Friday, 29 June 2012

Free Canadian Genealogy Records

I was excited to discover that the Canadian Ancestry website is currently running a very enticing promotion. To celebrate Canada Day on the 1st of July, and therefore the forming of the country in 1867, the site is providing free access to its records.

More specifically, you will be able to access the site's military, immigration, census, and vital records. You will have to sign up, but this is completely free. This is a fantastic opportunity for anybody whose ancestors emigrated from Britain, with it being particularly common for Scots to make a new home for themselves in Canada. With passenger lists, BMD records, and census returns from 1871 available this promotion will no doubt allow many genealogists to fill in a few gaps in their family history.

The records are available at, but be quick, because they are only available until the 2nd of July 2012.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Family History Show

I recently began following the expert genealogist Dr. Nick Barratt on Twitter, and noticed that he was promoting a website called The Family History Show. I thought I would check it out, and having done so this post will be about my thoughts and opinions of the site.

The Family History Show is a website hosting monthly video podcasts covering various topics from the world of genealogy and personal heritage. The vodcasts are presented by Nick Barratt himself, along with fellow genealogy expert Laura Barry. With these two names involved you know right away that the site will be informative, and useful from a family history research perspective.

This definitely turned out to be the case. At the time of writing there are seven vodcasts on the site, each of which contains top tips, case studies, and interviews with various important figures from the genealogy field. There is also interesting footage to enjoy from visits to museums and archives. Episode 5 in the series, for example, includes a visit to the National Maritime Museum, with a particularly fascinating section on the Titanic Archive. 

The vodcasts are well presented and very professionally produced, as is the entire site. In addition to the vodcasts there is a "Genealogy World" section, which includes informative articles and external links to useful genealogy resources. There is also an extremely interesting blog written by Nick Barratt.

All in all I was very impressed by The Family History Show. I think that going forward it's going to be a useful and entertaining resource, and I'm looking forward to the next vodcast. You can visit the site here.

EDIT - An eighth vodcast has now been added to the site. Its theme is medicine, and it includes advice on accessing medical records and tracing medical ancestors.

Episode nine focuses on the College of Arms and tracing ancestors from the nobility.

Episode ten involves a visit to the Geffrye Museum and tracing the history of houses. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Online Petition for Access to Records

As promised in yesterday's post, here is the first example of interesting genealogy related content I have found on Twitter.

It relates to an online petition to the UK Government to improve access to birth, marriage, and death certificates. More specifically, the purpose of the petition is to bring about legislation whereby the General Register Office could issue uncertified copies of records in a digitised format, or on plain paper. These would exist purely for genealogical research purposes, and would have no legal standing. As a result, they could, and should, be considerably cheaper than the current statutory charge for certified copies of records.

This makes perfect sense to me, and I have already signed the petition. If you would like to do the same, the page can be found here.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Genealogy and Social Media

Anybody who uses the Internet cannot fail to notice the massive presence of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. These two alone can count their users in the millions. Social media has become so popular because it is multi-functional. Not only does it allow people to connect on a social level, but also on a professional one. It is well suited to a huge variety of businesses, interests, and hobbies, and genealogy is no different.

A quick look on Twitter using "genealogy" as the search term will bring up a huge number of people to follow. I did just that, and I have now started a Family History Finder Twitter account. (You can follow me by clicking on the button to the right) It's very early days, but I'm already excited about the amount of information that is available. For example, I follow Scotland's People, who tweet regularly about genealogy courses that are taking place. They also send out very interesting "this day in history" tweets.

Genealogy websites tweet about new records that they have available. This is obviously extremely valuable when trying to keep up with your family history research. They have also been known to tweet about special offers that they are running on subscriptions. This is also true for the official accounts of genealogy magazines, so following these types of accounts might even allow you to save some money.

Of course, the whole point of social media is that it's social. It allows people with a shared interest - genealogy - to connect and converse, often in real time. This makes it an ideal platform for sharing information, advice, and resources. I know that I will get a lot of benefit from reading the tweets and posts of people who know a lot more about genealogy than I do. My plan is to share the most interesting and useful info on this blog.

Social media websites, forums, and blogs can all be extremely valuable for developing genealogical skills and expanding family trees. As a bonus, they can also be enjoyable to read, and a way to make new online friends.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Mitt Romney's Ancestry

I have just read a fascinating article on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's ancestry. Firstly, let me make it clear that this post does not advocate any particular religion or political view. I simply felt that it was an interesting story to talk about.

