On the Internet – September 2021January 3, 2022
On the Internet – March 2022March 23, 2022
Neither Ancestry nor Findmypast have recently published any data of particular relevance to our area, so let’s start with something specialist and local. A recent article in Bristol Times, a supplement to the Bristol Post which is published every Tuesday but cannot be found online, concerns an accident at Stapleton Road Station in which six track workers were killed. The account came from Railway Work Life & Death, a website published by the University of Portsmouth. Much of it is based on research done by Prof. Mike Esbester, but it is a joint project with many contributors, including family historians. The Stapleton Road accident can be found at http://www.railwayaccidents.port.ac.uk/stapleton-road-26-september-1921/, but there is a lot of other fascinating information on the website, including the family history of those involved. They invite contributions from all who might have information about this and other accidents.
Find my past has added over 32 million names at 14 million addresses to their collection of electoral registers for England and Wales, bringing the total for this dataset of over 157 million. Bath was included in a previous release, but unfortunately Bristol and the surrounding areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire are still not included. The period covered is 1910 – 1932, but not all years are covered for all places. I found that it was best to select this particular dataset from the various record sets listed. The search method seems much improved, but you must remember that the same people will be listed in several consecutive years. The images of the originals are very good, and very legible as they are printed documents. Because the dataset covers several years in some instances, and the electoral register was sometimes issued twice in a year, some people are listed multiple times. In the 1920s, my father worked for a William Meiski in Bournemouth, and Mr Meiski is listed 24 times on the electoral roll. If the name you are searching for is more common, you will probably get more hits than you want to check. These records include absent voters lists for the First World War, and are a way of confirming the service number, which is useful when looking at service records. The images are very clear, but I did find mistakes in the indexing.
As more service records become available online, they contain information that can add some fascinating detail to the bare information that was previously available, and especially for the Second World War, where records have not yet been published. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission site (http://www.cwgc.org/) records that John Pollard of Sheffield, a sapper in the Royal Engineers, died in Egypt in 1941 and is buried in Alexandria. Findmypast has a new dataset called British Army, Royal Engineers Other Ranks: Casualty Cards (World War II), which give more detail. The actual record cards are available, and show that John fell 80 feet from his bedroom window, when he suffered from nausea and overbalanced. There was a court of enquiry, which decided it was an accident.
How far are people taken to be buried? It is not unusual for couples or families to be buried together, even if they may have died a few miles away. I remember finding someone who died in Slimbridge, where she was living with her daughter, but who is buried alongside her husband in Saltford. This next example is a lot further than that. I have long known that my distant relative Jordan Lawrence (1835-1927) had died in California, but had a memorial on the family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery, Geneva, Illinois. But was he actually buried there? I know of memorials where there is no matching entry in the burial register. My uncertainty was resolved by information from a family tree on Ancestry, which had a newspaper cutting.
The distance between Los Angeles and Geneva is about 2000 miles, which is my new record. Jordan’s son and grandson also died in California, but are buried in Geneva, Illinois. Fireman is only one of many jobs that I have found Frank doing, and the first time I have found it recorded. I was also surprised that he was granted leave, since the United States is notorious for the paucity of its employee benefits. I also wondered how Frank and his father’s body did the journey. Was it by train or by car? Jordan Lawrence’s grave can be found on both Findagrave (www.findagrave.com) and Billion Graves (https://billiongraves.com).
Most of us will be familiar with Knowyourplace (http://www.kypwest.org.uk/) with its range of maps covering our area as far as Salisbury and West Devon, but there are alternatives. One is Old Maps Online (https://www.oldmapsonline.org/) which is an international project listing maps from various sources, including many European countries, the United States and Australia. Your ability to enlarge and move around the maps depends on the way they are sourced and presented, but I easily found maps of Illinois, where Jordan Lawrence lived: one even has his name marked. This project is also something started by the University of Portsmouth. One of the contributing organisations is the National Library of Scotland (https://maps.nls.uk/) which has an extensive collection of maps of the whole U.K. These sources are ideal for those distant places one does not know and is never likely to visit, but you may need the software to copy and display images.
The involvement of Bristol in the Atlantic slave trade, and the many consequences of that, still play a large part in any study of the history of the city and the country generally. Sometimes, any debate can become more a matter of emotion than objectivity, and it is helpful to find information sources which can help our understanding. One such website is Slave Voyages (https://www.slavevoyages.org/), which has maps, tables, illustrations as well as commentary. It is published by Rice University, which is in Houston, Texas, but covers all of the Americas.
The British Newspaper Archive can come up with some interesting snippets, if the search terms are right. I recently learnt that in 1949 my father was fined £1 for exceeding the speed limit in Portsmouth. A Petty Officer was fined the same amount for cycling without lights. How times and values change.
The project to locate and map graves in Church of England graveyards has again been promoted in the press (https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/press-releases/nationwide-digital-churchyard-mapping-project-begins), but the details of the project remain rather unclear. It would now seem to relate to memorials, although many of those are now illegible and most of the graves in older churchyards are unmarked. Technology can make a lot of information more accessible, but it has to be available somewhere in the first place.
‘The next big piece of family history information will be the 1921 census, when it comes available under the 100-year rule. It will be available initially only on Findmypast. The pandemic delayed the project, but it has now been announced that it will be published early next year on 6th January’. Searching the census will be free, but you will have to pay to see a transcription or an image of the original, even if you are a Findmypast subscriber.