A variety of sources are used to write these articles. I seldom use the information which appears in the glossy family history magazines, since these are often press releases written before the new data is actually available, so can be uncritical and lacking detail. Some websites are suggested to me, and I naturally use the regular announcements made by Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) , Findmypast (www.findmypast.co.uk) and other well-known sites. One source that I find consistently useful are the newsletters I receive from Lost Cousins. Written by Peter Calver, they contain informed details of new developments, and are good at suggesting new ways of finding out family information. Subscription is free, although to use all the features of the Lost Cousins website (www.lostcousins.com/) requires an annual payment of £10. If you want to know more about the 1939 Register, how and why it was compiled, what it includes, and how to get the best out of it, then I can recommend this article that appeared in Peter’s newsletter a few weeks ago – www.lostcousins.com/newsletters2/inside1939.htm.
After I thought I had finished this article, The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) announced that it now included four new Bristol newspapers. One is The Bristol Magpie, a satirical and comic publication and the second is the Horfield and Bishopston Record and Montpelier & District Free Press, which is very much a newspaper concentrating on local news. The others are the Clifton & Redland Free Press and The Bristol Daily Post. In addition, BNA has recently increased its coverage of the Weston super Mare Gazette.
The Magpie contains pieces like this from the splendidly named Colston Wintle on 24th October 1903.
I understand that Mr Wintle still writes to the Evening Post, but under a different name and on the subject of the Metrobus.
According to the Horfield and Bishopston Record and Montpelier & District Free Press, which seemed to concern itself with very local news, and contained a large number of advertisements, the outlook for public transport on 10th February 1906 was more positive:
These days, one can only dream of the reinstatement of a cheap and frequent bus service to far distant places like Kelston, using vehicles of the most modern description.
Those of you who are still a bit skint after Christmas, and have surplus teeth to spare, will be disappointed to know that Mr Crump, who advertised in the Redland and Clifton Free Press on Thursday 13th March 1919, is no longer in business.
There was better news in the same issue for the war heroes needing a new home.
The BNA website offers many features which it is easy to overlook in one’s enthusiasm in finding that fascinating piece of personal information. One feature is the transcript of a particular document, and that can be very useful if you want to include newspaper text in a publication or a family history programme. I was recently searching for information about a nineteenth-century Bristol builder whose name was George Jones, and, despite the unpromising name, with the help of the probate record, I was able to trace an obituary in the Western Daily Press which any researcher would be pleased to find. Optical character recognition can sometimes produce some confusing transcriptions, but here is the verbatim text which the website produced:
Death of George Jones, Esq. lt is with regret that we announce the death of George Jones, Esq., late of Beaufort Villa, Redland, which took place at his residence, Cornwallis Crescent, on Saturday last, at the advanced age of 87 years. Through the course of a long business career he took a prominent part in most of the great industrial undertakings connected with the locality, and identified himself in particular with the first railway enterprize which originated in this city. We allude to the formation of the Coalpit Heath line, afterwards extended into the Bristol and Gloucester, of which he was chairman, until its final amalgamation with the Birmingham and Gloucester line. He was also one of the original promoters of the Great Western Railway, and for twenty years one of its most active directors. The simplicity and integrity of his character made him esteemed by a numerous circle of friends and acquaintances, who held him in high respect for the soundness of his judgment, and bear testimony to the value of his life, as a career of public usefulness combined with the highest private worth.
To download the text you want, click on “Show article text”, and then copy and paste your selection into a document or programme as required.
Some free websites which used to be simple and easy to access now require registration and log-in. I have noticed this with FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org/) , Findagrave (www.findagrave.com/) and BillionGraves (https://billiongraves.com/). I don’t know why they have all introduced this requirement. All the sites remain free to use, but some seem to be trying to introduce a higher level of membership and access which requires a small fee. The registration requirements vary, and while some are happy with name, e-mail and a simple password, FamilySearch also requires date of birth and gender for some reason. My feeling is that there is inevitably a price to pay for the expense and effort that has gone into creating these websites which are free to use, and registration may be the least we are asked for. It is how that registration will be used, possibly for intrusive e-mail advertising, that is the unknown. The process is sometimes known as “monetising” – that is securing income by using the asset you have created.
While using Findagrave recently, I checked the entry for a great-uncle of mine who had died in Oklahoma, having been out of contact with his family for many years. The previous photograph of his memorial was black and white and showed what appeared to be dead grass. I was pleased to see that there was a new photograph which was colour and showed some bright flowers, so I wrote to thank the photographer concerned. There is a website – Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (https://www.raogk.org/) – which tries to link those looking for information with people willing to do research for them. It is, perhaps, less used now that so much is available online, but there are still times when a helpful local person can make a difference. There is one person currently offering help in our area.
Findmypast has introduced some changes to their census search procedure which may save you time by suggesting other census results which meet the same search criteria. You will notice these changes in two ways. First, when entering your search terms, the box labelled “When” now clearly specifies “Census year”. Many searches will produce several matches, and you then choose the one which best meets reflects what you are looking for. If you then look at the transcription of the census entry, lower down the page you will see “related searches” which lists other census searches meeting the same criteria. I tried a search for my great-grandfather Henry Woodfield, born Warwick in 1853. I chose to search the 1891 census, and the related results offered were for the same man in the 1881 and the 1891 censuses. The system is not perfect, in that it did not find Henry Woodfield in all the censuses from 1861 to 1911, although he is correctly listed in each, but it otherwise worked well. Unfortunately, unlike Ancestry, Findmypast does not show birthplace in the initial search results, which would be a great help in identifying the desired individual.
If you have Channel Islands ancestry, you will be interested in The Island Wiki (https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Main_Page), which contains a lot of family and local history data. One of the new datasets on Findmypast contains Jersey baptisms, marriages & burials
A new set of data on Findmypast is the British & Irish Roots Collection. This contains 98 million assorted records, including naturalisation records, and is intended for those in the United States, Canada, etc, who are tracing their origins. It may also be of interest to those who want to trace the members of their families who emigrated, but access does require a “Pro” subscription to Findmypast.
Finally, a brief round-up of some websites which may help those with particular interests.
For local newspapers for our area, and the dates when they were published, the University of the West of England provides an extensive list at http://humanities.uwe.ac.uk/bhr/Main/newspapers/papers_handlist_1.htm . If you want to know where coal mines are known to have existed, go to http://mapapps2.bgs.ac.uk/coalauthority/home.html and zoom in on the map to the local level which interests you.
Thanks to Geoff Cole, who sent me this link to a site about railway accidents – http://www.railwayaccidents.port.ac.uk/ and to Gini Mukala who told us at the Research Room about the availability of newspapers from the United States at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ .