The 2nd part of the article in the previous
issue, Digital Cameras, will appear in the next issue.
This is a foray
into the web to expose some issues that may be faced when trawling for
family history information. Not all of it is new as some has been outlined
before but a reminder will not go astray!
The web site for The National Archives (TNA) at Kew outside London demonstrate
a problem brought about by poor web site design that users can face if
they do not read the whole text on the page. If you go hunting for your
WW1 UK soldier ancestor you may not realise that there are two completely
independent indexes on the site that do not necessarily cover the whole
range of records. I have been dealing with an army family named
Beckhuson recently and so I will use them as my example...
search TNA online
catalogue for Beckhuson it reveals:
• WO 339/32016 Beckhuson D F, 2/Lieut
• WO 339/43091 Beckhuson, H W, 2/Lieut
secure these records directly in digital or paper format. The former comes
in JEPG format and costs £8.50. The later can be also ordered on
line but the process is a little more complicated.
search via the side panel on the gateway page at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk:
World War One soldiers records and thence the (catalogue reference
WO 363) you get:
• Charles Beckhuson
• William Arthur Beckhuson
it seems strange to me that the latter two are not also on the main catalogue,
one has to ask why the former are not on this latter listing? The issue
is muddied when you are made aware that William Arthur Beckhuson was discharged
from the army in 1908 as unfit to serve and never served in WW1.
This second group of records is being managed by Ancestry.co.uk
in partnership with The National Archives and they claim it is the first
phase of the War Office (WO) service and pension records collections for
approximately 2.5 million British soldiers who served from 1914 through
to 1920. As a consequence the second search outcome is only available
through Ancestry and the user has the option of pay-to view (£6.95)
or a subscription. Both require a level of kerfuffle that may
cause you to consider a trip to the nearest library that hold a subscription
to Ancestry! I do not know if any reader has ever bothered to
read the terms and conditions of membership—if you did, you will
note, amongst others, a subscription is deemed to be on a continuous service
basis placing the onus on the subscriber to discontinue the subscription.
You also sign away Australian consumer rights.
an online family tree
Putting your own family tree online can be a great way of locating distant
relatives and gleaning more information from them but you need to be very
careful about the privacy of members listed on the tree. Be aware that
this information could be used by identity thieves searching for personal
data. There are noted instances of scam artists who want to sell your
own information back to you bundled as a cheaply made book or software
program. Start by removing personal information of all living people or
preferably do not list them at all. If you must then remove:
• Full names (use only initials)
• Pension numbers
• Complete dates of birth (show only the year
• Specific current and past addresses
• Telephone numbers
• E-mail addresses
• Private affiliations
• Private holdings, such as real estate or deeds
• Occupations and workplace details
Coats of Arms
There is an army of businesses out there who will sell you a coat of arms
on a t-shirt, mug, or wall plaque. These companies are not always out
to cheat you because many of them know no better. In reality, except for
a few regions within Eastern Europe, there is no such thing as a family
coat of arms. Coats of arms belong to individuals, not families or surnames.
For a person to have a right to a coat of arms, they must have either
had it granted to them or be descended from the person to whom the coat
of arms was originally granted according to heraldic principles.
Probably 99% of people entitled to bear arms already know it. Just consider
how could a company that has not researched your family tree know whether
you have the right to display a particular coat of arms?
If you're looking for something that is at best, a fun object or talking
point, then go ahead knowing that it probably has very little if anything
to do with your own family history.
conducting searches we should always treat surnames spelling with as much
flexibility that is possible to get a reasonable result.
We can do this by using wild card searches. However, there are limits
in that searching on initial and last letter of a name often turns up
too many results to manage and we often have to pop some other letters
into the mix.
Thus in searching BOGETT search as b*g*t and given the letter g
is prone to be a j you would also test b*j*t. Always avoid vowels
and in the selection of the letters to search vowel sounding letters in
this form of searching and thus LAYTON is searched as l*t*n.
Names ending in el and ell should always be considered
as having the potential to end in le and therefore this needs
to be addressed as do names ending in es and s. Hence
MITCHELL and MITCHLE and JANE and JANES.
Apart from the vowels and the consonants with vowel sounds, there is another
group of letters that can prove difficult to manage. H at the start of
a word and other letters within words can be silent in pronunciation and
therefore should also be replaced with * in a wildcard search. Other letters
can be interchanged like C and S, S and Z and so on. Double letters, especially
at the end of words need to be considered too.
HOWELL proves to be a problem because once you have eliminated all the
vowels etc you are left with the final l and it also ends in
ell. In this case the wild card concept breaks down a little.
If you retain initial letters and search h*l you will end up with too
many results and many with nothing to do with HOWELL. The searches in
this case would have to at least include: h*w*l* and o*w*l*. These will
pick up: Hawel Hawels Hawell Hawells Hawill Hawills Hawle Hawles Hauwel
Hauwels Hauwell Hauwells Howel Howels Howell Howells Howil Howils Howill
Howills Howl Howls Howle Howles Hywel Hywels Owl Owls Owel Owels Owell
Owells. They will not pick up other known variants and while I guess seeing
a w in the mix should signal that the letter u is an
option to be considered as in h*u*l* to pick up:Hauel Hauels Haul Hauls
Houel Houels Houell Houells Houle Houle, the form Hoel Hoels may be missed
by an inexperienced researcher!
Likewise with given names. In the initial search I ignore them altogether.
If too many results turn up then I start searching using the initial only
as in Mary - M*
This is much more tedious with hard copy searching but the principles
remain the same.
When it comes to names with prefixes you should always consider the version
without the prefix. For example, the McDonalds and the Macdonalds all
belong to the Donald family. Indexers may leave off the prefixes and so
the Von Bertouchs may be listed under just Bertouch.
Web scams and the like
Using the web inevitably means you will eventually be targeted by a scammer
and unfortunately many family historians in their desire for knowledge
take risky decisions. Probably the most common scams you may face will
be variations of the following:
recover a lost family fortune—join our group and pay a hefty subscription
to mount a class campaign to recover out lost fortune. Common ones revolve
around the surnames, Edwards, Buchanan and Baker.
• let me park my substantial amount of money in
your bank account for safe keeping—just give out all your banking
• join our subscription web site and access millions,
no billions, of names—there are several illegitimate subscription-based
web sites for genealogy out there and so beware that the one you are about
to give your credit card details is a well-known legitimate operation.
• pay us a fee and we will reveal an inheritance
you have overlooked—legitimate law firms, executors of Wills, and
others who have been named to distribute estate funds to rightful heirs
do not request a fee to reveal your share of an estate. They have a legal
obligation to locate beneficiaries and distribute the estate according
to the Will or law.
You cannot believe what you read
Burke's Peerage, a directory of the upper classes un the UK was started
in 1826 by John Burke and followed by his son, Bernard, later Sir Bernard
Farnham Burke, Garter King of Arms. Now
you would think that book would be an authoritative resource, but in fact
Burke senior was enamoured by the romance of ancestry and the desire to
find a significant ancestor and so was far too easily satisfied with credible
but untested genealogies. This was an era when snobbery was inseparable
from genealogy! Editors before the War became only too aware of the shortcomings
of this annual publication and started putting things right but before
this was finished the naming rights were sold and there is some evidence
that the current publishers share the methodology of the founder!
If you use any nineteenth century publication on the subject of genealogy
and heraldry, you need to treat what you find with considerable scepticism
until you can verify otherwise.