These articles usually concentrate on the latest developments at the major subscription sources, accompanied by details of smaller, free websites. This month, I am going to start with a new site which is quite expensive to use, but which can be invaluable if your research takes you in particular directions. It is the new archive of British newspapers at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.
This joint project of the British Library and Brightsolid (the company behind Findmypast) offers scanned images of local and national newspapers together with an index achieved by computerised optical character recognition. This does lead to errors, unfortunately, but through the use of filters it is possible to discover all sorts of interesting facts about individuals and places.
Unlimited use of the site for one year costs £79.95, but there are also options for 30 days (£29.95) and 2 days (£6.95). The index itself is free to use, so it can be worth looking first to see what information is available, and then having a short-term subscription to print out or save the pages you want. The Newspaper Archive can also be accessed through Genes Reunited (www.genesreunited.co.uk) although I was unable to establish the costs.
A similar site for New Zealand is PapersPast which can be found at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. PapersPast covers 68 publications from 1838 to 1945. This government site is easy to use, and is free of charge.
Keeping to a newspaper theme, there is a national index to birth, marriage and death announcements in contemporary newspapers at www.iannounce.co.uk. I had no problems finding the announcement for my aunt, who died in 2010. The source appears to be mainly local U.K. newspapers, including the Bristol Evening Post and the Bath Chronicle.
Last year, I mentioned the Dorset parish records that are now available on Ancestry. Ken Edwards tells me that some of the parish attributions of these can be unreliable, so it is always worth checking if the name of the parish is at the head of the original page. I have also found that searches can sometimes be more successful if the parish is omitted from the search terms. In addition to the parish registers and probate records, there are also other Dorset records available on Ancestry such as bastardy bonds and removal orders. These are arranged by parish and are not indexed, but it can be worth browsing the records. I was fortunate to find the removal order for an ancestor, which led to other helpful information about his parentage.
New information on Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) includes the Silver War Badge Records, which list those who served in the First World War but who were discharged because of wounds or illness. Ancestry now also has the civil records of Irish births marriages and deaths, as well as many church records. Another useful website for Irish family history is Roots Ireland at www.rootsireland.ie.
When the 1911 census first became available, the final column on each page, recording infirmity, was blanked out as the information was embargoed for 100 years. That information can now be published, and you can see it at both Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) and Genes Reunited. Other websites are adding the 1911 census to their databases, but at the time of writing their coverage is incomplete.
The specialist website Origins.net (www.origins.net) has recently added abstracts of Cheltenham Probate Documents, 1660-1740. These were originally published by the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. Origins.net offers various subscription options, including one of 72 hours for £8. Origins has also published an index of Middlesex baptisms 1538-1751, although the examples shown on their website are actually from as late as 1850.
Hidden Lives Revealed has information on children’s homes focusing on the period 1881-1918. It includes unique archive material about poor and disadvantaged children cared for by The Waifs and Strays’ Society, now known as The Children’s Society. The photographs include ten children taken into care in Bristol in about 1890. There is also a sample of case files, although these are anonymised so that you cannot know the names of the children or of the adults who supported them. The case files include a nice photograph of the Victoria Gibbs Home for Babies at Durdham Park. Hidden Lives Revealed is at www.hiddenlives.org.uk.
The specialist family history search engine Mocavo now has a dedicated UK version. This can be found at www.mocavo.co.uk. Although the site is free to use, registration is encouraged and paying a subscription brings access to enhanced features.
Through a search on Mocavo, I came across the Find a Grave website at www.findagrave.com. This has 74 million grave records, mostly in the United States. I found some of my distant American relatives listed, and although they died in California they were buried in Illinois where they were born. I also found information about British world war casualties. The site also includes some royal and noble people, and has brief biographies which are interesting. There is an option of adding your own tribute to those listed, and these can be mawkish. However, the site does have some useful information, especially where the memorial contains more than can be found in the burial record.
Research on the internet gives the opportunity to use multiple sources, and you shouldn’t think that the first record you find gives the whole picture. I found two such anomalies recently. Sir James Domville, a descendant of the wealthy Ames family of Bristol, was the Lieutenant commanding a destroyer in the First World War. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, and recorded on the Commonwealth War Grave website. However, a report in The Times showed that he was actually found at his club with gunshot wounds. His third cousin, Alfred Cecil Bonvalot is listed in the U.S. Social Security Death Index, which is the only national source of American deaths. In fact, he died in Jersey, Channel Islands.