Not just Wikipedia

Wikipedia has become the go-to source for an initial overview of any topic, from American history to episodes of Doctor Who. Historical figures are usually well-represented, and I can look up King Henry VIII or Captain James Cook and get a fairly good idea of his life.

But what if the person you are searching for isn’t there? Wikipedia has aternatives.

Here I am searching for David Whippy, one of my ancestors who settled in Fiji in 1825.

David Whippy Search results

The first result is probably relevant. When I go to the article, however, the link in the article to David Whippy gives me this:

David Whippy on Wikipedia

I am tempted now to write an article for David Whippy myself, and one day I will. In the meantime, Wikipedia offers alternatives in its ‘sister projects’:

David Whippy sister projects

Wikibooks is a collaborative, open-source project to build textbooks, including children’s books and cookbooks. There are currently 2,686 books on computing, languages, history, and much more. Nothing on Fiji, but there is one called A Concise New Zealand History. The book on Australian history is not yet finished.

Wikiquotes is a free compendium of quotes, with sources and links back to Wikipedia for more information. There are quotes from famous people, literary works, films and TV shows, proverbs and much more.

Wikisource is ‘a free library that anyone can improve’, with a current total of 287,335 texts in English. It has everything from out-of-copyright fiction to United States Senate Committee testimony. The portal page for the history of Australia lists many sources for the colonisation and exploration of the country.

Wikiversity aims to ‘set learning free’, creating educational resources for teachers, students and researchers. The current total is 20,467 resources. The page for Australia is part of the Comparative law and justice project and is a good introduction to the court system in the country.

Wikimedia Commons is an exceptional source of images and videos, to which anyone can contribute. There are currently over 17 million files from archives, libraries, and people like us. The copyright restrictions are specified for each file.

There are many other projects:

Wiki projects

The only one of these projects to have a result for David Whippy was Wikisource, which has a book called Forty Years in the Pacific by Frank Coffee, published in 1920. The chapter on Fiji mentions David Whippy as one of the claimants made by the American settlers on Cakobau, the self-proclaimed King of Fiji. It is a book I hadn’t come across before, but as David Whippy died in 1871 Coffee can not be expected to have known Whippy personally.

I did search for pictures of Levuka in Wikimedia Commons and found a couple of beauties from Dumont D’Urville’s 1842 expedition:

Levuka

The copyright explanation for different countries is helpful for knowing whether you can republish it in your country.

Wikipedia projects won’t replace Google as a source of information, but it’s worth checking to see what they have for those elusive Fijian ancestors.

Social Media for Family Historians, 2nd edition

Social Media for Family Historians 2nd editionThe second edition of my book, Social Media for Family Historians, is now out. It explains what social media is; what use it is; and introduces you to more than 25 social media sites that can help family historians to communicate, share and collaborate with other family historians and with their own families.

It has been expanded and updated, with some sites removed that I no longer consider useful, and new ones added, such as Google+. The section on getting started with Facebook in particular has been greatly expanded, demonstrating the new privacy settings and layout.

You may discover new ways to communicate using Sykpe and SecondLife; social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+; blogs and microblogs such as Twitter; sites for sharing family trees such as Ancestry and MyHeritage; sites for sharing photos and videos such as Flickr and YouTube; and community information sites such as wikis and social bookmarking.

Contents:

Preface
1. Introduction
– About this book
– My experience
– A warning
2. What is social media?
– The internet
– Self-publishing
– Social media
– Mobile computing
3. Why use social media?
– Advantages
– Disadvantages
4. Communication
– Chat
– Social networking
– Blogs
– Microblogs
– Virtual worlds
5. Sharing
– Family trees
– Photographs
– Videos
– Social cataloguing
6. Collaboration
– Wikis
– Documents
– Questions and answers
7. Dangers
– Risks
– Some simple rules
8. What are you waiting for?
Appendix 1. How to get started with Facebook
– Sign up for Facebook
– Using Facebook
Appendix 2. How to get started with Blogging
– Find a host
– Create an account
– Name your blog
– Set security
– Create your profile
– Select a design
– Start writing!
– More advanced blogging
Glossary
Index

You can buy it from Gould Genealogy, and I hope you do!

LibraryThing for local and family history societies

LMDHS covers

I’ve been saying for a while now that I think LibraryThing is ideal for allowing small societies and libraries to maintain and display their library catalogues. Not only is the software practically free (US$25 one-off fee for unlimited books) but it is online, allowing members and potential members the ability to search their catalogues for free.

The Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society has been using LibraryThing to show off its catalogue since 2009. I admit that I didn’t know there was such an organisation, and I found it while seeing who else had a book I had just added to my catalogue.

LMDHS profile

http://www.librarything.com/profile/lmdhs

If I was ever looking for books relevant to a geographical area the library of the local history society would be the best place to find them. Not every society has the funds or the means to create a library catalogue on their own website. LibraryThing allows them to do so for minimal cost. Accounts are free for up to 200 books. For a one-off fee of US$25 you can catalogue all the books you can  afford to buy, and then the ones that you would like to buy.

Here’s an example from the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society’s library catalogue:

LMDHS catalog

Books can be catalogued manually by filling in the details yourself, or you can search for the book in any one of over 700 major libraries around the world, such as the US Library of Congress, the National Library of Australia, and the British Library. Bookstores such as Amazon and Amazon UK are also included. All data can then be imported directly into your own catalogue, with a book cover photo if there is one. You can use a barcode reader to read the ISBN from the book into the Add Book screen, making the cataloguing process even quicker and easier.

I’ve been using LibraryThing since 2007, and my ambition is to catalogue all of my books, not just the genealogy- and history-related ones. In the meantime, I can search the catalogues of libraries such as the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, and start a new wishlist!

Narrative of the US Exploring Expedition 1845 – Charles Wilkes USN

In 1838 a special squadron of the United States Navy was ordered into the Pacific Ocean to chart hazards and gather scientific knowledge. After an expedition of four years Charles Wilkes, commander of the squadron,  compiled a narrative of the voyage from the journals of his officers and scientists. The narrative was published in five volumes in 1845. In 1985 the Fiji Museum published a reprint of the third volume.

In Volume 3 the Expedition leaves New Zealand and spends the first chapter in Tonga (‘Tongataboo’). The remainder of the book is spent in Fiji (‘Feejee’), from May to August 1840, until the last chapter where it heads for Honalulu. “Drawn not only from the experiences and observations of the Expedition’s officers and scientific corps, but also from those of the beachcombing Fiji whites who served as local pilots, of veteran Yankee beche-de-mer and tortoise-shell trading captains, and of pioneering Methodist missionaries, the book does far more than simply outline the work and adventures of the Expedition in these islands, drawing a vividly detailed, quite unparalleled picture of life in pre-Christian Fiji.” (from the back cover of the 1985 reprint)

The book has a detailed Contents section, as many of these old books do, but no index. Google Books has scanned all five volumes and searching can be done there. It is easy to search for the names of people, although Fijian names are likely to be spelled differently.

David Whippy, an ancestor of mine, is mentioned many times, in descriptions, as the teller of stories and provider of information, and as a participant in the action. Wilkes describes his meeting both Whippy and Tui Levuka on page 47:

Whippy - first meeting p47It is important to read some of the descriptions of Fijian people and customs with some tolerance for the narrow attitudes of these early explorers.

Here is another example, on pages 330 and 331, following a discussion of the diseases and ailments suffered by native Fijians:

Whippy page 330

Whippy page 331

Another example is Paddy Connel, who walked into Wilkes’ tent one day and told him his life story (on page 67):

He was a short, wrinkled old man, but appeared to possess great vigour and activity. He had a beard that reached to his middle, but little hair, of a reddish gray colour, on his head. He gave me no time for inquiry,  but at once addressed me in broad Irish, with a rich Milesian brogue…

The story then continues for nearly two pages so I won’t repeat it here. Even though Wilkes suspected that a lot of it wasn’t true there is probably enough for a descendant to go on to search for Paddy further.

