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Berkshire Family Historian
March 2002

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, March 2002 Contents

The Bulletin

A word from our chairman
Newspaper digitisation
Access to Archives (A2A)
London family history societies merger
Unwanted indentures
An odd gravestone inscription
Derbyshire video
Society of Genealogists' history fair
Wiltshire Open Day
100 years ago
Family Tree Day
'For a healthy, happy job'
1901 census online

A word from our chairman

Writing this in early January, the census is very much on my mind, not just the 1901 census but all the other census returns and indexes that have been published over the last two decades or so.

My own involvement with family history started in the late 1970s, when my wife, Lesley, offered to help the Society of Genealogists while we were working in the Middlesbrough area. We were asked to re-type the transcript and index for the parish registers of St Martin at Palace, Norwich. We did a spot check of the index and finding many errors felt we had to re-index the transcript. As this was in the days before personal computers the work was done on x slips and a second-hand IBM Selectric typewriter. It was a fascinating and demanding project and it was very satisfying to handle 'our' bound quarto transcript and index when we visited the Society of Genealogists.

While we were relative beginners working on our own, albeit with good instructions and examples, I think we produced a good result. We went on to help with the Berkshire 1851 census index and other projects.

Later, we were very pleased when the 1881 census became available in January 1982 and I'm sure there must have been enormous queues, longer than usual, at the Census rooms in
Portugal Street, London, in those early days. To begin with, the only aids were the standard place indexes, with street indexes if you were lucky.

So it took me by surprise recently to hear that someone was complaining when there was no name index to part of the 1891 census. My immediate feelings were, 'Why should there be?' and 'You'd better get started!'

There are so many indexes and aids available these days, with national indexes to the 1881 and now the 1901 census returns, we forget that normal family historians like you and me created many. A common mistake is for someone to say that the LDS (Latter Day Saints) 'did' the i88i census index. I'm sorry they didn't. Yes, they set up and organised the project but ordinary family historians up and down the country carried out most of the actual transcription.

Anyone who has helped in a transcription project will understand the limitations of a transcript. They will know that they must check the original, or at least a facsimile of it, as a transcript is only one interpretation of the original. They will also know the difficulties of interpreting handwriting and look for possible alternative spellings in the index. They should also appreciate that many records were recorded from the spoken word and that variations in spelling are to be expected. They will, in short, be able to make the best possible use of a transcript or index.

I'm sure there will be much discussion in the next few months about the quality of the index and transcripts for the 1901 census. I'm also sure that those who helped in transcribing the 1881 and 1851 census returns or have been involved in any society transcription project will be able to make the best use of this new tool, appreciating both its value and limitations.

Newspaper digitisation

The British Library Newspaper Library carried out a pilot project last year to test the possibility of putting newspaper texts onto the Internet. For the pilot project duplicate negative microfilms of newspapers were scanned and indexed. A selection of material from older newspapers was made to test the search facilities and the capability of the system. The newspapers, of which a limited number of facsimile pages are currently available are: Daily News, Manchester Guardian, News of the World and Daily Dispatch. The results of this project are available at: www.uk.olivesoftware.com. How long we will have to wait to see more newspapers on the Internet only time will tell. As well as the British Library project The Times is also planning a digitization system.

Access to Archives (A2A)

There's a new Access to Archives (A2A) web site on www.a2a.pro.gov.uk. It's designed as an online database for record office catalogues from all over England. The project is still in its relatively early stages, but it already includes 1,081,595 records from 76 archives across England. So far, the emphasis has mainly been on quarter sessions and petty sessions records -with catalogues from many parts of the country now being online. It should be stressed that the site is not intended to be a gigantic personal name index intended solely for genealogists. However, it is clearly a major archival initiative - and a site worth remembering for future reference.

London family history societies merger

The London & North Middlesex FHS has merged with the Westminster & Central Middlesex FHS. The two branches of the W&CMFHS, at Rayners Lane and Wembley will continue, with their existing officers, as branches of the L&NMFHS. It's anticipated that this amalgamation will enable them to give an improved service to members over a wider area. For general enquiries contact Mrs. S Lumas (see journal for address)
www.lnmfhs.dircon.co.uk

Unwanted indentures

The following apprenticeship indentures were purchased at a flea market some years ago. All relate to New Windsor and to Archbishop Laud's charity:

- William Robert Arthurs, age 16, son of James Arthurs, tailor, of Park Street NW, apprenticed to Charles Arthur Cobden, tailor. November 1887.

