Monday, June 30, 2008

Ongoing Projects

Why are some activities easier to do than others? At the start of the year, I wrote about trying to get some extractions or transcriptions done most days before dealing with any incoming mail. That tactic certainly worked with the probate abstract book, which was transcribed by March. The second stage of work on the details from the book, inserting tabs so that the information could be pasted into a table, was almost compulsive – the sort of task that is so easy to do in preference to anything else, that it’s probably a good job that, that is also now finished. The results have been pasted into excel and just need some rearranging and categorising to make them useable.

The process set me thinking about the different requirements of tasks on the study and how to achieve the most progress. There are many activities to be carried out for a one-name study. The primary task may appear to be the amassing of a large collection of data on the name. But that data then needs analysing, and conclusions developing from it, which should be published in order to advance research on the name. There will always be some overlap of these tasks, especially since one rarely finishes data collecting, as new sources become available. But for a small study, the bulk of the data collection can be carried out before the other stages and, in some cases, the study can effectively be “completed” – having traced everyone by the name back to an original source. There may be new developments to explore, such as the use of DNA for genealogy but, if you only have a few hundred names in any census, the basic work doesn’t take long.

For a large study it’s different. If you waited until all the basic data was collected, it would probably be your descendants carrying out the other stages! So it seems important to work on several stages at the same time.

Thinking about the nature of the activities, there are some which I describe as “mindless” - even if they take a long time to complete, it doesn’t matter since they can be picked up easily and paused at any time, and don’t take much effort to carry out. Other tasks require a bit of planning – perhaps they are still easy to carry out, but must be tackled in one go (eg where the data is only available for a limited time, or where any break in the extraction process would result in a different set of reference numbers and make it difficult to match up the data), or else they just require more thought in order to get them right (as when designing a web page to best explain a particular point). For most of these tasks, the final goal is known – it’s just how to get there that’s the issue. But then there are those tasks which require a great deal of thought and application, often without knowing quite what the final result will look like (as when I tried to find a way of mapping a modern Parry distribution with a program designed for 19c information).

So, for the different types of activities, it’s not just the time available that influences whether they get done or not – it’s also attitude. Do I feel like putting in that level of work, at that time? Am I up for a challenge, or do I just want something simple that will give quick results? I once read that it’s more effective to start a new project before finishing the previous one – the reasoning being that starting and finishing are the hardest parts and, if you finish a task without something else on the go, it gets harder to start something new. (Of course, it is important to ensure the original task does actually get finished!)

But, again, it's the principle of overlapping tasks, rather than tackling them consecutively.

So why this ramble about tasks? Basically, it’s the reasoning behind the structure of the ongoing projects list which follows. I’ve not really thought about the nature of the activities of the ONS in this way before – it’s just been a list of things to do, one after another. But structuring the activities, with priorities taking account of the nature of the tasks, could be a more effective way of making progress.

So, the ongoing projects:
The probate abstracts book is the main task but it has moved into a “thought required” activity, since the structure of the eventual database needs some consideration. And, although there are some simple corrections to be made to the original transcription before posting that onto the web site, page layout and linkage of related abstracts needs thought.
There are actually two new transcription tasks - census entries and BMDs. Since both of these will take a long time overall, having two provides a bit of variety. They are also both subdivided into smaller activities:
BMDs – the starting point is typing up the certificates received from the marriage challenges. As that moves into combining those with results already received in a variety of electronic forms, and submitting them to the Guild marriage index, the basic transcription task will become the civil registration indexes not yet transcribed.
Census – all of the index information is already extracted so this is the continued transcription of the additional details, starting with “my” three counties. Again, as this task moves into a “thought required” activity once a county is completed and the process of matching individuals across census years begins, the transcription will move on to adjoining counties.
The other current activities that require some thought are updating the web site with information on the DNA research, and with the “Fess families” details derived from the display in April.
And, while I’m doing that, the “serious thought” subject – how to connect up information on the web site so that people can easily find out what is available for any individual.

And now the projects are "in print", look out for their progress.

