Monday, 20 April 2015

People of the British Isles Project Summary

As reported here last month a paper has appeared in Nature with detailed results of the People of the British Isles project. Aside from being behind a paywall it's written for an academic readership.

Now a good summary prepared for the volunteers who gave DNA samples is at It's written at a grade 9 level and so very readable even for the interested layman. Recommended. That simplification is quite an achievement in itself.

Two of the findings that struck me were:

  • Danish Vikings, in spite of their major influence through the “Danelaw’ and many place names of Danish origin, contributed little of their DNA to the English population.
  • a previously not described substantial migration across the channel (from Northern France)  after the original post-ice-age settlers but before Roman times. DNA from these migrants spread across England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but had little, if any, impact on Wales.
The article also mentions that initial findings of a related project on the genetics of variation in facial features is expected to be published this summer.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

WDYTYA? Live Final Day Report

Having spent two days taking in all that was on offer, or all that was physically possible, my Foreign Correspondent went AWOL on Saturday afternoon, better than collapsing from exhaustion.

I can't imagine how performers deal with this. The crowds, the noise. It was the morning and my feet were already sore again. After lunch I wanted to hear Tony Robinson speak, at 4 pm, about his own DNA result but was so tired I decided he'd get along fine without me and left.
The temporary remedy in the morning was taking in a lecture:
I attended a session with Kirsty Gray where she was talking about power sources in the development of the industrial revolution, wind, water, gas, coal, etc. Most interesting. One of the reasons her talks are so interesting is that she stands back and takes a very broad look at historical changes. 
Kirsty will be giving several presentations at the OGS Conference in Barrie.

Having been round and round the hall a few times you start to wonder about the booths with vendors that seem out of place. Some noted were: Guide Dogs, Cats Protection League, Cyclo-ssage, Family Silver. You also meet people while sharing a table in the snack area or waiting for a talk to start.

Here are links to other reports from the final day: Dick EastmanJanet Few, Kirsty Gray Andrew Martin.

A big thank you to my foreign correspondent and others linked for their reports allowing us a glimpse of WDYTYA? Live 2015. Next year's event is said to be booked for the same location for April 7-9 which is now confirmed. It will be on my wish list.

Irish Emigration to Canada Popular

They're not coming in the numbers they did during and after the potato famine years but Irish immigration to Canada is still sought after.
According to it took just 12 minutes for almost 4,000 Canadian visa applications to be snapped up by Irish people this past week. In addition about 7,000 working holiday places were available for Irish passport holders under the age of 36 who do not have pre-arranged job offers. See

Genealogy Tours of Scotland Adventure Starts Today

Best wishes go out to Christine Woodcock and her Genealogy Tours of Scotland group starting out on their adventure today. Christine has been in Baja-Scotland for a few days adjusting to the time difference.
Check out Christine's blog Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits with information and opinion. It's worth following if you have any Scottish interest. The latest post tells how you can get 20 credits free on ScotlandsPeople.
BTW, if you're interested in a Scottish genealogy tour take a look at the detailed information Christine has on the one she has scheduled for May 30 - June 8 2016 at

Deceased Online adds Black Country Cemeteries

Heath Lane Cemetery, West Bromwich with records from 1858 and; Tipton Cemetery with a broken record collection from 1873, are the first two cemeteries from Sandwell in the Black Country area of the West Midlands now at Deceased Online. There are 110,000 burials representing around 200,000 records including burial register scans and grave details to search.

This collection will soon include other cemeteries from Sandwell:

  • Holly Lane, Smethwick, records from 1868
  • Oldbury Cemetery, Smethwick, B66 1QT: 
  • Rowley Regis Cemetery, Rowley Regis, B65 0AG: records from 1921
  • Rowley Regis Crematorium, Rowley Regis, B65 0AG: records from 1962
  • Sandwell Valley Crematorium, Newton Road, West Bromwich, B71 3SX: records from 1962
  • Thimblemill Cemetery, Smethwick, B67 6LS: records from 2008
  • Uplands Cemetery, Smethwick, B67 6EF: records from 1890
  • Wednesbury Cemetery (aka Wood Green Cemetery), Wednesbury, WS10 9QS: records from 1888
  • Wood Green Cemetery, Wednesbury, WS10 9QS: records from 1868.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

FreeBMD April Update

The FreeBMD Database was updated on Wednesday 15 April 2015 to contain 246,071,195 distinct records.
Years with major updates of more than 5,000 index entries are: for births 1943, 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973-74; for marriages 1952, 1965-66, 1968-69, 1971-75; for deaths 1971-74.

