GRO Indices

At the beginning of this month (November 2016) the General Register Office in Southport, England made available new indices for births and deaths in England and Wales. These are slightly different from the ones available at FreeBMD and elsewhere being taken from one step back in the transcription process. They also have mother’s maiden name at birth (only on FBMD from 1912) and age at death (only on FBMD from 1865) and full names (FMBD may have initials). However, the age at death for infants has frequently been mistranscribed – age 10 months may appear as 10 years.

So there have been quite a number of changes to my database as a result of the additions and corrections – see my website!

Sarah Micklethwait Benson

There are trees published in various places (eg. Ancestry and Gedmatch) that suggest Sarah Micklethwait, daughter of Nathaniel Micklethwait and Joanna Rod (not Crane as some trees suggest) was married to Joseph Benson in Hull, Plymouth, Massachusetts. I wonder, despite Nathaniel’s New England connections, whether his daughter Sarah Micklethwait who married Joseph Benson in London, is the same Sarah who married Joseph Benson of Hull MA. While I have no baptism for Sarah Micklethwait, her siblings are baptised in London and she married there. However, some trees do have her birth in MA.

The most important evidence we have is Nathaniel’s will. In it, he mentions Sarah, Joseph and their son Nathaniel, but does not specify where they live. On the other hand, he also mentions Ann Knight alias Whiteman “of New England”. Would he have said the same for the Bensons?

Some trees have found a Nathaniel Benson in MA with a suitable birth date.

Can anyone find anything to help?

Website Update

I’ve updated my website.

I’ve now gone through all the will transcripts I received from my colleague, John, and I’ve also gone through his data and added omissions to mine. So there are major additions to the trees for Richard of Ingbirchworth and James of Worsborough.

I’ve also included the changes I made as a result of data from the 1939 register, and I’ve attached a few deaths I found, hopefully to the right people!

The update process involves running a computer programme to generate the HTML and PDF files. The PDF files however need a manual fix as the code is out of date. As a result, there may be some issues. If you find anything that looks wrong, please do let me know.


2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 550 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Auntie Patricia was Adopted

I asked some new contacts about their Auntie Patricia Micklethwaite – I’d found a birth for her in September quarter 1942 in the Trowbridge area. It turned out none of the family knew anything about her. The contacts purchased her birth certificate and it said “adopted”. So if you know Patricia, or whatever she’s now called, please contact me!

1939 Register

I’ve been scraping the newly released 1939 register – sometime I’ll post how I did it. There were over 500 Micklethwait(e)s and Micklewhites to look at. I’ve now incorporated the information into my database. There were no outstanding revelations, but over 25 new pieces of information, either allowing me to work out when someone died, or who married whom. So a useful exercise.

Mysteries “Settled”

I recently found some Settlement Orders on Ancestry. These relate to the Poor Law regulations operating before 1834 when workhouses were introduced nationally. Before 1834, care of the poor was the responsibility of the parish, and there were rules about who was eligible. If you weren’t eligible, you were “removed” to the parish which was responsible for your settlement.

The one that interested me most was for Mary Micklethwaite who was to be removed from Emley to Denby in 1803. The document detailed how her husband Jonathan was serving with the 84th Regiment of Foot (who I think were in India at the time). This matches the Mary Stead who married Jonathan Micklethwaite in Huddersfield in 1801.

This solves the Micklethwaite/Stead mystery. Joseph Micklethwaite was born about 1803 but I couldn’t find a baptism. I did find that some of his descendants used the surname Stead. I then found a baptism for a Joseph Stead to Mary Stead in Emley in 1803, but I couldn’t work out how Mary was related. Now it seems likely that Mary had Joseph by an unnamed father whilst Jonathan was in the Army and Joseph was baptised with Mary’s maiden name. So Joseph’s branch of the family can be linked (by name, not by blood/DNA) to Jonathan.

A second settlement document in 1806 for Mary mentions that  she is pregnant. I had a branch for a William Micklethwaite that I hadn’t been able to progress. Now I find that there’s a birth for a William Stead to Mary Stead in Emley in 1807. It all ties together. There are 2 less unexplained branches!

Mary died in 1820, and it seems highly likely that Jonathan married Judith Inman – another mystery sorted.

Web Scraping – FreeBMD

Scraping FreeBMD is trivial. Why? Because there’s a button on the site which does just what we want. It’s labelled “Download”, and it downloads to your computer the data displayed on the screen. (it’s just to the left of the Key, under “Save Search”) One important point to make here is that there is a limit on the number of results FreeBMD will display – currently 3000, which is probably rather ambitious anyway!

For those of you in The Surname Society, Colin Spencer has made an excellent video of the process (it’s clear and concise for those, like me, who don’t really go for video tutorials – I prefer the written word, obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this!) You can find the video in the Members section of the Society’s web site – on the menu, look for Surname School videos, then scroll down to Data Extraction.

For those of you not in the Society (why not? it’s only £5!), downloading the file gives you a Tab Separated Value file (like CSV, but with Tabs not commas). You can then import this file into Excel. Colin passes it through a text editor (he and I both like Notepad++) to convert it to a CSV, but I just right-clicked on the file in the file explorer and used “Open With” to load it into Excel (I use Excel 2003 – I hope other versions work similarly). Colin also uses Notepad to remove the extra column inserted by the FreeBMD format, but that’s easy to do directly in Excel.

There’s one major point I’d add to Colin’s tutorial. The format of results changes at some point – either you’ll need to add a column to part of the resulting spreadsheet to line up before and after results (prone to errors), or search in 2 parts (recommended). For births, mother’s maiden name is added from September quarter 1911. For marriages, spouse’s surname is added from March quarter 1912. For deaths, (alleged!) age at death is added from March quarter 1866.

Marriages of course show only the spouses’ surname, and that only from 1911. To get the possible spouses before that date, and/or the spouses’ given name after that date requires a more advanced technique.

Web Scraping – what and why

I really hate transcribing stuff from one programme to another. Practically, my poor typing skills and a dodgy keyboard don’t help. Philosophically, I don’t see why I should have to type stuff from one window to another. What on earth are computers for?

With most genealogy programmes, GEDCOM can be used to transfer the basics from one programme to another. Multimedia data causes most problems, but careful batch editing and some basic scripting can solve many issues.

The biggest problem is extracting data from the web on the many online resources now available, especially the subscription sites. The conventional way is to look at the web page on the browser and re-type the data into the family history database, in my case introducing all kinds of errors on the way. What is needed is some way of getting the data off the browser and into a computer database without it being touched (or typed) by human hand. This can be done – it’s called web scraping.

There are many different ways of scraping data from the web, and also putting it back on to other web sites. I hope, in a series of posts, to share some of the ways this can be done.

A Photo Album

I recently “repatriated” a photo album to its owners who had not seen it for 36 years – for the full story, see my web page features

I’m sorry I’ve not posted much recently. My health is not as good and I don’t have the energy either for as much research or for posting. Also the Micklethwaite Family History group on Facebook has been taking up quite a bit of time and energy.