A Christmas tale pt 2: The first Celestina

Welcome back for the second part of our Christmas tale. Last time we met little Celestina Christmas, a ‘visitor’ at the Harringtons’ house in Hackney when the 1851 census was taken.

I began to wonder about Celestina. I’ve got quite a few brick walls surrounding my Harrington ancestors, so it seemed sensible to look at their FANs, or friends and neighbours. Where better to start than with this little girl?

Gwynns Pl 3

Gwynn’s Place now. No 2 is above the black-painted shop

What I found threw up some interesting information about the Harrington family. But more than that – I discovered the story of a murder which, in the 1850s, was notorious around the world.

The first surprise was that there was more than one Celestina Christmas. There was the one who was at 2 Gwynn’s Place, Hackney Rd, on the night of the 1851 census. And there was her mother, who had the same name.

So let’s start with the older one. Celestina Elizabeth Christmas was born on 1 July 1827 to a well-off family. Her father, William Foster Christmas, was a silversmith living in King Sq in Finsbury, a little south and east of fashionable Islington. He and his wife Elizabeth had three of their children baptised on the same day, 19 July, 1829: Emma Mary, born in 1825; Celestina; and Alfred Robert, born on 18 May, 1829. Perhaps they’d waited for a boy to be born before bothering with a baptism. They already had an older son, William, born in 1821.

King Sq

King Sq in the 1820s (Greenwood’s map) *

There’s little evidence of what sort of childhood Celestina had. It was probably fairly comfortable, given her father’s profession. She could write, and what’s more she could sing, and must have had lessons because she went on to take part in professional concerts.

She was probably well-read, and later on in life may well have gone to performances of Shakespeare’s plays. We know she was slightly built, pretty, with fair hair and a pale complexion.

But something was missing. Parental love? Guidance? Someone to care for her? Who knows. Because in March 1845, when Celestina was 17, something unthinkable happened. Something which would change her life for ever and lead to a terrible tragedy. The pretty, talented young girl from a respectable family, who would most likely make a good marriage, was – in the eyes of all Victorians – ruined.

Celestina was unmarried – and pregnant.

* Greenwood’s map of London, 1830, via Motco

Read the rest of A Christmas tale:
Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

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A Christmas tale: part 1

Welcome, friends and neighbours. Take a seat near the fire. Help yourself to some punch, or tea, and of course a slice of this fine cake.

The sun’s set this Christmas Day and, as you know, in the time of our ancestors this was when people gathered round the fire to tell stories. Often ghost stories. And the Christmas tale I have to tell has many grisly moments. But it certainly is a story about a Christmas.

Picture the scene. It’s Sunday, 30 March, 1851 in a small house in Gwynn’s Place, Hackney Road, in the poor area of Bethnal Green, east London. Are we getting a whiff of Dickens?

1851 census cuThe Harrington family  is being enumerated for the new census. There are my 3x great-grandparents, Thomas, a local man, hard and muscled from his work as a dock labourer. His wife Julia, a year older, from Ireland originally but with her bloom worn off by childcare and misfortune. And their girls, Hannah, a dressmaker aged 16, schoolgirl Rebecca, 14, and little Celestina Christina, 5.

Or… that’s what you’d think, looking at some transcriptions and family trees. But look more closely.

1851 census CelestinaThat’s right, it’s not Celestina Christina, it’s Celestina Christmas. A different surname. She’s a visitor. A cousin or a friend’s little girl, perhaps. She’s too young to be 14-year-old Rebecca’s playmate.

Well, that was the end of the story of Celestina for me, for a while. I was too preoccupied with finding Gwynn’s Place (I did) and working out just when and how Rebecca, my great-grandmother, left Hackney for New South Wales (I haven’t yet).

But Celestina, as we’ll find out, may be easy to put away, but not so easy to keep hidden.

Refill your glasses, friends, and come back soon to find out just what I mean by that…

Read the rest of A Christmas tale:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

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Festive family freebies

The Shoestring Genealogist has just popped in to make sure you know that Ancestry (UK) has free access to all records until 23.59 GMT on Boxing Day. See here for what you can search.

