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Berkshire Family Historian
December 1999

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Computer Forum

Eddie Spackman

CAUTION: Although the internet links were correct at the time this article was published in 1999, they may no longer be valid.

The 1881 Census CDROM - "Is this a suitable present for Christmas or a Birthday"?

It's often said that having milked the fiche copy of the Census dry there is no point in buying this CDROM. Many members of the email group would not agree: "I am amazed at the ease with which unknown facts are rapidly discovered without too much effort from the Indexes, Neighbours searches and Place searches. I consider that the British package for under 30 is the best value for money of any genealogical programme in my possession." Another says: "The 1881 CDROM is an absolute must. Despite having used the fiche index beforehand, I have come up with a number of new additions to my family tree after browsing at my leisure. More importantly, through applying some lateral thinking, I have managed finally to trace my Yorkshire roots - after being stuck on this line for 35 years. At such a modest price, it is excellent value for money. And if you don't buy it, you will never know if you have missed that vital clue." And a final quote: "The 1881 Census CDROM must be the biggest bargain in the history of mankind, let alone for family historians."

Other advantages are that married women with unknown surnames can sometimes be found by searching on forename with year and place of birth - if the forename is relatively uncommon. Occupations with long names or additional details are not truncated so useful information may be found on the size of farms and the number of people employed by the head of the household.

Some researchers have found it difficult to find ancestors who were known to be living in Britain. One reason is because the indexing of surnames is not what one might expect - Oxford appears with the A's for instance. Another is that names may have been spelt differently to that expected. So, persist with searches on alternative spellings.

Church Photographs - "Where can I get hold of photographs of churches?"

There is an obvious interest in churches by those who want to identify where their ancestors were baptised, married or buried or where they lived or went to church. Photographs add colour to what can otherwise be very bald statements of dates and places extracted from parish registers or a census.

There are now some internet sites which contain pictures of churches. My experience is limited to Essex which has a site with over 300 churches at www.debkay.clara.net/chindl.htm and one started more recently for Hertfordshire with over 6o churches at www.debkay.clara.net/chind21.htm. So far I know of no site for Berkshire but perhaps somebody out there would like to start one.

Another possibility for obtaining church photographs is to go to the church web-site (if there is one). These usually include not only information about times of services and activities but also photographs. Some may have the exterior - perhaps as a line drawing - but if you are lucky there will also be pictures of the interior and of other interesting features. Some have histories of the parish (generally rather sketchy). How do you find these sites? There are several ways. Perhaps the easiest is to go to the Diocesan Home page and find links to the churches in the Diocese. A list of Home Pages for Anglican parish churches and communities in the Diocese of Oxford can be found at www.oxford.anglican.org/parishes. Links to parishes in the Roman Catholic diocese of Portsmouth can be found at www.portsmouth-dio.org.uk/diolinks/portlink.htm. Another way is to use a search engine and look for a particular church.

Do you have an interest in Pubs?

The 'Pubs, Inns and Taverns Index for England, 1801-1900' is a non-profit-making project to create a nineteenth century database of all premises with recognisable names, including hotels, coffee houses and clubs, and their keepers. It was estimated in lgoo that there were approximately 60,000 establishments in England, from which it is possible to estimate that the finished project will contain something of the order of 6,500,000 entries. At present the database has over 317,000 entries. Details can be found at www.pubsindex.freeserve.co.uk.

The Internet - Source or Resource?

At our Open Day one lady commented to me: "There is really no point in going on the internet for family history purposes as there are no authoritative sources of data. Even if you do find information on individuals you still have to go to the census or, preferably, parish registers to get the details". All this is certainly true, but we should not forget that the real value of the internet is as a resource for identifying and finding data bases. It is above all a means of communicating information.

At some sites, such as the PRO at www.pro.gov.uk, it is now possible to print off leaflets and identify records before making a visit. In the years to come we should expect to find 'authoritative data' on the internet and indexes of births marriages and deaths since 1837 and census returns. There are no technical reasons other than political and financial - why copies of original records should not be accessible. As a start we already have access to census records in Scotland (at a price). And, do not forget that the IGI and ancestral records provided by the LDS can be searched at www.familysearch.org. This has recently been updated making it much easier to use and download information.

"Registration: modernising a vital resources"

Recently, a discussion document was produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) entitled: "Registration: modernising a vital resource". It concerns the need to modernise the 160 year old system for registering births, marriages and deaths. The full document can be downloaded from www.ons.gov.uk and printed. However, beware: the document runs to about 30 pages and with our modest 33.6 or 56 Kbps modems could take lo minutes or more to download. It makes interesting reading and suggests changes that are required to meet the needs of society today and in the foreseeable future. There are implications about the data that will be available for family historians in the late twenty-first century. Responses and comments are requested on 28 questions. These had to be returned by 6th Dec but those with strong views might still wish to make them known to the ONS.

UK White Pages

Some people may not yet be aware that the UK 'white pages' are on-line at www.bt.com/phonenetuk. This could prove a helpful resource for locating areas of the country where families originated - but only for those with relatively rare surnames. There are also sites to covert postcodes to addresses and vice versa.

Eye in the Sky - a glimpse into the future

A photographic survey of Britain, described as the new Domesday survey, which identifies "every house, town and street" will be pictured on the internet in "a real image depicting Britain at the end of the Millennium". Half of the UK will be visible by January 2000 and the whole by the end of 2001. Perhaps this is another resource that family historians will use to make their 'histories' more interesting. The snag - only paying customers will be able to view any location at a scale of 1:2000. The site is at www.millennium-map.com.

Miscellany

One of the problems with writing for the Computer Forum is that it is difficult to identify the needs of those with computers who do not use the internet. I would be grateful for contributions to meet your needs.

Some are not connected to the internet because the cost of telephone calls can still be very high - especially for those who do a lot of surfing. I had thought that by the end of 1999 there would be more ISPs providing free access. In fact in the UK only a few provide free access, usually only at weekends, and these ISPs mostly charge a monthly subscription. The future looks more hopeful as it is likely that the cost of calls will have to fall to enable e-commerce (buying goods over the internet) to flourish.


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