WDYTYA? Live Day 2 Report

My "Foreign Correspondent" at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre had another interesting, and exhausting day.

First up was a talk by Turi King, sponsored by FTDNA, on her involvement with the Richard III project.

The sheer excitement she brings to any talk is terrific. It infects you, and keeps your interest. She related how she was asked to participate in a dig for the remains of Richard the third, where the research Director who asked her assured her that they would find nothing, and it would take a half day of her time and effort. Two and a half years later, she still has not finished working on the Richard file. Apparently he had said that if they found Richard he would eat his hat. Turi showed a slide of two construction helmet shaped cakes, which the poor man had to eat, publicly
Then it was off to see Eric Knowles of the UK Antiques Roadshow -- people brought in family artefacts for identification. My Foreign Correspondent had carried from Canada a silver spoon which family sources claimed was purchased as new in the 1940s
It turned out to have been made in the reign of George III, in Exeter, circa 1805. As such, it was quite rare compared to silverware made in Sheffield or Birmingham, and worth more than double what those would have been worth. 
Also spoken to was Dr. Peter Jones, who was active in the DNA analysis of about 250 WWI dead of the battle of Fromelles who had not been identified when they were buried in 1916, and had been discovered a few years ago.
They were able to contact many families of the soldiers whose records they were able to piece together, and ask them to contribute DNA to assist in the identification. Most of those soldiers were Australian, and a small number of British. Eventually, in a complex situation where the UK and Australian governments had different legal and administrative requirements for dealing with such exhumations, the team was able to confirm the identities of 144 soldiers, leaving 2 unknown UK soldiers, 75 unknown Australians, and 29 soldiers whose countries were unknown. In some cases DNA analysis was problematic, and artifacts discovered with the remains were able to help in identification. In some cases, German records of burials were located in an archives, and in such cases sometimes names and units of soldiers were recorded, where there were no English equivalent records available. The remains were reburied on a wintry March day in a newly constructed CWGC cemetery close to where the battle occurred. 
Other contacts were with Else Churchill, Janet Few and, at the stand where she was selling her books, Rebecca Probert. Shown is the cover of her new book which provides "fresh insight for genealogists into attitudes towards divorce, bigamy and bereavement through the ages.. Read about it at

There are other reports on day 2 from Kirsty Gray, Janet Few, Andrew Martin, Christine Woodcock and Dick Eastman.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Lost Cousins Newsletter: Special Show issue

Peter Calver, who organized the Genealogy in the Sunshine event I was at last month in Portugal, has sent a show special (the show being WDYTYA? Live) of his Lost Cousins Newslatter containing such interesting information that I'm posting about it as soon as possible.

The contents are:

Great news: half-price Findmypast offer extended EXCLUSIVEIs there an extra census due for release in 2022?
The token books of St Saviour Southwark
Who Do You Think You Are? Live - in pictures
Ancestry offer free access to immigration records ENDS MONDAYMore tithe records and maps online
Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland
Get 20 free credits at ScotlandsPeople
Derbyshire records at Findmypast
Iceland's groundbreaking DNA study
I found my first DNA cousin....
....And maybe my second?
A fairy-tale tree
Checking your data is now so easy
Big data reveals trends in mediaeval longevity
See your ancestors in colour COMPETITIONThinking of publishing an ebook?
Peter's Tips
To read the newsletter, go to or else, highlight it, copy it, then paste it into your browser).

Findmypast adds Derbyshire Records

Derbyshire, moves into the Findmypast spotlight with a collection of index parish records. Baptisms for 1538-1910 has 692,955 entries; Marriages for 1538-1910 has 775,447; Burials for 1538-1910 has 519,760.

