News From The Wormhole – Dec 2011

The latest news and tips from the world of genealogy and family history; and perhaps some local history.  A round-up of bits and pieces of news, together with some book recommendations, local history and TV.  If you missed last months edition then catch up here – News Nov 2011
FHS Cheshire Toolbar
Check out the free toolbar at the Family History Society of Cheshire web site, it works with Firefox, IE, Safari and Chrome.  All the links are here for exploring Cheshire and the surrounding counties, plus lots of useful UK sites and all the commercial sites.  All the links you need in one place!
Outwit Hub (Firefox add-on)
If you have been following my exploits searching for the origins of the TIMMINS surname, you will have noticed I found a web extraction tool called Outwit Hub.  Since the last post I have been reading the tutorials, they have proved really useful, enabling me to refine the way I extract data from genealogy web pages.  You often find hidden data that can be really useful.  You can try it for free from the Outwit Hub page.

British Newspaper Archive
There has already been lots of reviews on this new resource already.  However the blog post by Kirsty Wilkinson, at the Professional Descendant, is an excellent first hand experience view by a professional genealogist and worth a read.
One of my favourite newsletters is just out – LostCousins.  The author Peter Calver has been busy using the Freedom of Information Act, getting to the bottom of the GRO fiasco on the losses made by increasing the cost of BMD certificates.

Getting your ancestors into the LostCousins database is really easy and it’s confidential, I currently have for England & Wales: 1881 – 54 entries; 1841 – 48 entries; and 1911 – 39 entries.  You are not restricted just to the UK as Ireland, Canada and the United States Census’ are also supported.

Genealogy Search Sites
Dedicated search engines for genealogy research can be very useful tools filtering out adverts and unnecessary hits.  Here are two search sites that I use on a regular basis: first is the Google based search by Randy Majors – AncestorSearch using Google Custom Search Randy says:

This tool helps you build a better Google search for finding web pages mentioning your ancestors. It returns a more focused set of search results by using advanced Google search techniques including exact phrases, forward and reverse name order, alternate name spellings, logical operators, and so on. Nothing magical, just a big time-saver!

The second is Mocavo – Today they announced a premium PLUS version with an annual subscription of $79.95 which seems rather expensive if you ask me!!  I can’t comment in depth though as I have not tried it.  Dick Eastman has reviewed it in his latest EOG Newsletter.  My interest stems from the announcement on 29th Nov when Mocavo introduced a dedicated UK version of the search tool –  Initial results using the search were very encouraging, I would urge you to give it a try.  The Mocavo blog said: 

Today we’re thrilled to launch – a United Kingdom version of Mocavo that will search websites, blogs, records and content specifically from, or discussing, English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh decent.  While searches sites and blogs from around the world, and will continue to do so, will focus specifically on the United Kingdom, giving those who wish to narrow their search to that region the ability to do just that.

My wife has a far more interesting family history than I do!  On her maternal side having links to the Indian sub-continent and on the paternal side to the Brock Fireworks dynasty.  I have been assisting in the family research on both sides, but I find the Indian connection absorbing.  I am always looking for interesting articles or new avenues for research in this area.

The Families in British India Society (FIBIS) has partnered with Brightsolid to digitise many of the India Office Records for the British Library. The India Office records will be available online to users of Brightsolid’s website.  Included in the project are two million records of baptism, marriage and burials of European and Anglo-Indian persons in India. **I can’t wait**

An interesting blog post that came to my attention recently was by Anu Anand Hall at Sacred Cows.  Read about Anu tracing her Hindu ancestry with the aid of panda’s, no not the animals! 

Google+ Webinar

On 29th Nov I listened to a Dan Lynch Legacy Webinar – Take a Closer Look at Google+  If you are a genealogist and serious about Google+ you have to watch this.  Understand why completing your G+ Profile is so important.  Be quick though before this webinar becomes payable.  –Listen here —
Book of the Month – December 2011
Reared in Chester Zoo by Janice Madden   I go to Chester zoo regularly and never get bored. This book opened my eyes to the history of the site, reminding me of the times when I was a child watching the polar bears and riding on the elephant with the mahoot.

To the people of Cheshire the Mottershead family is synonymous with the world famous Chester Zoo – the pioneer of zoo’s without bars.  Reared in Chester Zoo traces the story of the development of Chester Zoo through the life of June Mottershead, younger daughter of George Mottershead, who conceived of and founded the Zoo in 1931.  Through June’s eyes and thoughts we understand how what most people at the time considered a crazy and intrusive idea, became a thriving reality.

Previous Books of the Month
November 2011 –The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers  by Cecil R. Humphery-Smith   This is an expensive book to buy, but once you have used it in a record office or local library you realise its worth to the british genealogist.  It is my book of the month for its invaluable help in understanding the parish boundaries during recent research into my family surname TIMMINS in the Dudley area of Worcestershire.

Genealogy Software

I noted over the past weeks a couple of software upgrades.  First is Louis Kessler’s Behold Genealogy program which has moved from Beta into Full Release.  You can try the program free for 45 days.  Louis is a genealogist who was unhappy with the commercial programs available, as they failed to provide data in the format he wanted, so he wrote his own!  I like the program using it as one of my secondary databases, however I guess it’s different approach will not suit everyone.

Next is RootsMagic which has moved on to Version 5.  I particularly like RootsMagic for its web building capability and the New FamilySearch support.  Again you can try the program before you buy, I would suggest this with all genealogy programs, pity there weren’t more choices when I started my research!  Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings has been putting the software through rigorous testing, so if you are interested stop over at his blog.
Family Tree Maker 2012
I mentioned this last months news, but the good news is that Amazon have now dropped the price to £29.99 – If you are looking for a Xmas present then the Platinum Edition is excellent value for money as it comes with 6 months PREMIUM membership to which would normally cost £77.  Family Tree Maker 2012 Platinum Edition (PC)
Probably my most exciting peice of news this month is that I have registered my TIMMINS surname with the Guild of One Name Studies.  I had been pondering this for some time but was gently coaxed into doing something about it by Carole Davies of STEERS ONS and  Slowly Being driven mad by the Ancestors.  Thanks Carole!

FamilySearch for TIMMINS in 1881 using Outwit Hub

In my last post on the TIMMINS surname I was left with an action to check if I could glean more information on birth locations from the FamilySearch web site, namely the 1881 census of England and Wales.  There are two possibilities for FamilySearch, either I use the old site which displays 200 entries at a time and gives a total hit of 2331 entries of the surname, or I use the new site which gives 2337 hits but only displays 20 entries at a time!I decided to use the old site as it prevented RSI by requiring fewer mouse actions.  The following two images show the data as presented firstly by FamilySearch into the Outwit Hub add-on for Firefox (this is prior to using the extraction options);  and, secondly the extracted data, exported in Excel format, then manipulated in an Excel spreadsheet.
The search was TIMMINS with exact match ticked.
Final Excel spreadsheet after a lot of data manipulation
For a better view, if you click on the images they should open in a larger window

One thing you will immediately notice is that Outwit Hub has extracted data that is not visible on screen! Cool!  Before I move on to analyse the results let’s just see how I extracted the data. The following screen image is OH (Outwit Hub) before the export.

In OH I have moved to Tables under the Data option in the left hand panel.  I have filtered by Select Row if Col3 Contains timmins.  I have unticked the Clean Text option as we want all the data.  On Page Load I have selected Catch Selection and unticked Empty.  Columns 2 and 3 contain all the data that is in the final Excel spreadsheet.  Next move back to the web page by selecting Page in the left hand panel.  Go to the bottom of each page and select Next until you reach the bottom of the data, 2331 in this case.  OH will catch all the data.  Go back to the Tables page and select Export Excel in the On Page Load panel at the far right.  You can load the exported file into Excel and manipulate it as you see fit.

I won’t go into the ways to manipulate the data as it could easily fill another lengthy blog post, and there are hundreds of different ways to do it!.  Ideally though you want to get the data in each cell into comma separated format, once you have this copy all the data into Notepad and save as a text file, then open the text file in Excel with the delimited option selected.   If you are an Excel guru then there are much more sophisticated ways to extract what you want using Functions and Visual Basic.

Before you start catching data it is a good idea to play around with Outwit Hub to see if more data is available by selecting the other options in the left hand panel.  Look at the source option and check through the page using find input field, just type in what you are looking for e.g. Timmins – this shows no results.  I tried this on a FMP page and there was additional information that did not show on screen.

Outwit Hub – If it want to try this program there is a free light version.

OutWit Hub breaks down Web pages into their different constituents. Navigating from page to page automatically, it extracts information elements and organizes them into usable collections.

 OutWit Hub Light is free and fully operational, but doesn’t include the automation features and limits the extraction to one or few hundred rows, depending on the extractor.

There are lots of on-line tutorials by the makers and users, to get the most out of the program I would recommend you give them a go.

Now back to my TIMMINS surname investigations.

Having all the data in an Excel spreadsheet has enabled statistics heaven!!  But it has also highlighted lots of errors in my original investigation using Find My Past, which goes to show that you can’t beat working with the original secondary source material, but even the LDS transcript has its anomolies.  For instance West Bromwich has been spelt 10 different ways?  The transcribers have been true to the original text but this does not help when you want to filter in or out certain data.

I noted that non of the commercial sites I tried appeared to have suitable filtering available to enable the results I wanted!

The statistics overall, albight more accurate that my first pass on FMP, still tell the same story.

Dudley Parish still appears to be the most likely place of the surname origin

Here is my data relating to the parishes within the Poor Law Union boundaries.  It is interesting to note that there were 83 entries without a precise birth place location; 74 of these at least gave a county or country; only 9 entries had no location whatsoever.

Birth Place            No   %
Dudley 269 11.97
Sedgley 157 6.98
West Bromwich 138 6.14
Tipton 113 5.03
Stourbridge 71 3.16
W Bromwich 59 2.62
Wednesbury 47 2.09
Oldbury 40 1.78
Halesowen 30 1.33
Kingswinford 29 1.29
Rowley Regis 26 1.16
Brierley Hill 17 0.76
Westbromwich 10 0.44
West Bromch 7 0.31
Brierly Hill 6 0.27
W.B. 6 0.27
Cradley 4 0.18
Oldswinford 3 0.13
W Brom 3 0.13
West Bromh 3 0.13
Lye 2 0.09
Amblecote 1 0.04
Dudley Port 1 0.04
Dudly Port 1 0.04
Quarry Bank 1 0.04
West Brom… 1 0.04
West Broml… 1 0.04
Westbromwichh 1 0.04
sub-total 1047 46.57
Total Birth Places Identified 2248
Total Surnames 2331
Blank Birth Place 83
(Blanks is where no precise birth place is given)
Blank Birth Place  No  %
Cheshire 4 0.18
Cornwall 2 0.09
Cumberland 2 0.09
Shropshire 4 0.18
Other England 3 0.13
Ireland 48 2.14
Scotland 7 0.31
United States 3 0.13
Malta 1 0.04
No birth location entered 9 0.40
Total 83 3.69
Poor Law Unions  No  %
Stourbridge 164 7.30
Dudley 567 25.22
West Bromwich 316 14.06
Conclusions & Observations so far:

– It is a shame that you can no longer download GEDCOM data from the old FamilySearch site.
– Why does the new FamilySearch not have a download facility?
– New FamilySearch needs to have 25, 50, 100, 200 items per page options (a bit like eBay).
– We need to keep the old FamilySearch 1881 Census live as it has many advantages; could they provide a new front end that enables more complex searches.
– Commercial genealogy web sites need a form of “fuzzy search” capability on some of the fields.
– Does anyone know if it is possible to buy the raw 1881 data set from LDS; one that will load into Excel or Access?
– Outwit Hub is great tool for data extraction on the web.
– TIMMINS surname origins to continue in the Dudley Parish.

Finally – If anyone wants a copy of my Excel spreadsheets, either the original data or the final cleaned and edited version, give my your email address and I will gladly send you a copy.