The book is worth reading in its own right, even if specific names cannot be found. Wilkes describes the customs, food, illnesses, and culture of the Fijian people he came across at a time when the Wesleyan missionaries had only just started to have any influence. He also describes his own dealings with the various chiefs and the white settlers he encountered, some of whom he or his officers employed as pilots.

The book also contains sketches and drawings of people and places.

Muthuata Feejee

The version on Google Books appears to have fewer of the excellent drawings than the Fiji Museum version I have at home, but there may have been other versions in Google Books that I missed.

Historical Records of Australia

The Historical Records of Australia was an attempt to make the records of the Colonial Office relevant to the Australian colonies available here in Australia.

Series One was published  in 26 volumes in 1914-1925 and consists of the New South Wales Governors’ despatches to and from England. These despatches were incredibly detailed reports on every aspect of the colony, and included correspondence from settlers, returns of shipping, and the opinions of the Governors on many subjects. More recently these volumes have been digitised and published on 2 CDs by Archive Digital Books Australia (Modbury, South Australia, 2009), making them completely searchable.

A search for ‘Fiji’ or ‘Feejee’ gives a number of results. For example, here is an estimate, sent by Governor Bligh in1808, estimating the cost of a voyage to Fiji to procure sandalwood and the expected profit from the venture:

HRA I vol6 p683

Historical Records of Australia Series I Vol. 6 p683

The deposition of Peter Dillon on 6 November 1813 regarding an encounter with the natives in which Charles Savage and many others were killed is reproduced in Volume 8, pages 103-107. The deponent:

Sayth that, the Priest being gone, several of the Chiefs came up and entreated deponent and his party to go down and which request he peremptorily refused, but two of the Party, Charles Savage and a China Man, both of whom had been living with the Natives, contrary to deponent’s Orders, ventured down amongst them and whom they Suffered to Walk about some time unmolested, entreating deponent and the two others to go down also, and finding Deponent would not consent they killed those two which were down.

Volume 19, from 1838, contains the evidence taken regarding the attack on the Sir David Ogilby by the local Fijians in an attempt to take the ship:

Whether the Natives, tempted by a display of articles on the deck, acted only on the impulse of the moment, or whether the attack was a premeditated one, seems to be doubtful; but, seizing an opportunity when the greater part of the Crew was aloft, one of the Chiefs rushed on the Captain, whose name was Henry Hutchins, and despatched him with a single blow of a club. In the conflict which instantly followed, another man named William Brooks was killed, the Mate and several others disabled, and it was only from the fortunate circumstance of there being some muskets and ammunition in the Main Top that the remainder of the Crew were enabled by keeping up a fire on the deck ultimately to regain possession of the vessel. Many of the Islanders, and among them the Chief who led the attack, are said to have lost their lives…

The books are available in many libraries and indexes in the back are very helpful. The CDs can be purchased from Gould Genealogy. Remember to use alternate spellings for Fiji, and try other search terms as well.

Polynesian Reminiscences – T Pritchard (1866)

Title page of ‘Polynesian Reminiscences’, Pritchard, 1866

William Thomas Pritchard (1829-1907) was the first British Consul to Fiji from 1858 until his dismissal in 1863.

Pritchard took the first offer of cession of the Fiji Islands to Britain in 1858, and has many stories to tell about his work as Consul and the people he dealt with – chiefs, settlers, and the captains of visiting warships.

As with all Google Books the text can be searched when you view the book online but not if you download the PDF. The names of people and places are spelled very imaginatively.

