New Ways of Connecting

I said I’d talk a bit about the valuation office survey for house history and family history, which I foolishly promised last week. I will do, but first…

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

I’ve spent the last couple of days in the world of tourism, pressing the case for ancestral tourism as a domestic market to keep people in the UK, and a huge international hook to reach out to people around the world with British and Irish ancestry. On Thursday, I was speaking at the Aberdeen and North East Scotland Ancestral Tourism seminar, held in Inverurie. It was a fascinating session, and great to hear from Gillian Swan from Visit Scotland who curates the Ancestral Scotland brand to a predominantly international audience, but wants to generate more interest internally. We had delegates from hotels, restaurants, family and local history societies, tour operators, tour guides, archives, museums, libraries and council representatives, as well as local businesses interested in the commercial potential. It was great to see that there was already a marketing platform and website, bringing resources together, but the general consensus was that more could be done to unlock a huge market, with benefits to all. Lessons to be learned south of the border, which was emphasised on Friday when I attended the Historic Towns Forum conference on heritage, culture and tourism at Blenheim Palace; Lady Cobham, Chair of Visit England, confirmed that this was an area they were interested in but wanted to talk more about the potential, whilst recognising that it was a large area of interest. There were several fantastic presentations, but one that stood out as having immediate benefit for practitioners of family history and genealogy was www.tripbod.com, which allows people to create and offer bespoke local services for people wanting to find out more about an area. What better way to connect with visitors from other parts of the UK, or indeed overseas, so that you can share your passion for research, local services, graveyards and museums and create a mini-business showing people around? The Ancestral Tourism Partnership will be talking more closely with the company about how the resources online might be tweaked for genealogists.

And so to the 1910 Valuation Office records; these are at The National Archives, and come in two parts – the maps, in series IR121-IR135 which can be located by the postcode of your house through the onsite terminals that provide access to TNA’s Labs; or via traditional finding aids in the Map and Large Document Room. Once you’ve found the right map and located your property, make a note of the red hereditament number that was assigned to it, and look it up in the field book – these are in series IR58, and each property has four pages full of detail, including owner, occupier, type of property, date of former sales, and a description. These are great records, and link closely with the 1911 census so well worth checking.

Cheers

Nick

House History

Last week, I was delighted to deliver a seminar on how to trace the history of your house for Alice Kershaw, Heritage Officer for Peterborough. It was held at the Beckett Chapel in the Cathedral precincts, and was (pretty much) a full house. Many people were there because they wanted to find out more about their own home, more often than not because the house was of a significant age or reflected an interesting period of history. However, some of the audience were more curious about the properties they had discovered whilst researching their roots – the ancestral homes where key members of the family had grown up.

When you think about it, most of the sources we take for granted when tracking down our ancestors contain specific information about where they lived. Birth, marriage and death certificates note the address of all parties; census returns are arranged by house and street; a large percentage of wills will record where the deceased lived. If you include some of the modern sources such as electoral lists, trade and street directories and rate books, you have a vast amount of data that reveals where our ancestors resided.

Suddenly, house history becomes an important branch of genealogy. Given the existence of both modern online maps and an increasing array of historic map datasets, often linked to postcodes and increasingly geo-tagged to make it even easier to pinpoint an exact location, it is not too tricky to start to plot the historic landscape in which our ancestors lived, and then go back to visit in person to see how it has changed – or if the property still stands!

David Lloyd George

Image via Wikipedia

The size, scale and setting of a house will tell you a great deal about the lifestyle of those who dwelt within – was it cramped or spacious, set in a garden or part of a working-class terrace, located in the industrial heart of the community or in a planned suburb? This is important social history context when trying to work out what sort of people we are descended from, and how their work translated into creature comforts at home.

So start compiling a list of places where your folk once lived. Even if you can’t pinpoint an exact house at this stage, it is worth flagging up the hamlet or street in which they lived for future reference as there are various sources that family historians rarely use that house historians take for granted. How many people have heard of the 1910 Finance Act, also referred to as the Lloyd George Domesday? Anyone? Looks like I’ll have to write about it next week then…

Bye for now

Nick

Enhanced by Zemanta

Who Do You Think You Are Live: Day 3

Tony Robinson speaking at Hyde Park.