Three weeks ago, I said that, by the end of the week, I intended to have caught up with all the outstanding tasks. Clearly I didn’t achieve the goal, since I have only just posted the current projects list, but I also “failed” with regard to correspondence – probably the major difficulty of every large ONS and the reason that some people choose not to register their studies. Producing an initial response to people isn’t (usually) too difficult but, having had 25 new contacts since the start of the year, it is the later exchanging of information that can take up the time. And I still have several queries that had to be put aside about six months ago.

But setting the goal helped so my next one has to be catching up with that outstanding correspondence, whilst still keeping up with any day-to-day occurrences. And, while on the subject of those, here’s the news from the last couple of weeks:

I spotted a couple of Sir Edward Abbott Parry’s books on ebay. In looking for more information about those, I found an interesting article by Susan Watkin, detailing his work.
I received details of three more marriages from the Marylebone marriage challenge during June. There are 5 challenges to sort out items for, but none of them are places Parrys are common in so it shouldn’t take long.
I had a nice surprise when a Guild member took the trouble to send me a death notice from a newspaper – and then followed that with 13 17c marriages she’d found on a visit to the Westminster archives.
The Queensland Convict Transportation Registers were mentioned on the Forum – 58 Parrys and 1 Parrey transported. Details from the assizes will be a good subject to research at some time but that will have to go on a “future projects” list.

Finally, a couple of comments from correspondence:
Octavious is a fairly uncommon name – but I’ve had two queries recently involving it. The searches I’d carried out for the first query helped me identify information on the second promptly, despite the spelling varying between “ious” and “ius”. It’s helpful when things coincide like that.
I’ve also received emails from both new and renewed contacts regarding the Golden Valley family, which have resulted in me browsing the Patent Rolls for early information, as well as rechecking some of the coat of arms details. There are some contradictions in the reference works with regard to which families certain Parry quarterings have been ascribed to, so sorting that out will be part of the “fess families” research.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Probate Abstracts update

One of the (free!) books I picked up at the WDYTYA event was a catalogue from “Personalia”, who are dealers in all sorts of historical artifacts. It is fascinating to browse through something like this, since it gives an insight into the past, as well as containing many names (no Parrys though). One of the sections I found particularly interesting was about Momentos – predominently mourning brooches and rings. I have come across many references to mourning rings whilst transcribing the probate abstracts book but had never realised what forms they could take. You can see examples on their web site - Mourning Jewellery and Momentos

With regard to the probate abstracts, the basic transcription of the book was finished in March and I am in the process of converting the information into a suitable form to paste it into a spreadsheet or database. Having it in an electronic form will make it easier to search, but a spreadsheet format will also mean information can be rearranged easily which should make it more convenient for spotting connections between the various abstracts. At the moment, the conversion is what I call a “mindless task” – adding in tabs between information such as names and the key terms of “executor,” ”witness,” etc., so that the information will paste easily into a table. It doesn’t take a lot of thought but, every so often, something catches my attention. One such moment was when I spotted “Thomas Luckman, of Coventry, printer” in the abstract for a Mary Parry, spinster of Warwick, whose Will was written in 1783 and proved 1791. It wasn’t just the place name, but also the surname which caught my attention – and an article that appeared in the local newspaper a few years ago came to mind. It concerned the loss of some gravestones, amongst which was one belonging to a former Lord Mayor of Coventry, Thomas Luckman, and his wife Mary, who were buried in St Mary’s in 1784 and 1813 respectively. The gravestones had been moved during excavations at Coventry’s first Cathedral and had later disappeared. You can read the newspaper report here.

According to the newspaper, Thomas Luckman’s wife, Mary, had formerly been a Parry and, when I first saw it, I just noted it as “a Parry, to be followed up ‘as and when’,” since I had no further information on her. But now I have the abstract information, which links her in to a family, since it describes Mary Luckman as the niece of the testator (although it doesn’t actually mention that she was a Parry).