And Boxing Day sees the start of Findmypast’s Start Your Family Tree Week. If you haven’t got a UK subscription, they’re offering 1 month for £1, which is a fantastic rate. I’d take it up myself if I hadn’t already got a half-price UK sub.

And now the offer is back! Half-price subs to the four FMPs – UK, Ireland, the US and Australia/NZ. The only links I’ve found so far are in the latest Lost Cousins newsletter.

Thanks all! The holiday season has just got merrier. I hope yours is going well.


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2104 Christmas genealogy meme

Ah, the Christmas holidays. Time off work and the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on the radio (a Christmas Eve tradition for many in the UK).

What better time to catch up with my geneapals around the world and give my blog a present – a post about a lovely seasonal geneameme thought up by well-known Aussie geneablogger Sharn White at Family History 4U?

Let’s jump straight in – it’s a long ‘un!

What kind of Christmas did you have as a child?

A family Christmas, sometimes with a friend to stay or coming round for dinner – turkey, Christmas pudding, sprouts, the lot.

Where did you spend Christmas?

photo: my grandfather and me

Pop (Laurence Thomas Delaney) and me – my first Christmas

For the first three years of my life, when we lived in Baghdad, Christmas was going back to England to stay with my grandfather, or Pop, as I called him. I don’t remember these times, but he gave me a lovely photo of both of us to remember him by.

Then, apart from one Christmas in Toronto, it was always at home with the family.

The Christmas tree

When I was little and we lived in a flat it was a tiny silver artificial tree, with coloured glass baubles to put on it. Later, when we moved into a house, we had the real thing, with all the joy of that pine smell, and the needles which you only stopped finding in furniture, carpets and clothes by November.

We were quite traditional and put the tree up on Christmas Eve, taking it down on Twelfth Night.

Decorating the tree

Oh, the best part of Christmas Eve! First we wound it round with lights, which often didn’t work, and then Dad had to check every bulb to find the one which had broken the circuit and stopped the rest working…

Then came the string of multicoloured glass beads, then the argument discussion about tinsel or no tinsel, and then – the dangly bits! I don’t know if they were called baubles in those days.

We had old, old glass globes, which were very fragile but looked so lovely. I’d put them near lights so they’d sparkle their beauty more brightly.

Old family Christmas decorations

Old family Christmas decorations

As the years went by, we added more. The paper snowflakes and silver star I made at school, two clip-on birds, some traditional wooden toys, a fabric decoration my sister made, new (plastic) globes to replace the glass ones when they broke, sometimes sweets. They all lived in a box in the attic and each year we children wrote a message on the box. Unwrapping each one from its tissue paper nest was a treasure-hunt every Christmas Eve.

When we got a kitten we discovered that cats love Christmas trees, too. How she enjoyed climbing it to make sure that the shiny dangling things were arranged just right…

Christmas cards

My mother wrote all the cards sent from the family (surprise!) but we added our names to them. Inside the family, Mum and Dad preferred home-made ones, so every Christmas I racked my brain to come up with new ideas for pictures to draw on the front.

Cards were put up on the sitting room and dining room mantlepieces and around the mirrors, and once those were filled up we hung them from strings or ribbons. I can’t remember what we did with them later. This was before recycling was widespread. I think I might have cut some up to use as gift tags.

Christmas stockings

Oh, yes! The excitement of that brightly-coloured felt stocking my Mum made, sitting at the end of the bed, with all those mysterious, promise-filled bulges! We had our ‘big’ present under the tree, to open before Christmas dinner, but the thrill of discovering what was in the little carefully-wrapped parcels was wonderful.

A bit of furniture for my doll’s house, a game, a book, a magic trick, gold chocolate coins in a piratical-looking bag… at the time it was magic, but now I think of all the thought and effort Mother Christmas put into filling my stocking and I wonder how she did it…

Christmas presents

After the terrible shock of discovering that Father Christmas was really my parents (the trauma! My dolls and I were horrified!), most of my presents were from family members.

