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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
A Weekly Summary of Events and
Vol. 7 No. 16 – April 22, 2002
This newsletter was sponsored by Ancestry.com,
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Copyright© 2002 by Richard W. Eastman. All rights reserved.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
- Something Amiss with Online 1901 U.K. Census
- Something Amiss with Online 1901 U.K. Census
My e-mail box is filling up with comments and questions from people who want to access the online 1901 Census for England and Wales. There have been rumblings of discontent all this year, but now the rumblings have reached a crescendo. It seems there are multiple problems with the census database. First of all, it isn’t online anymore! Next, there are questions about the accuracy of the indexes. Third, there are questions about the sale of vouchers that remain worthless.
By way of background, the U.K. Public Record Office launched a new service in January of this year that was to make the 1901 census records available worldwide for a modest fee. The Census Enumeration Books were to be scanned and the images put online on a pay-as-you-view basis. They were also to be indexed -- a name index for free and a full indexed entry on a pay-as-you-view basis.
Within minutes after becoming available, anxious genealogists and others who are seeking information about UK residents from over a century ago overloaded the site. The Web site virtually ground to a halt as more than a million users tried to log on and trace their family history during the first three hours. You can read more about the site’s launch in my January 9, 2002 newsletter at:http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/5123.asp
The following week I again wrote about the continuing problems in this newsletter. The Public Record Office (PRO) announced that they had ordered more Web servers to handle the unexpected crush of genealogists who wanted to access the online transcribed records. The PRO announcement said, in part:
I wrote those two articles in the first few weeks of January. Nearly four months later, the site still is "unable to meet continuing levels of demand." For a few weeks you could only access the site from certain Family Records Centres and at Kew. However, by late January the site was shut down entirely, and a notice said that the database was undergoing "enhancements and rigorous testing." There certainly must be a lot of testing going on as the database has been undergoing "enhancements and rigorous testing" for more than three months now. The PRO Web site athttp://www.pro.gov.uk still says, "We apologise that the testing is taking much longer than anticipated but it is vital that we have a reliable service for users."
A second issue also has arisen: that of the quality of the indexes created by QinetiQ’s subcontractors. Those who have succeeded in accessing the database claim that the error rate is outrageous. TheFederation of Family History Society’s Web site states "initially 85% of the transcribed data failed to meet the (unspecified) accuracy rate required."
The 1901 UK Census was indexed and placed online by QinetiQ. That organization is a part of DERA, the British Government's "Defence Evaluation and Research Agency." QinetiQ is a wholly government-owned corporation, according the Web site at:http://www.qinetiq.com and at http://www.qinetiq.com/about_qinetiq/07history_and_ppp/index.asp.
QinetiQ originally planned to have the indexes created by residents of the British prison system. However, eventually much of the indexing work was actually done in Sri Lanka. There is some disagreement as to how much of the indexing was done in that country. The PRO's own advisory council, with members drawn from the Society of Genealogists, the Federation of Family History Society, the Guild Of One Name Studies and others, reportedly was told that only a small percentage would be so transcribed and that these would be mostly the Welsh returns. Yet other documents state that 78% of the total indexing was done on the Indian sub-continent. Whatever the source, those who have used the 1901 online census during its brief availability claim that the error rate is much too high to be acceptable. It appears that those doing the transcription work often were unable to read the 100-year-old handwriting.
Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake queried his MP about this. Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) then asked the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to her answer of 20th March, Official Report, column 414W, on the 1901 census, what steps were taken to familiarize employees based in India and Sri Lanka with the handwriting and spelling used by enumerators of the 1901 census. Ms. Rosie Winterton, Parliamentary Secretary, responded:
Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake and others who have used the indexes claim that the above response is misleading. Mr. Tyrwhitt-Drake writes:
There has been some head-scratching about the work of the "ten Public Record Office staff with expertise in interpreting census enumeration returns [who] spent, between them, twenty weeks at the company's bases in India and Sri Lanka." It would appear that their time spent in India and Sri Lanka did not result in quality indexes.
A third issue revolves around the use of prepaid vouchers. There were to be two ways of paying for use of the 1901 U.K. Census database: one was with a credit card and the other was with a prepaid voucher. The PRO appointed a large number of resellers for the prepaid vouchers and offered each reseller a discount on each £1000 of vouchers sold. It is estimated that more than £100,000 ($160,000 U.S.) worth of vouchers were sold. The vouchers remain worthless as they pay for access that is unavailable. To their credit, the PRO has offered refunds for those who have given up and now simply want their money back.
Genealogy groups across the U.K. and elsewhere are now mobilizing. Many have written to their MPs (Members of Parliament) demanding action. No 10 Downing Street (the home of the Prime Minister) accepts e-petitions. A suitable web site has been set up for those concerned to add their signatures; there are 1,200 signatures there already and the list is growing. It will be open until May 7.for signing and then sent to Downing Street. You can add your name to the petition at:http://www.activeservice.co.uk/petition/
This "grass roots" uprising is continuing, and you can find a lot of information about it online. You can start at the Federation of Family History Society’s Web site at:http://www.ffhs.org.uk/1901B.htm. Also look at: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&q=1901+Census+Mailing+List&btnG=Google+Search. A mailing list also has been established about the 1901 Census. To subscribe, send an e-mail to UK-1901-CENSUS-Lfirstname.lastname@example.org and in the body of the message just write one word: subscribe. Do not write anything else, not even your signature.
