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The very latest news from the world of genealogy

Webinar places available at forthcoming TNA event

The National Archives' record specialists are presenting free webinars, focusing on different series of records and the research skills that you will need to make the most of them. It's a great free way of understanding some of the varied records available to view at The National Archives. The next webinar is on the 12th May at  4pm, entitled 'Why did people fear the Victorian workhouse?' This webinar will help you to explore records in The National Archives, showing what life was like inside the workhouse, and how it was viewed by those outside. It's presented by Paul Carter, specialist in modern domestic records. If you'd like to view the free webinar, there are places still available . Book now by emailing webinars@nationalarchives.gov.uk or there's more information at The National Archives website.

   
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Top secret MI5 files now available online..

For those family history researchers interested in tales of the underground world of secret espionage, The National Archives has announced the release of over 150 top secret MI5 files. The records are to be made available online for public viewing for the first time. The MI5 files date from around the time of The First World War and are part of the programme from the TNA to commemorate the centenary of the start of The Great War. The files contain a wealth of material about organisations and individuals involved in espionage or under surveillance during the period of the First World War. It details the secret history and the agents operating in a time of war. Some of the agents listed in the records include the famous British nurse, Edith Cavell who helped Allied soldiers to escape from behind enemy lines and Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer who was convicted of spying for Germany and was subsequently executed by the French authorities in 1917. There’s more information available from The National Archives website.

Mata Hari wartime spy

Mati Hari, one of a number of spy records now available online

 
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7 ways to demolish your family history brick walls

7 ways to demolish your family history brick walls Family history research is a rewarding and addictive hobby. However, we all reach a point when get stuck or hit that genealogy ‘brick wall’. At this point, it’s helpful to consult text books, visit family history society talks and also spend some time looking at the popular family history forums frequented by fellow family historians only too happy to offer help and advice. Using this external help, I managed to discover 7 new  techniques that helped me break down some difficult brick walls in my family history research. They may help you in your search. 1.      A missing marriage record Looking in numerous sources I could not find the marriage records for ancestors in the 1700s  in my family tree. I was advised to take a look at the ‘Fleet Marriage’ record sets. Known as record set RG7 from The National Archives, they cover over 800,000 clandestine marriages conducted by unscrupulous clergy around the Fleet debtor’s prison near London. Covering the years 1667 to 1777,    it covers over half of the marriages in London at this time. 2.      County boundary changes throwing us off the scent.. Areas of England and Wales have undergone numerous county boundary changes over the years and it can throw us family historians off the scent. I was trying to trace an ancestor in the village of Cradley in Herefordshire. After struggling locating the whereabouts of my ancestor, it turns out in various census records, the village, moved between Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire through boundary changes! 3.      Overseas BMD records Looking beyond the Civil Registration records helped open a few doors for me too. The National Archives overseas records can offer a great deal of record sets that can maybe help us track down that missing ancestor. There were 3 record sets I found useful, firstly RG33- Overseas BMDs of British Subjects (covering the years 1627 to 1960), this also included Lundy Island in Devon! RG32 covers Prisoners of War and Civilian Deaths overseas and finally RG34 which details foreign marriages including during World War 1. The General Register Office (GRO) also have a number of overseas records including Marine & Army BMDs, Air Births, Informal certificates of births at sea and Consular BMDs. These records are also well worth taking a look at. I found TheGenealogist.co.uk particularly useful for records in this area. 4.      A nonconformist ancestor.. If you’re struggling to find an ancestor in the parish records, it’s worth looking at other religious denomination records that may provide the details of an ancestor you’ve been looking for. I discovered an ancestor (fortunately!) in the Quaker records of the nonconformist registers from The National Archives (series RG6). The record not only recorded immediate family from the wedding but the whole congregation!   5.      Finding missing relatives using street search As many of our ancestors often lived close to each other, it is worth taking a look at street names to track down a missing ancestor, you just may discover ancestors you weren’t aware of living in the same street! I discovered new ancestors in a search using the Street Search on www.TheGenealogist.co.uk 6.       Family forename search Using TheGenealogist website I was able to discover a selection of ancestors that had previously been eluding my best search efforts. They had moved away from their original family home and I was able to track them down using the Family forename search- inputting the first names of the family (they had a common surname of Smith), the website narrowed down my search and discovered them in the 1891 census in Grimsby!  7.       Will Records Will records are a great way of discovering more information about your ancestors that can really break down those brick walls. Many will records offer comprehensive details of our ancestors lives, what they achieved, how much they were worth, who they favoured in their immediate family and who would gain the most from the will. They can be fascinating documents and can explain a period in time in your family history you previously knew nothing about. What techniques have you used to break down brick walls? Let us know in the comments box below. 
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Interesting events to attend at The National Archives

