Monday, 2 October 2017

The joys of travel

Unexpected delights and tribulations have always been the lot of the traveller. so too has been our experience in the last two weeks of touring England and Wales as an add on to a planned family visit to our daughter, son-in-law and their delightful 18 month old.

Revisiting the Cotswolds after forty two years renewed our acquaintance with this charming area. Our travel through to North Wales reminded us of how intensely the UK is farmed and we saw a wide variety of agricultural pursuits throughout these regions. The driving on very narrow roads can be challenging but the Brits are very polite drivers and are accustomed to pulling over in the narrowest of spaces.


The rich fields of Wales support more sheep to the acre than one can ever imagine to see. The mountain area of Snowdonia and its glacial valleys were a treat to see. Somewhere in Wales with the unpronounceable name (for me) of Gwernymynydd we mananged to collect a parking fine. Wow £60, a king's ransom, despite our assiduous search for the pay and park sign. The hillsides of slate and abandoned mines in Wales are reminders of times past whereas the ubiquitous blue P, a sign of the present day, has had us digging deep for many pound coins in all the places we have visited across the UK. After a three day stay in Llandudno, from where we explored as far afield as Anglesey and Holyhead as well as the nearby beautiful National Trust Bodnant Garden  we moved to Chirk to begin our narrow boat adventure.

Bodnant Garden near Conwy, Wales

At Chirk marina we boarded our narrow boat 'Ruby' for four days. This was a novel experience and thanks to my husband's persistence and skill in manoeuvring the beast we conquered the curves, tunnels, locks and aqueducts. Our route towards Ellesmere revealed a twisty tree lined canal where we were amused by all the cows canal side, along with hundreds of ducks and sheep wandering down for a drink. Two locks conquered and rest breaks for morning tea and lunch and soon the day was gone. Passing through overhanging trees and viewing the attractive countryside from the walking pace of the boat, this was a magical experience.

One of the many bridges to be negotiated along the canal

Next day on our journey back past Chirk there was another challenging tunnel. Light on, power up against the current and through we went. Once past that we approached a swing bridge, another new experience. Once wound up and we were through, the famous aqueduct of Pontyscillite was only a short distance from there so we decide to cross and find a turning place at Trevor.

Entering the aqueduct high above the Dee River

What an experience, 38 metres high above the Dee river with a sheer drop and no fence on the left hand side approaching from this direction. I stepped off on to the walking path on the right to take photos. With a phone camera it is difficult to get perspective but the valley was far below. Across the aqueduct lies the small basin and settlement of Trevor. We had decided not to progress to Llangollen township taking into account the time it had taken us to get this far and the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. Chris threaded the boat through the narrowest of spaces and managed a five point turn. This led us back to the aqueduct where two boats were slowly progressing towards us. The rain was now steady as we recrossed in the other direction. No photos this time as the weather closed in. The narrow canals near the aqueduct provide no mooring space so about half an hour later we were relieved to tie up for the night. The next morning dawned sunny and bright so we walked back and crossed the aqueduct again, this time on foot and we marvelled once again at this amazing engineering wonder. On Friday morning we returned the boat well before the 9 am deadline and left the marina to head north.

'Ruby' our home away from home for 4 nights

We arrived in Chester to once again be charmed by its buildings and general ambience and set out in somewhat drizzly weather to explore. Chester boasts a magnificent collection of 'black and white' buildings incorporating 'the rows' where the covered walkway is above street level with shops below. After enjoying a croissant and coffee we visited the ancient but well endowed cathedral where modern sculpture was on display in the enclosed cloisters and side passageways.

At the corner of Bridge Street and Eastgate Street, Chester

Next to Liverpool where we marvelled at the size of the municipal and civic buildings from earlier times. Walked down to the pier area where we saw and photographed the famous Royal Liver building and next to it the huge square block of the Cunard headquarters. More than 9 million British and Irish immigrants left for the USA, Canada and Australia from the port here. A sculpture of a family of immigrants commemorates their departure. The history of the Cunard line is engraved on large stone tablets near the front of that building. 