This should be a fascinating story to watch in the coming months. My thanks to Jeanne Bunting, Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake, Linda Jones and others for all the information they supplied about the U.K. 1901 census fiasco.
- Post-1901 Canadian Census News
I have written before about the Canadian government’s plans to either destroy or else seal forever all census records after 1901. Gordon Watts has been leading an effort to stop this loss of vital genealogy information and has published frequent newsletters about this battle waged by genealogists all over Canada as well as the rest of the world. Now Gordon writes:
If you have an interest in preserving Canadian genealogical information, you need to read Gordon Watts’ full report at:http://globalgazette.net/gazce/gazce81.htm
- Massachusetts Pensioners' Receipts 1829-1837 Online
Last week I wrote about the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s new "Early Vital Records of Massachusetts" database. The Society also has recently added a smaller, but noteworthy, online database: Massachusetts Pensioners' Receipts 1829-1837.
Many of the soldiers who served during the Revolutionary War were given pensions from the federal government for their service. The manuscript collection at NEHGS contains a number of original receipts with the soldiers' signatures, acknowledging the receipt of their pension funds. This searchable database contains images of the receipts, including the original signatures or marks of the pensioners.
The number of records in this database is small, but if your ancestor is one of the few listed, you could find this to be an excellent source of information. You can even see an image of the original document containing your ancestor’s signature. Access to this database is restricted to members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
The Massachusetts Pensioners' Receipts 1829-1837 database, with images, is available at:http://www.newenglandancestors.org
- United Methodist Archives Connection Online
A little over 5 years ago, the General Commission began the United Methodist Annual Conference Archives Survey Project. The purpose of the project was to bring together into one place basic descriptive information about the holdings of the conference archives. Forty-one of the 65 annual conferences participated in training workshops on how to conduct the survey. To date, 25 have sent their completed surveys. The information is being re-keyed onto an online Web site. At present there are 5 conferences up on the site, with 2 to 3 more due online soon.
At the UM Archives Connection home page you will find a table, which holds the names of the annual conferences which are on-line. Selecting a conference name will display the directory information about that conference as well as summary information about their holdings (books, newspapers, journals and such). A link at the bottom of the conference page will force a display of the archival holdings for that institution. The material appears in no particular order.
The other option is to select the search link from the UMAC home page and then do a keyword or topic search across the entire database.
The United Methodist Archives Connection is produced by L. Dale Patterson, Archivist of United Methodist Church Archives. You can access this resource at:http://www.gcah.org/umac_inv.htm
My thanks to Sandra Shafer for the information about this valuable new resource.
- New Eastern European Archival Database
The following is from the Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc.:
- Dexter, Maine Obituaries Online
The Abbott Memorial Library in Dexter, Maine has put a lot of obituaries online. These obituaries were originally published in the Eastern Gazette, the local newspaper. I spent some time this week using the obituaries database and found that it covered not just the town of Dexter but also all the surrounding towns served by the newspaper. It also frequently lists the deaths of former residents who had since moved elsewhere.
Not all of the obituaries are online yet; apparently this is an on-going project. However, when I used the database, I found some obituaries as early as 1858 and others as late as 2000.
The menus to use the database are a bit stark although very simple to use. You can search by last name or by year, or you can search for any word in the database. I found the last option to be a great way of finding relatives. Obituaries will often state that "the deceased is survived by" and then will list many names. Sometimes a search for a family name found someone listed as a survivor of the deceased, thereby giving me information about an ancestor. In addition, scanning through the list of other survivors often identifies siblings, cousins and children.
I should point out one reason why I found this database so useful: Dexter is my hometown. That’s where I was born and raised. I found a number of my ancestors and other relatives listed in this new online resource. If you have ancestors who lived in or near this small town in central Maine, you may find it as valuable as I did. However, the site also serves as an excellent example of what a group of individuals can do in any small town: put your obituaries on the Web where everyone can easily search them.
The Dexter, Maine online obituaries can be found at the Abbott Memorial Library’s Web site at:http://www.abbott-library.com
I’d like to thank my schooldays friend, Evelyn White, for telling me about the Dexter obituaries online database.
- Irish Maps and Aerial Photos Online
Ern Ackroyd in Canada sent along a note about a nifty site that can be useful to genealogists looking for specific address in Ireland. Ern writes:
I looked at pictures of Dublin and was amazed to see automobiles and lorries traveling on the roadways. Anything closer and I could have read the license plate numbers!
The MapFlow maps and pictures are available at:http://interactive2.iol.ie/maps/iolmap.asp
- XML version of GEDCOM
About a year ago, I wrote two articles about the LDS Church’s adoption of XML for use in future GEDCOM releases. I wrote, "Randy Bryson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the Church is now standardizing on the XML programming language for all future software products." You can read those two articles at:http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/3396.asp and http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/3438.asp.
