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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Imperial War Museum London has finally reopened!

With the 100th anniversary of the involvement of Britain in WW1, there was one place we had to head to - the newly re-opened Imperial War Museum in London.

The Imperial War Museum has always been one of my favourite museums and after being closed for six months, the lower floor and main atrium has been transformed to showcase new artefacts and house a new World War 1 exhibition. Costing £40m, the renovations have revealed a whole new area.

The museum was very busy when we went and the WW1 galleries are proving so popular that you have to get a timed ticket upon arrival which tells you what time you can enter the galleries to avoid overcrowding. Despite this, there were still long queues to get in at the allocated time and it was still difficult to see everything on show as there were so many people so I would like to go again when it quietens down a bit!

The WW1 galleries tell the story of the Great War in a interactive way making use of artefacts, first hand accounts and technology and even if you think you know the story, you will be surprised by how much you can still learn from a visit. It tells the story of those who fought and those left behind and is very engaging.

There is also lots to learn elsewhere in the museum - about WW2, the Holocaust (the Holocaust exhibition never fails to move me to tears as you are faced with the horrors of what happened not that long ago) and the many vehicles and planes used in war. The children visiting on the day we were there were particularly taken with the big shells and planes!

So, if you haven't been before, the Imperial War Museum London is well worth a visit - and if you haven't been for  awhile, now is a great time to return and find out more about the Great War as we all commemorate the centenary. Entry is free and there's enough to keep you there for a whole day.

Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Sunday, 6 July 2014

My Tyneside @ The Discovery Museum

My favourite museum that we visited on this trip to the North East was the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

A large, free entrance museum in the city centre, the museum celebrates its 80th birthday this year but the exhibitions and displays are very, very modern - lots of interactive displays and things to engage people of all ages in the history of the North East.

On a family history note, there are two notable exhibitions - The Newcastle Story and Destination Tyneside.

In The Newcastle Story, you can talk a walk through the history of Newcastle and the surrounding areas from Roman times to the present day, through reconstructions of the "streets, homes and communities of the past" and as well as local history, there is a lot of general social history too around the 1930s depression, the arrival of the welfare state in post-war Britain and the swinging 60s.

In Destination Tyneside, which celebrates migration to the North East, there is lots to learn about those who have arrived in the North East throughout the decades. From the Scottish migrants of the early 20th century (like my great grandmother's family) to the Eastern Europeans arriving more recently, the arrival of those from abroad is celebrated and presented in a fun way which encourages people to think about "their Tyneside". There are some interactive displays which allow you to trace your surname and see comparison maps showing the geographical spread of your name between 1881 and 1998 which proved very interesting - both me and my husband searched lots of names from our tree (and were surprised by some of the results)!

The best part of Destination Tyneside though, has to be the My Tyneside Wall - a permanent celebration of all those who have arrived in the North East and made it their home. For a donation of £20 you can have your ancestors arrival in Newcastle commemorated, which is not only a nice idea but makes an amazing visual record of migration to the North East over the years. Since returning home I have been on the museum website and added my great-grandmother's details, and I look forward to seeing them on the wall when we return to Newcastle!

My Tyneside Wall (Photo from Discovery Museum website)

Sharing the Discovery Museum building is the Tyne & Wear archives, another treasure trove of North East family history resources - but it was closing time by the time we reached them, as there was so much to see in the museum. So if you're planning to visit both, keep an eye on the time!

Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Glasgow museums

Glasgow has more museums than we had time to see, but the two we did visit were very enjoyable and offered an insight into Glasgow life in years gone by.

The Riverside Museum, on the banks of the River Clyde, is a fantastic modern building that looked amazing upon arrival on a sunny June morning. It’s the newest of Glasgow’s many museums (it opened in 2011) and last year it won the European Museum of the Year award.

Described as “Scotland’s museum of transport and travel”, the museum houses exhibits of all types of transport, from the wall of cars to Glasgow police cars, caravans and bikes. The best bit for me though was the original trams and a reconstruction of a 1900s Glasgow street and subway. It’s great to wander down a street that looks very much like one your ancestors would have walked down!

After a couple of hours at The Riverside Museum, we went to The People’s Palace Museum, situated in Glasgow Green – Glasgow’s oldest park. The People’s Palace was originally built as a cultural centre for the people of Glasgow’s industrial East End and it’s a magnificent building, with a huge fountain outside that was first unveiled at the Glasgow Expire Exhibition in 1888.