Did I make any myself? Jewellery for schoolfriends, yes, but I can’t remember any particular hand-made present for my family, though I’m sure there were many when I was small. I do remember giving my father (notoriously difficult to get presents for, since he said he had everything he wanted) books of vouchers I made – for washing the car, for example. Probably just what he always wanted.

My favourite Christmas present

Ooh, tough, this one. My parents asked me what I wanted (within reason), so they were all favourites at the time. Perhaps one doll, who was lifelike and completely beautiful, and who I adored. But then again, I think books were the best because they gave me whole new worlds to live in, and paper friends to go back to whenever I wanted.

… and the Christmas present I never got

A bicycle. The roads were just too dangerous where we lived. So I never did get a bike.

Christmas food

flaming xmas pudding

CC by christmasstockimages.com

Living (mostly) in the UK, we had very traditional Christmas food. Mince pies on Christmas Eve – later on, making them became one of my Christmas jobs. A huge dinner at about one, with turkey, roast potatoes, sprouts, two kinds of stuffing (a Mum special) and then… drumroll… just when we thought we were full to bursting, the lights went out and Dad (Mum, after his death) emerged from the kitchen with a flaming Christmas pudding. Somehow we all found a tiny bit more room and ate the rich moist pudding with brandy butter. Making the brandy butter was hard work, but if you did it you were allowed to scrape the mixing bowl.

A special Christmas recipe

I went on making mince pies – the mincemeat and pastry, everything – until recently, when my late partner became too ill to swallow them.

The recipe I wish I had was my grandmother’s one for Christmas cake. Goodness, but she could bake. She passed the recipe on to my mother, her daughter-in-law. It was rich, moist and (in my mother’s version) well fed with brandy. The best in the world. But sadly I don’t know where Mum kept it – perhaps in her head. I wish I’d written it down. (How often do we find ourselves saying that?)

Christmas traditions

slade 1

“So here it is, Merry Christmas!” Slade on TotP, CC University of Salford. Were my parents right?

I suppose every family that observes it has its own Christmas traditions, evolving over the years. Ours were fairly run-of-the-mill: dressing the tree on Christmas Eve and taking it down on Twelfth Night; opening presents around the tree at about 11 o’clock; that Dickensian dinner at one. I had the job of taking photos after Dad died. I wonder where they’ve got to?

Then there was Top of the Pops on the telly in the afternoon, with the parents making the traditional parental comments about horrible noise and turn that down. And then a cuppa and a slice of glorious Christmas cake at tea time. We sang carols round the tree and there were phone calls to make to friends and family far away.

The next few days were about eating leftovers (oh, yum!) and writing thank-you letters (“Ohh, Mum!”).

Christmas music

Music was always part of Christmas in my childhood. Carols at school, which I still know by heart. Parodies of carols I wrote for my friends, some of which I remember. Carols round the tree with various rates of success and not a few giggles. I love carols.

My favourite Christmas carol

This is another tough one. I moved from Away in a Manger to the ones with glorious tunes like Angels from the Realms of Glory and O Come O Come Emmanuel as well as the ones which are fun to sing, like Hark the Herald Angels Sing and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. But I think my favourite is Adeste Fideles, or O Come All Ye Faithful, because of the intriguing story behind it.

Christmas concerts/plays

I was in a Christmas concert when I was five. Or was it a pantomime? I can’t remember. All I do recall is that Mum sewed a felt number on my nightie (we were playing numbers. No, I don’t know why, either). She said that when I came on stage I looked for my parents, didn’t see them, and my eyes flashed fire. Well, if it’s true, at least I didn’t burst into tears…

At senior school I was in the school play. It was so much fun, though I didn’t enjoy learning my lines. My favourite role was in The Admirable Crichton, by JM Barrie. I played Lady Brocklehurst, a formidable dowager who would have given Lady Bracknell a run for her considerable money. I’d wanted to play Tweenie, the maid (truer to my roots?), but Lady B was a fab cameo part.

Christmas holidays

What were they like? Cold. Snow, usually after Christmas, so that meant making snowmen and avoiding snowballs. Just the weather for snuggling up with a book.

