Ancestry.com.au Blog http://blogs.ancestry.com/au A hundred years of naming conventions flushed down the toilet Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Discover your story. Enjoy free access to our Australian immigration records all weekend!http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/04/17/discover-your-story-enjoy-free-access-to-our-australian-immigration-records-all-weekend/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/04/17/discover-your-story-enjoy-free-access-to-our-australian-immigration-records-all-weekend/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:18:09 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2187 Read more]]> Before the age of digitised records, piecing together a family tree across generations and continents was an almost impossible task. Now thanks to Ancestry.com.au it’s all at your fingertips – bringing to life our ancestors’ adventures and stories that were once buried in archives across the globe.

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Ancestry.com.au offers the world’s largest online collection of historical records, and this Easter long weekend, over 43 million immigration records will be free to search.

They include the newly launched Fremantle Passenger Lists, providing a crucial link that will help millions of Australian sleuths trace the pivotal turning point in their family history.

JOURNEYS TO A NEW LAND
It’s estimated that one in four of Australia’s 22 million people was born outside Australia. Before airlines offered a viable alternative, migrants arrived by ship. Fremantle Port opened in 1897 and became a major gateway for new arrivals, either those in transit to other Australian ports, New Zealand or settling in Western Australia.

The Fremantle Passenger Lists cover migration from 1897 to 1963, providing vital clues for those tracing their ancestors’ passage to Australia. The Fremantle Passenger Lists add a wealth of new information to ancestry.com.au’s existing immigration records from Australia, the UK, the US and other countries. This extensive database, created in collaboration with the National Archives of Australia, allows people to track the routes their ancestors took, providing valuable insights into how and when they arrived, as well as intriguing snippets about their past. Other immigration records included in the free access campaign including passenger arrival records, outbound passenger lists, citizenship and naturalisation records, convict transportation records, border crossings and passport applications. Twentieth century immigration records can be highly detailed, including names and addresses of other family members, in both the old country and new.

TEN POUND POMS
One of the biggest migrant waves was in the fifties and sixties, the era of the so-called ‘Ten Pound Poms’, when one million British people paid just 10 pounds to call Australia home. Some of the celebrated music talent who arrived in this wave include the Manchester-born Bee Gees brothers, Barry, Maurice and Robin, in 1958.

AC/DC’s Bon Scott, and brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, were also expats from this era. In fact, since October 1945 alone, more than 7.2 million people have migrated to Australia, and their details can be found in the unprecedented collection of immigration records available on ancestry.com.au.

UNLOCKING THE PAST

WHEN LYNNE MANNOLINI came across a collection of old photographs and documents belonging to her grandmother, it sparked a quest to discover the stories behind the photos, culminating in a family tree that now stretches back 10 generations. Using the vast resources of ancestry.com.au, Lynne discovered the background to her grandmother’s arrival in Australia in the early 1900s, aged just six. Drawing on census records, birth, death and marriage indexes, and various passenger lists, she has added convicts, policemen and gaolers to her family story. She’s uncovered immigrants from Germany, together with records of their arrival and documentation of their holidays back and forth within Australia.“Each new piece of information opens up a whole new path to follow, so the story continues,” says Lynne.

JAMES William Henry in diving gear

Enjoy free access to all immigration records this Easter long weekend at Ancestry.com.au. Access starts 12:01am Thursday 17 April and finishes 11.59pm Monday 21 April. You can access the records at www.ancestry.com.au/immigration2014

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Titanic Mystery Solved with DNA Testinghttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/03/21/titanic-mystery-solved-with-dna-testing/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/03/21/titanic-mystery-solved-with-dna-testing/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 04:23:54 +0000 wexon http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2170 Read more]]> DNA solved a 70-year-old question of whether Loraine Allison survived the Titanic crash. Many have wondered what happened to the two-year-old little girl who disappeared from the crash more than 100 years ago.

The story begins with Hudson and Bess taking their two kids, Trevor, seven months, and Loraine, two years of age, across the Atlantic on the Titanic. At the time of the sinking, it is said that Trevor was rushed to a lifeboat by their maid and that the other three died on the boat. However, only Hudson’s body was found, leaving the mystery of what happened to Loraine and her mother.