And it’s possibly not just any family – but one of those families who may eventually be shown to belong amongst the “fess families”. One of the other beneficiaries is a cousin, Martha Parry of Barcheston Mill, and there has been a suggestion by other researchers that the Barcheston Mill family connect to those of Aston Somerville, who did use that coat of arms. So there is a picture building up of interconnecting families – I just need to prove that there were definite relationships between them, rather than just associations. But it does seem like it’s time to stop bemoaning the fact that I have no family locally to research – they may not be my own family, but, as Parrys, they’re close enough.

As a final note along those lines, as I rechecked the Segar Parry information today, I discovered that some of the records for that family are held at Warwick record office – yet more relevant information just about on my doorstep!

It’s a good job that I have finally caught up with recording the last few months activities and can now start to look forward to the ongoing projects.

Web site update

I used the “fess families” as the basis for my display at the Guild’s AGM in April. The display for the Solihull seminar in February went well (so I thought!) and I gained a few ideas from talking to others there, as well as just from the actual process of producing the display. But that display had been a more general introduction to several aspects of the study so I narrowed it down to concentrate on just the fess families for the AGM display. Having done that, the information I produced should act as the foundation for pages on each of the fess families to go onto the web site. Back in February I also received a copy of the Will of Bishop Edward Archibald Parry, formerly Bishop of Guiana, which I will transcribe. He was the son of Edward Parry, Suffragan Bishop pf Dover, whose tomb at Canterbury can be seen on the “fess families” page on my web site.

Getting the web pages updated is important – they have suffered from the busy-ness of the last few months and don’t even have details of the DNA study or DNA group on them at the moment. The only page I have added recently concerned my grandfather’s “emigration” to Canada. There is more to be added even to that page but the incentive for producing it was hearing about the Ontario Genealogical Society’s annual conference which was being held in London, Ontario. I notified a Canadian researcher about the page, in case there were any opportunities for making it known to people. Nothing came of that but at least it meant I produced the page (sometimes deadlines do work!)

Going back to the Guild’s AGM in April – since it was held down in Devon, I was able to obtain information on Parry events in that county, which I typed up once home. This was an incentive to systematically extract the IGI entries for the county. Tackling the IGI properly is on my “to do” list, but I know from doing Devon that it will be a long job. One of the difficulties with English counties is going to be the number of Perry entries, since they are treated as a variation of Parry on the IGI. Some of the early variants could be even more problematic, since searching for “ap Harry” produces all the “Harry” results. I will perhaps have to work on an exact search for Parry and hope that I can cover all the variants separately. There’s certainly plenty of scope for confusion, especially where there are instances of different surnames that have the same origin and which may be interchangeable in particular time periods - one of the probate Abstracts is that of an Ursula Harry, who then remarried to a Harrison and who also had a son in law, David Parry.

So that's three different surnames which all have an origin derived from “Harry’s son.”

Past research

Another recent addition to the British Origins site was the “Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries 1890-1980”. After looking at them, I almost wrote an entry entitled “sometimes I could scream!” because amongst the entries was one saying “I have now definite proof …”(of a particular Parry’s parentage) but it didn’t indicate what the proof was. It’s like researchers who write saying “I know….” but when you ask how, it turns out that they don’t actually know at all. Such comments serve to remind me of the importance of documenting sources, and also of attempting to ensure that what I research is distributed and available for others to build on. But it is frustrating to think that much of what I am working on has already been researched by others in the past. Yes, past research does need re-examining, especially as new records become available, but how much better it would be if we could keep building on it, instead of having to rediscover it.

Sometimes we do need to correct past research though. I wonder to what extent that will be the case when I have followed up what I call the “fess families” – those Parrys families laying claim to the coat of arms “a fess between three lozenges”. Back in March, a researcher sent me a link to an article on the Gazettes Online web site, concerning an insolvent debtor, Segar Parry . This is a site that I plan to go through systematically when I get time but I can never resist following up such items. There were two lines of enquiry that resulted. Firstly, I discovered another entry which stated “Cornet Robert Burdett, from half-pay of the 25th Light Dragoons, vice Segar Parry, who exchanges, receiving the difference. Dated 29th March 1819”. Now, I don’t understand the military arrangement that is going on here and so still need to find out about that. But, back in December 2006, I received an email asking about a James Burdett Parry, baptised 1828 in St Marylebone to a James and Amelia, so finding the names Burdett and Parry linked together in some way could be important. An additional point of interest on this line is that there is also a John Burdett Parry. Unfortunately, he was born about 1808 in Herefordshire, and is in that county in the censuses so, although his wife comes from Middlesex, there doesn’t seem to be anything to connect him to the James Burdett Parry. It could all just be coincidence but it is something to be looking out for.