There's no list of parishes but this index is sourced from FamilySearch where there are images of the original records from the Church of England. Record Office in Matlock. You need to be a registered FamilySearch patron to view these originals online.

WDYTYA? Live Day 1 Report

Thanks to a BIFHSGO member, who shall remain anonymous, who emailed me with impressions of day one of the event. My comments in red.
I sat outside the venue, Hall 2, from just before the doors opened at 9:30 a.m., until 9:40, sipping a coffee. There was a queue outside the door which snaked down the hallway, several persons deep. It must have held about 2,000 people behind velvet ropes. There were benches against the wall for any people having mobility issues. Staff went down the line, selling programs for 2 pounds each. When the line began to move into the HaIl, I sat and watched in amazement that within ten minutes, that whole line of people had been processed through reception, the velvet ropes had been removed, and the benches had been stacked and removed. I spoke to one of the staff, who agreed that, yes, they are expert in moving large groups of people with no fuss, no muss. Thumbs up for organization!
Inside, it's almost like being in an airport hall. Huge enormous overhead space, wide aisles, and acres of genealogy and other vendors from the SoG itself and of course, WDYTYA magazine, to a big "Ask The Experts" area where one can have personal time with experts from many fields.
On the ground, there is very good signage by the SoG, which have taken over running WDYTYA (the conference) for the company. The signage is consistent, attractive, and accurate. There were four separate SoG workshop areas. Though they were physically distant from each other, there were no real sound barriers between those areas, which in some cases made it hard to hear what was going on in some locations. One had to know to go first to the workshop counters to ask for tickets to attend special interest workshops. Of course, most were already gone by the time I got there, at about 10:00.
I was interested to see that Rebecca Probert had taken a stand, to sell her books. I introduced myself, telling her that I had heard her speak last year. On Amazon there is a big selection of her stuff. I was especially interested to see one title called Nutcases: Family Law Revision Aid and Study Guide. She really knows her stuff! I'll be attending one of her sessions tomorrow.
There are seven different workshop locations available to everyone. Four for SoG, one each for TNA, The Genealogist, and Family Tree DNA!  That's outstanding! And some people complain about three parallel session at the BIFHSGO conference.
I attended a first session by Dr. Eran Elhaik on DNA  Geographic Population Structures and Ancestry Information Markers, speaking about how it is possible using algorithms developed by himself and his colleagues, to pinpoint 100% of DNA to a continent, 86% to a country, and in some cases, about 76% to particular village districts, but ONLY within the last 1,000 years. This is not available yet commercially; the scientists are hoping to be able to drum up some investment money as a result of this kind of promotion, in order to be able to find a way to do such analyses which are commercially feasible. But it sure sounds good! I'm wondering how this is different from what the companies already provide and if so how that's possible.
Janet Few's first session was packed with people. There were overflows of people standing around the workshop area to hear her. And, as usual, she knocked my socks off. She spoke about making sense of a small group of your family, perhaps just one family in one period of time, and how knowledge of the contexts in which people lived could be developed with the introduction of such diverse info. as
- who was King?
-was there a war on?
-was something significant going on, perhaps such as the 1851 Exhibition?
-what was significant in art, literature, health, and religion?
She mentioned all sorts of ways to find such information, from the Shire Book series, to TNA's currency equivalents site to even suggesting that one search for Estate Agent's records of house sales online, to locate where one's ancestors lived and gain insights from that! I sure never thought of that last one! I notice Janet has posted on her own experience on day one at
In this expanded format with seven sets of possible workshops of interest, well, there is more that's educational and enjoyable here than when I was last at the event in 2012. 

LAC Progress on the Government Record Backlog

The following note was posted on the LAC website on 12 April

The 2014 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada examined whether Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has fulfilled its responsibilities for acquiring and preserving government documentary heritage from federal institutions, and for facilitating access to these records for current and future generations. LAC accepted the Auditor General’s recommendations. In the fall of 2014, LAC approved a plan to eliminate a backlog of 98,000 containers of Government of Canada documentary heritage by December 2015. A report on results of the backlog reduction project is provided on a monthly basis to LAC’s senior management. Here is an overview of progress made as of April 10, 2015.
The overview consists of a single chart showing 63% completed, 37% remaining.