That’s my geneameme. Thanks, Sharn! Do have a look at her post and follow the links to the other Christmas geneameme answers.

I’ll be coming back over the holiday period with a true Christmas story I discovered during my genealogy researches this year. Be warned – it’s not a cosy tale.

Now all that’s left to do this Christmas Eve is to wish you and those you love a very


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Irish research – online parish registers from NLI for 2015

The world of Irish genealogy and family history is ablaze with the news that the National Library of Ireland (NLI) is to make its collection of Catholic parish register microfilms available online – and free!

The NLI’s press release, reproduced by Chris Paton in his must-read British GENES blog, explains their singificance:

The records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

However this won’t be an Ancestry/Findmypast experience, with easy(ish) search, index and transcriptions:

The 390,000 digital images due to be published by the NLI will be searchable by parish location only. They will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI, and the images will be of the microfilms of the original registers, which – in some cases – were in poor condition when the microfilming took place. The images will be in black and white.

The news was broken on the Irish Times online site by another must-read, John Grenham, in his Irish Roots column. He says:

The Library’s aim is to reproduce on the internet the service already available to the public in the microfilm reading room in Kildare Street in Dublin, where images of 98 per cent of parish registers before 1880 can already be viewed by anybody.

So we’ll have to do a lot of work to get our results. But what an opportunity! And, as John Grenham says, “Clearly, once these images are… easily available… swarms of transcribers will descend.” Who knows what the results may be?

Many thanks to the NLI, to John Grenham for getting the news out so quickly, and to Chris Paton for making the press release available and for tweeting about it.

Thanks, too, to Joyce from the irl-wexford-request list for reminding us about the NLI’s existing information on their Catholic parish registers holdings.

Photo of statue of Billy Byrne, Wicklow, Co Wicklow

Statue of Billy Byrne, Wicklow

I had a look at their records from the Diocese of Ferns, which includes Carnew, and saw that the baptism records start in January 1785, too late for Nicholas Delaney (born around 1772). Marriages start in 1893, and deaths in 1894. Still, I may find something that will point me towards other members of his family who were alive in 1798: his (nameless) mother and his Uncle Patrick. Or perhaps I might discover a younger sibling or cousin.

And it’ll be good to have another site to add to my list of free online history and genealogy resources over on the A Rebel Hand website. The Shoestring Genealogist is very happy!

As with many of the good things in life, we’ll have to wait for this exciting present from the NLI. Until summer 2015, to be precise. But the general buzz on social media is that it’ll be worth waiting for.

It’s a bit like being a child and having to w-a-i-t all those long cold days of December to find out whether you’re going to get the Christmas present you were promised. Except that we know we’re getting our gift – it’s just a question of exactly what’s in that exciting bundle that we won’t know until next summer.

Can you bear waiting? What do you hope the NLI elves will bring you?

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Free FMP records over Remembrance weekend – and a bonus from Ancestry (a Shoestring Genealogist post)

Great news from Findmypast – all their historical records are free to access over the Remembrance weekend. And there will be live broadcasts on Saturday afternoon (all times GMT/UTC). The Shoestring Genealogist is looking forward to investigating their records from all over the world.

FMP’s press release says:

We’re delighted to announce that this Remembrance Weekend, we’ll be opening up our archives and giving unlimited free access to billions of records and newspaper pages from all over the world. That means that between midday on Friday, November 7th and midday on Monday, November 10th (GMT), absolutely everyone will have access to all our historical records, including:

  • Millions of birth, marriage and death records
  • Census, land and substitute records from the US, UK, Ireland and Australia
  • Millions of newspaper pages from all over the world
  • Travel and migration records
  • Military records from all over the world, including World War 1 records

It’s not only new users who will be able to take their family history research further this weekend. Those with current Findmypast Local subscriptions (with an active Britain, Ireland, US & Canada or Australia & New Zealand subscription) will be able to access all our historical World records during the free access weekend. Those with active World subscriptions will have an additional three days added on to their subscription.

Find out more at our dedicated Free Weekend page.

