Friday, March 20, 2015

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 33 - Church Records

I am still following Shauna Hicks' 52 Weeks of Genealogy and Shauna has chosen Church Records as her topic for Week 33 - but not the 'church records' I assumed when I started reading her post.

Shauna tells us that "within the broad category of church records there are lots of different kinds of records. For the purpose of this week’s blog post, I am only looking at church publications. This includes newsletters, magazines, journals, newspapers, yearbooks, church histories and so on."

Now I must confess that this is not an area that I have given the time and consideration that I should - an error I will definitely have to remedy.  I have visited my mother's family church in Brighton where my parents married.  I know my father's paternal line were quite involved in church work in the family church at Fordham, Essex, where the family lived for a number of generations.  I also know that several branches of my father's maternal line, who lived in Suffolk, England, were Baptists.  I have not, however, put much effort into locating church newsletters and other publications - and in neglecting this resource I have done quite a disservice to my efforts to flesh out my family history.

This is the great thing about following a challenge like Shauna's 52 Weeks - it encourages me to think about all the different types of records out there and if I am using them effectively, or, in the case of church publications, if I am actually using them at all!  Thanks again Shauna - please click here to read Shauna's full post on Church Records.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Silver War Badge Records 1914-1920

Was your ancestor discharged from the military because wounds or illness left them unfit to continue service?  They may have been among the 800,000 recipients of the Silver War Badge whose records are now available at

In September 1916, King George V authorized the Silver War Badge (SWB) to honor all military personnel who had served at home or overseas since 4 August 1914 and who had been discharged because of wounds or illness. The SWB was a small, circular badge made of sterling silver that bore the king’s initials, a crown, and the inscriptions ‘For King and Empire’ and ‘Services Rendered’. The badge could also be worn by personnel who were discharged because of age. 
The SWB was not simply an honor; it also served a practical purpose. At the time, men of military age in England who were not obviously in the service were sometimes accosted or insulted by civilians presenting them with white feathers—a symbol of cowardice—for shirking their patriotic duty. The badge, which was worn with civilian dress, served as an outward symbol that the wearer’s duty to country had been honorably fulfilled. 

Thousands of women appear on the rolls as well, serving overseas in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which provided cooking, mechanical, clerical, and other support services.  Many others served as nurses.

 One thing to keep in mind as you search for your own WWI ancestor. Millions were wounded in the war—some, like J.R.R. Tolkien, so severely that they never did return to the front—but unless they were discharged, they won’t be on the Silver War Badge rolls. 

For those of you who do not have a subscription to Ancestry, check your local library to see if they have a library subscription.  Ancestry Library Edition is available via our free public internet at all branches of Campaspe Regional Library.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Canberra Congress

There is little more than a week to go before the AFFHO Canberra Congress 2015 begins and I am in full swing getting ready.  The car is serviced, the suitcase is out, the neighbour has been organised to catsit and the cat is sulking.  My 'to do' list is finally shrinking rather than expanding as I am actually crossing off items faster than I can think of new ones to add.

This is the first time I will attend a Congress, having missed out on the last few due to family and work commitments, and I have been following official Congress Bloggers like Shauna Hicks and Jill Ball as they talk about everything in store for us and interview many of the speakers.  Many thanks to both these ladies, and all the other bloggers out there who have been talking about the Congress and how to get the most out of your time there.  I have even installed the Congress App on my smartphone.

It has been diffcult to choose which sessions to attend from each of the four concurrent sessions per time slot.  I considered each according to speaker, topic and relevance to my research areas and current expertise - and still wanted to be in two (or three, or even four) different places at once.  I'm also looking forward to visiting vendors in the Exhibitors hall, sharing and networking with colleagues and Congress delegates.  There is also the Librarian's Seminar the day before the Congress itself - just to make sure I really get into information overload!  We are fortunate to have access to so many international and Australian speakers during the Congress, as well as the exhibitors and other events.

See you at the Congress!

Monday, March 16, 2015

New Military Records Online

Ancestry has added thousands of Australian service records from the First World War. Digitised from dossiers held by The National Archives of Australia, the collection covers personnel from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train (RANBT), Australian Flying Corps (AFC) and the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS).

Ancestry has also uploaded a tranche of records regarding UK citizens resident in the United States who served in the British Expeditionary Force between 1917-19. Released in partnership with the US National Archives and Records Administration, the collection comprises scanned index cards, providing the name of the resident, their address, date of birth, marital status, civilian occupation and date they entered service.

Finally, Ancestry has added the records of men who served in the Royal Navy during the First World War. Spanning 1900-1918, the Registers of Seamen’s Services can reveal information such as birthdate, birthplace, vessels and dates of service. Family historians can also click through from the transcriptions to view scans of the original documents, held at The National Archives, which provide additional details such as physical description.

Thousands of women’s military records have been made available on Findmypast for the first time. Launched to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Service Records collection provides details of women who served in the unit (known by the acronym WAAC) in England, France and Flanders during the First World War. Digitised from records held at The National Archives, the files reveal details such as birthplace, physical description, medical history, education and parents’ nationalities.