The second line of enquiry that resulted from following up the Gazette article came from the reminder that I have already come across references to the combination of Segar and Parry with regard to heraldry. According to a story that I have yet to prove, one of the daughters of William Segar, Garter King of Arms, married a Parry. The Parry wasn’t keen to apply for a coat of arms but his later descendants did. Looking at my own listing of Parrys from Burke’s General Armory I found “Parry (Segar-Parry, Little Haddam, co. Hertford). Ar. a fesse betw. three lozenges az.” – so that makes this family one of those I should be including amongst my “fess families” investigation.

And it certainly looks like it will require investigating – I am fairly sure that the Segar Parry was the son of a Nicholas Segar Parry and, using a combination of the IGI and the probate abstracts, it appears that the family may have traced back to Flintshire.

So how come the Herefordshire Arms?

Working together

One of my friends from the States asked recently whether a DNA sample would help with his branch. It is such a shame that he isn’t a Parry, since I don’t doubt he’d have become the second member of the DNA study. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks out for Parrys who may provide samples for me. Collaboration has been a recurrent theme as I’ve considered the events of the last few months. I had a pleasant surprise after thanking a Guild member for their work on one of the marriage challenges. It turned out that they’d noticed some Parrys in records they were working on, so I soon received a file of Parry marriages from Sussex. It sometimes happens that people send me files in versions that are more up to date than my programs will open so I have to request the details in an older version. But in this case, not being particularly technically minded, I didn’t even recognise the file type (an odt file) and none of my programs would open it. However, a search on the internet indicated that Google docs would do so. I’d not used that system before although I had viewed the spreadsheet a Guild member set up, in order to let other members view the entries for the challenge he was carrying out. It occurs to me that sharing files through the system could be a potential method for encouraging collaboration amongst Parry researchers, especially on things such as the census records, or civil registration and certificates. Since there are so many Parrys in those records, working together is possibly the only way even the basic information will be collected in less than my lifetime.

Generous genealogists

I received 23 copy marriage certificates at the end of May, the results of Stage 2 of the Bristol Marriage Challenge. That’s 40, out of the 48 Bristol district entries up to 1871, that have now been accounted for. (The 51 marriages shown on FreeBMD is an exaggeration due to transcription errors). The details from several of these latest ones will be of interest to other researchers but I need to get them typed up first – not all of the challengers send out results electronically since some prefer to transcribe directly from the registers onto blank “certificates”. But, having received well over 300 certificates since I started submitting entries to the challenges, I’m certainly not going to complain about a bit of typing up.

I went to the WDYTYA? LIVE event at the beginning of May and spotted a few Parrys in some second hand books. There weren’t enough references to justify buying the books, but staff on the stall were kind enough to let me transcribe the entries. It reminded me of the first time I asked a bookseller if I could do that – it was soon after joining the Guild, so the concept of one-name studies was still new to me, and I’d found one or two entries in each of several separate booklets of apprenticeship records. Again, there wasn’t enough to justify buying them, but I wasn’t sure what kind of response I might get from the bookseller, a gentleman easily identified by his hat. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, in return for just putting the series of books into order in their box, I was free to transcribe anything relevant. It was only in April, when the bookseller died, that I learnt of his past contributions to genealogy. Howard Benbrook’s recollections of Don Steel probably encapsulate what many of us visitors to the fairs experienced, and Stuart Raymond’s his wider contribution.

No wonder he had understood the one-namer’s goal.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Medieval soldiers

A new database was mentioned on the Forum at the end of May - The Soldier in later Medieval England, which covers the period between 1369 and 1453. I didn’t expect to find any Parrys in it (and I didn’t), since these dates are before the name developed as a surname.