Image via Wikipedia

And so the curtain falls once again on Who Do You Think You Are live for another year… Plenty of celebrity stardust scattered throughout the three days, not only in the main theatre, where Larry Lamb, Emilia Fox and Richard Madeley told us all about their experiences on the TV show , but also throughout the entire event – Tony Robinson, Eric Knowles, Valerie Singleton, Colin McFarlane and even Edward Fox popping up.

 

For me, Day 3 was relatively quiet, as I didn’t arrive until nearly 2.30; I was across London, answering a call from my football team who were short of players, so I missed out on most of the early action. Still, there was plenty of time to chat before my talk at 4.00 on the future of family history.

 

Given the advances we’ve seen over the last decade, it would be a foolish thing to predict where we’ll be in 2022; but I’ve tried to sketch out some of the main areas where we’ll see advances and changes in the way we do things, with outcomes and necessary steps to ensure we as a community have a say in the way they are shaped.

 

Broadly speaking, I suspect we’ll see a shift in the way datasets are digitised, transcribed and made available with greater emphasis on crowd sourcing transcriptions – so local experts work on local records – and cheaper digitisation ensuring that costs to the public to view images will eventually decrease to the point when they become free; this may happen relatively quickly, as long as we can find a way of ensuring archives generate an income stream or new economic opportunities, and the commercial players find new ways to make money.

 

This will impact on the technology they create, moving away from subscription models based on access to data, towards building the best experience for curating and archiving personal stories, records and trees, with emphasis on smart matching records with relatives, connecting people with stories and photos, facial recognition and personal archive platforms. It will not be long before developers are building mobile platforms and apps for smart phones and tablets rather than the traditional (dare I say old-fashioned?) laptops and desktops.

 

Another element to future genealogy will be the continued rise of DNA as a research tool, but equally as a way of finding where our ancestors came from at a place and population level. As access to and understanding of the human genome and proteome becomes more sophisticated, we will be able to ensure that the area between the direct male and female lines – the cousins, great aunts and great great uncles for example – can be checked and verified via scientific testing.

 

These advances will be made easier if – or rather when – we make family history a mainstream activity throughout the country, bringing it to a wider younger audience. With adaptation and emphasis on the skills and understanding that an investigation of our background brings, we can inspire young people from 7 – 18 to ask ‘who am I’ or ‘where am I’ so that they personalise their learning journey and develop knowledge that will apply throughout the curriculum.

 

Equally, ancestral tourism can become an important economic driver for growth as we build platforms and resources aimed at existing genealogists who want to visit places where their ancestors came from, as well as encouraging newcomers to investigate their roots; this will also appeal to an international audience.

 

However, to make this work we will need to co-ordinate and collaborate both within our sector – FFHS, SOG, AGRA, IHGS – to speak with one voice, and share a platform with representatives from local history (BALH), the world of archives (ARA, and the Community Archive and Heritage Group), and academia (with the Higher Education sector linked via groups such as the Historical Association). With one voice, we can advocate to central government more effectively as well as share resources and strategize more effectively on common areas such as education, economic growth opportunities and digitisation.

 

And final, I still managed to watch Liverpool lift the Carling Cup; though Cardiff were so desperately unlucky. Their time will come!

 

Now I’m off to hide in a darkened room for a week – I’m speaking on House History at Peterborough on Saturday 3 March, and will resume the blog the following week.

 

Bye for now

Nick

Enhanced by Zemanta

Who Do You Think You Are Live: Day 2

Oh my goodness. What a day… So many people to thank, and so much to update you on; we decided to bring our intrepid cameraman Seb to the show to film various people and organisations, and we have enough material for about 2 films, which we’ll put up on the site. Here’s just a flavour of what we covered.

 

First off, we chatted about the link between Family History Show and Your Family History magazine, where Laura is editor, before moving across to talk to Chris Paton – who’s been helping promote the Family and Local History Handbook and the recently launched Irish equivalent, along with his fascinating insight into the way family history is heading as a sector. We’re delighted to announce that Chris will be contributing guest blogs to our site, as well as promoting his own resource British Genes. www.britishgenes.blogspot.com. Them over to Debra Chatfield – kitted out in period costume as the captain of HMS Findmypastic, more of a time and space ship of datasets and ancestral opportunity fuelled by the technology of Find My Past, as well as news on their involvement in the US – was it co-incidence that all the new datasets seemed to be in places where her ancestors lived?!? We also spoke to the face of Find My Past in the US, Josh Taylor – who is a leading advocate of mobile technology for a younger generation, and who yearns for the day when we have an app that will recognise old handwriting and translate foreign languages for you (and let’s face it, wouldn’t we all love one of those!)

 

We dropped in to film with a range of other people, hearing more about Ancestry’s plans, the work of AGRA and FamilySearch, and a really smart new piece of software that you can upload onto your PC – no matter how old it may be – that transforms it into an easy to use, simple and intuitive operating system, so you don’t have to have the first clue about technology to be able to use it. The lovely Valerie Singleton was there to enthuse about the technology, and she presents the tutorial that shows you how to use it; worth a look – www.simplicitycomputers.co.uk  In a similar vein, Peter Christian talked about the tension between the need to digitise, the commercial benefits to the sector, and a subtle difference between pay per view mass datasets (eg census) and local, crowd sourced free resources. It was great fun chatting to Dick Eastman about his own views of the future of genealogy – DNA features strongly – and you can find his latest updates at www.blog.eogn.com, whilst Michael LeClerk talked about his work with www.mocavo.com.

 

In between all this, we still managed to film with Else Churchill, who has put so much work into making the show happen; present the winners of the Federation of Family History Societies competition to find the most interesting member of your family tree; and announce the winner of the Your Family History magazine Archive of the Year Award – which I’m delighted to reveal went to Surrey History Centre.

 

And just when you thought it was all over – I gave a talk with Brian Ashley on ancestral tourism, and met up with Colin McFarlane at the My Heritage stand to talk with some of the truly inspirational young people who worked on the Making History education project.

 

Tomorrow – I may take a bit of a break and only come in for half a day (did I mentioned semi-retirement yesterday??) but will be around and about to chat in the afternoon, before giving a talk at 4pm on the Future of Family History.

 

Cheers

Nick

Enhanced by Zemanta

Who Do You Think You Are Live: Day 1

From Roots Tech to Olympia – and the first day of Who Do You Think You Are Live, the annual landmark genealogy event that brings together all the major players in the world of family history. Having previously spent the three days running around from talk to talk, this year I’m heading towards semi-retirement and doing only one presentation a day – in this case, the importance of using family history to promote personalised learning journeys in schools, with Colin McFarlane’s Making History project as an example. The audience were hugely enthusiastic, and thanks so much to Colin for making a personal appearance to talk about the future plans for the venture. We showed some of the students in action, featuring their brilliant presentations and discoveries from their past; and a few of them will be appearing again on Saturday to talk about their experiences on the My Heritage stand.

Tony Robinson
by HelloImNik under CC BY-ND  with wpseopix.com

.

Laura and I were at the Your Family History magazine stand – well, I was meant to be but ended up talking to people all day long! I was actually busier than in the past… Great meetings with Family Search about a variety of projects, similarly with Mocavo – looking forward to working with both organisations in the future, watch this space for more information. It was also fantastic to catch up with some of the regular visitors to the show, as it’s always nice to see some familiar faces.

Sadly I barely had time to sit in on any of the other presentations, but the feedback from those that did was really positive. This is the first year that the show is under new management, and the stands are looking better than ever with all the major exhibitors putting on shows, displays, talks, workshops and free opportunities to test their wares; Find Your Past released merchant seamen records, and Ancestry invited down Tony Robinson and some of their US team to talk about their plans of the future.  Tomorrow we’ll be filming all day, and will be making the most of the chance to talk to all the movers and shakers in the online and technology world and record their thoughts for you to look at during a future episode. I’ll also be unveiling plans about ancestral tourism on the main stage at 12pm, presenting an award for the Federation of Family History Societies at 1pm, and announcing the 2012 winners of the Your Family History Archive of the Year Award at 3pm.

Looking forward to seeing you then,

Cheers

Nick

Enhanced by Zemanta
 Page 5 of 9  « First  ... « 3  4  5  6  7 » ...  Last »