The New York City Herald covered the sinking tragedy on April 16, 1912. (Credit: Library of Congress)

The New York City Herald covered the sinking tragedy on April 16, 1912. (Credit: Library of Congress)

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The unknown remained until 28 years later when Helen Kramer came forward on a radio show called “We the People”, and said that she was the two-year-old missing girl. Only a few of the distant relatives believed her story, but immediate family members denied the claims and kept her out of the inheritance.

When Helen died in 1992 the claims seemed to have died with her. However, in 2012 the granddaughter of Helen, Debrina Woods, resurfaced the claims by saying she had inherited more evidence from her grandmother and that the truth should be told.

With all of this evidence, and with a desire to solve this case, a group of Titanic researchers put together a project to help unlock the mystery.

They did just that, by convincing descendants from each family to have a DNA test done.

The results from the tests show that there is not a relationship between the two families, suggesting that this was a hoax or a complete misunderstanding.

We don’t want to downplay the tragedy of this story to those involved but rather highlight that we have a tool that will help us unlock the mysteries of our past with DNA testing.

This isn’t the first time DNA has helped provide evidence to disprove a connection to a historical claim. DNA testing disproved Anna Anderson’s claims that she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. Similar to the Kramer story, researchers found multiple people from both sides of the family in question and had them take a DNA test. No DNA was shared, disproving a relationship.

What questions have you always wondered about in your family?

Discover your family story. Start free trial.

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Spelling Didn’t Matter To Our Ancestors — Wild Cards to the Rescuehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/03/20/spelling-didnt-matter-to-our-ancestors-wild-cards-to-the-rescue/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/03/20/spelling-didnt-matter-to-our-ancestors-wild-cards-to-the-rescue/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 00:59:45 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2166 Read more]]>

Our ancestors often used a variety of spellings for their first names and surnames. You can use wildcards with the Exact filter selected to find unusual spellings of names.

There are two wildcard characters:

  • ? (question mark) : matches one character which can be anything
  • * (asterisk) : matches 0 to N characters

So if you enter Sm?th* you can match Smith, Smyth, Smithe and Smythe

Ann* will match Ann, Anne, Anna, and Annabelle

My maiden name is Gillespie, and it is very often spelled: Gillaspie, Gillispie or Gillespie or even Gillespy.

I can use wildcards to match a variety of combinations.

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This matches a variety of spellings, making my search just a little bit easier.

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Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

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Real James Bond Found Hiding in an Archivehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/03/08/real-james-bond-found-hiding-in-an-archive/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/03/08/real-james-bond-found-hiding-in-an-archive/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 21:47:53 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2153 Read more]]>

Sidney Reilly, the secret agent widely believed to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s legendary character James Bond, has been uncovered in a very un-Bondlike location: an online archive.

The record (shown above) was found in the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 collection, which details medals earned by more than 4.8 million WWI soldiers. It reveals that Reilly’s Military Cross was issued for service in the Royal Flying Corps.

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Sidney Reilly, known as the “Ace of Spies,” was an agent for Scotland Yard’s Special Branch. In 1918 Reilly joined Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the first director of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), as an operative for MI1 (a predecessor to MI6). His friend Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart knew Ian Fleming for many years and told him of Reilly’s espionage exploits. Later Fleming allegedly mentioned to a colleague at the Sunday Times that he had created Bond after hearing about Reilly.

In typical secret-agent fashion, much of Reilly’s life is shrouded in mystery. It is alleged that he worked undercover and stole revolutionary aircraft engine parts and weapon plans from the Germans before the First World War even began. He was then dispatched on counter-Bolshevik operations in Germany and Russia during the conflict itself. He did travel to the U.S. from Russia in 1915 with new wife Nadine (Nadezhda) Zalessky, as shown in this ship’s manifest. Like Bond, he was known as a womanzier, though unlike Fleming’s character, Reilly married several times (not always bothering with the formality of a divorce in between).

reilly manifest june 1915

 

Reilly’s medal was awarded for his “distinguished services rendered in connection with military operations in the field,” which are said to have included parachuting behind enemy lines and disguising himself as a German officer in order to obtain undercover information.

His record is one of thousands of medal cards online, revealing the medals awarded to each First World War soldier. In addition, more than 50,000 of these cards also list details of covert operations undertaken or letters from next of kin on their reverse side, meaning thousands of people today can track down find the spy in their own family.

