31 December 2014

Using LostCousins for genealogy (UK, Ireland, USA and Canada)

LostCousins logo
LostCousins is probably the only Web site that identifies (with virtually 100% accuracy) people who share the same ancestors. You do not waste time corresponding with people who are not related to you!

I have found several new relatives via the site, and its free newsletter is packed with useful information.

To use LostCousins you need to find your relatives in the census for England and Wales 1841, 1881 or 1911; Ireland 1911; Scotland 1881; Canada 1881; or United States 1880 or 1940. Then at LostCousins you enter the census source/page details for those names.

Before gathering and entering data, read the instructions on LostCousins very carefully ('Information - Read this first') because requirements for each census are different. If you prepare well, entering the data is a lot quicker.

Be sure to enter census data for brothers and sisters of your direct ancestors, because their descendants are the cousins you want to contact. One such descendant had a family bible and a letter from my great-great-grandfather, which overcame a dead end in my research.

After entering your relatives' census references, click 'Search', and the system checks whether anyone else has already entered identical data. If they have, it means that you are both researching the same people.

Remember to log in periodically, go to your 'My Ancestors' page and click 'Search' again to check for matches with new LostCousins members.

It is free to join LostCousins and enter your data, but I choose to pay a small annual subscription (about $10) so that there are no delays in making contact with my distant cousins when they are identified by the extremely accurate matching system.

The more people who enter census data for direct ancestors and their siblings, the greater the chances of finding our 'lost cousins'. Maybe you are my distant relative! I'm trying to find you - so please... start using LostCousins today!
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(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/using-lostcousins-for-genealogy-uk.html.)

24 November 2014

How to Become a Paid Genealogy Researcher

Genealogical research is interesting and challenging, but not necessarily lucrative. It involves a huge number of non-billable hours and many non-billable expenses such as stationery, ongoing education (genealogy seminars, conferences etc), books/fiche/CD-ROMs for your home reference library, computer hardware and software, equipment repairs, Internet access, Webpage costs, electricity, etc.

As a paid researcher you will need to learn about sources that you did not use for your own family tree. Before setting up a business, do voluntary research (perhaps dealing with requests sent to your local Family History Society). This will alert you to some of the gaps in your knowledge. You can then decide what type of research commissions your business should accept. Make the most of any special interests or skills, and be aware of your weaknesses.

You could start by working as a record agent, dealing with simple requests that require minimal analysis and interpretation (eg, 'I want a copy of Document-X, which I know is at your local record office.') As you become familiar with more record series, you can offer a wider range of services.

In my opinion, these are the main requirements for a professional genealogist who does research in local archives or record offices:
  • A very high degree of proficiency in using the holdings of those repositories.
  • A thorough understanding of correct research techniques, genealogical proof standards, and the difference between primary and secondary sources (original records and derivative records).
  • A clear understanding of privacy issues and professional ethics.
  • An awareness of the traps involved in using indexes and interpreting handwriting.
  • Good analytical skills.
  • The ability to use lateral thinking.
  • The ability to cite sources fully and accurately, regardless of whether results are positive or negative.
  • Knowledge of the history of the area in which you specialise (dates of first settlement, local industries etc.)
  • The ability to interpret and analyse the lives of individuals and families in the context of local, national and world events.
  • Good communication skills, especially in reports and emails. (Clients do care about your grammar, spelling and punctuation!)
  • Knowledge of accounting and small business management.
  • A willingness to undertake professional development and on-going education. This includes attending seminars and conferences (for example, the Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry), listening to webinars and podcasts, reading reference books, journals, newsletters, Web sites and genealogy blogs, and doing whatever else is necessary to keep up with changes in your particular field. If you want a formal qualification, a good choice would be one of the Local, Family and Applied History 'distance education' courses offered by the University of New England (Armidale NSW).

Some potential clients ask about my formal qualifications and accreditation, but most employ me because of word-of-mouth referrals or the helpful content of my main Web site.

Do you agree with my ideas on what should be expected of a paid researcher? If not, why? I would love to hear your point of view. Whether you are a researcher or a client, please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
I use and recommend FindMyPast.

I've ordered many books (including genealogy and history titles) from The Book Depository.

22 November 2014

The Missing Nephew - Can You Help?

I have (at the enquirer's request) deleted many names, dates and locations that she included in her email (although I explained that this publicity may be virtually useless without them).

- - quoting from email - -

"I am searching for any info re the son of my brother."   [I'll call the brother 'B'.]   "B told me about his unborn child in 1981-1982, but refused to divulge the name of the mother. I am sure that he knew that I would contact her and offer support. My brother was in the Army and living at [deleted] at the time. In recent years the young man visited B in Queensland.

This young man may have questions about family or genealogy, and I would welcome him and offer any assistance I could. He is my nephew and he has a right to know about his birth family. I would welcome any advice on how to proceed."

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If you any have suggestions, please add a comment below.

15 August 2014

FindMyPast's world records discount offer

FindMyPast's logo
FindMyPast periodically offers discounts and 'free access' days, which in future I will list on the Discounts and Freebies page on my main Web site. You may also want to read why I use and recommend FindMyPast.

A one-month 'world' subscription to FindMyPast is just $5 (usually $19.95) for new subscribers who pay before midnight on 1 Sep 2014.

The world subscription gives you access to more than 1.5 billion family history records for Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the USA and Canada.

If you do not want your subscription to automatically renew at the normal price after your initial period, un-tick the 'auto-renew my subscription' box in the My Account section of the site.

Check whether more recent offers are listed on the Discounts and Freebies page.

14 August 2014

National Family History Month 2014 Geneameme

This geneameme was created by Pauleen (Family History Across the Seas) to celebrate National Family History Month in Australia.
  1. What are you doing for NFHM?   I've created a Web page that lists some genealogy discounts and freebies - and (when I need a break from packing up and moving the contents of my house - sigh) I'll index more Queensland State Archives records.

  2. What do you hope to learn in NFHM?   Whatever I can. My favourite way to learn is to go to the Archives and delve into a record series that I've never used before.

  3. Do you research at a family or local history library?   Not as often as I used to, but I am still a member of the Queensland Family History Society and the Society of Australian Genealogists.

  4. Do you do all your research online?   NO!  Perish the thought!  Many of the best records are not (and never will be) online. (But until I can visit the UK again, I have to use online resources to continue my British research.)

  5. What's your favourite place to store your family tree?   With SecondSite and The Master Genealogist I can convert all of my data into HTML format so that I can store and view it as an interactive 'Website' on a CD, USB thumb drive or external hard drive. Irreplaceable or expensive documents are copied onto acid-free paper and stored off-site. I use Dropbox for electronic backups. Part of my family tree (minus living people) is on my own Web site and on Rootsweb's WorldConnect.

  6. If offline, which genealogy program do you use?   The Master Genealogist (incredibly powerful for keeping track of exactly where each tiny detail came from, and how much I trust the source).

  7. How do you preserve your family stories for future generations?   (1) I self-published a small book and gave 'legal deposit' copies to the National Library of Australia, State Library of Queensland and Queensland Parliamentary Library;  (2) My Web site (which includes a family tree) was selected for inclusion in PANDORA (Australia's Web archive);  (3) Some stories go into my genealogy blogs, which will presumably be available to the public as long as Google exists; (4) My will has instructions about donating some of my material to the Society of Australian Genealogist's primary records collection.

  8. Have you any special research projects on the go?   Lots of research jobs for clients, and an endless list of indexing projects (mental asylum patients, hospital records, illegitimate children, maintenance registers, prison records etc).

  9. What is your favourite family history research activity?   (1) Doing research in original records at Queensland State Archives;  (2) Exploring cemeteries.

  10. What is your favourite family history research place/library etc?   Queensland State Archives. Also the London Metropolitan Archives and North Yorkshire County Record Office.

  11. What is your favourite website for genealogy research?   FindMyPast, for reasons explained here.

  12. Are you part of a Facebook genealogy group? If so which one?   A private group for members of the Genealogists for Families team.

  13. Do you use webinars or podcasts for genealogy?   Yes - The National Archives (UK), the Society of Australian Genealogists, and some from Legacy Family Tree.

  14. Do you use social media?   Intermittently (Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus).

  15. What genealogy topic/class have you learnt the most from this year at a webinar/conference/seminar?   I guess I can't count Kerry Farmer's excellent seminar, Immigration: Why, When and Where, because it was in late 2013. This year I actually learned the most from the research I did while preparing for my own seminar, 'Look Beyond the Border'.

  16. Do you have a favourite research strategy to knock down your brick walls?   Yes!  Research the subject's siblings and other relatives!

  17. Have you used DNA testing for your genealogy?   Yes.

  18. Have you made cousin connections through your DNA tests?   Yes.

  19. Do you have a wish list of topics for NFHM 2015?   Hmmm (still thinking...)

  20. What do you most love about your family history research?   Finding 'flesh on the bones' information, photographs, physical descriptions and documents written by my ancestors.

03 August 2014

Genealogy Activities

Here are my answers to questions in the survey of genealogy activities (the latest 'Saturday Night Genealogy Fun').

(a) Which genealogy computer software do you use?

The Master Genealogist, which I have used for more than 20 years (and will continue to use). Sometimes I also use Legacy Family Tree for reports and other features.

(b) Which online family trees have information submitted by you?

Apart from the tree on my own Website, I use (and recommend) WorldConnect. I only have partial trees on FindMyPast and GenesReunited. I agree with CeCe Moore who says that many researchers with well-documented family trees do not put them on Ancestry, but they do put them on WorldConnect.

(c) For which subscription genealogy record providers do you have a subscription?

For reasons explained here, I am very happy with my 'world' subscription at FindMyPast (which includes the British Newspaper Archive). At my local public library I can use Ancestry for free, but from time to time I sign up for a one-month subscription so I can use it at home.

(d) Which FREE genealogy record providers do you use regularly?

TroveFreeBMDRyerson IndexFamilySearchCuriousFox; and GENUKI. (GENUKI is not exactly a 'record provider', but some transcribed data there is not available elsewhere).

(e) How much time do you spend each week doing actual genealogy research online (not reading or social networking, but actual searching in a record provider)?

Averaged over a year, about 4 hours per week.

(f) How much time do you spend each week doing actual genealogy research in a repository (library, archive, courthouse, etc.)?

Until recently the average was about 10 hours per week (40 hours per month). Lately I have had to reduce my hours for family reasons.

(g) How much time do you spend each week adding information to your genealogy software programme?

The average would be only about 1 hour per week, but it can vary between zero and 20 hours.

(h) How much time do you spend each month at a genealogical society meeting, program or event (not a seminar or conference)?

Nowadays, not much; but there are a few specific seminars and conferences that I always try to attend.

(i) How much time do you spend each month on genealogy education (reading books and periodicals, attending seminars, conferences, workshops, webinars, etc)?

About 25 hours per month.

(j) How much time do you spend each week reading, writing and commenting on genealogy blogs, websites, and social media?

It varies a lot. The average would be about 6 hours per week.

30 June 2014

Old Age Pension Records for Genealogy

 Register of applicants for old age pension
Register of old age pension applicants
Most people listed in the source I am about to describe were born in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany or Scandinavia. A few were born in other parts of the world, including Australia. All of them later lived (at least for a while) in Queensland.

Pensions were only under the control of the State Government for a short time, but Queensland State Archives hold records of more than 9,000 applicants for the old age pension 1908-1909. The records give information about people who received the pension plus hundreds whose applications were rejected. Most rejections were on the basis of age, period of residence or annual income, but some of the other reasons provide a clue to the applicant's character (eg, 'intemperate' or 'deserted his wife'). Although many applicants were under the required age, pensions were only granted to those aged at least 65 years (that is, born before about 1843-1844).

In 1908-1909, electoral enrolment was not yet compulsory in Queensland. Old age pension registers give the place of residence of many people who were not on electoral rolls. This includes some applicants who were not British subjects and not naturalised (and thus not eligible to vote) but who applied (though in vain) for a pension.

The vast majority of register entries give the claim date; surname; given name; country or Australian State of birth; alleged age; total number of years in Queensland; town or suburb of current residence; whether the application was approved or rejected; if approved, the amount of pension payable, date payment commenced and town where paid; if rejected, the reason for rejection; and sometimes other remarks such as 'sent to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum'. For many residents of Ravenswood and Townsville, a second register gives extra details (marital status, spouse's name, full address and exact birth date).