I’m not sure what the difference will be for those who have a subscription. But this is a great freebie, so who’s complaining?

Genealogy talks

There’s also an interesting programme of genealogy talks on Saturday afternoon:

  • 3.00pm:  Joshua Taylor, Director Family History, Findmypast:Welcome
  • 3.02pm:  Amy Sell, Family Historian, Findmypast: Getting Started
  • 3.20pm:  Myko Clelland, Family Historian, Findmypast: Top Tips for Researching Your Family History
  • 3.40pm:  Amy Sell:  What the Censuses Tell Us
  • 4.00pm:  Laura Berry, Lead Genealogist, BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?: Exploring British Newspapers
  • 4.20pm:  Paul Nixon, Military Expert, Findmypast:  Discover Your Ancestors in the Military Records
  • 4.40pm:  Brian Donovan, Director, Findmypast Ireland:  Tracing Your Irish Ancestors
  • 5.00pm:  Joshua TaylorDiscover Your Ancestors in International Records
  • 5.20pm:  Joshua TaylorClosing remarks

And immediately after, until 6.30pm, FMP will host a live Q&A session on their global Facebook page.

There are full details and terms & conditions on FMP’s Free Weekend page.

I’d thought that I had no ancestors who served in the First World War until I started exploring the unindexed nooks and crannies of Ancestry. It seems that my great uncle Thomas Davies Lloyd, a mariner, was involved throughout. He survived, but died of fever, tragically young, in Singapore in 1926. Maybe I’ll find out more, or another relative, this weekend.

‘Cousin’ Frank by Al Ravenna

I might even look at the connection between my Lloyds and Frank Lloyd Wright, inspired by GeniAus GEMs and Eliot Ball’s Wikipedia ancestor challenge.

Is the family story about him being a cousin true?

Will you be looking for anyone special this weekend?

PS: Jill at GeniAus has reminded me that if you already have a World subscription you won’t lose out – your sub will be extended by three days. Good idea, FMP!


And that’s not all – Ancestry.com.au is offering free access to

more than 22 million UK military records, and millions more worldwide, from the U.S., New Zealand, and Canada. Discover the soldiers in your past by searching the largest online collection of WWI records, until 11 November.

Here’s the link. Happy searching!

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Findmypast and British Newspaper Archive offers

The Shoestring Genealogist is back with news about three genealogy offers. But you’ll have to be quick!

The British Newspaper Archive (BNA) is repeating its one month for £1 special. The usual price for a month’s subscription is £9.95. Go to this page and enter the promotion code SEPT14 to buy a 1 month subscription. But you’ll need to do this before 23.59 GMT on Sunday 28 September.

Photo of Converse shoe

The Shoestring Genealogist says best foot forward!

Findmypast UK is also offering a one month special, this time for £5 (half the usual £9.95 sub). You’ll have to take up the offer before midnight BST on Tuesday 30 September. It’s worth pointing out that you can access the BNA via FMP, so this could be a worthwhile extra £4 to spend depending on what you want to research.

However Findmypast Australia and New Zealand caps the lot with a $5 for one month World subscription. This is cheaper than the UK deal and has, well, the world according to FMP at your fingertips. The code is SEPT1, but go to this link and you’ll find it’s already applied. I haven’t got an end date. I’d guess it will be 30 September – but better soon than sorry.

Have you heard of any other genealogy offers to share?

Remember to unsubscribe before the month is up if you don’t want your sub to continue at the usual price.
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The Shoestring Genealogist: Find My Past offers

The Shoestring Genealogist is delighted to learn about some excellent offers from FindMyPast, available until the end of August.

If you’ve got a spare pound, euro or dollar, read on…

The UK version of FindMyPast is offering a month’s subscription for £1 (usually £9.95). But that’s not all. FMP Ireland also has a one-month special, for €1, and the Australia/NZ and US editions offer a month for $1. All these specials are available until just before midnight on 31 August.

Bootlaces. domain by creator Jonas Bergsten

Photo: public domain by Jonas Bergsten

I found out about these from the Lost Cousins newsletter and you can subscribe through the links there to support Peter Calver’s contribution to genealogy.

All these offers are for new or returning subscribers. Remember to cancel your order (in My Account) before your month is up if you don’t want to continue at the usual price.

Or you could take up another FMP offer – a one month World subscription (UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, USA and Canada) for $5. It’s available up to just before midnight on Monday, 1 September. Just having the one subscription may be easier to manage if you don’t want the bother of cancelling several subs I got this information from Judy Webster’s site – thank you! Judy has news on other #NFHM2014 specials here.

The offer is from FMP Australia so you may have to find out if it’s available in other currencies. Does anyone know?

Read all about it

And there’s more!

You probably know that the UK edition of FMP gives you access to the British Newspaper Archive online. The BNA has 262 publications in its online archive, including four from what is now the Republic of Ireland. The largest number of pages date from 1860 to 1949.

If you don’t want to subscribe to FMP UK but would like a look at those newspapers, the BNA has an offer, too: a one month subscription for £1 (usual price: £9.95 per month). The offer is available up to and including Sunday, 24 August.

Go to their subscription page and enter the code AUGUSTOFFER. But remember to cancel your subscription before your month is up – go to the My Account section of their website.

Thank you to Claire Santry of Irish Genealogy News for this information.

And don’t forget – Australia’s Trove and Welsh Newspapers Online are always free.

I’m going to take up one of the FMP offers – how about you?

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MyHeritage Family History Month freebie

Wearing my new hat (shoes?) as the Shoestring Genealogist, I’m very pleased to hear from MyHeritage that they have a special free treat for us this National Family History Month.

Australian Community Manager Emma Datny says: “In honour of National Family History Month this August, MyHeritage is giving free access to millions of Australian historical records between August 15-22. These include birth, marriage and death certificates, electoral rolls, school records, and many more.”

MyHeritage National Family History Month logo

MyHeritage celebrates #NFHM2014

Now that’s very exciting news because it will help me with my own #NFHM2014 project, which I mentioned in my last post: ‘have another look at that brick wall – construct a time line of known facts and relook at everything.’ (And thanks again to Shauna Hicks for the idea.)

I’ve decided to have another go at Rebecca Harrington, my 2x great-grandmother who emigrated from the East End of London to Sydney, New South Wales, where she met my convict James Thomas Richards.

I can’t find out when she left, and I haven’t been able to prove that her father Thomas went with her, or indeed her mother Julia (who is herself a huge great Irish brick wall).

MyHeritage is also hosting a free webinar on ‘Golden Genealogy Rules: Tips to uncover your family heritage’ with Shauna on Monday, 18 August, which I’ve signed up for. It’s on air from 9pm AEST. That’s midday here in the UK, so since I’m on holiday that week I’ll be able to watch live.

(Tip: there are lots of time zone converters on the net. I find the one at timeanddate.com quick and easy to use.)

So that’s GeniAus’s Hangout on Air (catch up here), Shauna’s webinar, a timeline project and a week looking at Aussie records on MyHeritage. I’ll be busy this National Family History Month! Thanks to all for the great genealogy inspiration.


© A Rebel Hand 2014
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National Family History Month

It’s August, so it’s in Australia and New Zealand. I’m looking forward to lots of great genealogy blog posts and social media snippets. (Tip: if you’re a Twitter genie like me, look for the hashtags #NFHM2014 or #NZHM14.)

AFHM 2014 events list

Yum, Aussie genealogy events!

Being on the wrong side of the puddle, I can’t take part in person, which is a shame. Have a look at the events on the NFHM home page (at the top left). There’s so much to choose from.

But wait a minute… what’s this? Online Events? Now that’s for me! Webinars, and a Hangout on Air with GeniAus, aka Jill Ball, on Monday , 4 August (will I be at work? Never mind, I’ll catch up later).

And there’s Shauna Hicks’s great idea, 31 Genealogy Activities for Researchers during National Family History Month. You can choose as many – or few – activities as you want, in whatever order you like. I’m tempted by no 19, ‘have another look at that brick wall – construct a time line of known facts and relook at everything.’ A fresh look is probably just what’s needed.

