Saturday, April 13, 2013

In memory of Private James Daniel BOOTHER d1914

My father reconnected with a second cousin of his recently, so I've been spending time on my own personal research for a change. Its been a while. The cousin is a Catchpole, and his grandfather married into our Boother line, by marrying my great-grandmother's sister.

I needed to collect the information from our Catchpole relative, and also go through some information sent to me by another distant Boother relative sometime ago, as we wanted to know more about the Catchpoles and he wanted to know more about the Boothers.

While going through my lines, checking and updating with the new information, and verifying the information sent by our Boother relative, I noticed a young man who'd died in 1914: James Daniel BOOTHER.

He is my great-great-uncle, younger brother of my great-grandmother Jessie WARD (nee BOOTHER). Apart from that, birth year and death year, I knew nothing else about him.

Mostly I tend to concentrate on my direct line back - unless I have a brickwall, and need to do sibling research to get passed it.

As he had died at 28, early on in the First World War, I decided to focus on him, and see what I could find out. Especially since I am concentrating on the annual Trans Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge that I do for work.

Using the FindMyPast website, I found him in the 1891 UK Census as a five year old, with his parents George and Margaret BOOTHER, and his five siblings. They were living in Sittingbourne in Kent, and his father was working as a bricklayer.

In the 1901 UK Census, James was 16 and working as a "Trade Boy". The family was living in Sheerness, now with only four of his siblings - his baby brother George (a twin) had died shortly after the previous census. Their father was working as a general labourer.

I have not been able to find our James in the 1911 UK Census in FindMyPast, so as any researcher would do, I switched to looking him up in Ancestry in the 1911 Census.

I found him. In India. In the Army.

According to the 1911 Census on Ancestry I discovered that he was Private James Daniel BOOTHER 2/Royal West Kent Battalion.

Looking at the transcription index on Ancestry of the UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, it listed James BOOTHER as Private, number  L/7860, 1st Battalion Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), killed in action in France and Flanders in the Western European Theatre of War.

Checking for the same information on FindMyPast, gave me additional information that he was in the 13th Brigade, 5th Division and his regiment had been deployed to the Front from where they had been stationed in Dublin. It gave further movements of where his brigade was deployed, but of course he was no longer with them at that point. Although landing at Le Havre on 15 August 1914, sadly James was recorded as killed in action on 23 September 1914.

Ancestry had given me the tip to check the UK, De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-1924, (which FindMyPast also has) and I discovered another listing for him there. Unfortunately, it didn't have a photo of him - I would have liked that.

BOOTHER, JAMES Private No. 7860, 1stBattn. Royal West Kent Rgt., s. of George Boother, of 25 Short Street, Sheerness; served with the Expeditionary Force; killed in action 23 Sept 1914.

Searching FindMyPast's death indexes found James on the Index to War Deaths 1914-1921 Army and other ranks (GRO War Death Army Other Ranks (1914-1921). This gave no new information, but confirmed what I had already found. It does however, provide me with the reference numbers to obtain a death certificate, if I wish to do so.

At this point, I wanted to know where he was buried, so I turned to the Commonwealth Graves Commission website (CGCW) and searched for James there. I found a listing for him on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial. Opening the spreadsheet for this listing, confirmed information I already knew, plus informed me that he was the son of Margaret Boother living at 3 Kent Street, Blue Town, Sheerness and the late George William Boother (??).

This raised questions, as I have information of George William Boother dying in 1917, and it seems strange the parents aren't the same address. However, I decided that this is probably a red herring - the memorial was no doubt created after 1917 when George Snr had already passed away, and his wife was living in a new address.

I searched the CGCW website for the memorial in question, and discovered that its in a small town 66kms to the east of Paris. It commemorates 3740 officers and men of the British Expeditionary Forces who had fallen during the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne, between the end of August and early October in 1914.

The website says:
The Battle of the Marne, referred to in the French press as the ‘Miracle of the Marne’, halted the month-long advance of the German forces toward Paris and decisively ended the possibility of an early German victory. The battle also marked the beginning of trench warfare as Allied and German forces entrenched during and after the Battle of the Aisne in mid-September. By November battle lines had been drawn that would remain virtually unchanged for almost four years. The British Expeditionary Force suffered almost 13,000 casualties during the Battle of the Marne, of whom some 7,000 had been killed.
Which sounds pretty much like the British Expeditionary Force saved Paris (for the time being) at very heavy cost.

The website also explains that the memorial wasn't created till 1928, which confirms the red herring. (Be careful when researching, not to add two and two together and make five!).

La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial
Courtesy of FindAGrave

Ancestry had suggested I go and look for more information about James at the FindAGrave website. It confirms information I already have, but also adds the information that his final resting place is not known. It gives a very good description and a lovely photo of the memorial from different angles.

