Who Do You Think You Are and other news

Who Do You Think You Are?

The big news for family history fans is the SBS premier of Who Do You Think You Are this Sunday, 2nd December. Starting with some selected episodes from the first three UK series they will then show the six episodes of the Australian series on Sunday 13th January 2008. The first three UK series have been shown on cable TV, (or perhaps just the 2nd and 3rd), and have been very enjoyable and inspiring.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have teams of researchers going ahead of you and digging up everything you need to find out about your ancestors! Genealogists and social historians local historians and all the rest. I would love it! Alas, most of us have to do it ourselves, and this show won’t help you to do that. I would say that Who Do You Think You Are is more inspirational than informative, and of course it is very entertaining watching people we feel we know find out the thrilling or disturbing secrets of their ancestry. It’s interesting to watch their attitudes change as their ancestors become real people.
The BBC has a comprehensive website that covers UK family history research in some detail at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/familyhistory/.  They are currently showing series four in the UK. Also check out the SBS website for the series at http://programs.sbs.com.au/whodoyouthinkyouare/.  The Australian series should be of great interest to us here in Australia, with Cathy Freeman, Kate Ceberano, Jack Thompson, Geoffrey Robertson and others.
National Burial Index of England and Wales now on FindMyPast

FindMyPast has released the National Burial Index of England and Wales (NBI). The National Burial Index is an ongoing project run by the Federation of Family History Societies and currently contains approximately 10 million records collected from individual family history societies of England and Wales. There have been two releases on CD and these are available at many libraries and family history societies, but the convenience of searching from home, as well as taking advantage of continuous updates, makes the FindMyPast option exciting news.

FindMyPast is a pay-per-view site run in association with The National Archives. Searching is free on findmypast.com, as is building an online family tree with our innovative Family Tree Explorer software. “To view the records you will need to purchase credits, either by buying pay-per-view units or one of three subscription options.”

Elections in Australia

I’m typing this on my laptop as I’m watching the election coverage on the ABC.

I must admit that when I saw in Ancestry that they had released some Australian electoral rolls it never occurred to me that perhaps they timed the release to coincide with our federal elections! I guess I don’t associate Americans with knowledge about Australia – after all, the site talks about counties rather than states and electorates.

This is not to take anything away from their achievement. I am really looking forward to other rolls becoming available in the next few weeks (as I hope they will be!).

What is interesting me in watching the coverage is the names of the electorates and their continuity from the last century and the one before. Instead of just watching my own electorate, which has already been called, my ears prick up when I see the electorates my ancestors lived in as well.

Are the seats Liberal or Nationals or Labor or still undecided?

How close is the vote?

What were they when my ancestor was alive?

How close was the vote in my ancestors’ time?

How much has changed since then?

What were the parties’ names then?

What did my ancestor vote? Were they swinging voters?

How excited were my female ancestors when they got the vote?

How were campaigns conducted in those days?

What was the radio coverage like?

Were there the multitude of fringe parties in the Senate that there are now?

All interesting questions.

I’m sure there are many others. Some of them I can almost answer myself. I remember when the Senate voting form was much smaller than the tablecloth it is now. No TV, and certainly no graphics with almost vote-by-vote counts. More restrained newspapers without lots of photographs. No cartoons in the newspapers either! And they didn’t talk about “aspirational”seats and “battler” seats.

NSW Electoral Rolls new on Ancestry

Ancestry has just released what I assume will be the first of many electoral rolls for New South Wales and other states. So far only 1930 and 1936 have been released for NSW, with more years available for other States between 1901 and 1936. Indexes allow searching for a name – surname with or without first name – within country, state, district or subdistrict. Once you have a list of possible suspects the image of the electoral roll page can be viewed, showing other people with the same surname in the same subdistrict.

Electoral rolls are enormously useful in showing the residences and occupations of our ancestors. In the absence of censuses this information is invaluable, helping us track movements (or not) over time. Electoral rolls for NSW go back to the 1860s, and for some divisions to the 1840s, but in those days not everyone had the right to vote – only men, and only those with property.

Ancestry is slowly increasing the number of Australian databases it holds, currently including convicts, early censuses and directories, and is well worth checking out. Subscriptions are for unlimited searches for a specific period. It is worth enquiring whether your local library or family history society has a subscription.