A WWI soldier’s death is explained

Otha's letter to Percy

Otha’s letter to his brother Percy

Otha Everleigh Bassett was killed in action in France on 3 July 1916. He had written home a couple of weeks before, telling his family about life on the battle front and comparing what he saw of the countryside with his experience as a farmer back in Condobolin in western New South Wales. That letter was published in the local newspaper, and was transcribed last year, on the 100th anniversary of his death.

The words ‘killed in action’ are a very broad description, and must have been heartbreaking for the family back home, trying to imagine what had happened to their son or brother or husband.

The Australian War Memorial has the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau reports for soldiers killed or wounded, which can be searched by name along with other records of military personnel. There is no report for Otha, another disappointment for his family, who must have been waiting for official word of what had happened.

We are more fortunate in that we can access less official records. Percy Ellesmere Smythe was writing a diary during the same events, and his diary has been transcribed and published online and donated to the Australian War Memorial. He had first-hand knowledge of the events of that night. He wrote the night before:

July 2 1916

After tea we got our wire ready. Can’t do much tonight, as a bombardment starts soon after midnight, and we have to be in by 12. There is to be a raid from the 52nd Battalion’s lines. They are immediately on our right, and it will be pretty lively here. All parties have received orders to be in by midnight.

The next night he wrote again:

July 3 1916

… Heard that B Co’s wiring party and patrol were not warned about the bombardment, and consequently were out in front all the time, suffering many casualties. It was a terrible blunder on somebody’s part, and those men were simply murdered through carelessness. …

Coming back we learned more particulars of B Co’s. terrible blunder. Poor old Tiny Bassett was one of the victims. He and Ireland, who were in the wiring party, were blown up by the one shell. They were both killed instantly. A young fellow named Green who was out got tangled in the barbed wire, and while struggling there was fairly riddled with bullets. Frost was also out, and got three machinegun bullets in the hip. Roach told me he was to have gone out, but being ill, was exempted.

Otha died of ‘friendly fire’ through a lack of effective communication. Perhaps it’s just as well that his family wasn’t informed of the details.

Percy’s diary covers the period from his enlistment in 1915 to his discharge and return home in 1919. His diary was transcribed by his daughter, Betty, and has been made available online. It’s well worth a read, and I am grateful to the Smythe family for making it available.

 

A WWI soldier’s letter from France

Today (3 July 2016) marks 100 years since the death in France of Otha Everleigh Bassett, Keith’s great-uncle. Otha was a country lad, a share farmer from Condobolin in the very centre of New South Wales; he was 5 feet 11 inches tall with a dark complexion, grey eyes and black hair.

When he enlisted in Condobolin on 11 May 1915 he was 24 years and 7 months, and gave his father Alfred Bassett as his next of kin. He was shipped out of Sydney on the Orsova on 14 July 1915, and ‘taken on strength’ on 5 September 1915, joining a composite company attached to the 9th Battalion in Gallipoli as a temporary Corporal before joining the 3rd Battalion. After the evacuation from Gallipoli and training in Egypt he was sent to France in late March 1916.

On 16 June 1916 he wrote a letter home from France to his brother Percy in Condobolin, just over two weeks before his death. The letter was published in The Lachlander on Wednesday, August 23, 1916.

Otha's letter to PercyDear Brother,— I have just received your letter of 17th. May and I was pleased to hear from you, and to know that things are all right. The last I got from you was about two months ago. No, I have not been knocked yet though I may be before morning, for all I know. I can hear the guns roaring, and one might hit just here any minute, but I hope it doesn’t bother though. They throw a lot of iron rations about at times, issue them out pretty freely. It is mid-summer here now, and, about as hot as it is in winter in N.S.W. The days are very long, there are only five hours darkness. It is nearly always raining here and seems to be good seasons.
There is grass, wheat, and oats near the firing line (where there is no stock) three and four feet high around old broken up farm houses, which are all brick with tiled and thatched roofs. I am known in the company as tiny, the hun, the wirer. I have been putting out barbed-wire entanglements between the two firing lines at night which is not a very safe game, a couple of my mates were wounded pretty badly one night, I could tell you dozens of exciting personal experiences I have had, but they seem a bit too shaky, so I will leave them untold, in the hope that I get back to tell them.
I was nearly trapped by the huns once, that is why they call me the hun, they say I go out and have a yarn with them at night. This is a fine place, a great pity to see a war here breaking it up. I have seen places blown to pieces in less than two seconds. Buildings as big as Tasker’s Royal Hotel, Condo, about five or six high explosive shells drop on it at the same instant, and everything is down on the ground in a heap of debris. There is very fierce fighting going on in places at present. One that has not been here could not imagine what it is like, and it is more than I dare write about for it is not in the agreement. I suppose things are much in the same boat with the Germans by the number of shells that our artillery send over to them free of charge, they never say if they get them or not, but I expect they get some of them safely enough. I saw a few letters in the “Lachlander” by Percy Shephard.
Remember me to the folks at home.
Your loving brother,
OOTHA BASSETTT,
France, 17-6-16.