It also says that the almost 4000 men lost during the First Battle of Marne are commemorated all have no known grave.

Back at Ancestry I discovered a medal card for him, from the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 dataset. James had been given The Victory Medal, The British War Medal, the 1914 Star and the clasp to the 1914 Star.

I have ordered more information from the National Archives in UK, Documents Online, through the New Zealand Society of Genealogist's free research service, as I am a member!

As James had enlisted in the Army by the 1911 UK Census, he was obviously a career soldier, having served in India and Ireland (and possibly other places) before serving in France. I doubt that anything would have prepared him for the realities of WWI, the battles in France and Flanders and the trenches.

My 2x-great-uncle is not an ANZAC, but this year I will remember him at the ANZAC Day service and wear my poppy for him, as this is the day that New Zealanders commemorate their fallen. My family in the UK may choose to do the same on Armistice Day in November.

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random acts of kindness: George Henry Harvey

Last year, I updated my original Tombstone Tuesday tribute post about my Uncle George after my cousin Mary sent me some further information.

Recently, a kindly researcher, Brian, found my blog, and sent me a photo of the machine gunboat that my Uncle was on when he was killed. On the back of the photo is a crew list, in the crewmen's own handwriting - which includes my Uncle George.

Can you imagine my delight?

Brian's initial email said:

I live in Southwest England, in a village called Galmpton near Brixham in Devon, a village on the banks of the River Dart which saw a lot of Naval and Military activity in the 2nd WW both in defence of the Country in the English Channel and particularly on the build up to D Day. This village like many others had/has boatyards which is where my contact with you has just materialised in some research. My village pub, The Manor Inn, has just come into possession of an old wartime photo of a HMMGB (with its ID number blanked out under wartime censorship) and a separate brass plate stating 612, HALLS, 1942 The HALLS are a well established local family who amongst other interests were owners of the boatyard down the road,It is widely known that this yard were building these vessels for the war effort (as were numerous others along the South Coast) I have just 'googled' HMMGB 612 and found your research. I have no idea as to the provenance of the photo (which appears to be a photo of a photo but is clearly a genuine photo of a MGB) or if the plaque actually belongs to it but I do know the fact is these boats were built in this village and the Hall family were boatyard owners - I'm 60 yrs old and know there are one or two older people in the village with a family history that will be able to recall the wartime years and Halls boatyard if not specific events about the vessels built. If you Google Earth us you will see the area and if I've got this right, the origins of the vessel 612 ! Let me know if I have contacted the right family and if I can help further.
 After my grateful first response to him, Brian replied back:
I live on the River Dart in the village of Galmpton which two had boatyards assisting the war effort in assembling these vessels, the Dart itself was a major 'harbour' for naval vessels in the preparations and launch of Operation Overlord - the D Day landings but a less known operation was Tiger - a rehearsal for the invasion which ended in considerable loss of life when a German MTB came across the convoy training on Slapton Beach in Start Bay just a mile down the coast from Dartmouth, the disaster was kept secret for years and historians are still uncovering details - well worth a read given the history of your knowledge of these famous craft. Did I mention that one of the original Fairmile boats still works as a passenger ferry out of Dartmouth?

Isn't this fabulous? Truly amazing!

Since beginning my own research, I have been amazed at the kindness of fellow researchers.

My father and I would like to say a sincere thanks to Brian for making contact, and for allowing me to share this photo above, and excerpts from his emails.

Happy hunting


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The cost of genealogical research - and potential data loss!

Revisiting my research and sorting it into order has given me a new perspective.

I had started to get my research into control, starting to scan documents into folders. Making electronic backups. This process has been very slow, as I work fulltime, have a family and also study.

Then my husband had a fall while carrying the laptop, and it broke.

Our laptop had our life on it – not just the typical household stuff, photos etc – but my husband’s work portfolio and all my family history research.

Data retrieval cost a pretty penny, but was necessary to do. As cheap as external storage drives now are, we simply hadn’t had the money to purchase sufficient storage to back everything up.

Fortunately, I had my family tree uploaded to Tribal Pages. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that I do not own my ancestors, so freely share my research with people who can prove a family connection. 

I know some people out there think that because they did the research, and paid for the website subscriptions and the BDM certificates that they don’t have to share. From my own experience, I do appreciate that the costs aren’t insignificant (both in terms of time and money), but to each their own, its just not a belief I subscribe to.

I have had some qualms however, when my sharing has meant that my research has been taken and grafted on to someone else’s tree without so much as the courtesy of asking my permission, nor even citing me as a source. It grates even more, when they’ve made numerous mistakes, so obviously don’t have the same research standards as me. But you can’t avoid plagarists, nor “name collectors” in this field unfortunately.