However, it does have 5 ap Harr(y/i) and 9 ap Henry entries, as well as other names which are possibly early variations (such as ap Herry) or that researchers have contacted me about (like Appenreth). Most Parry families will have started through an “ap Harry” and amongst the progenitors of the Golden Valley Herefordshire family are John ap Harry, and his brother Thomas, who are reputed to have fought at Agincourt. I already knew that a Thomas ap Henry and a John ap Henry are listed in Anne Curry’s book about Agincourt, as having taken out indentures to serve on the 1415 campaign. But here I find that, in 1415, a Thomas ap Harri and a John ap Harry both appear on a list as “sick”. There is then both a Thomas and a Henry ap Harry fighting under Edmund, Earl of March, in 1417, and a Thomas ap Harry under Richard, Duke of York, in 1441.

Of the ap Henrys, a David, two Jeuans, a Gwilym and a Ricard, were all under the command of John ap Rys et al, in 1415. A David and a Jeuan were also listed as sick. Then, in 1441, a Davy fought under Sir Lewis John, and a Philip under Henry Bourchier, Count of Eu. In the 1415 campaign, there was also an archer, John ap Herry, listed under the command of Griffith ap Jeuan Iscoid. This is notable because the John from the Golden Valley family was occasionally listed as “ap Herry”, but, since he was sheriff of Herefordshire around 1400, I imagine he is unlikely to be fighting as an archer in 1415.

I noticed a (probably irrelevant) fact, that all of the ap Harrys were men-at-arms whereas the ap Henry entries are all just archers (or “archer foot”). That some individuals do appear as men-at-arms is itself a promising sign, given that the Parrys from the Golden Valley were armigerous. But it is clear that more information will be needed to make sense of the various entries. Thomas ap Harry was supposedly killed at Agincourt (according to various Golden Valley pedigrees) so there are probably many people of the same names. The project details do mention that the research team will be linking records and building up career profiles, although such details does not appear to be accessible through the web site. This is something I will need to enquire about – I certainly don’t have the experience and knowledge to work on these records, even if I did access the originals.

The results generally are very interesting to browse through – one gets some idea of why names such as Powell are more common than Parry nowadays, of how many Welsh soldiers were involved in the armies, and also some idea of the differences in frequencies of particular names in England and Wales (eg there are 30 Harrys to only 4 ap Harrys, whereas there are 37 Howells, but 88 ap, or “appe”, Howells.)

I just hope that further information will be obtainable on the ap Harry/Henrys and also others who appear in the pedigree books as relevant in some way, such as “David Gam”, who died at Agincourt, supposedly saving Henry V’s life.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I may regret writing this…

But since, if I don’t aim at something, I won’t achieve it, I have now made this the "catching up" week. By the end of it, I aim to be able to write about the ongoing current projects, having cleared all the outstanding tasks from the past few months. Such tasks include not just general study activities (the ever-increasing filing, as well as writing some extended emails) but also blog entries about things that have happened recently on the study.

So, today’s catch up entry – DNA groups on Ancestry.

Early in May, Ancestry enabled DNA groups to be set up for surnames. Although there is already a Parry DNA project at Family Tree DNA, it seemed a good idea to set up a group on Ancestry as well. Some subscribers to the DNA lists seemed concerned at the thought of several projects existing for one surname but I think, as a one-namer, I’m more concerned about reaching Parrys wherever they are – we can sort out the practicalities of how to compare all the results later!

And the decision seems to be paying off since another Parry has requested to join the group already. One advantage of the Ancestry groups is that people who have tested elsewhere can submit their own data. I started the group by inputting my Parry results from a male relative and it is great to finally see a comparison of two sets of Parry results. Not that they match, but it’s a start.

The Ancestry groups also allow for the sharing of files and for carrying out discussions, so they do fill a gap in the existing provision, since FTDNA only show results of tests by them, and the only other discussion areas are the normal surname message board and mailing list, neither of which do I want to become dominated by dna issues.

So, another small step along the path to making sense of the Parrys.