Kudos to LAC for posting this report.

I would have liked somewhat more information - What's been done? How is it now accessible? What's remaining? Is the part that's been completed typical of the remainder? I'm reminded of the ninety-ninety rule in software development
"The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."

Another reason to volunteer with your FHS

During National Volunteer's Week at last Saturday's BIFHSGO meeting everyone who volunteers with the Society was asked to stand --  a goodly number did, but not a majority -- and were recognized. Do you know a non-profit, including family history society, that's not looking for volunteers?
New research from Johns Hopkins University "suggest that retirees who take part in meaningful social activity can prevent shrinkage in their brains’ memory centers and avert age-related cognitive problems."  There are benefits both ways.
Read the story Senior Volunteers Ward Off Brain 'Shrinkage' at
And in case you think an extra round of golf would be just as effective, check out this article from Deric's Mindblog which concludes:

"there is no evidence for an increase in relative risk reduction in cognitive decline as a function of increasing levels of physical activity."

Thursday, 16 April 2015

WDYTYA? Live Underway

Twitter is buzzing with news from Who Do You Think You Are? Live which seems to be busy on its first day. This image, via a tweet is from a Society of Genealogists.
presentation, this one to a packed house by Janet Few who will be at BIFHSGO's September conference as well as giving a remote presentation at the OGS conference in Barrie.

Every year Findmypast puts on a special promotional effort, this time, to mark the initiative to place online the British 1939 National Registration, they have a Tea Room with period costumes for the waiters and waitresses. Apparently the Findmypastries are rather tasty! See the Vine video below.

There are specials.
The May issue of Family Tree magazine is available in web edition for just 99p during the event. Go to
Ancestry has free access from the 16th to the 18th to over 21 million records from Birmingham & The Midlands. Criminal, Parish & more at

Soldiers of the First World War Digitization Update for April

As of 15 April, 143,613 of 640,000 files are available online on the Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database.
A month ago, on March 13, 129,271 files were available so 14,342 files were digitized during the month. At that rate the digitization would be complete in another three years and it will have taken about as long to complete the digitization as it did to fight the war.
LAC informs us that they are "digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. The latest digitized box is #2057, which corresponds to the surname “Cussons”."

Ancestry links Gloucestershire, England, Gaol Registers, 1815-1879

Ancestry identifies them as "Web", a name index with links to, in this case the Gloucestershire Archives Genealogical Search for gaol records from Gloucestershire County Council.

You can click on the link to pay and look at the official record, but, before doing so I suggest searching with the name and year to see if there's a newspaper article on the case at the British Newspaper Archive or Findmypast's newspaper collection.

I tried a search on Reid and found a Michael Reid committed on 8 Aug 1860. The newspaper search found an eight paragraph article in the Gloucester Journal for August 18, 1860

Kingston and Quinte Branch OGS April Meetings

On April 18, 2015 Kingston Branch of OGS will hear Janet Connor will speak on the topic "Social Media and Internet Sites for Genealogy - for Beginner to Advanced." She will discuss the use of different types of social media such as blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc. for use in your genealogy research.

The meeting starts at 10 am in the Wilson Room (second floor) of the Central Branch, Kingston Frontenac Public Library, 130 Johnson Street, Kingston

On the same day Quinte Branch of Ontario Genealogical Society will feature a digital presentation by Geoff Rasmussen from the Legacy Webinar Library to learn about the 2014 innovations in Legacy Family Tree 8 software.

This session will cover:
~ Origins reports
~ Migration reports
~ Migration mapping
~ Instant duplicate checking
~ Potential problem alerts and gaps
~ Enhanced sourcing
~ Enhanced chronology view
~ New wall charts
~ Shared events
~ Expanded color coding

and much more.

The event starts at 1 pm at Quinte West City Hall Library, 7 Creswell Drive, Trenton, Ontario