Otha was killed in action on 3 July 1916, and is buried in the Rue-David Military Cemetery in Fleurbaix, a village about 5 kilometres south-west of Armentieres.

Otha Bassett headstone

NSW land name indexes online

Name indexes are now available online for free from NSW Land and Property Information (LPI). The indexes available are:

  • Grants Index 1792-1862
  • Torrens Title Purchasers Index 1863-1971
  • Old System Vendors Index 1825-1986
  • Old System Purchasers Index 1 July 1896-1985

Go to the Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV) at images.maps.nsw.gov.au. You will have to accept the terms and conditions before you will be allowed in.

HLRV

Click on Search by Attribute. The drop-down list ‘Search By’ will become available:

Search by

Select Surname Initial and type in a search criteria:

  • For the Grants Index and the Torrens Title Purchasers Index type the first initial of the surname, for example ‘S’ for Smith
  • For the Old System Vendors Index and the Old System Purchasers Index type the first two letters of the surname, for example ‘SM’ for Smith

The list of results will open at the bottom of the screen. This example has used the surname initials ‘EA’ for Eason:

List of results

The Purchasers Indexes are first, followed by the Vendors Indexes. They are not necessarily in date order.

Find the date range you want and click on it. You will be shown the first page. You can page through one at a time to find the name you are looking for, or you can use the drop-down to ump pages. There may only be a few pages, as in this example, or there may be hundreds of pages.

OSPI

There is no way to jump straight to a name, you have to scroll through the pages, as you would with the pages of the original volume. The names may not be in strict alphabetical order, particularly in the early years, so you must check every page.

The Reference Book and No refer to the original deed. The deeds are being slowly digitised, and the books are gradually being removed from the shelves at the Lands Office in Queens Square. If you want a copy of the deed you will have to purchase it.

Here is an example from the Torrens Title Purchasers Index:

TTPI

The Volume and Folio in the last two columns refer to the title.

You can also see the Old Form Torrens Titles in the HLRV. Later volumes are not available, so just try the one you want and see if it comes up. Use the attribute Vol-Fol (Volume and Folio, separated by a dash).

Torrens Title

Use the same page control to see the other side of the title with the transactions.

Torrens Title reverse

Very early titles may have four pages – the black and white microfilm images, and the recent colour images.

 

 

 

 

 

Genealogy research in Fiji

This post was originally published on 22 December 2008 on my Genealogy in NSW Blog site. I had since created a new blog – Fiji Genealogy –  with much more information about Fiji research, but that site is broken and I haven’t worked out how to fix it.

Levuka 101-0129_IMG_300x200I have recently spent a week in Fiji researching my father’s family. My father is a part-European Fijian whose European ancestors arrived in Fiji in the early to mid-1800’s. Since civil registration began only in the 1870s with the Cession of Fiji to Great Britain there are very few records from before this time to show when people were born, married or died. There is very little available online for Fijian research – it’s all microfilm and paper documents. The Fiji Genweb is a good place to start.

My trip to Fiji was unexpected and so I was not as prepared as I would otherwise have been for some serious research. I had not looked into addresses, opening hours, holdings and catalogues. I had seen a few references to original records in literature so I knew to go to the National Archives of Fiji, for example, but I didn’t know where it was, how accessible the records were, or how long a search would take.

The websites of these institutions are not as informative as we have come to expect in Western countries. There are no online catalogues or contact details.