The People’s Palace Museum tells the story of Glasgow and its people and it was a great place to find out more about how ordinary Glaswegians have lived throughout history.The “Doon the Watter” exhibition about Glaswegians descending en masse to the West Coast seaside towns was fun and the recreation of life in a Glasgow Tenement in “The Single End” brought home how cramped the living conditions would have been.

Like all of Glasgow’s museums, the two we visited were free. Worth a visit if you’re in Glasgow and want to know more about the lives of your Glaswegian ancestors!


Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Friday, 4 July 2014

Family History at The Mitchell Library (Glasgow)

First stop on our week away was Glasgow, Scotland’s second city. 

We spent most of our first day at The Mitchell Library which is one of the largest public libraries in Europe. The Mitchell is a beautiful building but bizarrely is next to a motorway (yes, really – though obviously the building is older than the motorway!). 

There is a dedicated family history centre at the library which houses not only Glasgow’s city and NHS archives (both free) but also the Registrar’s Genealogy Centre – where for a fee of £15 per day you can search online Scottish records for the following:

Statutory Birth, Death & Marriage Records for the whole of Scotland (1855 - 2010)
Civil Partnership records (2005 - 2010)
Scottish Divorces (1984 - 2010)
Old Parochial Records (1553 - 1854)
Census including Street indexes (1841 - 1911)
Catholic Registers

Upon arrival at the genealogy centre, you are allocated your computer for the day and are introduced to the records and the search system by one of the registrars. Anyone who has used the Scotland’s People website will be familiar with the layout of the system and it offers a substantial saving to the Scotland’s People site if you are searching lots of names and want to look at many records to check they are “your” ancestor.

If you want to print out copies of certificates an A4 page costs 50p (there are restrictions on very recent certificates being printed, but all certificates can be viewed). Unlike the Edinburgh Scotland’s People centre copying on a USB stick is not allowed, which is a shame as copies can easily get lost on a trip. The computers didn’t seem to allow standard internet access either, which was another annoyance – I had my iPad with me, but wifi is not yet available on all floors of the library, so I could only access my ancestry information via the app and could not carry out additional research online without going downstairs to the café. There are plans however for wifi to be extended throughout the building when refurbishments are completed so perhaps we just visited at the wrong time!

The café on the ground floor provided a nice place to venture to for some lunch, and there are toilets right by the genealogy centre for comfort breaks, as well as throughout the building. Lockers are provided for the archives (they are not needed if only visiting the registrars), and there is also a shop selling notebooks, pens and pencils. There is also some vending machines and sofas outside the genealogy centre if you want a quick break.

Our day at the centre provided some new leads, new information and a chance to see what was available . As always, I wish I had been more organized and regimented with my research whilst there to get the most out of the day (I wish for example I had made an appointment to view some records in the Glasgow NHS archives) but maybe that means a return visit is in order…?!


Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Going back up North

I can't believe that I haven't done a blog post in over 3 months - I really do not know where the time goes! That's what I find the biggest problem is as a "younger" genealogist - time. Or more specifically, a lack of it. What with full time work and part time studying, housework, shopping and catching up on things at home there isn't as much time left for genealogy as I would like. I assume that is why so many genealogists are much older and have got into the hobby after retiring. Sadly I have over 35 years until I can retire so for now I think I need to manage my time a bit better to have more family history research time!

I do however find holidays are a great time to do some genealogy and with a week off work ahead we're off to Glasgow tomorrow for a few days to engage in a bit of family history research. We're then moving on to the North East of England where we first visited last summer and didn't have enough time to see all what we wanted to see (both family history wise and scenery wise!). So, hopefully a good week with lots of research, relaxing and new leads is ahead. I will let you know what I uncover!

Anyone else going on a family history trip this summer?


Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Monday, 24 February 2014

Collaborative genealogy - the way forward (or should that be back?)

One of the most interesting talks we went to at WDYTYAL was Laurence Harris' talk on collaborative genealogy.

The subject matter really appealed to me as I believe collaborative research brings great results that benefit all, and I wanted to find out more about platforms such as My Heritage (where Laurence is Head of Genealogy, UK) and Geni who embrace the idea of social genealogy and collaboration.