Mitt Romney is currently one of the most famous Mormons on the planet, and his family has a long history of involvement in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church, founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, is well known to all genealogists as a rich source of family history records.

Although the church was founded in the US, it is in England that Romney's earliest known ancestors were baptised into the faith. Miles Romney and his wife Elizabeth (nee Gaskell) were impressed with the sermons being given by the American Mormon missionaries in Preston, and converted as a result. A few years later, on the 7th of February 1841, they emigrated to Illinois in the US. This may have been for a combination of reasons, including the socio-economic conditions in the north of England, religious persecution, and the promise of a better life in America.

The rest of Mitt Romney's family tree shows that his great-grandfather Miles Park Romney was born in Illinois in 1843. At the time this was the home of the Mormon church, before it relocated to Utah. The Romneys relocated along with their church. Miles and Elizabeth dies there in 1877 and 1884 respectively. Mitt Romney's grandparents, Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt, were born and dies there. 

At some point the Romneys spent some time living in Chihuahua, Mexico, as this was where Mitt Romney's father George Wilcken Romney was born in 1907. Finally, there was a relocation to Michigan in the US, where Mitt Romney was born in 1947.

The full article on Mitt Romney's ancestry, including a very interesting take on Mormon polygamy, can be found here.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Books about Family Trees

I recently picked up a couple of books about family trees. These books were not offering tips and advice as many of the others in my collection do, but were instead about the personal genealogies of the authors. Neither of the books are particularly recent, but having read both I wanted to write a couple of quick reviews.

The first book is Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family by the famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Actually, to give him his proper name, Sir Ranulph Twistelton-Wykham-Fiennes. My first observation of this book is that I'm not sure how much genealogical research was involved. The author quite clearly knew much of his family history prior to beginning writing. The landed classes often have very detailed and extensive family trees, as much to do with marrying into a suitable family as taking pride in the achievements of ancestors.

This is by no means a criticism of the book, the purpose of which is to tell the stories of the author's ancestors. This he does extremely well. It is remarkable how many of history's important events Sir Ranulph's ancestors have been witness to. The book is really about history rather than genealogy, it just so happens that all of the characters share a common link. To give you some idea of the content of the family tree being discusses, those characters go all the way back to Charlemagne in the ninth century.

I really enjoyed this book. It shows just how interesting family trees, and history in general, can be.

The second book I read, whilst entertaining, was not as enjoyable as the previous. It is My Family and Other Strangers: Adventures in Family History by Jeremy Hardy. This book is much more about the ins and outs of conducting family history research, and that ironically is why I didn't enjoy it as much. Jeremy Hardy is a comedian by profession, and I felt that he didn't treat the subject with the respect it deserves. Throughout the book his attitude is one of condescension, and he seems to view the research as a chore. I'm not being precious about this, he's got every right to find genealogy less interesting than I do, but it doesn't make for a particularly good book about family history.

Perhaps I'm being a little unfair, as the book is well written, and the journey to discover the author's past does make for a good narrative. I just wish he would have enjoyed that journey a bit more.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Old Photographs

One of the things I love best about researching my family history is finding old photographs of ancestors. Unfortunately this happens all too rarely, and I only have a few in my collection. To me, old photographs are full of character, and I like to imagine what the people contained within them were like. This is true even when I am looking at pictures of people who have nothing to do with me. The Internet is a fantastic resource for finding interesting old pictures.

As mentioned, I have found it difficult to source photographs of my ancestors. In general, the fact that photographic techniques were only really developed in the mid to late nineteenth century means that the resources available are much more limited than other records that might date back for centuries.

It is often necessary to rely on extended family members to provide photographs, or even distant relations met through genealogy websites or forums. This is exactly what happened to me, as after viewing my family tree a very kind lady emailed me the following picture of our shared ancestors.

The woman sitting on the left is my great-great-grandmother, Sarah McClymont Campbell (nee Love). She was born in 1871. The older woman sitting on the right is Sarah's mother, my great (x3) grandmother, Sarah Love, nee Kennedy. She was born in 1846 and died in 1924, meaning that we can estimate the time the picture was taken to be the early twentieth century.

The following pictures show a third generation of this family, Sarah McClymont Campbell's daughter, and my great grandmother, Jeanie Cruickshank (nee Campbell). The picture on the top shows Jeanie, her husband George, and her sons George and John. George is my grandfather. The picture on the bottom is just of Jeanie and George senior. 

I hope that you've enjoyed my family photos. If so, please leave me a message to let me know, and please check out my post on the historical photos of interest to be found at Historypin.