Today at the BIFHSGO Conference

12:00 – 13:30      Seeking the Primrose Girls, 50 Irish immigrants to Canada from a Small Galway Town
with Martin Curley

Martin will describe The Mountbellew Orphan Girls Project—the Primrose Girls, which is research on a group of workhouse orphan girls who were sent to Canada from Mountbellew, Co. Galway, as part of an assisted emigration scheme. On 16 July 1853, they sailed on the Primrose from Limerick, Ireland to Quebec, Canada, arriving on the 6th of September. The girls’ passage was paid for by the Workhouse Board of Guardians as part of the same scheme which earlier had sent girls to Australia. In Quebec they were taken in charge by the Emigration Agent at the port, A.C. Buchanan, and sent to Toronto and Hamilton, where immediate employment opportunities were available. Through DNA and research the researchers are hoping to reconnect the girls to their families with whom contact was lost 170 years ago.

14:00 – 15:30      Finding the Poor and Destitute Irish
with Brian Donovan

Poor relief, dispensed by the church, the state or private charities, was available in Ireland at almost all time periods. The poor relief records have left information about millions of impoverished people from all over the country. Often these records date from before the Great Famine (1845–52) with information unavailable anywhere else. Given that the poor Irish were the most likely to migrate to America, these records are an essential resource for Irish research, and Brian will explain how best to get the benefit of their information.

16:00 – 17:30      Hunting Through Matches
with Mia Bennett

In this talk, Mia aims to help you identify who your DNA matches are and hence where they fit within your family tree. Often people are faced with just a list of names and no idea how to make them useful in expanding their family tree. Mia will present various hints, tips, tools and techniques to help make each match useful. The talk will cover many aspects: known people; tools to identify common ancestors; approaching a new match; grouping matches; dealing with matches where only limited information is provided; identifying overlapping trees; building quick and dirty trees; searching for surnames and places; and keeping records. Mia will also explain potential pitfalls of some of the tools and techniques. The talk assumes that the audience is familiar with traditional family history research.

Sunday Sundries

Miscellaneous items I found of interest during the week.

Jigsaw: Animal Farm

Gresham College Lectures
A new season of lectures has started online with something for everyone.

Debrett’s goes digital
Nobility in the family history? Me neither! For 0.2% of the British population since 1769 there’s Debrett’s Peerage & Baronetage.

A Dataset of Cryptic Crossword Clues

This past week Ancestry updated eight of their Netherlands databases.

That Moment in Time
If this Sunday’s list looks a bit thin take a look at Crissouli’s weekly compilation.

Thanks to this week’s contributors. Anonymous, Basil Adam, Dena, Donna, Hugh Reekie, KAYTHEGARDENER, Maureen, Nancy Frey, Penny, rob bennie, Sheila, Teresa, Unknown.

Today at the BIFHSGO Conference

10:00 – 11:30     Exhibitor Connect

An opportunity for participants can visit breakout rooms hosted by conference exhibitors to learn more about their products and services.

12:00 – 13:30      Church and State: Ireland’s Vital Records
 with Chris Paton

In this session Chris will explore how to locate ancestors in Ireland using the civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths from 1845 and 1864 onwards, both online and in Ireland itself, as held at both the GROI in Roscommon and the GRONI in Belfast. It will examine what the records contain, how they may assist with research, and how they may be located online and offline via the platforms of the respective General Register Offices and government platforms, north and south. Chris will then look at the various church denominations in Ireland, how they were structured, and the types of records they kept. He will explain how to locate surviving material, to equally identify what has not survived (and why), and to understand where Protestant and Catholic Ireland occasionally overlapped, with the role of the Church of Ireland as the state church.

14:00 – 15:30      Forgotten Women: Researching the Marginalised Women on your Family Tree
with Janet Few

Even without meaning to, family historians often focus on the men on their family tree. It is usually the men who carry on the surname, who join the armed forces and who are more likely to write wills, to vote or to rent property, thereby leaving a trail in the documentary record. Merely by virtue of her gender, a female ancestor can become overlooked, and some women are even further on the margins than others. If we, as genealogists, do not research their lives and preserve their memories, who will? In this presentation Janet will use a series of case studies to describe the sources available to research the women who spent time in workhouses or asylums, the mothers of illegitimate children, prostitutes and those accused of witchcraft, amongst others.

16:00 – 17:30      The Irish DNA Atlas Project
with Edmund Gilbert

The extent of population structure within Ireland is largely unknown, as is the impact of historical migrations. Dr. Gilbert participated in a study of the Irish DNA Atlas, a dataset about a DNA cohort of individuals with four generations of ancestry linked to specific regions in Ireland. In this talk Dr. Gilbert will present the results of analyzing the genetic profiles of such individuals together with their genealogical profiles—revealing the relationship between Irish genetics and history along with the insights the researchers gained into both subjects.

More Norfolk parish records from TheGenealogist

The following is a press release from TheGenealogist.

