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The very latest news from the world of genealogy

TNA is testing handwritten text recognition software

f you have ever looked at an old document and been unable to read the old script then you may be interested in a fascinating post on The National Archive’s blog about software that is being developed to read old handwritten documents.

A 1496 Prerogative Court of Canterbury Will from TNA retrieved from TheGenealogist’s online collection of Will documents

A 1496 Prerogative Court of Canterbury Will from TNA retrieved from TheGenealogist’s online collection of Will documents

 The National Archives (TNA) points out the revolution  that optical character recognition (OCR) technology has made reading printed words written in books, newspapers and some archival documents.  But OCR does not work on handwritten documents. It is for this reason that TNA say that they are excited by the new platform called Transkribus, developed by the EU funded READ Project. It will offer, for the first time, the potential to use computers to ‘read’ handwritten documents.

See TNA’s blog post on their website here: http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/machines-reading-the-archive-handwritten-text-recognition-software/

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Colour Tithe Maps for Buckinghamshire added to TheGenealogist

TheGenealogist has added Colour Tithe Maps from The National Archives to their National Tithe Records collection. With this release researchers can see the plots owned or occupied by ancestors that lived in this ‘home county’ at the time of the survey in the 19th century.


Colour Tithe map of Buckingham 1847

The new data includes:

  • Over 40,000 Plots of Land covering the years from 1837 to 1855 with some much later plans of altered apportionments
  • Joining the apportionment record books and the previously published greyscale maps

These tagged colour maps and their fully searchable tithe schedule records are from those held at The National Archives. The collection gives the family history researcher the ability to search by name and keyword (for example parish or county) to look for all levels of society from large estate owners to occupiers of tiny plots such as a cottage or a cowshed.

Read TheGenealogist’s article: https://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/featuredarticles/2018/buckinghamshires-colour-tithe-maps-online-748/

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Over 650,000 criminal records added to TheGenealogist

TheGenealogist has added 651,369 quarterly returns of convicts from The National Archives’ HO 8 documents to their Court & Criminal Records collection. With this release researchers can find the details of ancestors that broke the law and were incarcerated in convict hulks and prisons in the 19th century.

Prisoners on the hulks from The Illustrated London News on TheGenealogist

The new data includes:

  • 651,369 Records covering the years 1824 to 1854
  • Quarterly returns from Convict Hulks, Convict Prisons and Criminal Lunatic Asylums

 

These fully searchable records are from the The Home Office: Sworn lists of convicts on board the convict hulks and in the convict prisons (HO 8). They give the family history researcher fascinating facts that include the particulars of age, convictions, sentences, health and behaviour of the convict, as well as which court sentenced them and where they were serving their sentence.

Read TheGenealogist’s article “Criminal records of convicts on the Hulks” at:

https://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/featuredarticles/2018/criminal-records-of-convicts-on-the-hulks-739/

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The 1910 Lloyd George Domesday Records with annotated maps

Latest News on a Major new release: TheGenealogist has released the first part of an exciting new record set, The Lloyd George Domesday Survey - a major new release that will find where an ancestor lived in 1910. This unique combination of maps and residential data, held by The National Archives and being digitised by TheGenealogist, can precisely locate your ancestor’s house on large scale (5 feet to the mile) hand annotated maps that plots the exact property.

Image of IR91 Index book on TheGenealogist

Image of IR91 Index book 

  Complementing the maps on TheGenealogist are the accompanying books that will also provide researchers with basic information relative to the valuation of each property, including the valuation assessment number, map reference, owner, occupier, situation, description and extent. This mammoth project begins with the first release of the IR91 Index with subsequent releases of the more detailed IR58 Field Books planned. There are over 94,500 Field Books, each having hundreds of pages to digitise with associated large scale IR121 annotated OS maps. The initial release from TheGenealogist is for the City of London and Paddington maps with their index records. Future releases will expand out across the country with cross linked maps wherever they are available. Find out more at: TheGenealogist.co.uk/1910Survey/ Mark Bayley, Head of Development at TheGenealogist says: “With our English & Welsh Tithe Map collection, we’ve become known for our map based records and this new collection makes a fantastic later addition. The maps show an incredible amount of detail, allowing you to zoom right in on the hand annotated property. The records that go with these maps are just as detailed, allowing you to find out all manner of information about your ancestral home.” The National Archives issued the following statement: “The Lloyd George ‘Domesday Records’ form essentially a census of property for Edwardian England and Wales. The innovative linking of individually searchable property data with associated annotated Ordnance Survey maps will be of huge value to family and local historians alike.” To find out more about these records, you can visit our informative record collection page at:  TheGenealogist.co.uk/1910Survey/
Image source: © TheGenealogist © Crown copyright images reproduced courtesy of The National Archives, London, England
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Flesh and Blood: an evening with Stephen McGann at The National Archives

The National Archives (TNA) has announced a talk by the author Stephan McGann Taking place  on Friday 24 November 2017 between 18:00 – 20:00 GMT. Flesh and Blood  will be of interest to family historians as it is the story of McGann’s family as told through seven maladies – diseases, wounds or ailments that have afflicted his relatives over the last 150 years. These, he believes,  have helped to mould him into what he now perceives himself to be. This early evening talk promises to be a great opportunity to hear Stephen, who you may know better as the actor that plays Dr Patrick Turner in the BBC's  show Call the Midwife, talk about his latest book, inspired by his passion for genealogy with an academic interest in the social dimensions of medicine. Stephen McGann has been an ambassador for Explore Your Archive since 2014. The National Archives run an exciting range of events and exhibitions on a wide variety of topics. For more details, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/whatson.