I use Ancestry mainly and I find that fairly collaborative - that is, I can search other people with ancestors in common, see their trees and add information and photos from their tree whilst they can do the same with mine.

I know that some people don't like the idea of collaborative research for lots of reasons but the most common one is that other people will "steal" your work. Whilst I think it is bad netiquette to copy large chunks of research without making contact with the person or acknowledging their work, I don't think that makes open trees a bad thing.

For me the best thing about genealogy is when you find some information that relates to your ancestors and you feel that rush of excitement of seeing their handwriting or reading a document about them. And with more people than ever before interested in family history, it makes sense that a lot more people sharing their knowledge on a particular family branch makes for some brilliant breakthroughs which would not be possible if everyone decided to not collaborate or share information!

There is also the fact that as well as gaining information, you can also gain some new friends - long lost distant cousins who have ancestors in common with you who share your hobby. Result!

I have exchanged emails with several people who have made contact with me after seeing we share a branch of our tree online. Similarly, I have contacted several people after seeing that they are related to one of my ancestors (and are therefore related to me). Through this contact I have been able to find out much more about my ancestors than names and dates on a tree can ever tell you. I have discovered interesting anecdotes, family rumours and sad stories of everyday life that doesn't show up on any census return. I have been able to get a picture (either literally or figuratively) of people I know little more about than a date and place of birth and I have been able to exchange information freely knowing that we all share a common goal - to find out where we have come from.

Collaborative research doesn't have to just be restricted to people to whom you are distantly related of course - relatives you know well have lots of information to share and are happy to do so, and as genealogists we are used to informing our family of what we have recently uncovered. This is all collaborative research at its most basic level.

Thanks to the internet there is also the opportunity to post questions online for others to answer. You may not know an awful lot about Tithe maps but you can bet someone on Twitter or RootsChat is an expert - meaning that you can move further forward in your research. 

Since returning from WDYTYAL I have uploaded my gedcom file to My Heritage to see how the platform performs, and I have registered with Geni whose aim is to make one giant world family tree which shows how we are all connected. It's early days yet and I don't know enough about them to comment on how effective they are for collaborative research, but I definitely think that working together is the way forward.


Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Well it was last year's Who do You Think You Are Live (WDYTYAL) which encouraged me to start a family history blog and have a dedicated Twitter account for my genealogy (I was previously just using my personal Twitter account), so it is apt that the last few days not only saw me return to WDYTYAL but also tweet a lot about the event and make my 500th tweet on my familytreenat account!

We went to WDYTYAL for two of the three days and despite intending to book a hotel I forgot resulting in us travelling into London for two days which was just as expensive as a trip abroad thanks to extortionate early morning train fares and meant we were a little sleepy at times! Oh well, you live and learn - next year it's definitely a staying nearby event.

Day 1 seemed much busier than Day 2 but both days had a fair crowd. There seemed to be slightly less exhibitors this year but with those who were there having much bigger and better stands.

More space was used upstairs too this year, with a special World War 1 area commemorating the WW1 centenary with exhibitors such as the Imperial War Museum who previewed their Lives of WW1 project.

We attended several talks over the two days including two celebrity theatre talks - one with Natasha Kaplinsky (who looked just as pretty and glossy as she does on TV) who is still coming to terms with her WDYTYA episode revelations eight years after it was filmed and one with Larry Lamb which was very interesting as he shared the stage with the executive producer of the show and the producer and director of his episode who were able to explain the WDYTYA process in more depth.

The other talks we went to covered subjects such as Ancestors Homes, Collaborative family tree research and Scottish Asylums amongst others.

There was lots of opportunities to try out different platforms with all the big players (Ancestry, FindMyPast, the Genealogist, Genes Reunited, My Heritage & Deceased Online) represented and row upon row of stalls - family history societies, book stalls, map sellers and anything else you could ever need for your research.

There was also deals to be had and leaflets to be collected - alongside freebies such as pens, pencils, notebooks and post-it notes.

There seemed to be more seating upstairs for research too which was good - not only for researching, but also for a sit down. Two days of walking around Olympia is very tiring on your feet!

Once again we were amongst the younger clientèle (more about that in another post) but there was a mix of people attending.

I have come home with my family tree interest suitably stimulated and am looking forward to trying out some of the new resources I have discovered through the show. Now - what hotels are good for next year...?


Follow me on Twitter - @FamilyTreeNat