Sources

Pritchard’s Reminiscences on Google Books

Wikipedia entry for William Thomas Pritchard

Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans – Edmund Fanning (1838)

Fanning 1838 title page

Title page and frontispiece of ‘Voyages to the South Seas’, Edmund Fanning, 1838

Edmund Fanning (1769-1841) was an American explorer and sea-captain who made a number of voyages to the Pacific Ocean.

This book describes a number of voyages to the South Seas, the Pacific Ocean and China, including two to the Feejee Islands in 1806-1809 in search of sandalwood on the Sandalwood Coast. He describes the method of collecting and processing the sandalwood and his relations with the Fijian people at this early period in the history of European contact.

The book also contains letters to and from Fanning about the ‘National Discovery and Exploring Expedition’ to the Pacific and Southern Oceans that he believed was essential to the continuing properity of the United States. The expedition was eventually led by Commodore Wilkes, whose narrative was published on his return.

As with all Google Books the text can be searched when you view the book online but not if you download the PDF. The names of people and places are spelled very imaginatively.

Sources

Fanning’s Voyages on Google Books

Wikipedia entry for Edmund Fanning

My genealogy library

IMG_7033_300x200My first thought whenever I need to learn something new is to buy a book, and there are many to choose from. I like to have them on my shelves at home so I buy them, but there is nothing wrong with using the resources of your local library.

I have to admit to being a bit of a book collector from way back. I learned to cook, to grow pot plants, to make curtains, to program a computer, and a great many other things, from books. (Yes, as my Mum will tell you, she was never interested in cooking and I had to learn elsewhere).

So when I wanted to know how to take my family history further I started buying books, and I haven’t stopped. I stay on the lookout for new books, and I update them when a new edition comes out. I now use LibraryThing to catalogue my books so that my catalogue is available to me anywhere, even on my mobile phone.

These days a library does not only contain books but also CDs and links to websites, among other things, but I think you really have to start with books. Here are some of my favourites.

Australia

For Australian genealogy I would suggest that you need these books:

  • A good beginner’s guide. Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History (Australian Edition) is a good choice – informative and entertaining at the same time.
  • Tracing Your Family History in Australia by Nick Vine Hall is the most comprehensive guide to sources in every State. He started updating each state on CD, starting with Tracing Your Family History in New South Wales, before he passed away last year. The New South Wales version is now out in book form.
  • Any book by Cora Num: Convict Records in Australia; How to Find Shipping and Immigration Records in Australia, Occupational Records in Australia, Websites for Genealogists. She has an excellent website as well.
  • If you are really interested in convicts then you also need State Records New South Wales’ Guide to New South Wales State Archives relating to convicts and convict administration.

Britain and Ireland

  • An excellent general reference on British family history is Ancestral Trails by Mark Herber. Although it concentrates on English records the principles are the same for Welsh, Scottish and Irish records and where there are differences he spells them out. Now in it’s second edition.
  • The standard general reference for Ireland is Tracing Your Irish Ancestry by John Grenham. Now in its third edition, you can’t go past it.
  • An excellent series for the beginner is The Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English/Irish/Scottish Ancestors. These books are American and give a great introduction, with pictures of the records, to records from these countries.

Genealogical standards

  • Evaluate and cite your sources correctly and you can’t go too far wrong. The essential reference is Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Her examples are mostly from American sources but the principles are the same wherever you are.

There are many, many other books that a good library should have but they vary depending on your interests and the geographic situation of your ancestors. As you progress in your research you will probably move from introductory family history books to more detailed guides to specific subjects, such as convicts, immigration, land or schools. We will cover these more specific areas another time.

Sometimes there isn’t a book available in the subject you need to learn, or a book may have been published but it is no longer in print. Second-hand book stores are always worth searching, especially the online forms such as AbeBooks or SeekBooks or even eBay. I use eBay often because I can get it to alert me when a book or a subject I am interested in becomes available.

There is no substitute for a good library. Take advantage of all those people who have gone before, who have spent the time looking for what you need and know how to find it. Buy the books (and read them) and learn from them.