Forces War Records has now uploaded more than 100,000 First World War medical records to the web. Originally launched with 30,000 entries in October 2014, the Military Hospitals Admissions and Discharge Registers collection comprises transcriptions of files created by field hospitals between 1915-18, containing details of men treated on the front line and the nature of their ailments.

Researchers looking for family living in Jersey during the WW2 German occupation can now download their registration card, including a photograph. The collection of German Occupation registration cards, recognised by UNESCO for its importance, has been digitised and added to the Jersey Heritage website by Jersey Archive. The collection includes 90,000 images that can be searched for free, although there is a fee of £5 to download a card.

With so much happening during the Centemary of World War 1 I'm finding it quite hard to keep up with all the records and information coming online - especially as I an researching family members in several countries.  I hope you all find something useful in the sites mentioned above.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

England's Immigrants 1330-1550

The British National Archves has just launched England’s Immigrants 1330-1550, a major new research database.  This work is the result of a three year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) directed by Professor Mark Ormrod, of the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies, who headed a team of researchers based in York at and here at The National Archives.
The British Isles has seen a steady flow of immigrants over the past two millennia. Invasions by the Romans and Normans, sanctuary sought by the Protestant Huguenots, or the need for a workforce encouraging West Indians to immigrate all have had a part to play in making Britain the nation it is today.
Alien poll tax inquest for Northamptonshire, 15 April 1469

The central information is drawn from taxation records. In the mid-fifteenth century, as a response to growing tension against England’s immigrants, a series of alien subsidies were granted by parliament. Other records from the period also survive, including various letters patent on the Patent Rolls, detailing requests for immigrants to remain in England and be treated like denizens.  It reveals evidence about the names, origins, occupations and households of a significant number of foreigners who chose to live and work in England in the era of the Hundred Years War, the Black Death and the Wars of the Roses. 
The database contains the names of a total of 65,000 immigrants resident in England between 1330 and 1550. In one year, 1440, the names of 14,500 individuals were recorded, at a time when the population of England was approximately 2 million.
All of this information has been gathered onto the database providing easy access to complex data for the first time.  The database is accessible to all and is a fully searchable and interactive resource, from which data can be downloaded.

Friday, February 27, 2015

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 32 - Asylum Records

Shauna has chosen Asylum Records for her topic in Week 32, and tells us that "there were many kinds of asylums apart from mental asylums including benevolent, children’s, sick, destitute and infirm asylums. Even those in a mental asylum may not have been suffering a mental illness, they may have simply been old, frail or sick with no other place to go."

Having spent over 18 months caring for my father who had developed Alzheimers, I have become more aware of the support and care services we enjoy today which would not have been imagined by our ancestors.  For those 200 years ago with illnesses such as dementia, schizophrenia, epilepsy, alcoholism, even post-natal depression, there was little (or no) support, services or understanding of their condition.

Formal mental health care began in Australia with the opening of the Australian Lunatic Asylum at Castle Hill NSW in 1811.  In those times mental illness was viewed as madness and related to ‘bad blood’ or character flaws rather than illness, and management was custodial and by physical restraint, isolation and control.  There was little emphasis on treatment and early facilities were staffed by untrained care assistants. 

The mid to late 1800s saw medical superintendents in charge of asylums.  The philosophy was increasingly one of humane care, although overcrowding often resulted in custodial management.  A 1867 Act of Parliament sent people with mental illness to asylums rather than prison.  There is still little understanding of mental illness and people with a variety of illnesses/disablities found themselves in asylums – people with Alzheimers, epilepsy, Downs Syndrome, alcoholism, etc.  Nursing homes were very rare – there was often nowhere else for people to go if their families were unable to care for them.  

By 1900 medical superintendents had started training some staff, and the introduction of female staff was being considered.  There was a growing awareness of age-related dementia being different than other mental illnesses and physical disabilities were becoming better understood.  The 1950s saw the commencement of specialization in nursing and an illness approach to mental health problems, with a curative focus.  The major tranqulizers were being developed and pharmaceutical management rather than physical restraint became possible.  We was the beginning of nurses working therapeutically with clients individually and groups, and nursing homes became more common as mental health care as we know it today developed.

I have 2 ancestors (that I currently know of) who have been inmates of an asylum.  Both were elderly when admitted and both died in the asylum, although I have little further information about their conditions and why they were admitted.  This will become a project for me to follow up this year.

Shauna adds that "Asylum records are mostly held by the State Archives and there may be a handy guide to the records held.  Check whatever state you are interested in and read the guide for any hints before starting your research. There is usually a closed access period of 100 years although it varies from State to State."  To read Shauna's full blog entry on asylums, click here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blogger Beads at the Canberra Congress

Jill's Blogger Beads
The AFFHO Congress in Canberra is fast approaching and I am all booked up and ready to go.  There is a great list of speakers and vendors and Jill Ball from GeniAus has just arrived home from the Rootstech Conference in Salt Lake City bearing some lovely blogger beads so all the bloggers at the conference can identify each other. 

So if you are Geneablogger and would like to let others know by wearing Jill's Geneablogger Beads please let Jill know by emailing her at with Blogger Beads in the subject line and stating your name and the URL of your blog. 

See you at the Congress!