Ancestry.co.uk Blog » Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk The official Ancestry.co.uk blog Wed, 15 Oct 2014 22:56:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Military communicationshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/11/12/military-communications/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/11/12/military-communications/#comments Fri, 12 Nov 2010 15:02:55 +0000 Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/?p=1370 On Tuesday I spent a morning at a London studio doing what our PR team call a ‘Radio Day’;  which essentially involves doing lots of different radio interviews on different stations back to back The subject of the interviews was the release that day of our military medals collections that I blogged about here earlier… Read more

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On Tuesday I spent a morning at a London studio doing what our PR team call a ‘Radio Day’;  which essentially involves doing lots of different radio interviews on different stations back to back

The subject of the interviews was the release that day of our military medals collections that I blogged about here earlier in the week.   I did about 11 interviews in all.

For each one, I was ‘patched through’ to the show about 5 minutes before going on air, and listened in silently as DJs talked, records played, weather and traffic were reported and generally the shows went about their business, until the moment for me to speak came along.

The result of all this was that by the conclusion of the morning I was, momentarily, spectacularly well-informed about the news around the UK that particular day. From Derby (seven degrees centigrade, 80% chance of rain) to Wiltshire (long tailbacks on the A303) or the Channel Islands (very big on Susan Boyle) I don’t think there was anyone better informed about Britain’s local news agenda than me -  at least until early afternoon when I had to return to the office.

As well as publicising the launch of our new databases, it was great to be able to inform everyone that for the whole of this week and until Remembrance Sunday, the definitive  UK WWI records that are exclusively available on Ancestry.co.uk are absolutely free for everyone to use.  

Of all our records, I think these WWI Service Records and the sister series of records we call the ‘Pension Records‘ (as they were collated from various pension claim forms when many of the service records were lost in WWII) are the most fascinating.  That the event they depict is so recent and poignant that it is only now, barely, considered to have passed into history is surely the reason. 

My maternal grandfather Alfred Francis Higginbottom served in the Irish Guards throughout WWI.  In common with many men who returned, he didn’t much discuss his experience of war, though a family story suggested he had been gassed at least twice.  

When I found the records of Pte 11856 in the Pension Records I was captivated.  He was a man of small stature, only 5ft 7 inches tall and 123 lbs in weight but as tough as they come; his medical record confirmed he was gassed three times – including twice in less than a week.  Other than this he had only one bout of ‘flu recorded throughout his long service along the Western Front.

It’s amazing to think that less than a hundred autumns separate the appalling reality of my Alfred’s military experience from the slight absurdity of his grandson’s Radio Day, though it is something for which I am hugely thankful.

Medical history

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Dulce et decorum est…http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/11/10/dulce-et-decorum-est/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/11/10/dulce-et-decorum-est/#comments Wed, 10 Nov 2010 17:39:17 +0000 Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/?p=1305 November and the run up to Remembrance Sunday is always a time for reflection.  This is particularly so at Ancestry as we try to make records available at this time of year, which help people connect to their ancestors’ military history.  Notable releases over the last few years have been the definitive UK World War… Read more

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November and the run up to Remembrance Sunday is always a time for reflection.  This is particularly so at Ancestry as we try to make records available at this time of year, which help people connect to their ancestors’ military history.  Notable releases over the last few years have been the definitive UK World War one collections, including the Service Records, Pension Records and WW1 Medal Rolls.

This year we are making access to all these resources completely free until the 14 November to allow everyone to connect with the military heros in their past.  We are also very proud to be supporting the Royal British Legion – and are making it possible for our members to support this tremendous cause and donate via the website.

We haven’t neglected our loyal members however and have a major release of new military records, which launched on the site on Tuesday.  The Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls is a huge series of records which details all the clasps, medals and service awards in relation to the operations of the British Army from 1793 right up to 1949. 

Included in the records are details of personnel who fought in the Crimea and Boer wars as well as the British Army’s operations in India.

We are very proud to be expanding our military records to include other armed services.  The Naval Medal and Award Rolls detail over 1.5 million records in relation to the operations of the British Navy from 1793 right up to 1972, and includes recipients of the British War Medal, Victory Medal, 1914-1915 Star, Arctic Medal, and the Delhi Durbar Medal among many others.