Shauna’s got suggestions for genealogy and family history societies, as well.

In fact, there’s no reason why those of us who are passionate about Australian genealogy but find ourselves on the wrong continent need to miss too much (except the events) if we use a bit of imagination.

So it’s a big hats off to the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations, who got the whole idea up and running in 2006, when it was just a week long.

And, as ever, thank you to Shauna Hicks, the co-ordinator of NFHM.

Are you going to join in #NFHM2014?


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The Shoestring Genealogist: A month of newspapers for £1

I’ve been enjoying using my £1 Find My Past subscription (did you see the offer in an earlier Shoestring Genealogist post?) to search the British Newspaper Archive online. I’ve already found some great articles, and I’ll be writing more about what I’ve dug up later on.

But if you missed the FMP offer and you still have a spare £1 knocking around, you can get a month’s subscription to the British Newspaper Archive for exactly one quid.

The offer’s open until 23.59 GMT on Sunday 20 July.

You’ll have to log in, or register if it’s your first time at the site, but that’s free and obliges you to nothing.

Then go to this link and use the offer code SUMMERSALE. Click the ‘apply code’ button and choose the one month subscription, which you’ll notice changes to £1.

But wait! If you don’t want your sub renewed after a month at the usual price of £9.95,  go to ‘My account’ in the menu bar at the top, click on ‘Personal details’ (or choose ‘Edit details’ from the drop-down menu) and scroll down to make sure ‘Auto-renew my subscription’ is not ticked.

Happy reading!

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The Shoestring Genealogist: Ancestry’s Aussie freebie

Are you researching Australian genealogy? Here’s a fabby freebie for you – Ancestry is offering free access to Aussie records this weekend until 11.59pm AEST on Sunday,  13 July 2014. That’s GMT (UTC) plus 10 hours. Here’s a handy site to check time zones around the world.

To search the records, look here. And here’s a screenshot of the goodies on offer:

List of free Australian records on Ancestry this weekend

Ancestry’s free Australian records – this weekend only

Thank you, Ancestry.com.au! And thank you, Judy Webster and Alona Tester, for sharing the news on Google+.

Happy ancestor hunting!

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The Shoestring Genealogist: two offers for UK research

Researching genealogy on a tight budget? Family bills leaving little cash for family history? I know the feeling. Which is why I’m starting the Shoestring Genealogist, an occasional series of posts to help those of us looking for ancestors – on a shoestring.

Empty purse © Frances Owen & A Rebel Hand 2014

Oh no! No money left for genealogy!

These posts might refer to short-term offers, like today’s, so act quickly!

I’ll continue to tweet freebie/special offer genealogy news flashes as well – come and say ‘hi’ at @ARebelHand. And if you don’t use Twitter for genealogy, I’ve written a short post about it at Worldwide Genealogy this month. Why not try it?

The Lost Cousins newsletter is well worth subscribing to (and it’s free). The latest one has an offer for four months’ subscription to the UK version of Ancestry for £20. If you’re interested, be quick – the offer ends on Sunday 22 June.

Black boot old photo © Frances Owen & A Rebel Hand 2014

Send for… The Shoestring Genealogist!

You could combine this with Find My Past UK‘s offer of one month for £1, advertised as a break from wall-to-wall World Cup. Using both could help ferret out a shy ancestor hiding in the UK records (and many of us have a few of those!).

And talking of FMP, the company announced yesterday (17.6.2014) that it has acquired Origins.net. This site contains ‘unusual, hard-to-find, older records’ including many for Ireland and London as well as the National Wills Index. Its founder, Ian Galbraith, says: “All of the records currently on Origins will over time be made available on FMP and we’d like to reassure you that you will still be able to enjoy researching your family history with Origins.”

Reminder: do read the small print, or you could find yourself continuing to subscribe at the normal rate. And, of course, not everything is online – or even online at these sites.

Have you got any tips for shoestring genealogists?


All content, including images, © A Rebel Hand 2014
Posted in Genealogy, Ireland, London | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Genealogy news updates

I’ve been working on something big – and very tricky. Chipping away at a big brick wall, and I’ll be back to report when I’ve got something more useful to say.

