Archive for April 2010


No Comments »

 Seonaid (Shona) Lewis, the new Family History Librarian at the Auckland Research Centre in Auckland City Library. 

I am delighted to be given this opportunity to introduce myself to the New Zealand genealogy community and look forward to meeting and working with you in the forthcoming weeks.

I have always had a love for history, starting with sneaking historical novels off my parents’ bookshelf when I was about nine years old – getting lost in the world of Tudor Kings and Queens.

I can also thank my parents for my passion for family history. My Scottish mother is a fabulous storyteller and she entertained me with stories of her family and what she knew of her ancestors. I would hang on her every word. Her mother was descended from McKenzie of Applecross, who reputedly sheltered Bonnie Prince Charlie when he came over from Skye prior to Culloden. My Scottish ancestry has always meant a lot to me.

My English father, on the other hand, knew very little about his father’s family. He was the youngest of a large Catholic family, his mother died of TB when he was about four months old, and his father, being a Merchant Seaman, was away at sea all the time. My father was fostered out and brought up by neighbours.

All we really knew about his father’s family was that his father had left Newfoundland for England at a young age during the First World War, and lied about his age to get into the Merchant Navy.

When I was living in London, my father asked me to look into some details for him. And before long, I was hooked and had completely caught the genealogy-bug! Currently I have hit the proverbial brick wall at around 1800 where both my father’s maternal and paternal lines lead back to Ireland. Nevertheless, my father now knows about his grandparents and his uncles and aunts and has connected with cousins he never knew before.

I have had much more luck with my mother’s line, tracing both branches back to the 17th Century. I have still to corroborate the McKenzie of Applecross story though . . .

When in London, I was a frequent visitor to the Public Records Office (as it was known then) and loved looking up the original indices. Since returning to New Zealand, I was a frequent visitor initially to Auckland Library, then also the LDS Family History Centre in Takapuna.

The advent of the internet has made researching family history a lot more accessible to the general public. My favourite online tools have been Ancestry, the Origins network, FindMyPast and RootsWeb. Being an “Apple Mac” person, my genealogy software tool is Reunion for Mac.

I have been very excited to find and be found by relatives when we’ve discovered each other on genealogy forums. Its been a delight to connect with a fellow family historian who is related to me, and we’ve been able to help each other with our brick walls.

Latterly Facebook has been a real boon for me. I started Facebook genealogy groups in the names of the four branches of my family trees, and relatives are now finding me all the time.

I come from North Shore Libraries, where I had been working as a general Librarian with duties as a trainer, also working with the Oral History team, assisting with workshops and training people how to use digital technology. I’d also been converting tape cassettes over to digital format to ensure their continued preservation.

So through these important tasks, I have also discovered a passion for Oral History and love listening to the older folk describe their earlier life experiences.

Formerly, I had worked for 26 years’ in design and publishing for both print and web! After starting my working life as an apprentice Typographer, I became heavily involved in management and IT. 

Once I had had my family, I decided I needed to have a change of career. After weighing up my options, it made sense for me to choose librarianship and so I left my career to study and work my way up through the library system, with the idea that some day somehow I could become a family historian.

In the four years since making that decision I have gained my library qualifications, and my professional library registration and I am intending continue my studies towards a degree in history.

Library work seemed the perfect way of bringing together my love of history and books. I have also been very pleased to help others with their family history – so this is my dream job, doing what I love! Family history research and helping people! 

I intend on carrying on Karen’s legacy and will develop some new ideas and services in the future.

Meanwhile, I look forward to meeting with you all in the near future…

Guest post: Researching family in the UK

No Comments »

Guest contributor: Marie Hickey

As Autumn approaches some of you will be looking forward to an overseas trip to the Northern hemisphere during their warmer months. For those who may be, including the Merseyside and Manchester areas, you may be interested in the following:

The People's History Museum at Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER. Admission is free and it is open Monday to Sunday.
Ancestor's Arms, Wallasey, Merseyside, is the first family history themed pub to open in the UK. Newton & Ridley (the well-known Coronation Street brewers) are said to be brewing two special ales for sale at the pub.

If you are intending to visit the Somerset Record Office records on micofiche and micofilm only will be available for consultation 6 April to 5th July. After this period the centre will be closed for at least two months while records are moved to the new Somerset Heritage Centre which is envisaged to open 6 September 2010. Further information can be found on their website.

Want to experience what a Family History Fair in the UK can be like? Then you may wish to attend one on 11 September 2010 at Newcastle Central Premier Inn, Newbridge Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Check the website for further information.
Of course the 'big one' - Who do you think you are? LIVE- is now being held in London at the end of February. Check the Society of Genealogists' website for further information closer to the time.

If you are one of those lucky people travelling abroad and planning to do some research do go prepared (do you need identification? what are the opening hours & regulations?), your time will be more productive and more enjoyable.

Finally, those who enjoy reading the Ancestors magazine published by TNA (the National Archives, UK) will be disappointed to learn that this has now ceased publication. It is envisaged that a different magazine will be produced possibly later in the year.

Guest post: What's new in the world of family history

No Comments »

Guest contributor: Marie Hickey

Those of you who enjoy reading Ancestor magazine published by The National Archives will be sorry to learn that the April 2010 issue is to be the last in the current format.  A new magazine is apparantly envisaged but as yet no details are available. For all those with London connections, the February 2010 issue is completely devoted to this City.

New databases are coming available all the time and it is hard to keep up with them all. Some recently added databases of interest are: -

New additions from findmypast:
Approximately 20,000 entries have been added to Essex Memorial Inscriptions bringing the total number of entries to 170,875 convering the years 1100-2007.

St John Wapping records for 1655-1707 and 1734-1780 have been added to the Docklands Christening records. Other areas included (but not necessarily comprehensively) are: Bermondsley, Isle of Dogs, Limehouse, Mile End, Millwall, Newington, Poplar, Ratcliff, Shadwell, Spitalfields, Stepney and Whitechapel. Unfortunately date range and parishes covered is not given.

Chelsea Pensioner Records: soldier's documents (W097) 1760-1913 and Militia Attestation Papers (WO96) 1806-1915 are being digitised and added to this site. The project is due to be completed in 2011. See findmypast for the proposed release dates. The first section to be released covers WO97/2172-4231 (1883-1900).

Ancestry has added Famine Relief Commission Papers (1844-47). These cover letters, minutes etc sent to the Royal Commission mainly from local relief committees, local clergy, lieutenants and concerned citizens from Cork, Galway, Clare, Mayo and Limerick counties. They are name searchable and provide good back ground knowledge of what conditions were like and steps taken to provide relief. The National Archives of Ireland website explains these papers.

Last but not least, for those of you who have not heard, the cost of certificates from the General Register Office (England and Wales) will increased on the 6th of April 2010 from 7.00 to 9.25. This fee is the same whether or not you quote the volume and page number reference or place your order online.