For the first time online our members can now connect with ancestors who may have fought in legendary conflicts such as the Battle of the Nile, Trafalgar and the Battle of Navarino, all the way up to and including both WW1 and WW2.

Finally, you can also read detailed accounts of amazing valour in our Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medals, 1914-1920 - a fitting tribute to the many sacrifices made in the name of war.

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Our Biggest Announcement of the year (Part 2)http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/11/05/our-biggest-announcement-of-the-year-part-2/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/11/05/our-biggest-announcement-of-the-year-part-2/#comments Fri, 05 Nov 2010 10:14:49 +0000 Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/?p=1234 In August we launched our biggest collection of the Year – the UK National Probate Calendar – online for the first time ever.  Here at ‘Ancestry Towers’ we were understandably excited and, ahead of the formal announcement (and careful to keep the exact record collection being launched a secret), we first relayed news about ‘our… Read more

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In August we launched our biggest collection of the Year – the UK National Probate Calendar – online for the first time ever.  Here at ‘Ancestry Towers’ we were understandably excited and, ahead of the formal announcement (and careful to keep the exact record collection being launched a secret), we first relayed news about ‘our biggest launch of the year’ on this very Blog.
 
This was then further relayed via our respective Twitter and Facebook pages, amid much speculation from our always-enthusiastic members about the identity of the records about to be made available.  Whilst one or two of you guessed correctly (gold stars to you) and the Probate Calendar has gone on to become one of the most popular collections on our website, reading the comments on our blog and  Facebook fan page, one couldn’t miss the strength of feeling around having access to another major record set on Ancestry.

‘We want the 1911 census!’ was the clear and resounding message.  “We’re fed up with paying such high fees for access to this information – when are we getting the 1911 census?” came the unmistakable cry from our members.  And so it is today that we are delighted to be able to confirm the full and complete England and Wales 1911 Census is coming to Ancestry.

Starting with an initial launch of content later this year and finishing up sometime in 2011; all the convenience, powerful intuitive search, product innovation and value you’ve come to expect will also apply to the latest, largest and most significant England and Wales census resource yet.

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NEW prison records at Ancestry.co.ukhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/09/15/new-prison-records-at-ancestry-co-uk/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/09/15/new-prison-records-at-ancestry-co-uk/#comments Wed, 15 Sep 2010 09:15:27 +0000 Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/?p=1098 This week we’re releasing more fascinating criminal and prison records on Ancestry.co.uk.  The Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books and the Licenses of Parole for Female Convicts are very different record sets, but both represent a vivid snapshot into the criminal justice system of the 19th century. This is a great opportunity to see if… Read more

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Criminal records

This week we’re releasing more fascinating criminal and prison records on Ancestry.co.uk.  The Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books and the Licenses of Parole for Female Convicts are very different record sets, but both represent a vivid snapshot into the criminal justice system of the 19th century.

This is a great opportunity to see if you can find an ancestor in either collection – perhaps you can also search the England and Wales Criminal Registers to find the original trial citation, or use our unrivalled collection of Transportation Records to find evidence of a sentence served in the New World (We’ve even documented individuals eventually returning to the UK as free men in the Incoming Passenger Lists.)

As well as their importance to our research, records such as these also have a huge social significance.  It’s easy to watch films and TV programmes about this time and assume the criminal justice system was incredibly harsh, often brutal and usually unjust.  While in many ways this was true, there are also many things within these records which indicate similarities with the systems and principles of justice we still operate today.

The prison hulks, for example, were floating prison ships moored around many of the large naval ports of the UK – London, Chatham and Liverpool for example.  These ships were originally a response to the sudden cessation of transportation to America after the War of Independence, but are also significant for a number of other reasons. They marked the first involvement of private companies in the operation of state prisons for one, and they suggest a justice system sentencing more people to incarceration than the prison system can accommodate – both of which are still very true (and controversial) today.  It’s easy to forget that the UK’s last prison ship HMP Weare only closed in 2005, and there’s even talk of the new Government commissioning more such prisons.

Likewise, some of the Licenses of Parole for Female Convicts paint a surprisingly familiar picture of paroling convicted felons. These detailed and engrossing records – many of which include photographs – detail often multiple offenders being released from prison under license exactly as we do today, when the more typical view of Victorian justice might be that these women would be locked up and the key thrown away, without any hint of parole.

