Monday, November 19, 2012

Irish American Weekly

Did you know that Irish deaths and marriages were routinely published in the pages of the Irish American Weekly (published in New York)?  The paper was published from 1849 to 1911 and this historical Irish newspaper is a great genealogical resource to find obituaries and marriages that occurred in Ireland and around the world during the time of its publication. The Irish American weekly made a diligent effort to find, document and publish these family records in Ireland and printed them in the pages of their New York city newspaper. It is now available online for searching.

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Tip: use colour

This is a great tip when compiling your family history – use colour to as a means to organise your information. It may seem obvious to some, but we use colour a lot in our everyday lives without thinking about it. Green for go, red for stop, yellow/orange for warnings. So why don’t we use colour when doing family history?
When you create charts and forms for your personal use, you can incorporate colour to help you organise your information. When you are sure of the information, write it in black, however have your tried to colour your assumptions or references to some members of your family tree. Perhaps if you are still checking references they should be in orange, or if you doubt the authenticity of your information, maybe they should be in red. You may prefer to highlight some aspects of your family tree or put all those related to a particular ancestor in blue.
Whatever colours you choose, they will help make things stand out, highlight key details and generally make your information easier to analyse and understand.


Monday, November 12, 2012

New Boer War Records

250,000 new Boer War records have been added to the Forces War Records database. These records contain data about members of the British and Commonwealth Forces who were issued campaign or gallantry medals during the second Anglo Boer War 1899-1902.
The Boer Wars in South Africa resulted from over a century of conflict between the British Empire and the Boers or farmers. Large numbers of British armed forces were engaged first in open warfare, and subsequently in a long and bitter guerrilla campaign which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902.
British military service records show high losses, with more than half caused by illness, especially typhoid fever, rather than enemy action. 22,000 British soldiers were killed, of which 35% died in battle, and the remaining 65% from disease. 78 Victoria Cross war medals were awarded to British and colonial soldiers for action during the Second Boer War.
Forces War Records is the definitive location for military genealogy records online. The database includes records from WW2, WW1, the Boer War, the Crimean War and beyond. It is the only online database with over 2.7 million military records of British Armed Forces personnel exclusively cross matched with over 4000 Regiments, Bases and Ships of the British Armed Forces going back to before 1350.

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England Jurisdictions 1851

English Jurisdictions 1851

is a free mapping and research tool created by FamilySearch
and available at The Geographic Information System (GIS) visually displays parish maps of the 40 counties in England (not Wales, Scotland or Ireland, unfortunately) in Google Maps, accessible either by selecting a location on the map, or searching for a jurisdiction of interest. This isn't just a map, however -- it also simplifies research by consolidating data from many finding aids into a single searchable repository. More information about the sources that went into building this GIS can be found under the "Works Referenced" and "Glossary" tabs on the Help page.
England Jurisdictions 1851 is easy to use and there are instructions about using the resource should you have problems. Just double-click to zoom in on the physical map or use the search box to find your location of interest. If you are unable to locate a specific place of interest, then search for the next largest jurisdiction (city or county) and then select your parish or other location from the location list in the left-hand column. Zooming in and out on the map takes you from a general view of counties in England to a close-up view of parishes in a county.
Once you have narrowed your search, selecting a jurisdiction will bring up an information box, with details such as what type the place is (ancient parish, chapelry, ecclesiastical parish, etc.), plus the earliest available date of extant parish registers and/or Bishops' transcripts. Non-Church of England denominations in that locality are also identified. Selecting the Jurisdictions tab brings up a list of record-creating jurisdictions which have encompassed that specific locality (civil registration district, probate court, diocese, poor law union, hundred, etc.), important for locating records not kept at the parish level.
You can follow your relatives all over England using this tool.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Family Coats of Arms

 Do you have an avid genealogist in your family? Are you thinking of a suitable Christmas present? Then do not be misled by advertising for Family Coats of Arms – these are a waste of money.
Just before Christmas is a time you are likely to come across numerous advertisements for Coasts of Arms or family trees. Most of these are fictional.
Coats of arms are part of heraldry - the study of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol. The College of Arms, founded by King Richard III in 1485, is the official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families and their descendants. (see
According to the College ‘There is no such thing as a 'coat of arms for a surname'. Many people of the same surname will often be entitled to completely different coats of arms, and many of that surname will be entitled to no coat of arms. Coats of arms belong to individuals. For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past.’
Any Irish person or anyone of Irish descent (with some restrictions) or any Irish corporation and a few other organizations in Ireland may apply for a coat of arms, as explained at However, nobody is authorized to use or to display an Irish coat of arms without having received written permission from the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland. If you don't have written permission (called a grant of arms), it isn't your coat of arms! It certainly is not your family's coat of arms either. Basically there is no such thing as a family coat of arms.
Coats of arms were designed for use in battle. If you can imagine wearing a full suit of armour, complete with a helmet with tiny eye slits for vision, the combatants had a difficult time differentiating friend from foe. As a visual aid, the knights and a few other combatants started wearing brightly painted designs on their shields and elsewhere, designs that were known to their fellow combatants. The intent was to help their fellow combatants distinguish friends from foe. The brightly coloured insignia was used on shields, on clothing, and on horse dressings.
If the knight had a close relative in battle as a combatant, such as his son, a brother, a nephew, or other relative, that relative never wore the same insignia as the first knight. In battle, sons never wore the same insignia as their fathers. Each had his own insignia and colours.
The only time that the same coat of arms can be used by more than one person is when the eldest is dead. At that point, the direct heir (typically his oldest son) can petition for the right to bear the same arms that were used by the deceased.
In the case of multiple sons, or when the father was still alive, all the sons could use SIMILAR coats of arms as their father but always added their own variations to the design. Each son created his own variations. These variations are called "cadency" and the son's insignia is referred to as "cadet coat of arms." When the father died, the oldest son removed his personal cadency, reverting the coat of arms back to his father's original design. The other sons kept their cadet coat of arms; they never used the father's original design.
A coat of arms is similar to an individual's signature and was used as seals on official documents.
Another requirement has been in effect since the 15th century and still applies today: the person who wishes to display a coat of arms must first register the design in a central clearinghouse and obtain permission to display it. Registration was required in the 15th century, and it is still expected today. If you are displaying a coat of arms without written permission, you are guilty of an impolite form of forgery. In the U.S., you won't get arrested for doing so because the U.S. has no laws concerning display of forged coats of arms. Such laws do exist on the books in England and in many other countries, although they are ancient laws and are rarely enforced.
For coats of arms granted in Scotland, visit the Court of the Lord Lyon (
Canada has its own heraldic office, the Canadian Heraldic Authority (, operating under authority of the Governor General of Canada. The rules for applying for a coat of arms are slightly different in Canada. Contact the Canadian Heraldic Authority for details.

You may also like to check out:
· Genealogy Hoaxes, Fake Coat-of-Arms and Scams:
· Cyndi's List: Myths, Hoaxes & Scams » Common Genealogical Myths » Myth: Family crest or coat of arms:
· The Society of Genealogists (in England): The right to arms:
· Bagnall Village:
· A Panorama-style investigation into bucket-shop heraldry:
· If you would like to obtain a legitimate coat of arms, a good start is to read the article by Halvor Moorshead at Halvor did obtain a valid grant of arms from the Canadian government.

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