Anyway, I also had some family history research documents on another computer, and some were stored also on DropBox (cloud storage is fabulous!). And I also had my hard copy research. So I could have reassembled most of my research eventually, with only a little loss – but that would have taken time.

This disaster made me think. If we had a fire or similar disaster, what would I do? How much would it cost to replace everything I had? No doubt, the family history research would be the least of my priorities, but eventually, it would rise to the top.

The info stored on TribalPages would be ok. However, this website (714 names) contains only the results of my research. Its not the research, nor is it the evidence. The info contained here, is just the results of more than 12 years research, and collaborations with other family branches. And family history research is much more than just gathering names and dates.

In today’s prices it would cost me £9 to replace every certificate I have got.  At today’s exchange rate, that is $NZ18 per certificate. For each name verified during research, that’s a minimum of two certificates per name (sometimes three). Obviously, I’ve not been able to get a certificate for everyone on my tree – mainly just the direct line ancestors, but I have had to get some “sibling” certificates to support my research sometimes. And this for the four branches of my maternal line, and four branches of my paternal line – at least six generations back each! I haven’t done the maths, but I imagine the cost is not insignificant.

In addition to my certificates, I also have my labour and time. True it’s a labour of love. But I hate to think how much time I have spent. Sometimes information is quick to find, other times you can spend years and years off and on, looking for one small piece of information.

In my early days, I had to do the hard slog, looking through registers in public records offices. Visiting LDS Family History Libraries, looking through reels and reels of microfilms. Ordering microfilms on interloan from some other LDS Family History Library – can’t remember the cost per reel in those days.

More and more has become available online now, and I did subscribe to Ancestry to help with my research – a couple of hundred dollars per year, I think, at the time. 

Then I’ve also had subscriptions to websites to allow me to share the information with family in as user-friendly a manner as possible.  The current one, on TribalPages, costs me about $45 per year. There are most probably better ones out there, but this is the most cost effective, affordable one for me. TribalPages allows collaboration as mentioned previously, but it also offers the ability for people to create their own family tree graphic. Family have chipped in a couple of times.

Now, due to my job, I have free access to Ancestry and FindMyPast at work. However, to do the research for free, I’d need to stay behind after work – which I do, from time to time. 

Also, I can find some of my English information for free on the LDS’s FamilySearch site, which helps.
However, most of the information on these sites, are just indexes. Its not true to say its all online, because its not. Still have to order those expensive certificates. These websites just save you the cost of an airfare to the local public records office.

Unfortunately, the Scottish government now has a firm commercial grip on the information for my Scottish lines. I find ScotlandsPeople horrendously expensive, and it doesn’t allow libraries outside of Scotland to subscribe. 

ScotlandsPeople charge just to view the indexes, then you also have to pay to view the documents. So I’ve been unable to do any Scottish research for a long time because it is currently not in my budget.

One of my father’s branches is from Newfoundland. Happily the Grand Banks website for Newfoundland has a huge team of enthusiastic researchers, who are indexing and providing information for FREE

FamilySearch have also scanned parish registers for Newfoundland, and also provide them for free. As they are not yet indexed, this does cost a time commitment however – as I need to go through each individual image and check for “my” names.

So all this thinking has really pressed home to me, I really need to digitize and ensure I backup adequately – in a coherent manner, so that if the worst happens, I don’t have to waste precious time reassembling my research.

I also need to succession plan. Who to pass the sum of my research on to, in the event of my death? I’d hate to think of future generations having to start again from scratch.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Able Seaman George Henry Harvey

Last year, I wrote a "Tombtone Tuesday" post about the uncle I have never met, after I discovered a picture of his headstone on Flickr.

A couple of months ago, my cousin Mary, sent me a document she found amongst her parents papers. Her father Jim, was George and my father's brother.

Hsving written the review of the Anzac Blog Challenge on my work blog Kintalk, I decided to write an update post.

George died intestate, which is unusual in my experience for a serving man, being sent into action. 

Transcription says: 
I hereby certify that the applicant of Mr James Edward HARVEY, residing at 4 Dorlington Drive, Minster, Sheerness, Kent, claiming as the lawful attorney, duly appointed of Hedley HARVEY, the lawful Father and the only person entitled to the Estate and to the legal representation of George Henry HARVEY an Able Seaman Royal Navy ON C/VX 314419 the unadministered effects of the said George Henry HARVEY who died intestate a bachelor on the 20th September 1943, has been duly verified and attested as proscribed by the ORDER in COUNCIL and the statements therein appearing to be true that the said CLAIMANT is entitled to receive the amount to the credit of the deceased in the BOOKS of the ADMIRALTY (it not exceeding ONE HUNDRED POUNDS) in order to administer the same according to LAW. On behalf of the said Hedley HARVEY.

Naval Prize Money 4.4.= N.P.O. 2556 of 20 Oct 1952.

