Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Contacts, more contacts, and Marriages challenges

Isn’t it strange how, sometimes, the things that should be easy to find, turn out to be very elusive. Since the last posting, I’ve received messages from four new contacts, plus a renewal of contact with someone I was last in touch with in 2004. Two of the messages were easy to deal with – one was someone just starting out on research and wondering what to do. He’d already made a good beginning by contacting living relatives, and so it was easy to pass on details of my own page with sources for new genealogists, and a few of the other useful sites, such as the BBC, which has a "getting started" section. The second was a current Parry who’d come across my site and thought they’d write. Again, an easy one to respond to.

Two of the other contacts, strangely enough, were both looking for Parrys called Robert – unfortunately, not the same Robert! What with possibilities of name changes and second marriages for both of them, I knew they would not be very easy to identify. But we have made some progress.

But in the final case, the researcher very kindly sent me a tree going back to the 1800s. And can I find them in all the censuses? No!

Both of us have come up with the same possibilities for some of the entries but second marriages, possible mistranscriptions, and children being born just after census dates have "conspired" to turn what looked like being an easy task, into quite a search. Such is life. Good job I like a challenge.

Talking of challenges, I’ve finally submitted my (19) marriages for the Bristol challenge and suddenly there are three more challenges being announced on the forum. The kindness of Guild members in undertaking these challenges is really appreciated (even if I do have to get a move on to check the details for my entries before submitted them. That’s minor work compared to what they are taking on.)

Other news – I have updated some of the pages on my web site, to tidy up my Sources and Resources page, and to include the link to Ruth’s site. Ruth and I have also been "chatting" about coats of arms. The details of a Surname information site were posted on the forum, but subsequent comments by the experts (i.e. the one-namers who know their own surnames better than a general researcher would) indicate that much of the information is suspect (so I won’t even repeat the link!). Genes Reunited continues to grow – between the 9th – 23rd Feb there have been 1101 new entries for Parry (according to the "Genes New Names Alert"). I wonder how many of the submitters are actually researching or whether it is just people submitting their recent families?

And, finally, I discovered that the University of Wales, Aberystwyth has been granted the funding to put Bartrum’s Welsh Genealogies on-line. (BBC article) Brilliant news for those of us interested in the old pedigrees but who don’t live on the doorstep of the NLW. Mind you, with all the Welsh naming that is in there, I wonder how long it will be before "researchers" are publishing all sorts of pedigrees showing how their family connects to those in Bartrum’s work?

Perhaps it's a good job the project will take three years - that might give me sufficient time to identify some of the Parry families who genuinely trace back to them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Matching marriage entries, and other news

I have almost finished sorting out the Liverpool district Parry marriages, to help Susan with her challenge. The process is not really complicated, just time consuming, as I have mentioned before. Basically it involves:
- already having a listing of civil registration items (perhaps extracted from something like Freebmd, or transcribed personally from the GRO indexes)
- collecting the items on the Lancsbmd site (relatively easy because it is possible to download a csv file of the results).
- checking each item from Lancsbmd to find its GRO reference (using Freebmd as far as possible but looking up on the original images where necessary). [For a low frequency name, it might be possible to skip this step and to match to a listing of the civil registration items just on the basis of the names alone but this is not possible for the Parrys – they’re just too common.]
- matching the Lancsbmd listing with its added references to the listing of civil registration items.

In some ways, it would be easiest to run the match process using a program like Access but there are some difficulties with doing this. Firstly, if running the match on the basis of just the GRO references, then there are additional entries created in any situation where two Parrys have the same references (which can happen because of Parry-Parry marriages but there is also at least one case of two Parrys marrying non-Parrys yet having the same references. Was it a brother and sister marrying on the same day or was it just coincidence that they followed each other in the register?) Although it is possible to automatically delete any duplicates, this won’t solve the problem of "false matches".

But, if the original matching process takes names into account as well as references, then it won’t match items where there are slight differences in spellings, such as the Susannah who appears on Lancsbmd as Sussanah, or the James who probably should be a Jane. And it certainly won’t match the "Christina" who probably should be a "David John"!

Although the Freebmd name transcription can be checked back to the original indexes, there’s no way of checking the Lancsbmd entries. And what if the transcription is correct but the spelling is just different in each source? Such situations lead to the question of whether I really need to be adding a standardised name column to every file as well (which I will obviously need eventually, when I finally want to put all of the names into a master index. But do I want to sidetrack onto consideration of "standard forms" at the moment?)

And, of course, any automatic matching process using the GRO references, presupposes that the references on the civil registration listing have all been corrected (which they haven’t!)

In the end I just find it easier to match using Excel, keeping all the columns of each file but then also having one column with all the GRO references in to sort on, which brings the matching items next to each other enabling them to be combined manually. It might take longer but I keep control and at least I know there are no false duplications. Then it is just a matter of putting the information into a form that is usable by Susan since I have sent both a full column file (in case she wants to double check anything) but also a reduced file based just on the references and including spouses and church, which should be easier for her to work with for the challenge.

