Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Using Old Maps

I have done a lot of work with maps and searches for maps. As a geologist, making and using maps were great part of my work. They were invaluable sources of information and mandatory for recording and presenting data and ideas for new prospects.

I use maps extensively in genealogical studies as well, searching for old addresses that appear on censuses and in other records, tracing routes that people took, through life as well as through travel. Using maps I could find out where certain people were through time and come up with some ideas of why they moved.

Small parishes are much easier to review of course. If they have limited roadways or are off the “beaten track” it is much easier to see how the residents might have interacted. Looking at towns and cities on maps, over time (even hundreds of years) allows one to see how the communities developed but also how families might have adapted during this growth if they were around the area for a few generations.

Most of my genealogical work has been confined to the British Isles. Some of the websites I have found useful in looking for old maps or in just seeing what areas looked like include the following:

A Vision of Britain Through Time – topographical, land use and administration maps from the 19th and 20th Centuries:
Baedeker’s Old Guide Books – maps scanned from various Baedeker Guidebooks which were published before 1939
Bing (the old Multimap) – good for ordnance survey and aerial photos
Caledonian Maps – a commercial site where old maps of Scotland can be purchased
Charles Booth Online Archive – a searchable resource giving access to archive material from the Booth collections of the Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Senate House Library
Genmaps – part of the Ancestry community; a site devoted to online images of English, Welsh and Scottish maps from their beginnings to the early 20th Century
Google Maps – present-day maps with a wonderful option to see areas from satellite views and street views which show the detail of individual streets and buildings
Historic MapWorks – commercial site for maps from around the world
Mapco – free access to high quality scans of rare and beautiful antique maps and views
National Library of Scotland – offers high-resolution, zoomable images of over 86,000 maps of Scotland and other areas
Old-Maps.co.uk – another commercial website where historical maps England, Wales and Scotland can be purchased
Ordnance Survey – commercial site for modern-day maps of the Great Britain and Ireland
Old London Maps – old maps of London, England area

Some of them are commercial sites, of course but even on those there is always something that you can download free to at least get some ideas from. There are many others. A Google search for “genealogy maps” leads to hundreds of results describing where old maps can be found. Or one might search for a particular area such as “Cornwood, Devon maps”.

Here is part of an 1809 ordnance map I found covering the Cornwood area. It was very useful to compare to place names found on a tax assessment list from the late 18th century. According to the tax list, two properties, “E. Rook”, on the upper part of the map, and “Nats Fm.” (also referred to as Notts and Knotts in other documents), on the lower part of the map, were owned by my 5th great-grandfather, and likely by ancestors further back from him. Knotts was sold in 1810. The family continued to own East Rook until the early 1900s.
Portion of 1809 ordnance survey map copied from A vision of Britain through time website; downloaded September 1, 2012
By tracing where some individuals lived in relation to their future partners I could also envision how they might have met. For example, my wife, Linda’s grandfather, Alexander Cooper, lived with his mother at 4 John Street, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1881, according to the census taken that year. His first wife, Margaret Scott, lived at 44 Hutcheson Street, just three minutes away. She was a confectioner and probably worked in a shop fairly close to her home. I like to think that they may have met and fell in love in a candy store.
Portion of a map of the New Plan of Glasgow with suburbs, from Ordnance and Actual Surveys constructed for the Post Office Directory by John Bartholomew and published in 1882, showing the residence locations for Alexander Cooper and Margaret Scott; copied from the National Library of Scotland website July 22, 2014.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

We are Very British!

I read a lot about other genealogists and their searches for ancestors in continental Europe and other regions. I have even helped a few people find their family members in South America, Germany and The Netherlands. But in my family, when you back a few generations, we are very British!

My Shepheard ancestors originated in Devon, England. As I have discussed here previously, as far back as I can trace them – the early 17th century – they lived in or near the parish of Cornwood in southeastern Devon County.

My DNA (from an analysis by 23andMe) is 100% European in origin: 43% British, 14% French and German, 7% Scandinavian and 32% broadly Northern European. One of my mother’s great-grandfathers definitely came from Germany, although we have not been able to find out specifically where he was born or anything about his family. It is speculated that, five generations back from her, there may also have been a French connection, however, again, we have not be able to confirm such roots. The Scandinavian contribution may have come down through my father’s mother. Her grandfather came from the eastern part of Scotland which may have had a possible Viking influence.

I have several lines that go back through the USA, the full origins of which have not yet been determined. Most of them were likely from England or Scotland, the first people having arrived in North America in the 17th century as colonists or endured servants. My father’s side was 100% British (6 ½% of that Scottish) and my mother’s side was probably at least 85% British. That would give me at least a 92% British background; the rest is a possibly a mixture of German (6 ¼%) and French (1 ½%), somewhat lower than the 23andMe analysis suggests.

Both of my wife Linda’s parents were born in Scotland and met in Canada after they emigrated in the 1920s. I am still tracing many of her lines but have found all of her ancestors came from various parts of Scotland: her paternal line from Banffshire, Moray and Nairnshire in Northern Scotland; her maternal line from Moray and the Shetland Islands. Over 85% of her DNA (also from 23andMe) originates in Britain and Ireland and the rest mainly from Northern Europe. We have not found any family lines for Linda outside of Scotland so whatever contribution the DNA represents outside of Britain will remain a mystery. I have absolutely no explanation for the 0.1% East Asian & Native American DNA! For now we regard her heritage as being 100% Scottish.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Family Trees Online: My MyHeritage Website Example

I have long considered whether or not to put my family tree on a public website, for family members as well as others to access. One of the side benefits would be for backup storage. Websites such as Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch Family Tree, Genes Reunited, Geni or any of the other major genealogical repositories offer both access and reasonable security of family tree information. If the owner desires, data can be protected from public view or access can be granted only to selected individuals.

I do actually have my entire family database on a personal site using The Next Generation( TNG) software. I have not spent enough time to get it ready for viewing by others but the task is high on my to-do list. That site will be for family members only.

It did happen that my family tree ended up online by accident, something I wrote about in an article in the April 2014 issue of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. After suffering a loss of files, including my latest family tree data, in a hard drive crash back in 2010, I decided I would look at online storage solutions to protect against loss of valuable genealogical information. I had heard about a system called BackUpMyTree which, when installed on my computer, automatically created a backup of all of my data on a secure site. Among the benefits of using the system were:

·       The program would keep updating the file regularly, even when I was adding to or changing it.
·       My family history would be preserved if my own computer crashed again.
·       Previous versions would also be saved in case my current tree became corrupted or if I accidentally deleted any data.
·       The program would recognize any genealogy software I happened to be using.
·       I could access the tree from anywhere just by signing into the site.
·       Most importantly, it was safe and secure!

MyHeritage acquired BackUpMyTree in late 2011 and my family tree suddenly appeared on the MyHeritage website. All my data was there to view, as profiles of each family member or in a nice, pretty tree with lots of neat symbols. Not by just anyone, of course. I still had to grant access to people before they could see the actual family information.

A big part of MyHeritage is that the system automatically searches all family trees stored on the site and compares information on individuals in the various families. MyHeritage now has billions of records, from sources around the world, in hundreds of different types of databases. All can be searched for matches automatically! They are reported to the tree owners in two ways:

·   Record Matches – These find individuals in dozens of other websites or archives, such as newspapers or censuses.
·   Smart Matches – These match individuals in my family tree with hundreds of millions of profiles of individuals in other trees.

One can store a family tree on the website for free and still get the advantage of these searches. When matches are made a tree owner then can decide whether they will pay to see a particular item.

I recently took advantage of a promotion that MyHeritage offered to get a one year subscription. I updated my family tree by importing a new GEDCOM file and deleting the old family tree so that I would not get confused with which one I was using.

I presently have 2,786 Record Matches, for 1,830 people in 60 collections, with several hundred in each of such databases as Geni, World Family Tree, Find a Grave and the England and Scotland births and christenings from the 16th to 20th centuries. I also have 14,272 Smart Matches on 3,268 other family trees which I need to go look at. Some of them might give me the names of other cousins also researching various branches of the family. Many of the matches are for records I already have sourced, such as censuses and BMD information, but I have checked a few references and found some new information I did not have before.

There are some very obscure collections on MyHeritage – to me anyway – where matches occurred as well. One I had never heard of is called the Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965. This one was for a 1st cousin, twice removed, who had travelled to South America in 1957. He was living in Prineville, Oregon at the time of his trip. There is even a photo of him on the card, along with his birth date, birthplace, parents’ names and occupation. OK, it wasn’t earth-shattering but it was kind of neat!

I believe my data has been well-sourced and properly documented. I currently have over 8,500 individuals in more than 2,600 families in my tree. But it is daunting to think about having to go through the fact-checking exercise again when confronted with, potentially, an enormous number of new records to review. It may be worth it but I don’t expect to be able to do it in just a few days!

Websites such as MyHeritage are places where one might connect with other researchers. Equally important to the search for new information about ancestors is the potential to find other family historians, perhaps remote family members, who are looking at some of the same people. The new age of genealogy is about collaboration – sharing resources, methods and data – and building family trees together.

I recommend people go to MyHeritage, or one of the other sites, and see what online storing and sharing is all about. You might find some new cousins to help you with your family tree. (www.myheritage.com)

Now all I need is the time to go through those thousands of leads provided by MyHeritage to see is there is any information of value.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.