Ancestry.com.au’s researchers have also found another interesting James Bond-related fact: Daniel Craig is actually the half 19th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, his on-screen partner in crime during the acclaimed opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Who’s keeping a secret in your family’s past? Discover you family story. Start a free trial today.

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Guest Blog: What’s in a name? Surnames have meanings and originshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/17/guest-blog-whats-in-a-name-surnames-have-meanings-and-origins/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/17/guest-blog-whats-in-a-name-surnames-have-meanings-and-origins/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 05:29:22 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2149 Read more]]> Authored by Bob Cumberbatch. Bob is the Education Liaison Officer of The Guild of One-Name Studies and can be reached at education@one-name.org.

Surnames began being used in the 11th century and they have meanings and origins which can be grouped into four broad categories, which are: People, Places, Occupations and Nicknames.

Surnames based on people often mean “son of” a person. Robertson is a name derived from someone called Robert. This surname is especially common in Scotland, where Robert was a popular personal name and the name of three kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce (1274–1329). Other examples include: Williamson meaning ‘son of William’, Ferguson meaning ‘son of Fergus’ and Johnson. Gaelic names from Scotland and Ireland include Mac or Mc as in MacAlister. Irish examples include: O’Brien, FitzPatrick or Brennan. ‘Ap’ in Welsh means ‘son of’ and ‘ap Richard’ evolved into Pritchard and ‘ap Ellis’ became Bellis; Williams, meaning ‘son of William,’ is very common in Wales.

Surnames based on places are named after a particular place or a description of a place. Millington which is a name derived from places called Millington in Cheshire and East Yorkshire, so named from Old English mylen ‘mill’ + tun ‘enclosure’, ‘settlement’. Wood which is mainly a name for someone who lived in or by a wood or a metonymic occupational name for a woodcutter or forester, from Middle English wode ‘wood’ and Old English wudu. Hill is an extremely common and widely distributed name for someone who lived on or by a hill; from the Old English hyll.

Occupational surnames originated from someone’s work, their title or a position of status. Smith is an occupational name for a worker in metal; from Middle English smith and Old English smið, which is possibly a derivative of smitan meaning ‘to strike, hammer’. Metal-working was one of the earliest occupations for which specialist skills were required, and its importance ensured that this surname and its equivalents were perhaps the most widespread of all occupational surnames in Europe. This is the most frequent of all British and American surnames. Other examples of occupational surnames include Chandler a maker or seller of candles, Taylor, Faulkner from falconer, Burgess and Bishop.

Strong is a name from Middle English strong or strang meaning ‘strong’, probably a nickname for a strong man but perhaps sometimes applied ironically to a weakling. Other examples include Reid, and its English equivalent Read, which is a nickname for a person with red hair or a ruddy complexion, from Older Scots reid ‘red’. Small is a nickname for a person of slender build or diminutive stature, from Middle English smal ‘thin’, ‘narrow’. There are examples of nickname based surnames from other European languages, such as German Klein and Schmal and French Petit.

Discover the meaning of your surname online at Ancestry.com.au.

Bob is the Education Liaison Officer of The Guild of One-Name Studies and can be reached at education@one-name.org

Studying a surname and identifying its roots and distribution can be particularly helpful in tracking down people who have migrated overseas and finding the right person from multiple candidates

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Top 20 Search Tipshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/17/top-20-search-tips/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/17/top-20-search-tips/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 05:18:30 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2143 Read more]]> Stack of books and magnifying glass isolated on white background

Use our suggestions to track down missing ancestors and get more from your Ancestry.com.au searches.

1. Focused searching

Searching all our records at once is extremely powerful, but it can give you too many search results. Consider searching categories, such as census or military records. Or if you know where and when you’re looking for your ancestors, you can often search within particular record collections.

2. Recent collections

On our main search page, look for ‘Recently viewed collections’ in the top-right corner. These links will take you straight back to the record collections you last looked at.

3. Recent searches

Slightly further down the page, on the left, you’ll find ‘Recent Searches’. This provides a list of the ancestors you last searched for – click on them to go straight back to your search results.

4. Local records

At the bottom of the main search page are maps of Australia & NZ, the UK, USA, Canada and more. Click within the map to see lists of record collections for any country. You can then use the options on the right to see just the collections for a particular county.

5. Find more records

We’ve created pages for each of our main categories to help you find more useful records. For example, our Census and Voter page includes links to all our census and electoral collections – as well as help for using those records.