In the first of those two articles, I wrote, "None of this exists today. Randy Bryson’s announcement simply indicates a future course. I suspect it will be two years or even longer before the new XML format is in place and in use. However, the benefits will justify the wait."
It has been a bit more than a year since those words were written. Now the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has posted a draft of the specification on the Internet for review and comment. This draft is not a complete document, which is still under development. It should not be considered as a working specification. The authors of the draft welcome comments and suggestions. The contact information is contained with the document.
The GEDCOM 6.0 draft is in Adobe Acrobat format. You can access it at:http://www.familysearch.org/GEDCOM/GedXML60.pdf
- American Radio Works
If you enjoy documentaries, check out what's available on the American Radio Works site. You can listen to documentaries on struggling family farms, anecdotes of California prison guards, or personal accounts of segregation in the South. These stories and others can also be heard on your local public radio.
American Radio Works is the documentary project of Minnesota Public Radio and NPR News. ARW is public radio's largest documentary production unit; it creates documentaries, series projects, and investigative reports for the public radio system and the Internet.
You can listen to the documentaries at:http://www.americanradioworks.org/index.html
- Help Wanted at NGS
The following announcement is from the U.S. National Genealogical Society:
- Help Wanted at NEHGS
There are three positions open at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. The positions are:
Genealogy experience obviously would be an asset for any job applicant. For more information, please visit the careers section of the NEHGS website:http://www.newenglandancestors.org/about/main/?page_id=640&attrib1=1&page_id=592&attrib1=1&seq_num=2.
- Appleton's Books Switches to Internet Only
Appleton's Books & Genealogy is a bookstore in Charlotte, North Carolina that has been operating for seven years. While Appleton’s has always been a "brick-and-mortar" walk-in bookstore, their mail order and Web business probably created more sales than the in-person customers did. Now Appleton’s has announced that they are closing the walk-in store in order to focus solely on Internet sales.
The idea of going to the Internet (only) is probably a good one. Genealogy bookstores are specialty businesses, each attracting relatively few customers in any geographic area. By moving to e-commerce on the Web, such a store can reach thousands more potential customers.
Several walk-in genealogy bookstores have already closed in the past few years, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more disappear before long. However, e-commerce on the Web appears to be growing as more and more people find that buying on the Web is easier than purchasing in stores. The old wives’ tale about credit card safety on the Web seems to finally be going away as well. The result is that small specialty retailers, such as genealogy bookstores, can succeed and flourish in the new electronic marketplace.
All of Appleton’s present inventory as well as the bookshelves and furnishings are now clearance priced. You can find a complete listing of sale items at Appleton’s Web site:http://www.appletons.com
- Genealogy in Ann Landers’ Column
Ann Landers dispenses advice to the lovelorn and many others in her daily newspaper column. This week she published a "computer widow’s" suggestion to other women on how to cope with a husband who spends a lot of time with his computer, ignoring his wife. The advice? Take up genealogy!
Hmmm, I think these couples should buy a second computer as well.
You can find Ann Landers’ column on many online newspaper Web sites. I found it at:http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/entertainment/3004203.htm
- Home Pages Highlighted
The "Home Pages Highlighted" section consists of new genealogy-related home pages that you, the readers of this newsletter, nominate for publication in this newsletter. While anyone may nominate any genealogy-related home page, the process seems to work best when the webmaster for a home page nominates his or her own work. Nominations are now done online athttp://www.rootsforum.com.
The following is a list of some of the genealogy-related World Wide Web home pages that have recently been listed by newsletter readers athttp://www.rootsforum.com:
Genealogy of the Schadrack family in the US and its European ancestors:http://www.schadrack.homestead.com
Bert's Homepage - with links to family surnames of Dagg, Scragg, Fleming, Casson, Heritage, Harvey and more. These families migrated from Ireland and England to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some photos of family and relatives included:http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/jazzer
A Web site for the surnames of Bush, Butcher, Carpenter & Moree/Morï (from Switzerland to Indiana) The others are covered from MA, NY, VA and WV:http://home.attbi.com/~toppline/homepage.htm
To submit your genealogy page to this newsletter, enter the necessary information at:http://www.rootsforum.com. Due to the volume of new Web pages submitted, I am not able to list all of them in the newsletter.
Are you interested in the articles in this newsletter? Would you like to learn more or ask questions or make comments about these articles? Join this newsletter’s online discussion group on CompuServe’s Genealogy Techniques Forum. The CompuServe forums are free and are available to anyone using Netscape, Internet Explorer or CompuServe’s own software Go to:http://www.rootsforum.com.
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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is being written and sent via e-mail at no charge. I expect to write one new issue on a more or less weekly basis. However, life sometimes interferes, and the need to earn a living may create an occasional delay.
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About the author: Dick Eastman is the forum manager of the three Genealogy Forums on CompuServe. He also is the author of "YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer" published by Ziff-Davis Press. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of e-mail received, he is unable to answer every e-mail message received.
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