So my grandfather was paid the princely sum of £4 4s "prize money" for the loss of his son, and had to wait nine years before being granted it.

Seems a small amount of money, to be paid for your life. So sad.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On bravery and other things

Reading back through my last posts, I realise just how brave it can be - professionally and personally - to admit to making mistakes.

When I started tracing genealogy, no one I knew was also doing it. Libraries and archives were still "hush hush" affairs (i.e.- you avoided talking at all costs). No one showed me what to do. The internet didn't really exist, and I just did the best I knew how.

When I walked into libraries, archives and LDS family history centres, people just got on with what they were doing. If you wanted something you asked at the counter. No one offered you any assistance. Everyone seemed to assume you knew what you were doing.

No one ever asked me if I needed anything more substantial in the way of assistance.

Was I unlucky?

I made heaps of mistakes in the beginning - and have learned by them along the way.

As a librarian, I'd hate to think that we do the same thing these days?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reviewing my database

I've been busy sorting out my electronic files, and putting them into the correct folders, continuing on from my last post.

Next objective is to use these records and review each against the information input into my genealogical database. I use LeisterPro's Reunion for Mac.

I've only just started, and I can see what a big job its going to be going through the whole lot (800 names). I made some classic beginner's mistakes in the early days.

One was merging other researchers information into my own file, without first ensuring it was consistent with my own. For example, these contributors had a variety of ways of citing sources:- from the very vague, to the very exact. Some had chosen to use "free form" citation sources rather than set field ones.

Also, the other researchers that contributed appear to have also used free-form citations. Ben Sayer from the MacGenealogist explains the dangers of using free-form here GenealogyTools.

I had also been a bit haphazard with my citations in the early days. Improving as I went along, but not stopping to go back to rectify anything until now. Having further appreciated the importance of citations, due to my academic work towards a library degree, I realise the importance now of correctly citing sources to confirm the value of your research.

Source citation is a huge area of contention by some in the genealogy field. I don't want to debate it here, other than to say that I feel that citing sources is hugely desirable, however any research done is better than none at all. Some don't treat their research as seriously as I now do (or realise the significance), and I can respect that. However, I would treat any research without reliably cited sources in the same way I as I do anecdotal information. A useful starting point, but I'd verify every "fact" along the way.

One load of records I had never input was Census records.  Looking at the field types available in Reunion for Census source citations, I can see why. None of the fields appear to match up with the ones you'd need to accurately cite the Census record.

Ben Sayer has another video clip which explains how to move all your sources safely from free-form to field defined. Which looks great and easy to use, if a bit time-consuming. However, the one video I need to see is the one that which he explains how to convert the existing fields in the Census source to user friendly ones that we require. You have to have membership to watch this video, and at the moment I don't have this.

However, reading the reviews on his site, make me wonder if I should convert to Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 instead? If I were to do it, now would be a good time. Or shall I wait and see if a Reunion 10 comes out soon?

Do you use a Mac? What software do you use? Have you had my experience with Reunion?

Anyway, I have a lot more work to do, and a decision to make before I can progress any further.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sorting out my electronic filing

The best way to review your research I think, is to review your "assets", organise and re-organise.

Where to start with my re-organisation? Such a big job. Something I got better at, as the years went by. However, I had no idea it would get so big - nor accumulate so many bits of paper and so many files! I also have a lot of duplication, due to not realising I already had something.

I am a computer-person, so decided to start organising my electronic world, then base my paper filing on it.

I also decided to research how other people organised their filing too, to see if I could learn something new or different.

Funnily enough, a tweet came through on Twitter from @LisaCooke of GenealogyGems, about a YouTube clip she'd made for Family Tree magazine.

It seemed methodical, so I thought I would follow it.

After following it through step by step, I decided that the instructions were very clear and concise and easy to follow.

I made some minor changes and additions.

I added a folder "Research Notes", which will keep any files I create while researching, as well as anecdotal information I have or will collect in the future.

I like things to be easily found. So I've asterisked my maternal-line surname folders, so that they will stay together at the top of the MY TREE folder.

I've also colour-coded the surname folders. Unfortunately, the Mac only has a choice of seven label colours including boring grey. So I decided to give my grandmothers line on both sides blue, and my grandfathers line on both sides red. When it comes to stationery (lever arch folders etc), I might try and differentiate the same colours by using shades. Light blue and dark blue for example.

I figure that these surname folders should probably be copied into other folders as well, such as Photos.

I am pretty happy with my start at the electronic tidy up.

Now I just need to fish out all the existing electronic files and put them in the correct place. And then scan the ones I haven't done yet, and file those ones correctly.

Might take me a while, as I will be doing this methodically, and may have to check backup drives to ensure I have them all!

Meanwhile, I have enjoyed taking the approach of starting from scratch and doing the rebuild from the ground up.