Hopefully, having now listed all the process, it will remind me of what to do if much time lapses before I tackle any more UKbmd sites.

Other news - more years have been added to the passenger lists on findmypast – it now covers from 1890 – 1909 and includes 2038 Parrys.

Another researcher mentioned a strange entry on FamilySearch, where what is possibly her Williams family have all been entered as if a Caleb Parry is their father (easy to find – use "All resources, look for a Martha JASPER, with Caleb in the father’s name. First entry, on the IGI, for Martha Williams Jasper, born 14 FEB 1821 Llanbedr, Brecon, Wales, is the relevant one. Click on her and then the "Family" link alongside Caleb.). Having done some further searching, I found an entry in the 1871 census for Abergavenny showing a Caleb Parry visiting the Jaspers. Caleb was originally recorded as a Minister, to which someone has added "Latter Day Saints". Now I wonder when that was added!

Caleb is recorded as being born in America but, based on various census and IGI entries, I suspect he might actually have been born in Flintshire, and that he then moved out to Utah, marrying a Catherine from Wales either before or after he arrived there (or on the boat, as some IGI entries have it). He then returned to the UK around 1870/71, and died in Birmingham in 1871. There’s also an interesting collection of other marriages, along with some children born to one of the other wives, children who do appear with Caleb and Catherine in the US census. I wouldn’t have been able to tell from just the census entries but it seems possible that this is my first case of the "multiple marriages" one is reputed to find amongst the LDS.

Funnily enough, one of the names which appears in the family is Bernard, and I have just dealt with a query from another researcher who has family using that name, in the same area of Flintshire. I wonder if there might be a connection there? It’s a pity there are so many of these North Wales families – it will be a fascinating job to sort them all out eventually but, at the moment, I just don’t have the time or resources.

Next priority is to update my website, and add that link to Ruth's site.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The last few days

Two sites have been posted on the Forum regarding indentured servants to the US. One has 7 results from just a Parry search (3xPARRY, 1xPERREY, 3xPERRY). However, a soundex search produced 32 results, including 2x PERREY and 9xPERRY. The reason for the difference is that the other results found on the Parry search all have Parry as a spelling variant within the entry. It’s always useful to explore what results different search methods produce on a particular website, especially when dealing with early records. It helps in determining the best strategy for searching, in order to get the right balance between picking up everything which is relevant, without being inundated with irrelevant entries. The second site did not appear to have a specific search facility, so needed to be searched using Google’s site search. That indicated there were 36 pages with references to Parry, but the site is familiar - have I searched it before?

I have been thinking about organisation and how little things can make a difference. Sometimes it happens that I come across a site whilst searching for something else, or a useful site is mentioned on the Forum but I either don’t have time to look at it, or else I just carry out an initial extraction and don’t finish tidying up the information. I often leave the Forum messages highlighted to remind me to go back “at some stage” – but then I don’t always check back through those emails when a “new” site is mentioned. How much simpler it would be if I just had one spreadsheet into which I entered all the web sites when they were first mentioned, including details such as whether there are any Parrys, if so, at what stage my extraction is in, and for sites where information is still being added, the date I last extracted the details. Doing that would mean I only have one place to check to see if I have already done work on the site. It would also enable me to clear out a lot of my old emails. Just a simple piece of organisation.

The trick is to make sure I stick to the system!

Two burial sites mentioned on the Forum, following on from one concerning Missouri death records (which is still sitting highlighted in my “GOONS” messages folder) – St Lukes, in Upper Norwood, Surrey with 1 Parry, and Jewishgen, which has 1925 results using a “sounds like” search but only 3 for exact spelling Parry. Since one needs to register to view the details, I have left it for the moment. But that’s now four entries in my new spreadsheet.

Some good news – Ruth’s book on Blanche Parry is with the publishers, although it sounds like it could be near the end of the year before it is published. I will set up a link to her site, which should help her to get noticed on the search engines. It will be interesting to read what she has discovered, especially with regard to the family as they appear in the bardic poems – one of the few more contemporary records relating to them.

A marriage challenge for Bristol 1837-1851 has been announced. I thought I might have quite a few entries but there appears to only be 19. I’ll need to go through and see if I can find any of them on the IGI, or other such sources, first before I can submit them. But that project is such a help to Guild members. I have also received copies of some certificates from another researcher so that adds to the collection. I must set out my timetable for tackling the marriage indexes – but I still have the Liverpool entries from 1881-1911 to sort out first to help Susan with her challenge.

Todays emails included the Rootsweb review. I often only skim through that, but of course it also includes a list of new databases. I should really try checking them when they are announced – or at least add them to my new spreadsheet. I hope it proves as effective as I am finding my “activity log” for emails. There is something quite satisfying to see 3 emails received (just this morning – one renewed contact from 2002, one about the marriage certificate, and one about an unsuccessful deeds search) and all of them marked off as acknowledged already. It helps to keep a sense of order to the study.

Now all I need to do is clear the longer outstanding ones which I have marked in red!