TheGenealogist has significantly increased their Norfolk Parish Records coverage by releasing 1,445,523 new individuals into their growing Parish Record Collection. These records, which are released in association with the Norfolk Record Office, are fully searchable and transcribed while also being linked to high-quality images making them an extremely valuable resource for researchers of this eastern part of England.

This latest addition brings the total number of individuals in the parish records for Norfolk on TheGenealogist to over 12 million. These new parish records are available as part of the Diamond Subscription at TheGenealogist and allows family historians to find the names of forebears, their parents’ forenames, the father’s occupation (where noted), and the parish that the event had taken place within. Parish records can cover from the mid 16th century up to much more recent times, as TheGenealogist’s latest feature article discovers when it finds Royals sandwiched on the Parish Register page between Carpenters and Production Operatives.

Researching the Seams

Here’s a niche interest opportunity for anyone with a connection to coal mining in Derbyshire or Warwickshire. It’s about the kind of obscure social history resource increasingly coming online that you can mine for family history gold.

Findmypast’s largest release of the year

This release adds 32 million names and 14 million addresses to England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1910-1932. The collection total is now 137,849,651 names which make it FMP’s largest British and second largest worldwide after United States Marriages. It’s a great way to fill in between the 1911 census and 1939 register, pending the arrival of the 1921 census next year.

Most of the records are for England. Despite the title, there are none for Wales, and, surprise, there are nearly 700,000 records for West Lothian (Linlithgowshire), Scotland.

Also for Scotland, FMP has added thousands of memorial inscriptions bringing the collection total to 1,174,769.


Register of Qualified Genealogists conference

If you plan on attending Saturday’s BIFHSGO conference and are game for a marathon there’s a whole other free event opportunity with only a small overlap. It’s the UK Register of Qualified Genealogists Conference programme 2021: Genealogy and Social History: Know your Ancestors

The keynote talks are:

At 5:45 am ET: Finding your ancestors at home: researching the history of houses, by Melanie Backe-Hansen, a historian specializing in house histories who was involved in the recent BBC programmes ‘A house through time’

At 8;25 am ET: Researching your criminal ancestors, by Helen Johnston, Professor of Criminology at the University of Hull and Professor Heather Shore, Professor of History, Manchester Metropolitan University

At 11:40 am ET: “Lying Bastards”: the impact of illegitimacy on the records that our ancestors leave behind, by David Annal, a professional researcher with over 40 years’ experience. He is a former Principal Family History Specialist with the National Archives.

There are also several shorter presentations:

What genealogists and social historians can learn from each other by Caroline Gurney
Business histories: putting our ancestors into their commercial communities by Elizabeth Walne
Who was Kastian Richardson? From family story to theatrical social history by Diana Nicoll
Dusting and Digging: The work of women, 1796-1829 by Valerie Brenton
Life of the Early Victorian Deaf and Dumb (A Yorkshire Study) by Anne Sherman
Hidden history: Tales of everyday life in Newspaper Advertisements by Audrey Collins
Jilted! Or the insights offered in breach of contract of marriage cases by Kate Keter.

Find out more and register (free) at

Disturbing development at Library and Archives Canada

Front and centre on its website is the statement that “Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a key resource for all Canadians who wish to gain a better understanding of who they are, individually and collectively. LAC acquires, processes, preserves and provides access to our documentary heritage and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.”

So how would you react if you heard that LAC was considering stopping all public circulation of archival materials for 2-3 years? Incredulous? 

I’m hearing that, with the exception of emergencies and ATIP formal requests, this closure is under consideration.

Over many years, through moves, ice storms and floods (remember water flowing into the lower levels at 395 Wellington) LAC maintained service with the briefest of interruption. Now there are already extraordinary delays in fulfilling ATIP orders, well beyond legislated deadlines.  Delays are even longer for regular requests.

If true, and you won’t yet find any hint of the development from official LAC sources, who would such cuts impact? Historians of all types, researchers and writers — professionals, academics, and students as well as individuals looking to explore their ancestry. People who make their living based on LAC resources would be cut off from their livelihood for lack of authoritative sources for books, magazines, journal articles, and media of all types as well as access to historical materials that need to be consulted for developments. Cuts would be contrary to LAC’s declared intention in its Indigenous Heritage Action Plan to improve access to Indigenous-specific records.

It’s hard to believe that such action is even being contemplated, but my sources are credible enough to warrant raising concern.  If this is being considered LAC, as a key resource for all Canadians, must consult so that the full impact of such unprecedented action to deny providing access to our documentary heritage is understood by all, LAC and its clients, allowing time for appropriate response.

Stay tuned.


Despite a recent comment, I can confirm through another source that the restriction is, or maybe was at this stage, being considered. I make no apology for alerting the community to this news as in government, once a decision is made it’s very difficult to reverse. Even contemplating such an action, which is bound to leak, with consequences on those for whose livelihood depends on the use of LAC resources, causes stress. Let’s hope the notion is buried as deeply as nuclear waste in the Canadian shield.

