Friday, 18 October 2013

Back To Our Past: Report part one

What a scoop! Aoife, Niall and Cliona
While this morning's opening of the doors at Back To Our Past 2013 didn't sound the gong for any major record releases, there was plenty of news of the 'what's coming' variety to be had at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Plenty enough to see me smiling, anyway!

There were many other reasons for visitors to smile, though, including loads of opportunities to get free advice from specialists and professional genealogists, a terrific conference programme and a chance to save some money (a subject close to the heart of every family historian I've ever met) via all manner of great discounts and special offers.

First up, though, I'll start where my day started, with a need to investigate a claim made in yesterday's report of the partnership between Family Search and DC Thomson Family History, the owners of FindMyPast. You can see my blogpost here, but basically the report mentioned that some Irish records were among the millions of newly uploaded records on FindMyPast; no further detail was provided.

Well, it was worth waiting for, as I discovered from Cliona Weldon on the stand! The new records relate to an updated collection of Irish Civil Registration Death Records 1864-1870. In addition to all the traditional transcript basics of name, age and occupation of the deceased and the registration district, the name and townland of the informant ie the person who registered the death, are now provided (if available in the original register, obviously). What an improvement, even if for only a number of years!

If you're searching findmypast for deaths, be aware that this is a separate record set within the Deaths collection. The 'Irish Deaths 1864-1958' record set is the 'traditional' Irish civil registration set; this new record set is called 'Ireland, Deaths (1864-1870)'.

So what other news? Well, had plenty more in the way of news! As you can see from the photo above, the FindMyPast team were dressed up as Newspaper Vendors to publicise the recent arrival of Irish newspapers to the database. Dating from 1820-1926, the publications include the Dublin Evening Mail, Freeman's Journal and Belfast Newsletter and nearly 2million articles.

I had a good chat with Brian Donovan, Business Development Manager for and sister company Eneclann, about some of the records that we can expect online in the not too distant future. It's quite a list, so I'm going to save it until tomorrow. (I know, I know, that's wicked, but if I don't get to the APGI reception shortly there may not be a glass of wine left in the building, and that would be a bad result for a girl who's been on her feet all day.)

So, cracking on...

The Irish Family History Foundation/RootsIreland have a particularly high presence at this year's show, not least because they have sponsored the excellent genealogy presentations (organised by APGI) running on all three days. So, when Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, formally opened BTOP it was appropriate for Karel Keily (IFHF) and Steven Smyrl (APGI) to be included in the photocall. I got the chance to meet him, too; it felt good to hear Irish Genealogy News introduced as 'THE must-visit Irish Genealogy blog!'

Mary Flood (l) and Nora O'Mara (r) of the Irish
Family History Foundation with Jimmy Deenihan TD
But back to RootsIreland before my ego gets the better of me. Subscribers to the site will remember being asked this summer to take part in a customer survey; the results have been studied and the feedback provided will be used to redevelop the site. The aim is to simplify the instructions and the process, so that more people will find the records they're looking for. In addition, the 'standard surname spelling' feature is to be revised and made more prominent. It is currently little used, Karel told me, which is a shame because it could be so useful.

Sometime in the not too distant future, RootsIreland will also be adding Wexford records. Acknowledging that deadlines have a habit of moving backwards, Karel suggested these records may be available in six months. No promises, mind.

Away from record collections, I called in on the big My-History stand which was launching its Working Chart to the Irish market. It's been available in the UK for a few months, but it was, so md Tony Beardshaw told me, inspired from the company's visit last year to Back To Our Past.

The Wall Chart is an ingenious way of creating a family tree – especially one where several generations produced spectacular numbers of children – without pulling your hair out and having to keep trashing previous versions each time a new sibling is discovered or you run out of paper space. It's a 'continual work in progress' chart, really, but one that keeps the ongoing work in a neat, consistent format. I haven't seen such a thing before and I can understand why it would be so useful to Irish genealogists who so often are dealing with large families. The Wall Chart comes in three sizes – 1m, 3m and 5m and is priced at €4.95, €9.95 and €14.95 respectively.

My-History is also selling the mega-popular FlipPal portable scanner with a €20 discount to BTOP visitors.

Julie Phibbs of Irish Roots magazine was at her usual position just inside the main entrance of the Hall and has some terrific offers for visitors including the current issue at a 50% discount, and back issue packs at €8 for 2011 or 2012 (four issues in each pack), reduced from €21. In addition, she's offering a Show Special subscription rate not only to visitors in Dublin, but to all. The annual subscription is just €20 including postage worldwide! Follow this link, enter BTOP in the description box and '20' in the payment box, and continue with your payment details. This offer expires on Sunday when the show finishes.

This is all I've time for now. I'll get a Part 2 written up tomorrow after another day at the show, and a Part 3 on Monday.

UPDATE: Part 2 & 3 were ultimately combined. See Final Report here.