- Ernest Alexander Windsor, aged 13, son of George Windsor of Keppel Row, tailor, apprenticed to Jesse Cooper, coach builder, November 1884. This indenture has been overwritten onto a previous form relating to William Maynard, aged 14, son of Elizabeth Maynard, widow, of Love Lane, apprenticed to George Pirer Cartland, photographer of High Street.

- Rowland Fuller Gray, aged 13, son of Charles James Gray, gardener, of Kepple Street, apprenticed to Edward and William Dickenson of Victoria Street, plumbers, November 1885.

The owner would be willing to reunite these documents to the apprentices' families in return to a small donation to charity.

An odd gravestone inscription

Just over the Berkshire border at Dorchester Abbey, in Oxfordshire, there's an unusual inscription on one of the graves:

Here lies one who for medicine would not give
A little gold; and so his life he lost:
I fancy that he'd wish to live
Did he but know how much his funeral cost.
Apparently funerals cost as much in the past as they do now.

Derbyshire video

The Derbyshire Family History Society has produced a video explaining how to trace your family tree in Derbyshire. Filmed at their Research Centre and Derby Library it takes the beginner through the first tentative steps using real documents when necessary. A copy can be purchased from the Research Centre, Bridge Chapel House, St. Mary's Bridge, Sowter Road, Derby DE1 3AT.

Society of Genealogists' history fair

The annual Society fair at the Royal Horticultural Society Hall in London will be held on Saturday and Sunday May the 4th and 5th. Last year 5,000 visitors came from all over the country to meet representatives of the county family history societies browse through the books, computer supplies and programs. This year your Society will be present on both days, so if you'd like to meet us come along on either day. We look forward to seeing you.

Wiltshire Open Day

The Wiltshire Family History Society's annual open day will be held on Saturday June 15 at the Bouverie Hall, Pewsey from 10am until 3.45pm. Local societies will have stalls and it's likely to be as successful as last year.

100 years ago

Mr. Maker, living at Yattendon Court, wrote about 1902: 'The season early in the year was one of great promise but a cold spring, a dull sunless summer and a wet August put paid to it. At Sunninghill, Ascot four inches of rain was recorded in June and more than four inches during the month of August'. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Family Tree Day

Saturday 8 June 2002 marks the first 'Family Tree Day' at the Oxfordshire Record Office. This is likely to be an extravaganza not to be missed. Hosted by the staff of the record office in conjunction with the Oxfordshire Family History Society, the day will have numerous attractions including: computer demonstrations, the chance to browse and make purchases from the an extensive bookstall, and an opportunity to make purchases of microfiche from the Society without incurring those irritating postal charges.

The Society's computerised search services and newly computerised birth brief index will also be available for consultation. The record office searchroom will be open as usual, and this will enable the researcher to review a particular record, and to discuss their problems and findings with members of the Society and other experienced family historians. 'Family Tree Day' will be held on Saturday 8 June 2002 at the Oxfordshire Record Office, St Luke's, Temple Road, Cowley, Oxford 0X4 2EX.

'For a healthy, happy job'

That was the banner on the poster of the famous wartime poster urging women to join the Women's Land Army. Thousands of women took up the challenge of providing Britain with home grown food at a particular crucial time in our history, with imports cut off by the submarine war in the Atlantic.

Although the original service records do not survive, the index cards have recently been put on microfiche. The cards often give background information on the volunteers including name, changes of name on marriage, address, date of birth and dates of service. Some of them even have photographs. If you would like to look at the index they are in record class MAF 421 at the PRO.

1901 census online

By the time you read this I hope that the PRO will have sorted out the problems with the 1901 census and that you will have found those missing relatives at the turn of the twentieth century. Much is riding on this site. If it's successful then many of the other nineteenth century censuses will be available over the coming years.


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updated 28th May 2002