So in the meantime, here are some interesting developments in the genealogy world – specifically, to do with Irish and Australian genealogy.


If you’ve ever looked at Irish genealogy, you’ll know that it’s famous for being hard work. This is, to a large extent, because census records before 1901 were destroyed – deliberately by government order for the years 1861-91, and in the notorious fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922 for the 1821-51 records.

But some fragments of the four earliest censuses survived. And they are now available to search, free, online.

Part-demolished brick wall, via www.gwsr.com

Bashing that brick wall (CC, via gwsr.com)

When they are described as ‘fragments’, that’s really what they are, so though they’re worth checking, the chances are that they may not solve your Irish genealogy puzzles.

I didn’t find any clues to my Nicholas Delaney or his family, or to the elusive Julia Harrington, formerly Russell, nee Cannell or Gamin (thanks, Julia, you knew how to make it easy for your 3x great-granddaughter). But you might get better results.

The online release of these records was made possible through a partnership between findmypast, the National Archives of Ireland, and FamilySearch.org. Appropriately, you can now find them at the National Archives’ website and at findmypast.ie. Both free.

Good luck with your search! You can find out more about the census fragments at the Irish Times‘s Irish Ancestors census page.


I’ve recently filled in my ancestors’ details at two exciting new convict websites, the revived Claim A Convict and the new Australian Female Convict Database.

At Claim A Convict I added Nicholas Delaney, Sarah Marshall, her (common law?) husband John Simpson, and James Thomas Richards. And I also added Sarah to the Australian Female Convict Database. She’s my only woman convict, as far as I know.

If you’ve got convict ancestors, I recommend these sites very highly. Go and check whether  your convict is listed, and if they aren’t – why not add them?

Convict woman and man, Australia, 1792 by Juan Ravenet

Convict pair (via Wikimedia)

Both sites are young and developing all the time. Jonathan Auld of Claim A Convict has just announced that a new feature has been added – the opportunity to add a biography to your convict’s record.

There’s a 4,000 character limit, which is much more generous than the previous 200-character research notes allowed.

I also love the fact that both websites have extra resources to help us find out about our naughtier ancestors.

A big thank you to Jonathan and Michelle from Claim A Convict (and of course to the late Lesley Uebel, who began it all and was such an inspiration to many).

And another big thank you to Kim and Kristy of the Australian Female Convict Database. As they say: ‘Australian Female Convicts are under-represented as a group in historical collections.  The aim of this database is to provide future researchers with a simple collection of evidence, fully referenced, and collated into a consistent format for free download.’

And who wouldn’t like that?

Are there any gaps in convict research you’d like to see filled?


 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Genealogy, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An early spring clean

Do you spring clean?

And, yes, I know that my Aussie mates will be muttering “it’s autumn!” But here there are crocuses peeping out and I’m getting that hopeful feeling. Mind you, it’s not too late for a frost, and the weather’s been crazy this year…

19th century woman sweeping, a cloud of dust rising

That looks much cleaner! via Wikimedia Commons

I’d been feeling for a while that this blog’s header was looking cluttered and tired, so I’ve spruced it up. It looks much cleaner to me. What do you think?

The new image is a watercolour, A View of the Cove and Part of Sydney, New South Wales, taken from Dawe’s Point, by Joseph Lycett, painted in about 1818. It’s one of the images in the Wallis album, which was acquired by the State Library of New South Wales in October 2011.

I’ve also changed the header for my website, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798, which is more focused on the book my mum and I wrote about our first Australian ancestor, and for my Twitter account.

And now I’d better get on with writing my post for the Worldwide Genealogy blog. It’ll be published on February 14th. St Valentine’s Day. Hmm, I wonder what to write about this time?

Are there any other ways you think I can improve this blog? Please leave a comment below.

View of Sydney Cove from Dawes Point by Joseph Lycett. Creative Commons CC BY-SA via Wikimedia; © State Library of New South Wales. Please click the links for full accreditation.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Website | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments