Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021August is Family History Month (in New Zealand anyway) and my contributions expanded this year from previous years. Last week was particularly filled with Family History events.

On Tuesday we had our usual 2nd-Tuesday-of-the-month Drop-in session from 10-12noon in the Tauranga Library, but before hand we had a session with the librarians before the library even opened, as they had lots of questions that they wanted us, the volunteers, to help them with so know how to help people who come into the library.

Then on Thursday I was over the hill at the Rotorua Library giving a presentation on Scottish Genealogical Research.

Researching your Scottish Ancestors

We are very pleased to have Morag Hughson speaking about researching your Scottish ancestors.
Which records should I use? Where do I find them? What is in them and should I pay for them?
Morag has considerable experience on this topic and is keen to share her journey and advice to others who have Scottish ancestry. This talk will be held in the Community Pride Space on the Ground Floor of the Library on Thursday 12 August at 12:15pm.

This presentation was a comparison of the main sources for Scottish records and what you can see of the records in each. Ancestry, Find My Fast, and Family Search which are all free to use if you make use of your local library, and Scotland’s People which is a pay-per-record site. Some transcriptions in the free-to-use sites are enough to mean there is little point most of the time in buying the image from Scotland’s People. But for other records, there is so much more to the original record that you can see when you buy the image. The presentation showed the differences and where it was worth spending your money versus where there was little to gain.

The Rotorua Library Facebook page posted some photos of the event, including the one below.

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Rotorua Library

Morag speaking at the Rotorua Library in Family History Month

Then on Saturday, I was back in one of my local libraries, Papamoa, giving another talk about Scottish Genealogical Research. This time focusing on how to use the Scotland’s People website, with a flavour of the earlier talk since I include advice for when to buy and when not to buy.

Family History Talks at Pāpāmoa Library

Join us for a morning of family history discovery with our two guest speakers: Elinor Rawlings and Morag Hughson.

Elinor will share her own story while giving a broad introduction to the “where to go and what to do” of family history research. This session will introduce new people to the world of family history and genealogy research, offering a quick look at the difference between the two concepts and a peek at the range of places that are free to research and are a great place to start.

Morag Hughson will discuss useful ways to discover more about your Scottish ancestry. The Scotland’s People website is the only place you can see the images of Scottish records such as Old Parish Records and Statutory Records (which provide you with dates for births, baptisms, marriages and death) and Scottish Census returns where you can learn about the familial relationships of people who lived in the same households and start to put together a picture of your ancestral families. Scotland’s People is a pay-per-records website and you can find yourself spending a lot of money. In this presentation we will look at the Scotland’s People website search facilities and discuss when it is prudent not to spend money on the website and look elsewhere for transcriptions.

Tea/coffee and biscuits available. Free. Registration required.

Pāpāmoa Library, Saturday, 14 August from 10am-12noon

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Papamoa Library

Morag speaking at the Papamoa Library in Family History Month

All in all, while busy, it was a great week. Especially now looking back as today we have just gone into full Lockdown as Delta-variant COVID-19 has made it into the community in NZ.

31 Days of Family History Fitness – Week 2

I only came across the blog post 31 Days of Family History Fitness at the very end of January so I decided to do it in February instead. I’ll update you with my progress on a weekly basis.

Day 9: Branch out and pick a genealogy website you haven’t used much (perhaps FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage, Findmypast, Access Genealogy, Genealogy Today or Olive Tree Genealogy). Spend at least 15 minutes perusing its offerings. Look for a content listing, how-to articles, resource listings and more. You might discover a new favorite website!.

AncestryFind my pastI’m normally an Ancestry girl so I tried out Findmypast with my local genealogy group the other day. They have the same data essentially it would seem, but choose to display it in a different format. For example, for census records, Ancestry shows you one record at a time on the page with the list of other household members at the end, whereas Findmypast shows all rows from that household on the page at the same time (rather like the image shows you).

Day 10: Choose a specific problem in your research, such as identifying your great-grandmother’s parents, finding when your second-great-grandfather immigrated, or locating your great-aunt after she was widowed and remarried. Write a plan to research that problem, and list your question, the information you already know, a hypothesis and some records to check. Check out a sample plan.

New Zealand MapOnce I get through all the records I am currently processing, my next problem to work on will be finding all those families that emigrated to New Zealand. I know there are many of them, although some of them I may not yet have even identified as having gone anywhere, they’ll just have disappeared off the face of the planet! This is my basic research strategy.

  • List all those people in my Unst Family Tree that do not have all census records or a death record – suggesting they have disappeared somewhere.
  • Visit Tauranga Family History Centre with said list and work through them to see if any came to NZ
  • For those known to have come to NZ, work through death, and if applicable marriage, records, plus electoral rolls (no census to work with in NZ) to find out more about them.
Day 11: Select one kind of record (census record, birth record, marriage certificate, Social Security death index entry, etc.) and ensure you’ve found a record of that type for all your relatives back to a certain generation. If a relative who should have that kind of record doesn’t have one, go find it. Make sure you save a copy of the record, and be sure to cite your sources.

That’s essentially what I’m working through for my tree. I have, for example, got all the census records from 1911 back to 1871 associated with all the people in my tree, and all the marriage records (since they are the most helpful, listing both sets of parents!)

Day 12: Select one ancestor and research any of his or her siblings that you know about but haven’t previously studied. This “collateral” research can help you uncover information about your direct-line ancestors, such as parents’ names or birthplaces.

Again, this may be one of the reasons why it’s taking me so long to do what I plan, but I do this as a matter of course. It has been extremely useful in locating all sorts of missing people who were later found with their siblings or children.

Day 13: Write a paragraph or two that includes everything you know about an ancestor. Writing out that person’s information can help you identify gaps in your research.

This is something I plan to put together programmatically when I get everything onto a website. In the process of producing such a paragraph, it would then become clear when I didn’t have all the information needed to finish the paragraph. I imagine it looking something like this:-

Janet was born on 27 Apr 1848, the second child of 13, to parents Andrew Scott Edwardson and Barbara nee Sinclair. As with all their children, Andrew and Barbara baptised her within a few months of her birth on 11 Jun 1848. She lived in the family home in Collaster, and then Snarravoe, until she married Laurence Sutherland on 21 Nov 1857 in the Uyeasound Free Church, on the same day as her sister Tamar married.

She and Laurence had 13 children and lived in Lerwick and Unst throughout their marriage. She died the year before her husband, on 3 Apr 1936 in Murrister.

Day 14: Set a goal that you’ve been holding onto and break it down into smaller parts. By establishing a research plan, you’ll give yourself a guide to future research.

For me this is the same thing I described on Day 10, so I won’t repeat it, and catch up another day in my aim to complete this in February.

Day 15: Create a checklist of possible records you still need to research for an ancestor. As you work, check off the records you’ve found.

I have this checklist for my tree as a whole, rather than per person. The list currently looks a bit like this (since I’m working on both census and statutory records to give myself some variation!):-

  • ☐ 1841 Census
  • ☐ 1851 Census
  • ☐ 1861 Census
  • ☑ 1871 Census
  • ☑ 1881 Census
  • ☑ 1891 Census
  • ☑ 1901 Census
  • ☑ 1911 Census
  • ☐ Statutory Birth Records
  • ☑ Statutory Marriage Records
  • ☐ Statutory Death Records
Day 16: Make sure all the birth, marriage and death dates in your family tree are formatted consistently. Having all these data points in the same format will make it easier for you to compare them and identify errors

All my dates are formatted thus:-

  • 10 Apr 1874
  • abt 1874
  • before 1874

Well that’s Week 2 finished, and I feel my tree is in quite good health, albeit still with a lot of work to do, but at least I have a plan!