The size of many of Liverpool's buildings reminded me of the immense buildings in both Washington and Delhi. St. George's Hall is a huge structure atop the hill, incorporating concert halls and courts. Nearby are the museum and library. The walkway leading into the library has book titles and authors' names engraved into large pavers. There are many signs of renovation and renewal in the city centre.

The Royal Liver building

Onwards to Blackpool in heavy Friday afternoon motorway traffic. Loathe it or like it, it is a cultural phenomenon like no other. The old central pier stretches well out to sea and is crowded with sideshow alley stalls and rides. Pinball parlours are prominent and the whole length of the promenade must be the world's longest sideshow. After dark the Blackpool tower flashes its neon glow as thousands of people crowd the pavements. About thirty Cinderella style carriages await passengers to transport them in their blue, pink or white glass bubbles along the length of the promenade and back. It was a cold windy night but thousands were out with children twirling every imaginable shape of neon lit baubles. 

I write now from the comfort of Toll Cottage in Cockermouth where we arrived yesterday after a day touring some villages of the Lakes District and venturing over the Cumbrian hills. Until now we've had relatively good weather and will venture out again tomorrow after a day of rest and recuperation, essential for the traveller.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Newspapers: a family album of stories

National Family History Month in Australia

Around the country events are underway once more for National Family History Month.  Noosa Library Service has four events to celebrate NFHM starting today with Newspapers: a family album of stories.

A wealth of family related material is available through newspapers of the past and the rapid digitisation undertaken by organisations, libraries and other authorities provides unprecedented access online. Here's a limited list and some search tips for investigating those resources.

Today's presentation is available to view from this link.

In newspapers of the times one can expect to find family notices, obituaries, details of social occasions, sports teams, memberships of organisations and churches, advertisements, businesses, awards, letters, shipping news, real estate, wills and probate notices, scandal, criminal and divorce proceedings, accidents, photos and more. These pictures of everyday life and situations enrich our family history.


At the top of my list is Trove the National Library of Australia's fabulous free compilation. Use the free login to keep track of your research.

  • Make Lists - public or private, public lists are searchable, allow you to connect with others, share URL Lists for families, people, places, interests – can add related web pages to lists e.g. blog post or other research
  • Check for lists when searching
  • Add tags –  these can be public or private, single or multiple word

PapersPast provides an excellent starting point for New Zealand  and related areas research.
Ryerson index -  index to death notices appearing in current Australian newspapers and includes some funeral notices, probate notices and obituaries

A variety of other top sites

If you are an Australian resident be sure to obtain your free National Library card to gain access to the National Library of Australia eresources –   then browse by Category>Newspapers and Media>Newspapers (O’seas) for these collections
  • British Library newspapers - 17-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers and British Library Newspapers (parts I - V). The time period covered by these combined collections is 1600-1950.
  • Times digital archive – 1785-2011 
  • The Telegraph Historical Archive 1855-2000  over 1 million pages of content and includes the Sunday edition from its inception in 1961.
  • The Sunday Times Digital archive 1822-2006 - Early issues contained colourful information on murders, mysteries, theatre, sport and politics
  • The Illustrated London News Historical Archive - complete access to every issue of this illustrated newspaper for a period of 160 years
  • Irish newspaper archive  -Dates from 1763 to the present and includes a mix of out of print titles and current titles, providing word-searchable access to articles or full pages
With  your State Library of Queensland login visit the eresources
At Search databases choose News>Australia and New Zealand
  • The SMH archives - 820,000 pages  Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald,  1955 - February 2nd, 1995  All articles, captions and advertisements are fully keyword searchable  Search birth, death and marriage notices
  • The Age 2006 -2017 toggle for current issues of SMH 2006 - 2017
British Newspaper Archives $ site – also available through FindMyPast 
List of titles available  Register for 3 free views
The London Gazette, Edinburgh Gazette and Belfast Gazette  - Free 350 years good for appointments, obituaries
No longer being updated but still useful to find free Historical European newspapers 
Wikipedia List of Online newspaper archives
Family Search Wiki Digital historical newspapers
Library of Congress - Chronicling America  free site 

Learn more

Shelley at Twigs of Yore has published a useful Trove helper.
Barbara Kernos has published a free ebook Getting the most out of Trove
Kenneth Marks at Ancestor Hunter has written extensively  and provided tutorials about searching newspapers.

YouTube channels

View a variety of channels to pick up the best tips from the experts.
Enjoy National Family History month and search those newspapers for your families

Book for the next three sessions detailed below

A Brief Introduction to Family History Research

Learn what’s online, useful books to read, the benefits of joining genealogy and family history societies, and how to record and organise your research. Presented by Shauna Hicks.

Noosaville 10-11am Tuesday 15 August. Free. Bookings required. Book here.

Court Records for Family and Local History

Discover the treasures that family and local historians can find in court records including those created by the Supreme Court, Court of Petty Sessions, Licensing Court, Small Debts Court, Coroner’s Court, District Court, Circuit Court, Children’s Court. Presented by Judy Webster.

Cooroy 1-3pm Thursday 24 August Free. Bookings required. Book here

Writing Your Family History

Do you want to share the family stories you’ve found in researching your family tree? This presenatation will help with what to consider before you start developing a plan. Presented by Pauleen Cass.

Noosaville 1-3pm Wednesday 30 August Free. Bookings required. Book here.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

How to find and manipulate Google news archive information

As a family historian I aim to find as many records as possible for individuals. It is not always possible to visit repositories where copies of required articles are held or indeed to find them online.

I had located a death date for a Thomas Joseph Horgan on 8 December 1975 through the Ryerson Index. I searched in the Sydney Morning Herald archives narrowing by date for the notice but without success.  However I am aware that there a quite a few editions of this paper in the Google News Archive as I have used it several times to obtain information about other relatives.

Here’s the process I follow to locate and then transform an image into something useful. The Google news archive search function is usually not specific enough to locate particular information needed.

1. Select Sydney Morning Herald from the list of newspapers.

2. Enter the the month and year, this seems to be the most efficient method of getting to the required edition. An exact date sometimes only takes one to a near month.
The search bars in Google News Archive

3. Select the edition required – in this case I was interested in December 9

Individual editions detail - Google news archive

I then scrolled through the pages until I came to the page with the Death Notices. Oh no! the scanning had been done as a mirror image! No quality control applied....

Several pages in this issue had been scanned in reverse

4. I clipped the two notices and saved the image. [N.B. in most cases one can click on the headline to get a link to the section where the notice is published but this was not possible with the reversed image]

5. Open photo editing software. I used Photoshop but this can be done in most robust photo editors such as the free IrfanView or free online Pixlr editor Use Flip Image then rotate to make the text legible. I added some pixels to the canvas size and included the citation on the bottom of the image obtained.

6. The final product – blurry but legible

Clipped notices with citation added

7. Before adding this to my family history database I opened the image in Google Keep and used Grab the image text. This minimises the amount of typing I need to do but gives me plenty of exposure to analysing the text as as I look for the errors that may need correction.

Image in Google Keep - Grab image text
Transcription of notices – with Google’s help.

HORGAN Thomas Joseph.
December 8, 1975 at hospital of Glebe, dearly loved brother of Agnes (Mrs Daly)
and Mary, dear friend of Rheta. Requiescat in pace.
See Wednesday's Herald for funeral announcement.
HORGAN. Thomas Joseph.
December 8. 1975 devoted friend of all at Mount St. Margaret's
Little Sisters of the Poor, Randwick.

1975 Deaths, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December, p.30 online in Google news archive,
viewed 15 June 2017.

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