Friday, February 02, 2007

So much for being organised!

The blog is certainly failing miserably at its task of letting people know what’s going on with the study. But, never mind, I have decided that the success of a New Year’s resolution should be measured by whether the planned action is consistently in practice by the end of the year. So I still have plenty of time to get organised and into a better routine of writing it.

There has been a lot happening though. Firstly I’ve made up my mind with regard to the civil registration indexes – largely as a result of emailing Susan, the Liverpool marriage challenger. Although I’m not submitting any of the Parry marriages for the district, she said that the listing iteself would be of help to her and that perhaps I would find the Lancsbmd site of use myself. I certainly did – it turned out that there are 964 entries on there which related to the period covered by the current challenge. Although some of them were duplications (because separate entries appear to be made for both maiden name and the 1st married name when someone has been married before) I have been able to match almost 600 entries so far from the Lancsbmd to the GRO listing. Which means those GRO entries now have the spouse and church details added to them, making it much easier to identify a particular marriage amongst the many Parrys with the same name.

At the same time, I was also trying to match those Liverpool items which are on the IGI to the GRO, since that also helps to identify the relevant churches and spouses. The two matching processes have been time-consuming, since every Lancsbmd entry initially needed looking up in the GRO just to be able to match the items properly, and the second marriage issue did cause me a few problems (Parry entries in Lancsbmd aren’t necessarily Parrys in the GRO). There were also anomalies with the IGI because some items are on there with the surname as, for example "Jones or Parry" or "Parry or Jones". And there is a difference between these because one is found when using Parry as a search term and one isn’t. This means that the entries found on the IGI are not actually the ones which will be found on the GRO as having married under the surname Parry. Confusing until you realise what’s going on.

But the final result of all this work has been the realisation that it could be possible to identify quite a number of the GRO marriage references – not just who is marrying who, but also which church it took place in – through the UKbmd sites, and that is definitely worth doing, so work on the GRO marriage index has become a priority for this year. (And I’m wishing there were a lot more districts covered by UKbmd sites!).

Whether the GRO birth and death indexes will follow remains to be seen, since I do still want to get the census entries for my main counties transcribed fully and online, as well as some particular family trees derived from them.

In line with the decision to work on the marriages, I have made a start on contacting the 35 other Guild members who might already have the full details for some of the marriages, since they have submitted entries to the GMI indicating a Parry married into their registered name. This of course adds to my correspondence, which has also included five new contacts since I last wrote, as well as renewed contact with a researcher I last wrote to in 2002, and over twenty other Parry related emails received – most of which I have answered but there are still a few long outstanding ones.

There’s a few specific items to mention from the correspondence – one of the new contacts was having difficulty with her Parrys in Herefordshire, because there appeared to be some duplicate entries, but with slightly differing details. This illustrated how a One-Name Study can help in sorting out such situations, since I had sufficient information to be able to demonstrate that there were actually two different couples called Henry and Emma Parry within the same area, both of about the same age, rather than there being some error in the way the census was enumerated. I’ve received a very interesting enquiry with regard to Parrys who were prisoners of Napoleon – I’ll write more on this in a later blog entry since I’m only just beginning to look into it. The issue of surnames possibly being used as first names was touched on by another query – in this case the researcher was trying to find out about a James Burdett Parry in London who, unfortunately, died before any of the censuses and civil registration began so I am struggling to find much about him. The interesting point though, is that in Herefordshire there is a John Burdett Parry, whose wife came from London – could there be a connection or is the use of Burdett just a coincidence?

As I was answering this query, Daniel posted to the Forum a method for searching middle names on Freebmd – which obviously I checked out for Parry. Only just over 4900 on there at the moment. The question arises as to whether such entries are considered part of an ONS. Some researchers say no, because they regard an ONS as just instances of the *surname*. Others say yes, because it is still use of the name – and, since the situation often arises through use of a maiden name as a middle name, one would expect such entries to be of help in identifying marriages. But, with a common surname, there can be as many (if not more) "first name" instances as some other One Name Studies have in their entire study!

Other interesting points from the past month (most courtesy of Guild members as usual) – a site about Family History in India which has 39 pages with Parrys on (still need to sort out those), the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office have put their Wills index online and some of the items have the images freely associated with them. (32 Parry entries – still to follow up properly). The passenger lists on Findmypast (used to be 1837 online) have 774 Parry entries so far (just for 1890 to 1899). A database of cases heard in the Court of Chivalry between 1634 – 1640 produced 131 references. Many of them appear to relate to cases where a Parry was the solicitor but again, this site still needs investigating properly. A project involving the digitising of documents from the US National Archives (NARA) – it’s currently a pay to view site, but it appears the documents will be available for free after five years (which gives me plenty of time to index the 1185 documents mentioning Parrys that are already there, before I even consider viewing the actual records) (Note - the total has now gone up to 1241 since I first searched.)

Finally, during the last month I’ve also received upgrades to two very useful programs – Genmap and LDS companion (both available from Archer Software). Now I’ve just got to find the time to use them!