Book Announcement: Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records

A shout-out and congratulations to Chris Paton who has just had his latest book released by Pen and Sword. He mentions it’s the 20th he’s published in a decade.

Here’s the back cover blurb!

The history of Ireland is one that was long dominated by the question of land ownership, with complex and often distressing tales over the centuries of dispossession and colonisation, religious tensions, absentee landlordism, subsistence farming, and considerably more to sadden the heart. Yet with the destruction of much of Ireland’s historic record during the Irish Civil War, and with the discriminatory Penal Laws in place in earlier times, it is often within land records that we can find evidence of our ancestors’ existence, in some cases the only evidence, where the relevant vital records for an area may never have been kept or may not have survived.

In Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records, genealogist and best-selling author Chris Paton explores how the surviving records can help with our ancestral research, but also tell the stories of the communities from within which our ancestors emerged. He explores the often controversial history of ownership of land across the island, the rights granted to those who held estates and the plights of the dispossessed, and identifies the various surviving records which can help to tease out the stories of many of Ireland’s forgotten generations.

Along the way, Chris Paton identifies the various ways to access the records, whether in Ireland’s many archives, local and national, and increasingly through a variety of online platforms.

Find out more from a post on The Scottish GENES blog.

A reminder that Chris is presenting at noon on Saturday during the BIFHSGO Conference.


Niagara Falls (NY) newspaper digitization

The Niagara Falls Library (NY)  has announced the completion of the digitization of the Niagara Gazette from May 1854 to February 1916.

For researchers, this project allows for greater access to Niagara Falls historical information from that time period. Access to digitized files is free and available online to all users, regardless of location.

Although the paper was published on the US side there’s a lot of Canadian news, even a column titled News From Canada.

The quality of the original is often not good so expect OCR errors.

The completed digital collection is available on NYS Historic Newspapers (

PDF to HTML converter

For some while, I’ve been suggesting making back issues of Anglo-Celtic Roots, BIFHSGO’s quarterly chronicle, full text searchable as a corpus. You can do that on individual issues posted on the BIFHSGO website as pdfs, but not across the whole collection. If you remember something mentioned in an article, but can’t recall the issue it’s a hard slog finding what you recall.

When I mentioned this in reviewing the new BIFHSGO website I received a pointed email from a Director about the need for volunteers.

I thought I might have a workaround to make the search possible. Paper to HTML Converter is “an experimental prototype that aims to render scientific papers in HTML so they can be more easily read by screen readers or on mobile devices. Because of our reliance on statistical machine learning techniques, some errors are inevitable. ”

To try it I downloaded an issue to my computer desktop and submitted it. A minute or so later I got the message “The page isn’t working.” Trying a second earlier issue broke the system.

It isn’t surprising, the system was designed for individual scientific papers, not whole issues. This does show it’s an area of active research.

Suggestions for other (affordable) approaches that would enhance the functionality of the back issues of ACR would be welcome via a comment.

Today at the BIFHSGO Conference

14:00 – 15:30     Exhibitor Connect          

An opportunity for participants to visit breakout rooms hosted by conference exhibitors to learn more about their products and services.

16:00 – 17:30      Rentals as a Source for Irish Family History
with Dr. Jim Ryan

Rentals are the records kept by landlords or their agents; they may include information on tenants’ names, rental income and payments, property, and dates, though they are hugely variable in their format. They exist from the 1600s to the 1900s and are important in Ireland, where land ownership was legally and economically restricted and tenancy was the norm for the vast majority. This talk will review the history, formats and availability of surviving rentals and what they offer as family history sources. Jim will outline the historical reasons for most land-occupiers being tenants; the 300-year evolution of the estate system and of landlord-tenant relations, along with their effects on the nature and survival of rental records; the nature and range of rentals, their formats and content; and where they are to be found. The talk is fully illustrated with examples of records and their content, along with the consequent difficulties presented for scanning and on- line availability.

18:00 – 19:30      The Secret Lives of Women: Research Female Ancestors Using the Sources They Left Behind
with Gena Philibert-Ortega

Why is finding a female ancestor so difficult? One reason is the way we research their lives. Successful research must combine familiar genealogical sources and sources that women left behind. In this lecture we look at the women-specific sources including signature quilts, community cookbooks, and diaries.

20:00 – 21:30      Jumping the Pond to Northern Ireland
with Mags Gaulden

Genealogy and genetic genealogy can team up to help a family discover its way to Ireland; not an easy feat when the family believes itself to be Scottish, having lost the knowledge of its origins. Follow along as Mags, using this case study, reveals how discoveries turned a North American family’s beliefs into an exceptionally large leap onto a small Northern Irish peninsula in the Irish Sea. Ireland is a place where records have burned and insights are hard to come by. But recent discoveries, using DNA and DNA group projects, have focused the research and placed the family’s origins across the pond and squarely on a specific point in Northern Ireland. Mags will explain how answers to genealogy questions in the face of the lack of available documentation can identify specific locations. Jumping the pond is possible.