All names from my index to old age pension applicants are on my Web site, with an explanation of the Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 and its implications for family history research, advice about pension records and related sources before and after 1908-1909, and details of the copying service for original pension records.

The names, with full source references, are also on FindMyPast.

28 January 2014

Finding Broken Links (Tuesday's Tip)

This is how I tackle the problem of finding links that need to be changed:

  1. I periodically use W3C's free link checker to identify broken links in my blogs and Web pages.

  2. I have downloaded and sometimes use Xenu's Link Sleuth.

  3. The HTML code for each of my Web pages is saved in a folder on my hard drive; and the HTML code for my blog posts (copied and pasted from the HTML tab while editing in Blogger) is saved in the nifty little programme Treepad. If someone tells me that a domain address or specific URL has changed, I can easily find out exactly where that link appears in my blogs or Web pages. I simply use the powerful search functions in Treepad (for my blogs) and Powerdesk (for text files with the HTML code for my Web pages).

Have you found other ways to tackle the problem?

(You can see more of my tips here. 'Tuesday's Tip' is a theme used by Geneabloggers.)

14 January 2014

Headstones and Distant Burials (Tuesday's Tip)

headstone of George and Mary Hudson
George Hudson is William's son
The fact that a person's name appears on a headstone does not necessarily mean that he or she is actually buried there. Many headstones include the name of a family member buried in another town or another country. Sometimes the inscription makes that clear, but in many cases it does not.

There is a headstone for my great-great-grandfather, William HUDSON (1806-1882) in the churchyard at Crambe, North Yorkshire, England. I had no idea that he was actually buried in Linthorpe Cemetery at Middlesbrough - until I found a funeral card among family documents.

Depending on the geographical location, records that may specify the place of burial could include a death certificate, will, inquest file, newspaper notice, memorial card, or a church, cemetery or local government burial register. (Indexes to many Australian cemetery headstones and burial registers are now on FindMyPast.)

Records created by undertakers and funeral directors are another source of information about the place of burial. In Australia, many genealogical groups have indexed such records for their local area. Some are listed in Specialist Indexes in Australia: a Genealogist's Guide.

The records of Gregson and Weight (funeral directors in Queensland, Australia) refer to burials or funeral services that took place as far away as New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Fiji, Sweden, Greece, Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands.

Have you found other sources of information about distant places of burial?

(You can see more of my tips here. 'Tuesday's Tip' is a theme used by Geneabloggers.)

Genealogy in 2013 - Accentuate the Positive

My response to the latest 'Accentuate the Positive' geneameme will be shorter than most. During 2013 I chose to spend more time with my nearest and dearest, and less time doing my own family history. I also began to change the focus of my work as a genealogy professional. Noteworthy events during 2013 included:

  • After many months of hard work, I finally finished revamping, expanding and moving my main Web site. All 135 pages are now at www.judywebster.com.au (my own domain name). The site has advice and indexes that help genealogists to research local, interstate and overseas folk by using historical records. The emphasis is on unusual sources that are superb for problem solving. (Read about the features of the new site.)

  • More than 16,000 names from three of my indexes (hospital admission records for Croydon and Brisbane, and old age pension records) were added to the Australasian collection at FindMyPast.

  • I had an article published in Inside History magazine ('The Case of the False Identity'). To the amazement and delight of one reader, an example I quoted in my article revealed that her great-grandfather was one of several people who used someone else's identity to emigrate to Australia.

  • Statistics showed that there was an exceptionally good response to two of my blog posts, Tips on Using FindMyPast for Genealogy and Improved Searches for Births Deaths and Marriages.

  • I created a Web page with a reading list to highlight some of my favourite books plus others that I want to read during the coming year. The list includes genealogy, history and fiction titles.

  • In addition to my usual genealogy talks, I experimented with private face-to-face consultations and informal group sessions (which, thankfully, were a great success).

  • I started using DNA testing for genealogy.

  • I visited relatives in outback Queensland, and my cousin let me copy family photographs and WW2 letters that I had never seen.

I wonder what 2014 will bring!