Posts tagged ‘National Institute of Genealogical Studies’

Testing genealogy knowledge

This week I prepared my first exam, for the ‘Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages’ course for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I actually found it surprisingly difficult, partly because I remember sitting many exams in the past & finding fault with multiple choice questions where answers could be argued.

How do you measure somebody’s skills at using births, deaths and marriages indexes, and interpreting certificates? I didn’t want all answers to be found in the notes. (Although knowing “What year did civil registration start in NSW?” – 1856 – might be useful, because there is usually more information on a civil birth certificate than the early church records baptism certificate.)

I believe that effectively using BDM indexes is more about your searching skills and being able to analyse and look for clues in the results found. Such skills improve over time – perhaps because after falling into a trap you are less likely to do so next time.

In this exam I tested skills like recognising the possibility of spelling variations, where you won’t find the birth if you search for the name exactly as it appeared in the death index (using a wildcard helps). Or linking that bride named Annie with the birth of a daughter named Ann.

I think these are the real skills of researching family history. Not jumping to conclusions when you stumble on one person who happens to have the right name and is born in the right place, before looking to see if they might have died as an infant and so could not possibly be the groom in a marriage 25 years later.  Alternatively if you look and don’t find, then thinking  about how else to search.

Researchers need to be aware that just because the marriage certificate said they married at age 20, doesn’t mean it’s true. I always start searching a range of dates and increase or decrease the range if necessary. One couple in my family had 5 children and then were married. (The bride was previously married and could not remarry until after the death of her first husband.) I would not have found the marriage if I only looked before the birth of their first child.

One skill that improves over time that I did not test in this exam, is handwriting recognition. (Ironically someone in my family has dreadful handwriting and he is fantastic at helping me interpret old hard-to-read handwriting.)

What do you think of this? (I remember how hard I found this at first, but now it seems not bad.)

Recognising handwriting in a will

10 December, 2010 at 5:38 pm 1 comment

Australian BDM certificates & saving money

Australians refer to Births, Deaths and Marriages (or BDM) – in alphabetical order. In UK these are described as BMD (in chronological order) while most Northern Americans refer to Vital Statistics.

I’ve been writing a course on Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages for the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. In Australia births, deaths and marriages are managed separately by each state or territory. While these have some common history there are also differences in the records and indexes available. (Links to the various BDM Registries can be found here.)

The following are some tips for saving money, while searching Australian BDM:

  1. Check whether a family member already has a copy of the certificate you want.
  2. Most states’ and territories’ Registry BDM indexes online are free to search, although Victoria’s cost & some regions don’t have online indexes.
  3. Most states and territories have BDM indexes on CDROMs that can be searched freely at libraries and genealogical societies.
  4. Ancestry.com is available to use freely at many libraries, genealogical societies & Family History Centers, so you do not need a personal subscription to check the combined ‘Australian Birth, Marriage and Death Index’.
  5. Cross-check details as much as possible before ordering, to minimise wrongly ordered certificates.
  6. Check holdings of genealogical societies – someone else might have deposited a copy of the certificate you want.
  7. Check the Australasia Births, Deaths & Marriages Exchange in case someone else has the certificate you want.
  8. Certificates are often cheaper if you can provide the name, year and registration numbers (and sometimes registration districts) – so check an index first and write down ALL the details.
  9. For New South Wales (NSW) and Tasmania, many 19th century church records are microfilmed & you may be able to see them at a genealogical society or library and write down the details yourself.
  10. For NSW transcriptions are cheaper than full certificates. Obtain these from Marilyn Rowan, Joy Murrin or Laurie Turtle. Early Church Records transcriptions are cheaper than civil certificate transcriptions.
  11. In South Australia transcriptions can sometimes be obtained free from the public libraries that hold District Registers. Note that each library can only provide transcriptions of one district, not others. Some libraries charge for this service and some offer it free. (eg Unley Library holds Adelaide District Register ONLY and will copy for researchers who live too far from the library to visit.)
  12. South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society (SAGHS) offers transcriptions of all districts of historic South Australian certificates.
  13. For Victoria, historical images of certificates (downloaded immediately as PDF files) are cheaper than certified printed copies of certificates (posted to you).
  14. Search Queensland BDM indexes online for free and order online the historical image of a certificate more cheaply than a certified historical certificate here.

14 November, 2010 at 12:54 pm 12 comments

Busy times – and handouts

I’ve been very busy lately, writing and teaching, but without time to write new blog entries.

At the recent History and Genealogy Expo, run by Unlock The Past,  I gave talks entitled ‘Which Genealogy Program?’ and ‘DNA for Genealogists’.

Which Genealogy Program?‘ is the title of the book I wrote with Rosemary Kopittke, and it is available through Gould Genealogy & Heraldry. Actually today I finished the revisions for an updated edition 2 of the book, which will be launched next week at the History and Genealogy Roadshow. Edition 2 of the book includes reviews of the latest versions of Ezitree Plus, Family Tree Maker 2011 and MacFamily Tree.

A second talk I gave at the Expo was ‘DNA for Genealogists’, and a short excerpt from my talk can be seen in this clip. (Having seen it, I realise that I really must learn to trust the remote controls for changing slides, so I don’t need to keep looking down at the computer in order to step through the slides of my presentations!)

I have also attended the ‘Lost in the Internet’ seminar at the State Library of NSW, conducted by the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG). My topic to speak on there was ‘How Pay-to-view Websites can be Good Value’. A photo from that day can be seen here.

Today Louise St Denis, the Managing Director of the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) released some information that will also be announced next week at the Roadshow – I am to be the Director of Australian Studies for an Australian Certificate course run through NIGS. Her announcement can be seen here. The various courses will be released over 2011.

Anyway all that is why I haven’t had time to write about anything in particular, although I have actually been doing a lot of genealogical writing. With all these talks, I decided to make available on my website the handouts from some of the talks I have given in the last few years. (Bear in mind that some of these handouts were prepared some years ago – each shows the date indicating when it was prepared.)

I retain the copyright, but hopefully at least some of the information contained might be useful for others. Handouts include: Arrivals (Immigration); Australian births, deaths & marriages; Australian government archives; DNA for genealogists; Pay-to-view websites; New Zealand research; Publishing personal research to the Internet; Scottish research; Victorian Goldrush; Western Australian genealogy.

2 November, 2010 at 8:04 pm 2 comments


Discoveries and musings of a family history researcher and instructor - including tips and hints.

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