6. Card Catalogue

For a wider view, use the Card Catalogue – you’ll find this at the bottom of the Search menu at the top of the screen. This lets you see all the record collections across our whole site, and filter them by category, location and date.

7. New releases

We’re constantly adding record collections, so there are always new opportunities to find your family. Stay up-to-date with our latest releases here. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest content releases.

8. Exact matches

The ‘Match all terms exactly’ option can be useful in narrowing down your results. However, be careful as this will exclude any records that don’t include all the information in your search – for example, many records don’t have a death date.

9. Alternative names

Names were often spelt differently in the past, so use the options under the ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’ boxes to include alternatives. However, also take the time to search for other possibilities yourself (for example Owen and Owens), as this can be more effective.

10. Wildcard searches

You can also look for different spellings using wildcard characters. Use an * if there are several letters you’re not sure of (‘Rob*son will look for Robinson and Robertson) or a ? for a single letter (Sm?th for Smith and Smyth).

11. Nearby counties

You’ll often find that your ancestors moved across county borders. You can use the advanced options under any Location box to focus your search on the county that you entered, plus any bordering counties.

12. Family members

There are many James Olivers in our records, but far fewer who were married to ladies named Charlotte, and fewer still with sons named Frank. Use the ‘Family Member’ options to include other relatives in your search.

13. Lateral thinking

Another option is to simply search for a different person in the same household. Perhaps you can’t find James Oliver? Try searching for wife Charlotte or other family members with more unusual names, and see if you can spot James elsewhere on the record.

14. Collection Priority

The ‘Collection Priority’ option lets you focus on different parts of the world. Perhaps your greatuncle ran away to America? Switch the collection priority to United States to view mainly American records, and tick ‘Show only records from these collections’ if you don’t want to see anything else.

15. Browsing records

When you’re searching within individual record collections, you’ll often see options to ‘Browse this collection’ on the right. These let you choose a particular place and time period, and read through the records as though you were reading a book – they’re particularly useful with parish records.

16. Result views

There are two ways of viewing your results. – switch between them using the ‘View’ option in the top-right. ‘Sorted by relevance’ presents each individual record with the closest matches at the top; ‘Summarized by category’ groups your results together, so you can see what categories and collections they come from.

17. Edit Search

If you’ve made a mistake, or you want to try a slightly different search, you don’t need to go back to the search page. Just click ‘Edit Search’ in the top-left, change anything you want, and then click ‘Search’.

18. Narrow by Category

Perhaps you’re only interested in census records or travel records? You can easily filter your results by selecting one of the options under ‘Narrow by category’. You’ll then see more filter options, such as date ranges or sub-categories.

19. Record preview

If you keep clicking on all your results, it can take a long time to check which ones relate to your family. Instead, just hover over a result to see a quick preview of the most important information.

20. Hot Keys

You can use keyboard shortcuts to move through your results more quickly. For example, pressing ‘r’ will let you edit your search, while ‘p’ brings up a preview of the record you’ve selected.

Share your top search tip below.

 

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Ancestry Expands Groundbreaking Collaboration With FamilySearchhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/17/ancestry-expands-groundbreaking-collaboration-with-familysearch/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/17/ancestry-expands-groundbreaking-collaboration-with-familysearch/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 00:56:02 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2139 Read more]]> ACOM_InternationalRecords

We are pleased to announce an extension of our collaborative efforts with FamilySearch International that will make more than one billion additional records from 67 countries available on Ancestry.com.au.

These already digitized records, provided by FamilySearch, are in addition to the agreement we announced a few months ago that will help digitize, index and publish an expected one billion global historical records never before published online from the FamilySearch vault over the next five years.

These additional records, which are already digitized collections, represent a significant expansion to Ancestry.com.au, which hosts the largest collection of global records available online. The records also add to the aggressive international digitization efforts already in place by Ancestry.com.au.

Countries with newly released records:

  • NORTH and CENTRAL AMERICA: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama
  • CARIBBEAN: Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica
  • SOUTH AMERICA: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay
  • ASIA/PACIFIC: India, Philippines, Samoa

Countries coming soon:

  • Armenia, Estonia, Ghana, Haiti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Korea, Micronesia, Moldova, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Zimbabwe

Ancestry has a long-term content strategy, which is committed to investing $100 million to digitize and index new content over the next five years. We are focused on providing access to a global collection of records and expand family history interest in its current markets and worldwide.