There's a number of both free and ticketed events scheduled at The National Archives  this week. On Thursday the 27th March, there's a free talk entitled 'We may lie and die in a land of plenty..'- the Victorian poor in their own words. This talk looks at pauper letters, statements and petitions highlighting the concerns, thoughts and feelings of the poor in their own words. On the Friday, television broadcaster Jeremy Paxman explores what life was like for the British during the First World War, from politicians to newspapermen, Tommies, factory-workers, nurses, wives and children. Cost for this talk is £5. For more details and to see the other talks and workshops available, go to The National Archives website.

The National Archives

Latest events at The National Archives

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Special Military History Exhibition at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

With 2014 marking the centenary of the  start of The First World War, the premier family history exhibition 'Who Do You Think You Are Live? has announced a special 'Military History' area on the Gallery Level of the show hall at London Olympia. The confirmed exhibitors include The National Archives, the RAF Museum, Belgian Tourist Board, BBC History and the National Army Museum. The event starts on Thursday 20th February 2014 at 9.30am and more details can be found at the Who Do You Think You Are? website  
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New event at The National Archives

The National Archives have an interesting free talk scheduled for Thursday 13 February, entitled 'Spies like us: the secret life of Ernest Oldham'. Presented by Dr Nick Barratt, author and TV presenter, the talk is of interest to anyone keen to find out about the past work of the security services and the files stored on their work at The National Archives. The security service files are held in 'series KV 2' and include fascinating details on many ordinary people, such as Foreign Office clerk, Ernest Oldham, who entered the world of espionage in the 1920s and 1930s, often with tragic consequences. There's more details available on the free talk from The National Archives website.

Ernest Oldham

The story of Ernest Oldham and the world of espionage

     
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Appeals against conscription records in WW1 go online

In this year that commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, The National Archives has released another set of records from The Great War.  The 'Appeals against First World War conscription' records have now gone online. The records are the case files of over 8,000 men who were appealing against conscription into the army between 1916 to 1918. The men applied to local military tribunals for exemption and if they were unsuccessful could then appeal to the county appeal tribunal. This new set of records cover the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal only and are classed in file series MH47.  More can be found at The National Archives website.

Conscription appeals records

New records released by The National Archives- 'Conscription appeals'

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Free talk this week at The National Archives

This Thursday, the 23rd January, sees a free talk from The National Archives entitled 'Your Country Needs You' looking at the recruitment posters of World War One, including the famous Lord Kitchener 'finger pointing poster'. The talk asks if this was the most successful recruitment poster or if there were other more effective recruitment messages and posters that worked to encourage thousands of Britons to join up. This talk draws upon official records from The National Archives to provide alternative and surprising stories. The talk is being given by James Taylor, former curator of the National Maritime Museum who also writes and lectures on maritime and military art and design. There's more information available from The National Archives website.

Kitchener talk from The National Archives

Talk on World War One recruitment posters and their effectiveness at The National Archives

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Join the online crowd outsourcing partnership

The National Archives have appealed for volunteers to help tag First World War unit diaries as part of their new 'Operation War Diary' outsourcing partnership with the Imperial War Museum. Volunteers are needed to record people, places and activities from the diaries as part of this major project. There are 1.5 million pages of war diaries from the British Army on the Western Front during WW1 which had been stored away in the archives. Volunteer help is needed to now reveal the stories of the men who fought in the Great War. If you have any spare time to assist you can sign up to the project here. The end result should be a great resource for researchers and family historians alike.

World War One war diaries

WW1 war diaries offer us a window into life in the Great War

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World War 2 RAF Casualty records now available to view

According to the latest news from The National Archives website, a collection of Second World War RAF casualty records has now been released to view. The records were produced by the Air Ministry's casualty branch following the loss of an aircraft or personnel. They include accident reports and correspondence with next of kin. Known as the AIR 81 series, the first tranche  contains 316 packs dating from the beginning of the war in September 1939 to May 1940. However, many of the files contain correspondence which runs into the 1950s and even the 1960s. This first collection of records does include some notable RAF raids from the early years of World War 2, such as the raid on the Albert Canal Bridges in Belgium in May 1940 when five aircraft from RAF No 12 Squadron were lost and the first Victoria Crosses of the war were awarded. There's more details at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/903.htm

New RAF Records released

New RAF casualty records released from the start of World War Two.

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