August 30, 2006

Old books downloadable from Google

Three weeks ago I wrote about using Google Book Search for genealogy. Starting today, you can download whole books from Google to print or browse offline. This new feature is (not surprisingly) only available for books that are out of copyright. Do a search at Google Book Search with "Full view books" selected under the search box. Click on a result that interests you. A "Download" button will appear on the right, under the title and the author's name and a thumbnail image of the title page. The downloadable files are in PDF format. They are page images only, with no searchable text, so for searching you'll want to keep using the online version. The files are often very large, so be prepared for a long wait if you have a slow internet connection. Three examples:

August 23, 2006

August updates at FamilyHistoryOnline

This month there have been two updates at Family History Online. Nearly 200 thousand records, mostly for Cornwall, were added on August 8th. Over 500 thousand more were added today, mostly for Northumberland and Durham plus a few for Dorset, Lancashire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, and Warwickshire. The new databases are partial 1861 and 1891 census indexes for Northumberland and Durham and a baptism index for Pattingham, Staffordshire. The remaining records are updates to existing databases. Family History Online is operated by the Federation of Family History Societies and hosts data provided by its member societies. Searching is free, but a modest charge is made for each result actually viewed. Part of the charge is returned to the society that originated the data. Most of the available databases are for England and Wales, but the FFHS has a number of overseas members, and the Genealogical Society of Victoria has provided a handful of Australian databases.

August 22, 2006

PCY wills being indexed at Origins

British Origins has begun to index probate documents from the Prerogative and Exchequer Courts of York. The project is starting with 1858 (when civil probate took over from the ecclesiastical courts) and working backwards. A first tranche of 16,000 records from 1853 to 1858 has just been released. Only an index is online, but the documents themselves can be ordered in hard copy for £10. The ecclesiastical province of York had jurisdiction in Cheshire, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire. The province of Canterbury had jurisdiction over the rest of England and Wales. Wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are already online at TNA's DocumentsOnline. The York wills are held by the Borthwick Institute, not TNA. Separate databases at Origins already cover two small groups of wills from the Prerogative and Exchequer Courts of York: medieval wills (1267-1500) and wills from peculiar courts.

August 18, 2006

TNA digitization plans

TNA gives some clues about its digitization plans in a news release today that summarizes questions and answers from a June public meeting:

  • "[W]e plan to make other records ... such as RG 4 [nonconformist registers] and PROB 6 [PCC admons] ... available online within the next couple of years."
  • "The new digitisation programme is expected to take five years to complete. We have recently issued our next batch of digitisation packages for potential partners [link to list of packages]. We will publicise the timetable more widely. The amount of notice given will largely depend on how long it takes for a commercial partner to be appointed for each package, and how long it then takes for the partner to carry out the digitisation."
The linked page lists seven packages of records for which TNA is "currently inviting proposals" for "commercial digitisation ... under the Licensed Internet Associateship programme":
  • births, marriages, and deaths;
  • immigration;
  • Irish records;
  • Chelsea pensioners;
  • death duty registers;
  • census maps; and
  • officers papers, 1914-1939.
Under each package is a list of the records to be included, with more information on each one in a linked PDF file.

FreeBMD and FreeCEN August updates

FreeBMD was updated today with 1.6 million new records, including 1.2 million births, 350 thousand marriages, and 50 thousand deaths. FreeCEN was updated on August 16th with 50 new census pieces from 20 different counties, bringing its total to 8.1 million records.

August 11, 2006

Using Google Book Search for genealogy

Back in May I wrote about using Google Book Search to view scanned images of The Gentleman's Magazine, with its monthly birth, marriage, and death announcements and other valuable tidbits (mostly limited to wealthy families). More useful books and journals are continually being added to Google Book Search. I recently happened upon a marriage reference for my one-name study in The Visitation of London in the Year 1568, published in 1869 by the Harleian Society. I've found memorial inscriptions to several ancestors in British India in The Bengal Obituary, published by Thacker's in 1851. At least one volume of The Genealogist is available, including a mention of my ancestors' marriage in 1789. A university press edition of The Letters of Sarah Harriet Burney mentions several of my relatives by marriage. But finding these references isn't always straightforward. Here are some tips:

  • Searching for an unusual surname (e.g. Sercombe) or a small place (e.g. Chittlehampton) is easy. Just use the main search box.
  • If that gives many irrelevant results, try putting a full name in quotation marks (e.g. "William Orford") or searching for a surname and a place together (e.g. Hadfield Northwich).
  • If you get many irrelevant results about one particular topic, use a minus sign to exclude them (e.g. Bannerman -Campbell to find Bannermans other than the prime minister).
  • Some search results will only include bibliographic information or a small snippet of text, while others will show the entire book. If you only want full-text results, select the "Full view books" button under the search box.
  • If you find an interesting reference, but the full text isn't provided, try the links to "Buy this book" or "Find this book in a library". If the library link doesn't appear, copy the title and search for it at WorldCat.
  • If you have a particular book or type of book in mind, use the advanced search (a link to the right of the main search button). Specify words in the title or the name of the author or the publisher (e.g. Phillimore) and leave the rest blank. Then once you find your book, use the "Search in this book" feature or the book's own index or table of contents (if it has them).
  • Google tries to create blue hyperlinks in the images of indexes and tables of contents. Sometimes these link to the wrong page. If that happens, click your browser's "Back" button and type the correct page number into the "Page" box above the image.
  • The blue triangles next to the "Page" box display the previous page and next page. Often you can just click the mouse on a page image to go to the next page (but this doesn't always work).
  • In the advanced search, try specifying words in both the text and the title (e.g. Haworth in the text and Registers in the title).
  • Try different spellings. There are five results for Shercombe, but also one each for Shircombe and Shercome. Searching for the title "Visitation of" finds the Harleian Society volumes for London, Shropshire, and Worcestershire, but only the plural "Visitations of" finds the Surrey volume.

August 3, 2006

New volumes at British History Online: London and environs, York, Cumberland, and Wales

Several new additions to British History Online:

August 2, 2006

Baby-naming trends

This won't be genealogy for a few decades yet, but it's fun. The Name Voyager graphs U.S. baby-name frequencies from 1880 to the present. Type in a few letters, and the graph adjusts to show just names that begin that way. For example, Daniel peaked in the 1980s at just over 9,000 per million U.S. babies, but if you type just Dan, you can see Dana (peaked in the 1950s for boys, 1970s for girls), Danielle (3,500 per million in the 1980s, down to 750 per million in 2005), and others. Laura Wattenberg, who created this, also runs the Baby Name Wizard Blog, which discusses trends in baby names. (The blog is aimed at expecting parents.) Two example posts:

Domesday Book at DocumentsOnline

The National Archives now offers images of the Domesday Book (with translations) via its DocumentsOnline service. Yes, it would be fun to see images of the original, but at £3.50 per page, I'm keeping my Penguin paperback edition, available from at £14.66. That works out to 1p per page.