The additional collections include more than one billion digitized and indexed records and over 200 million images containing birth, marriage, death, census and church records from Europe, Latin America, South Africa, South America, Asia and more.

These additional records started being added in January and will be fully published over the next few months. To learn more about these content collections, please visit our recently added page.

Quotes:

Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com: “We are excited to be expanding our exclusive, groundbreaking agreement with FamilySearch. In addition to the previously announced plan to together digitize 1 billion records never before published online, we’re thrilled to be able to provide our members with access to this additional 1 billion records from 67 countries. These new global records will mean even more discoveries for our members.”

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Love going the distancehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/12/love-going-the-distance/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/12/love-going-the-distance/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 04:57:23 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2133 Read more]]> wedding pic

When Minnesota-born Frank Osborn volunteered to join the US army in 1941, he expected to be discharged by the following January – he wasn’t. Instead he found the love of his life on the other side of the globe.

At an officer graduation party at the School of Arts in Brisbane, Frank, then 24 years old, laid eyes on a beautiful Australian girl Rhona Jones. At the time, Rhona was working for the US Defence Force in Brisbane’s CBD. He offered her some PK chewing gum as long as she gave him her phone number. Rhona wrote her number on the back of the chewing gum wrapper and their love was sealed: they were engaged just three months later.

Frank was then assigned sea duty on the Contessa, an American transport ship which sailed to and from Port Moresby carrying fuel for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Rhona returned to her family’s home in Sydney. After months at sea, the Contessa docked in Sydney Harbour for repairs on Christmas Eve 1944. Frank was off like a flash making a bee-line for Rhona. A wedding was organised in ‘double quick time’ and they were married at St Marks Church, Darling Point on 3 January 1945 (shown in the photo above).

Three weeks later Frank shipped out again in the Contessa this time bound for California so the ship could be repaired. He then journeyed to the Philippines just in time for ‘mopping up’ and the final days of the war. Major Frank Osborn was discharged from the US army in January 1946 and he set about creating a new life for Rhona and himself in Minnesota.

Frank bought a hardware business and organised for Rhona to board the ‘Brides’ Boat’ and join him. But Rhona missed the boat: she had appendicitis and could not sail. Frank organised a visa, said goodbye to his family and departed San Francisco on the Monterey, arriving in Sydney just in time to celebrate 4th July 1946 with Rhona –18 months after they had married!

Frank and Rhona established a new home in Sydney where they raised two daughters. Frank only returned to the US and his home-town Minnesota once in 1974.

Frank’s daughter and son-in-law, Chris and Bruce Moore’s passion for family history is leading them to Minnesota later this year. Having already visited the Moore’s ancestral home in Ireland, Chris and Bruce have decided to trace the Osborn migration across the United States.

‘Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves and their family. Our interest in our family’s history started years ago, when our children asked where they and their grandparents came from. That simple question ignited our interest to delve into our family’s past and to discover if we had any living relatives that we were unaware of,’ explained Bruce.

‘Recently, a friend recommended visiting the Ancestry.com.au website. Blow me down, we discovered family members tracing back to the 1600s. Ancestry steered me to US state links where I discovered extensive family information including gravestone engravings and obituaries.

‘We now have 3000 names in our family tree and a greater understanding of who we are and where we came from; and the journey is still continuing. We have traced the US Osborns back to 15th century records and the Moores back to 1740 Irish Parish records.

‘Chris and I have never been to Minnesota. We’re looking forward to meeting cousins for the very first time and visiting various cemeteries and towns piecing together the Osborn history,’ said Bruce.

Although Chris and Bruce may not have any PK chewing gum wrappers in their history, they do have a shared passion for their family’s story and their own brand of love at first sight.

 Story by Bruce & Chris Moore – Ancestry.com.au members

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Preserve your Photos and Documents Like an Expert!http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/05/preserve-your-photos-and-documents-like-an-expert/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/05/preserve-your-photos-and-documents-like-an-expert/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 03:47:23 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2126 Read more]]> You’ve found that image or document that reveals a great story or confirms that missing clue you needed, and you want to make sure it is saved for generations to come.

What is the best way to save and preserve your images?

Lord Morpeth Roll 1I asked Sabrina Petersen, Director of Global Imaging here at Ancestry, and she shared these 5 tips:

  1. Think like an Archive. Archives think about how to preserve records and photographs for their patrons and posterity within a budget.  Digitization allows for multiple copies of the original that can be shared as well as stored, which allows you to store a master copy and make copies as needed.
  2. Future Use. Think about how you are going to find this particular picture or document in the future.  Putting metadata within the name of the image itself is the easiest way to find it in the future. You might put “Aunt Nancy Family Reunion 1982 picnic” as the name of the picture or “Death Certificate Benjamin Franklin Blansett 1912”.  By making the name the basic information you can then easily search and find it again. Then you can further organize the files by putting them in folder by event, family surname or by type of record, which will help make retrieval of this easier in the future.
  3. Digitize your records.  This can be done by using different types of equipment, but probably the easiest is a digital camera for most documents. Capture the document or picture as straight as possible when photographing, this avoids creating unwanted “artifacts” or spots on the image if you need to straighten it on your computer. Our Shoebox app is a great tool to use as well.
  4. Choose formats wisely. There are a lot of formats to choose from – JPEG and TIFF are the most common. Whichever you choose, make sure that you have the original copy someplace safe and then make a second copy which is the one you play with, send to others or upload for safe keeping to your family tree on Ancestry.  This second copy can be any file format you choose, including a PDF.  This makes it easy to share, send and upload.
  5. Anything is better than nothing! Lastly remember that anything you do now is better than nothing.

A little thought as you store your finds will save you a lot of angst later.

Happy Searching!

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Where there’s a Will….http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/05/where-theres-a-will/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2014/02/05/where-theres-a-will/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 01:08:57 +0000 Ancestry.com.au http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=2122 Read more]]> We recently added over a million probate records to Ancestry.com.au, featuring the last will and testament of some of histories most famous names including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Sir Francis Drake.

The most comprehensive UK collection of its kind available to view online, The England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills 1384-1858 covers nearly five centuries worth of history and details how much people owned and who they left it to.

Up until January 1858, the church and other courts proved wills in England and Wales. The PCC was the most important of these courts and was responsible for the probate of wills where the value of assets was greater than five pounds, equivalent to $965 today[i].

Searchable by name, probate date, residence and estimated death year, each record contains information about the final assets of the deceased. Additional notes on their occupation, property and overall standard of living may also be included.

Many famous names can be discovered in the records including world famous playwright William Shakespeare. Dated 25th March 1616, Shakespeare’s will details how he left a sum of one hundred and fifty pounds to both his daughters (over $690,000 today) as well as his wife the pleasure of his ‘second best bed’.

Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen also appears in collection. Upon her death on 18th July 1817, she possessed assets totalling around £800 ($110,000 today). The majority of this was given to her sister Cassandra aside from £50 to her brother Henry and a further £50 to a Madame Bigoen – who had previously acted as a nurse to her family.

The records also reveal that the privateer and explorer Sir Francis Drake was somewhat of a real life Robin Hood. Having plundered many Spanish naval vessels and earned a fortune during his adventures in the Americas, Drake left forty pounds to the ‘poore people’ of the town and Parish of Plymouth in 1596 – the equivalent of $275,000 today.

Other famous names in the collection include:

  • William Pitt the Elder (1708-1778) An acclaimed politician, Pitt left $6400 to his son William, $3200 to his son James Charles Pitt and the same amount to his daughter Lady Harriet Pitt, a cool million in today’s money
  • George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) – This German born composer left $1100 maximum to build a monument of himself in Westminster Abbey. That’s about $165,000 today.
  • Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) A philosopher, scientist and author, Bacon’s will reveals his generosity towards his staff. He left servant Robert Halpeny the equivalent of $1.4 million on top of provisions of hay, firewood and timber and fellow worker Stephen Paise $1.2 million and a bed.

The original records are held at The National Archives and some of the earliest records in the collection cover males as young as 14 and girls as young as 12. This changed in 1837, when it was decided by the court that both genders must be over the age of 21 to have a will proved.

On top of monetary matters, these records tell us more about the private lives of some very public figures and will help historians discover more about the dynamics of their personal and familial relationships.

The majority of records in the collection also pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizens’ lives in documents such as censuses. As such, the collection is a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the mid-19th century.

[i] Source:  Bank of England Historic inflation calculation calculator: £5 in 1858 was calculated as being equivalent to £526/AUD965 in February 2013.

 

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