Whether this is an early example of progressive social values, simply a pragmatic response to prison overcrowding, or a combination of the two isn’t easy to discern. Transportation, capital punishment, hard labour and many other brutal practices have been thankfully phased out since these records were created. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the judicial system of the past faced many of the same issues – and in fact came up with many of the same solutions – as the systems we operate today.

Image © The National Archives

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Reporting live from Nova Scotia!http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/06/11/reporting-live-from-nova-scotia/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/06/11/reporting-live-from-nova-scotia/#comments Fri, 11 Jun 2010 16:55:45 +0000 Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/?p=740 This week I’m at the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  When I attend international events such as this, I’m always struck by the enthusiasm and passion for historical records and research, which seems to unite both archivists and researchers the world over. At this conference, Ancestry launched a new… Read more

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This week I’m at the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  When I attend international events such as this, I’m always struck by the enthusiasm and passion for historical records and research, which seems to unite both archivists and researchers the world over.

At this conference, Ancestry launched a new partnership with Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM) which made the Nova Scotia Birth, Marriage and Death records available to Ancestry’s customers around the world. It’s been a great opportunity to discover some of the fascinating history of this beautiful place.

Last night I visited an exhibition devoted to the Halifax Explosion of 1917. The explosion occurred when munitions ship, the Mont Blanc, was struck by another vessel in Halifax harbour.  The collision caused a fire, which in turn caused the crew to evacuate the ship.  Without a crew the vessel drifted toward the shore and exploded with such force that almost two square miles of the city was completely devastated and almost 2000 people lost their lives instantly.  The explosion was so great that windows were said to have cracked 100km away and the sound could be heard over 400km away – to this day it remains the largest accidental explosion in history.

There are incredible tales of valour from so many people and the city of Halifax is rightly proud to this day of the way it banded together and recovered from such a devastating event.  Among all the documents, photographs and artefacts in the exhibition however, I was most drawn to a simple pocket watch – its hands forever frozen at four minutes past nine when their imprint was indelibly burned onto its face. 

It made me think that for all the census records or BMDs we search, the newspapers we buy, the TV we watch or the books we read; sometimes a pocket watch can tell us more than any of them.

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Is this the World’s longest document?http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/04/26/is-this-the-worlds-longest-document/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2010/04/26/is-this-the-worlds-longest-document/#comments Mon, 26 Apr 2010 13:01:41 +0000 Dan Jones http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/?p=521 As the guy who is responsible for finding records which will be of interest to our members and putting them online, I confess I get to visit some fantastic archives and see many great historical manuscripts.  A trip to Ireland last week however, introduced me to what I think might be the most unusual historical… Read more

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As the guy who is responsible for finding records which will be of interest to our members and putting them online, I confess I get to visit some fantastic archives and see many great historical manuscripts.  A trip to Ireland last week however, introduced me to what I think might be the most unusual historical document I’ve ever come across, the fantastically-named ‘Lord Viscount Morpeth’s Testimonial Roll’.

 

In 1841, when he left his role as Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Yorkshire aristocrat George Howard (or Viscount Lord Morpeth as he was better known), was presented with a leaving card.  Nothing unusual there – except this leaving card was in the form of a giant paper scroll  over 400 metres in length, containing the names and addresses of an estimated 300,000 men from all over Ireland and from every level of Irish society!

 

Presented to him at a ceremony in Dublin, the roll was packed into its mahogany box and returned to his family home, Castle Howard in North Yorkshire.  It remained there in the archive until 2009 when it was sent to National University of Ireland at Maynooth, to be conserved, studied and – crucially – unrolled.
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For an English politician to be afforded such an honour in itself is remarkable enough, but for so many names to be collected in such a short time (it seems the entire endeavor was completed in around a month) is nothing short of amazing. A fitting testimonial to someone who must have been a remarkable man.

 

An intriguing significance also for us family historians: all the names seem to be male head of households. If the name estimate turns out to be accurate, the roll would seem to include a direct link with a substantial proportion of all the families in Ireland in 1841. Effectively, it could be one of the last national ‘roll calls’ before the terrible events of the Great Famine would change Ireland forever.

Many thanks to Dr Christopher Ridgeway the curator of the Castle Howard archive for arranging my visit, Terry Dooley, Pat Cosgrove and all at the Russell Library at Maynooth for a fascinating and educational afternoon.

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