By Digsa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Stephen McGann By Digsa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons  
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The National Archives has an interesting number of podcasts and webinars. Head over to: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ One that is being publicised at the moment is by Tracy Borman who reveals how the Tudor monarchs were constantly surrounded by an army of attendants, courtiers and ministers, even in their most private moments. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed. Dr Tracy Borman is a historian, author and joint Chief Curator for Historic Royal Palaces. Her books include the highly acclaimed ‘Elizabeth’s Women: the Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen’; ‘Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror’; and ‘Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction’. Her latest book is ‘The Private Lives of the Tudors’, published by Hodder & Stoughton.

TNA Tudors video

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The National Archives launch new record copying service

This week (2 February 2016) The National Archives have launched a new record copying service, integrating the service into their online catalogue, Discovery, with revised costs and clearer guidance on how to order copies. Record copying allows people to request digital or paper copies of TNA's records – an essential service for those unable to visit The National Archives in person, or for when records are not available to download.

Reviewing record copying

The record copying service is a two-stage process: people send TNA the details of a document that they want copied, and the staff at Kew find and check the document to see if copies can be made and how much they will cost.  After this, researchers can decide if they wish to order the copies. The National Archives said "During reviews of the service, we found that the system was unintuitive and that we received a high number of speculative requests which did not become record copying orders, as well as requests we could not fulfil. We wanted to improve the success rate of the first stage, as well as make the service more perceptive and easy-to-use."

The new process will be introducing a new first step  which involves a paid-for page check, costing £8.24. This will cover TNA's staff resources for them to find the information that a person wants copied, and then to assess whether they can safely copy it. To offset this cost, they have revised their current fees structure, reducing the cost of both digital and paper copies. Documents up to A3 in size will now both cost £1.10 per copy; digital copies previously cost £3.50 and paper copies £1.30. At the same time TNA say that they are also integrating the record copying service into their online catalogue Discovery, to make sure all requests provide a valid document reference number. Also they will be introducing new features so people can track their order as it progresses through the record copying service. Find out more about the new record copying service.

The National Archives

The National Archives, Kew.

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210th Anniversary of Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar took place on the 21 October 1805. It was fought by the Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during what was known as the War of the Third Coalition that took place between August–December 1805 within the wider Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). Trafalgar was the most decisive naval victory of the war when twenty-seven British ships of the line were led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard his flagship HMS Victory. The British defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under the French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve in the Atlantic off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships in the fight while not a single British vessel was lost. The British victory dramatically established Britain's naval supremacy and was achieved in part through Nelson not adhering to the prevailing naval tactics, which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy hit each other with broadsides. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns which he then ordered to sail at right angles against the larger enemy fleet and so won the battle. At the height of the battle Nelson was shot by a French musketeer and died shortly after, becoming one of Britain's greatest war heroes.

The Battle of Trafalgar

If you think you may have had ancestors that served in the battle The National Archives has a great portal: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/trafalgarancestors/
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The National Archives release more MI5 files.

  The National Archives blog has announced the release of the latest batch of the MI5 files to view at TNA in Kew while a selection have been digitized. They write that "As always they contain a fascinating new glimpse into the murky world of Second World War and Cold War espionage and provide extraordinary insights into some of the most famous of all spies." http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/grandmother-us-spy-recruited-philby/

The National Archives

The National Archives

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New records released by The National Archives reveals a highly successful 'agent provocatrice' in Th

The National Archives this week announced the release of more than 3,300 Security Service records available online to view. Within these new records is a fascinating file on the use of an 'agent provocatrice' by The Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Second World War Operations. The SOE used this 'agent provocatrice', known as 'Fifi' but real name Marie Christine Chilver, as part of the training programme for SOE students before they were sent out into enemy territory. Students would use the skills they learned at SOE's security training school at Beaulieu to carry out secret training activities all over Britain. The trainers would lay traps, either police interrogations or the temptation to part with secret information to a pretty young lady. Fifi played her part in these training schemes and managed to trip up many of the SOE trainees. The release of this file (HS 9/307/3) reveals Fifi's identity and her special talent for character assessment which enabled her to extract information from up and coming trainee secret agents. The file contains Fifi's reports on trainee agents and handwritten correspondence from her relating to SOE training operations. There's more details on the new records and the role of Fifi and the Special Operations Executive in The National Archives blog.    
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