Monday 4 July 2011

Mappy Monday Miscellany

Manchester Town Hall
I have recently come across some online map resources that were previously unknown to me, all different, and all interesting.

Continuing the alliteration theme a little further, the first is a blog post from Manchester Archives, looking for help in pinpointing the exact locations of the pictures in its collection. You need a flickr account to contribute, but if you just want to look at the 3000 photographs that have been uploaded, you just need to follow the link on the blog. Another link takes you to the first 50 mystery photographs that await geo-tagging . The picture on the right isn't one of them, since the pictures on the Manchester Archives site are, very reasonably, protected by copyright.

A very different kind of site covers the whole of the UK and Ireland, and is not run by an institution, but by enthusiasts - quite literally. SABRE stands for Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts  and the the site includes a number of uploaded maps. Unlike many historic map sites, it concentrates on the 20th century. The maps images are of a very high quality, but when I first used the site I thought some of them were missing. In fact, when you open up some of the maps the image is out of range of the screen, so you may need to use the pan and zoom controls to find it; irritating, but hopefully something that will be fixed in due course.

Finally, the Strange Maps blog is unlike any other map site I have seen. It has all the quirkiness and variety of Bostonography, but the maps are of places all over the world, as well some fictional ones. I'm off to look at the blog archive; I may be gone some time...

Nebraska-shaped field in Nebraska posted 8 Dec 2009