Reviewing books is much easier than writing about the Internet. A published book is a finished item and is unchangeable. Websites, however, change all the time, and although a major redesign can mean a re-launch with lots of publicity, sometimes the changes are more subtle and incremental. Changes can also mean the addition of new information, a way of making it easier to retrieve or understand information, or a new charging system. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to recognise changes, and to remember what something was like previously, but here are two examples that I found recently.
Ancestry have changed the format of their results page on the census lookup, and have added a new column. This lists the other members of the household, and is a great help in discriminating between two people with the same name. They have also made it simpler to make corrections where a name has been transcribed wrongly, or even where the original is wrong. Ancestry has also started to sell vouchers, although I have been unable to find out how much they cost. Ancestry is at www.ancestry.co.uk
The second example comes from A2A, Access to Archives. This free site contains the catalogues of archives, record offices and libraries and it is developing and expanding all the time. Some of the records are indexed in great detail, so that it is possible to retrieve references to individuals. My great-grandmother Harriet Parsons was born in Winchelsea, East Sussex, and lived in the area all her life. Her father was born there and her grandfather was married there. I assumed that the family was local. However, A2A lists a settlement document in East Sussex Record Office referring to her grandfather’s birthplace being Stalbridge in Dorset, and another indicating that his wife’s origins are Calne in Wiltshire. It took a bit of digging around to find these documents, but I found that searching for a particular name in a specific archive, and then scanning the results, can lead to successful. A2A can be found at http://www.a2a.org.uk/ .
RootsUK is a new website from S & N Genealogy Supplies. This is a pay-per-view site, and £5 buys 100 credits, although the price per credit reduces the more you buy. Initial searches are free, but viewing a census transcription or image costs 5 credits. The site includes census transcriptions, birth marriage and death records, and the 2005 London Electoral Roll. Searching the site is simple, but it is only possible to do a free search on a forename and surname in the census, for example, so you may be faced with a long list of names with ages and occupations within a county, but not the village or town where they were living. Images are in Adobe Acrobat format and very clear. I am not able to comment on the standard of indexing, since I only checked a small number of names. The main drawback is that they have only transcribed some of the census, so what you need may not be there. The 1901 census would appear to use the same database as that originally done for The National Archives and now available from Genes Reunited. I have always found the various websites of S & N Genealogy confusing, but RootsUK seems more straightforward. It can be found at http://www.rootsuk.com/ .
The Family Relatives website now has an increased amount of information available, and some of it is free. The new U.K. information mainly consists of deaths in service in the First and Second World Wars, including Soldiers Who Died in the Great War 1914-1921, and that is charged for. There is some free information from the United States, including Second World War records and the Social Security Death Index. There are free British records for births marriages and deaths abroad, and of passengers arriving at New York during the Irish Famine. There are also said to be some parish records, but I was unable to find any relevant ancestor marriages in Hawkesbury despite my family living there for three hundred years. A problem with the FamilyRelatives and some other websites is that it is not always clear exactly what resources are available. One is simply invited to submit a name and date, and a nil return may just mean that the particular parish or time period are not included. FamilyRelatives, which can be found at www.familyrelatives.org, has some useful data, but it needs to be used with care.
An interest in family history can take you in many different directions. For example, it is now possible to buy online aerial photographs of many parts of the United Kingdom. The website of UK Aerial Photos at http://www.ukaerialphotos.com/home.asp has all the details, but I would warn you that these photos are not cheap. Not all parts of the country are covered, and there appear to be no historic photographs of the Bristol area, only modern ones, but I had no problem identifying an aerial photo of my home. Looking at the site costs nothing.
Another source of images is the British Library, and their site of Images Online can be found at http://www.imagesonline.bl.uk/britishlibrary/controller/home . I came across this site when looking for material on Camerton, so the range of subjects covered is wide. Many of the images are photographs or old prints. This is another site whose purpose is to sell images, but you can look at them for free, and there is plenty of interest.
Over the years, I have mentioned various websites about particular localities in our area. This next one is for the Hundred of Frome, which is just outside the Society’s area but may be of interest to some readers. It has no obvious name, but can be found at http://www.gomezsmart.free-online.co.uk/. The website includes transcriptions of parish registers, information about families and individuals, facts about local industries and many other files of interest to family historians.