National Archives of Fiji

The National Archives has a reading room at their main facility in Suva. Their websitegives minimal information on what they hold but I found the staff to be helpful and informative, guiding me in the direction of useful records. The reading room is hot, with overhead fans and open windows providing the only cooling. If you can avoid the summer months – November-February – then I would advise it. Digital cameras can be used. They close for lunch most days from 1pm to 2pm.

Among the many records they hold are the Land Claims Commission Reports from the 1870s and 1880s. When Fiji was ceded to Britain in 1874 one of the first tasks undertaken by the new government was to require all non-indigenous landholders to apply to have their holdings confirmed. The majority of claims were allowed and titles issued, but a great many were not.

The files contain the resulting report by the Commissioner and quite often the original application form, evidence taken, interim reports and occasionally maps of the relevant land. As the land was often acquired by the claimant’s father or grandfather the report may be the only evidence of prior generations, as civil registration of births, deaths and marriages was only introduced by the British at the same time.

There is an index in the reading room that points you to the file number, which can then be ordered. What is provided is a photocopy of the pages in the original file, which can be digitally photographed.

The birth, death and marriage indexes and registrations filmed by the LDS Church up to the 1960s are also held. These films can be ordered from Australia, and I do order them, but the convenience of having all the films on-site allows a lot of research to be performed in a much shorter time.

Catholic Church

The first Riley to enter Fiji was said (by my father) to be a Catholic lay preacher who settled in Verata on the east coast of Viti Levu and donated land given to him by the local chief to the Church to build a mission. I spent a day looking for evidence of this in the Catholic Church archives in Suva, next to the cathedral in Pratt Street. The first missionaries were French, and much of their correspondence, diaries and reports are available to study. They are in French so I took lots of digital photographs and now have to sort through them for names of people and places I recognise, as I don’t speak or read French.There is also correspondence with the Colonial Secretary and other government officials.

Parish registers are kept within the parishes, so the very helpful sisters were unable to help me find records of baptisms or marriages from before civil registration began. I will have to visit the parish church, in Natovi, next time.

Suva City Library

The library holds many books on history and culture that may be useful to the family historian. I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the air-conditioned Reference Library upstairs. Photocopies are 20 cents (Fijian) per page and must be paid for at the main desk downstairs. The receipt is then given to the librarian in the Reference Library along with the book to be copied.

Wesleyan Methodist Church

The Wesleyan Methodist Church is the oldest established church in Fiji, with the first missionaries arriving in 1835, and has the largest membership today. I reasoned that if the only religious presence is Wesleyan and you want your baby baptised then you will have him baptised by a Wesleyan. A phone call to the Church told me that the archives have all been transferred to the National Archives of Fiji. A catalogue of holdings for the Methodist Church in the National Archives told me that permission from the Church is required to look at most of the records. So that will be a job for next time.

There is, however, a bound photocopy of the first Wesleyan registers of baptisms and marriages in the Reading Room of the National Archives of Fiji. I spent a very enjoyable half hour browsing through this and I found some relevant names. The original whites followed some local customs, one of which was multiple wives. I do not know if the wives were consecutive or simultaneous but the missionaries persuaded many of them to formally marry one wife, and some of these marriages appear in the pages of the register.

What next?

Research in Fiji takes longer than in Sydney, and I didn’t get done as much as I would have liked. It was hot, the person I needed wasn’t available, and it took longer than I expected for things to happen. Next time I will be better prepared. I will revisit the National Archives to look at Wesleyan records, Colonial Secretary’s correspondence, and other records that I will uncover from my advance preparation, and I will try some other repositories:

LDS Family History Centre

The LDS Church is quite active in Fiji, as elsewhere. My information (admittedly hearsay) is that they are only open one day per week and the day that I visited (Thursday) the building was locked up. If I had looked at their website (and if the website is accurate) I would have known that the Centre I visited closed at 3pm that day. I was also told that they have records not available elsewhere in Fiji, although I don’t know what those records might be. I will try again next trip.

University of the South Pacific

The University of the South Pacific covers all countries of the South Pacific region. The main campus library has an online catalogue which would be worth checking before a visit, as would the Pacific Collection. The library contains many books, theses and papers that would be useful for historical research.

They also have an online bookshop (in US dollars) with a good range of books on Fijian history and culture and quite high delivery costs by courier. Get to the bookshop in person if you can.

The Fijian Museum

The museum of any country is always worth a visit to get an idea of life in a previous era. The Museum has published reprints of books of historical interest, including accounts by the first Wesleyan missionaries, and sells them in their shop. I’d been to the Fijian Museum on a previous trip and didn’t get the chance to check their bookshop again. They also have an excellent journal. You can join the Friends of the Fiji Museum through their website.

Department of Lands and Surveys

The Department of Lands and Surveys has maps and plans and records of ownership of land in Fiji. Only 10% of Fiji is freehold, with 90% being Crown or Native Title. Land title searching can be difficult at the best of times so I’m holding this one off until I’m better prepared. I want to find out what happened to the land after the formal Claims in the 1870s were approved.

Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages Department

I did not have any reason to go to the Registrar, as the indexes and registrations I need are on LDS microfilm. I had already built a spreadsheet of index entries for the births, marriages and deaths of non-indigenous nationals with some film numbers and so I could request the films immediately at the National Archives. I would have done more of this than I did but it was just so hot, and the microfilm reader does not focus well on the whole frame at once, requiring two photos for each registration. Still, I was pleased with the birth registrations that I got.

NOTE – I have not been back to Fiji for research since 2008 and things may have changed since then. I really hope the National Archives of Fiji has a new microfilm reader in the Reading Room!

Sources:

Websites:

For websites follow the links above.

Books:

Calvert, James. Fiji and the Fijians, Vol. II, Mission History, Edited by George Stringer Rowe. Suva, Fiji: Fiji Museum, 2003; first published in London in 1858.

Walsh, Crosbie. Fiji: An Encyclopaedic Atlas. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific, 2006.

Young, John. Adventurous Spirits, Australian Migrant Society in Pre-Cession Fiji. St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1984.

 

Did your ancestor follow the gold?

Some knowledge of the gold rushes in the nineteenth century can help us understand aspects of our families’ history that we’d been missing. It is difficult for us now to imagine the enormous pull that a gold rush had on people, the chance that a fortune could be made so quickly, and so we may not consider that our ancestors took part.

This knowledge would have helped me enormously when I was first researching my Stewart family.

The Stewart family

My grandmother was very proud of her father, William Stewart, an architect and inventor who lived in Albury, New South Wales, for most of his life. He married Sarah Louisa Craig Lowe of Auckland, New Zealand, and they had seven children, all born in Albury.

Peter’s farm in Victoria

Peter Hannah Stewart

Peter Hannah Stewart

William’s father was Peter Hannah Stewart, a Scottish immigrant from Oban, Argyllshire, who arrived in Victoria in 1855. He married another Scottish immigrant, Grace Simpson, in Albury in 1863.

At the time I didn’t question why he would have come in to the colony through Melbourne rather than Sydney. I just figured that Albury is closer to Melbourne than it is to Sydney. As I said, I was new to family history research. I found that the Stewarts were the only branch of my family tree that paid their own way to Australia; all the others were assisted immigrants. This fit in with my grandmother’s attitude that she had married beneath her, and I thought no more about it for years.

The eldest child was born in Albury in 1865 but I couldn’t find William until I looked in Victoria. Peter was a farmer in Barnawartha, between Chiltern and the Murray River. There were no farmers in his background: his father was a cooper; his maternal grandfather was a tailor and cloth merchant; and his father-in-law had been a flax dresser. William’s younger siblings were also born in Barnawartha.

Margaret marries a miner

It was when I started looking at Peter’s siblings that the truth started to emerge, if only I’d been able to see it. Peter’s younger sister Margaret Stewart married John Carlyle Irving in 1859 in Beechworth, Victoria. Peter, still unmarried at this time, was one of the witnesses. My knowledge of Victorian towns was not what it is now, and at the time the name ‘Beechworth’ didn’t mean anything to me. I then made the mistake that many new researchers make, and I didn’t look into Margaret any further, as I was only interested in Peter.

VIC Marriage John Caryle Irving and Margaret Stewart

John and Margaret had two sons in Ballarat before migrating to Invercargill, New Zealand, in the early 1860s, where six more children were born. Why Invercargill, at the bottom end of New Zealand? I didn’t know.

Big brother Hugh

Peter had an older brother, Hugh, a cooper like his father. Hugh arrived in Victoria from Scotland in February 1855 aboard the James Baines with his new wife, Elizabeth, months before his younger brother Peter. Hugh and Elizabeth also settled in Albury, New South Wales, becoming a well-respected member of the community. His obituary in the local paper mentions some time in America. America?

Hugh, as I discovered, was the first to arrive in Victoria, I found more information in a book in the local history collection of the Albury Library. Hugh went to New York and was working there as a cooper when the Californian gold rush started. He went to California, and then to Victoria when the gold rush started in 1851. This was news to me! Apparently he went back to Scotland for a year, got married, and brought his wife back to Victoria, although whether he worked as a cooper or as a miner, I’ll never know.

The gold rushes

Australian gold rushes

The waves of gold seekers moved around the continent; into New South Wales and Victoria in the 1850s; across to New Zealand in the 1860s; to Queensland in the 1870s and Far North Queensland in the 1880s; across the Top End into the Northern Territory and the Kimberley in Western Australia in the late 1880s, and down to Kalgoorlie in the 1890s.

The chain of gold discoveries was self-perpetuating. The best chance for individual miners to strike it rich was to get there early and harvest the easy pickings off the ground. As the alluvial gold ran out in one place these miners moved on, and now they knew what to look for. As gold was found elsewhere the miners were lured to the next gold field, and the next, and the next. Others stayed behind to dig the gold out of the ground, and formed partnerships or became employees of newly-formed mining companies.

The largest and richest gold fields were the most attractive, particularly Victoria in the 1850s and Western Australia in the 1890s. The longer the rush continued the more tempting it was to pack up and go. People who had never worked as miners before travelled hundreds of miles to strike it rich. Many had never even worked outdoors before. Others saw opportunities in catering to the miners – stores, equipment, alcohol, entertainment, transport.

Most didn’t stay. They left the mines and became farmers or shopkeepers, settling down with wives and children, on properties of their own.

Gold rush timeline

1840s California

1850s New South Wales

1850s Victoria

1860s New Zealand

1870s Queensland

1880s Far North Queensland

1880s Northern Territory and the Kimberley

1890s Western Australia

Conclusion

I can now see my Stewart family with new eyes. I know about places like Beechworth and Chiltern, and I can guess why Peter Hannah Stewart came to Victoria when he did. Peter was said to have been a carpenter when he was a young man, and he went back to carpentry in Albury when the farming didn’t work out in Victoria. I imagine there was plenty of work for a carpenter in the new gold field settlements, as shops and houses were being built.

If your ancestor went missing, or seemed to move around a bit, or if any of the gold rush placenames ring any bells, then perhaps they were chasing the California Dream of striking it rich on the goldfields, as Hugh Stewart, the cooper from Argyll, Scotland, did.

Resources

  • Geoffrey Blainey, The Rush that Never Ended, Melbourne University Press, 1978.
  • Beatrice Brooks and Lorraine Purcell, Golden Journeys, Visits to the Western Goldfields of New South Wales, 1852-1859, Hill End & Tambaroora Gathering Group, 2012.
  • Kerrin Cook and Daniel Garvey, The Glint of Gold, A history and tourist guide of the gold fields of the Central West of New South Wales, Genlin Investments, 1999.
  • Shauna Hicks, Tracing Mining Ancestors, Unlock The Past, 2014.
  • David Hill, The Gold Rush, William Heinemann, 2010.
  • Geoff Hocking, Gold, A Pictorial History of the Australian Goldrush, The Five Mile Press, 2006.
  • Nancy Keesing (editor), History of the Australian Gold Rushes, by those who were there, Angus and Robertson, 1967.
  • Ian MacFarlane, Eureka, from the official records, The story of the Ballarat Riots of 1854, and the Eureka Stockade, from the Official Documents of the Public Record Office of Victoria, Public Record Office of Victoria, 1995.
  • Dorothy Wickham, Family History Research in the Central Goldfields of Victoria, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

Also look for local histories of goldmining districts and contemporary accounts of individual golddiggers.

Do you know who is in these photographs?

UniNewcastle A5050-072 small

Many libraries and universities in Australia and elsewhere hold the collections of missionaries, researchers and other travellers to the Pacific Islands. This photograph of a gathering in Lambasa was taken by Archdeacon A.N. Williamson of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle during his travels to Fiji some time between 1900 and 1930. He took many other photographs, some depicting individuals, such as this one:

UniNewcastle A5050-138 small

Archdeacon Williamson’s collection is held by the University of Newcastle and has been shared on Flickr and on Trove. Have a look through them and see if there are any people or places that you recognise, and if there are, the University would love to hear from you!

Using newspaper notices to check death index entries

It is amazing how much information can be gained from newspaper family notices, and in particular funeral notices.

Here is an example from Trove in the Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday 27 November 1900, on page 10:

SMH 27 Nov 1900 page 10 Funeral notices

 

I had been searching for the death of one Mary Nugent. What I can learn about this family from these three notices is that this Mary Nugent was the wife of Mr P. Nugent (perhaps Patrick?). They lived at 57 Balmain Road, Leichhardt, and their (surviving) children were James, Francis, Alfred, William and George. They also had a daughter, Mary, who married William Beardmore.

This is a lot of information about one family, and is especially useful where the surname is relatively common, such that a search in the NSW BDM indexes is inconclusive. It is even more useful if the children had been born after the 100 year cutoff for the NSW Birth Index (currently 1911), where I might otherwise have had to order a copy of the death registration to see who her children were.

Unfortunately this isn’t the Mary Nugent I was looking for, as she was a widow. If she had remarried, and she may have, her surname would be different. At least there is enough evidence in these funeral notices for me to discount this Mary without any further searching. And what a bonus it would have been if she was the Mary I was searching for!

Instagram for bloggers

Christmas chocolateI’ve recently started using Instagram, after an absence of a couple of years. It’s fun! Any photo you take looks better on Instagram –

  • it’s small, so it doesn’t matter if it’s not in focus
  • it’s square, so you are forced to crop the photo to focus on what’s important
  • you can quickly and easily make the colours brighter
  • you can change the colours altogether, so it looks like art or an old photograph

I find them Instagram photos very useful for blog posts. Here’s a post I just wrote about technology and the year ahead. When I went looking in my collection for the perfect illustration I found the one I took a couple of months ago of the old wooden escalators at Wynyard Station. Perfect!

CherriesYou can turn any photo into an Instagram work of art. You don’t have to take the photo with Instragram; you can select an existing photo as long as it’s on your phone or tablet, and then go to work on it. Here’s a photo I took a couple of days ago of the carton of freshly-picked cherries we bought on the way home from Melbourne. I opened Instagram and found the photo, then cropped it and made it more red. Dropbox then uploaded it to my laptop automatically.

OK, the closeup photos are not fabulous. That’s the fault of my phone, not Instagram!

When you are out and about with a phone that takes pictures, think about taking some photos of ordinary things – food, stairs, brick walls, windows and doors, clouds, trees – and then Instagram them when you get home to use in your blog. Easy!

Top 10 Social Media Sites for Family Historians – Revised 2014

I think that social media was made for family historians. We are different from other people – we actually enjoy finding distant relatives and keeping in touch with them! Social media helps us to find relatives and old friends in ways that were not possible in the days of mailing lists and message boards.

CarolesCanvasThe first time I said that was more than four years ago, in this post. Four years is a long time on the internet, and things have changed. Some of these sites have fallen off my radar so it’s time for a revision. The image shows the cover of the first edition of my book Social Media for Family Historians with screenshots of my blog Carole’s Canvas, Youtube and GenealogyWise, a network I never really found a use for. The second image is a more recent screenshot of Carole’s Canvas. The main difference is the emphasis on pictures, as well as the general simpler and cleaner look. Pictures are what make a blog, or any social media post, more engaging.

Here are 10 social media sites that are not directly related to family history (except one) but are nevertheless important for communicating, sharing and collaborating with other family historians, and family in general.

In alphabetic order:

Blogger is the best-known of the free blog hosting sites. Writing a blog about your family history and the discoveries you make is one of the best ways of getting young people interested, and attracting other asyet-unknown relatives. It is owned by Google so you can use your Google ID to log in and create as many blogs as you like.  The address of your blog will be yourchosenname.blogspot.com. You can choose from a large number of designs and options, and posting is quick and easy.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site. You can save bookmarks to sites as you find them and categorise them however you wish. You can also find sites that others have similarly categorised, which can save you a lot of time when researching a topic or place. I no longer Delicious, and imported all my bookmarks into Evernote.

Facebook is a social networking site used by 500 million people around the world to connect with friends and family. It is easy to find people and for them to find you, if you want them to. As long as you change the privacy settings as soon as you join, and don’t click on anything you don’t understand, you will be safe from harm.

FamilySearch Wiki is a collection of over 80,000 articles (up from 40,000 four years ago) on many aspects of genealogy research around the world. Articles can be added and changed by anyone, making it progressively more comprehensive. It’s the best place to start if you find you have to research a country you aren’t familiar with.

Flickr is a photo and video sharing website. You can share as many photos as you like (within reason) with as many or as few people as you like. Photos of ancestors and places of historic value can be made public to attract others interested in the same people and places, and uploaded to the National Library of Australia’s Picture Australia (now part of Trove).

Google Docs is a free office suite of applications that allows you to share documents and collaborate with others. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms are all available. They are accessible to you anywhere as long as you can connect to the internet. You can keep them private or make them available to others to view or edit.

Pinterest is a popular place to collect and share photos and ideas. It is wonderful for gathering ideas for projects such as crafts or home decorating. It is fabulous for drawing together images on topics of historical interest, on your own family or local history in general. Pinterest has come a long way in four years, and is a new addition to this list.

Skype is a free program that allows you to make secure voice and video calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world over the internet. You just need an internet connection and a computer with a microphone and speaker such as a laptop, or an inexpensive headset. You can also buy a Skype phone to use like a regular phone, and make calls to regular phones, although they charge for this service.

Twitter is a ‘microblog’, where you can make short posts of 140 characters or less to give links to photos, websites, blog posts, or just ask questions and hold conversations. Twitter posts, or tweets, are searchable so you can find people interested in the same things as you. So many people and organisations use Twitter to let us know what they are doing that you can always learn something useful. Twitter has proved itself as the first place to get breaking news about local or world events. It also now displays photos directly in your feed, making it more engaging and immediate.

YouTube is a video sharing site that allows you to upload videos and share them with a few people or with everyone. You can search for videos on family history and other topics from archives, libraries, genealogy record companies and many other organisations.

I use most of these sites on a day-to-day basis. Many of them are now part of my daily life. I talk to my immediate family; share documents and photos; save bookmarks; read blogs and check Twitter on a regular basis. Although my own blogs are not hosted by Blogger, prefering to use my own hosting, I recommend it highly for first-time bloggers.

Try some of these out; do some searching, and see what you can find. You might be surprised. And hooked!

Google Reader was removed from the original list, as it was discontinued by Google. I have much less time to read blogs than I did four years ago, and I find that the only time I read them is when I see a link that interests me from another network such as Facebook or Google+.

Why a blog is more attractive than a website

I think you are better off publishing parts of your tree as separate articles in a blog than as a full family tree website as produced by most family tree programs. Allow me to demonstrate by searching for a name, Riley, and a place, Naigani, that I am interested in for my own family history:

Google search

The very first result in this list is a blog post:

Riley blog post

Compare that page with this one:

Riley family tree website

Which one looks more interesting? Which one would be more likely to get the attention of someone who wasn’t all that interested in genealogy?

If I’d put a picture or two in the blog post it would be even more interesting.

So that’s two good reasons:

  1. A blog post about a specific person or family line will be higher in a Google search
  2. A blog post will be more likely to hold the attention of a casual reader

A third reason is this: I have my full family tree as a separate website as produced by Second Site, a program to turn my The Master Genealogist project into a website. Most of the enquiries I get from it are for people on the edges of my tree, people who have married cousins of my ancestors. I have no more information about these people than what is on the tree, but the researchers who find them get excited when they find the name and email me for more. Really it’s a waste of my time and theirs.

Anyone who finds the names in my blog posts is really looking for my family, and we are usually related. Over the years I would say that as many real relatives have found me through my blog posts as through my tree, although of course I can’t count the people who find my tree, grab the information, and leave without contacting me.

Blogs make it easier for them to contact me, as there’s a form for comments at the bottom of the page. When someone leaves a comment I get an email, and I can reply the same day.

So there it is. Write stories about your ancestors in a blog. Don’t just put your tree up and wait for people to find you.

Note: in case you’re wondering about the Google logo in the first image – it was the 46th anniversary of the first Star Trek episode, and Google was celebrating. And why not?

This post was first published in my blog Social Media and Genealogy in March 2013. I’m re-publishing it here because I think sharing your research is just as important as doing it in the first place.