Recent Research Experiences Part 2

During our recent visit to England we had 2 other research goals:

1. Was James Darby at Dunkirk?

Peter’s father was a Grenadier Guard during World War 2.  He had been a volunteer soldier from 1930 to 1933 so was called up as a reservist.  Did he take part in the amazing evacuation from Dunkirk?  We did ask!  The war was so painful that often he wouldn’t talk. Some times he said he was there but some times he said he remembers watching the troops disembark.  Was his battalion part of the British Expeditionary Force that was evacuated from Dunkirk? What can we find out?

What we did?  Not everyone has the opportunity to visit their cousin in England and then have several days in London to do whatever you want!  One morning we took the tube to Tower Station and went to see the amazing display of over 880,000 ceramic poppies in the moat at the Tower of London – it was a tear jerking sight – then wandered over Tower Bridge and caught a bus to the Imperial War Museum.  Schools were on holiday break and the lineup was over 200 yards long!  - but it kept moving!  Many of the great museums in London have free admission!  Once inside we headed to the Research Library and searched for books on the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940.  The BEF was sent to France/Belgium in Sept 1939, there was no action until 20 Mary 1940 and the evacuation ended on 4 June 1940.  All 3 Battalions of the Grenadier Guards were there and we were able to locate them on each day of the battle and find when they were evacuated.

What we could have done? 1.  Booked an appointment with the research library at the Imperial War Museum – there is an online form, 2.  Studied Dad’s military records more carefully – and been more believing of what it said – but don’t you wonder how they manage to keep all those military records up to date – especially when a war is on?

Here is where Dad’s military records say he was during the war:

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Military record says he was at home in Britain until 1943 when he went to North Africa.  Important to try and find a person’s military records.

  1. Did a Royal Surgeon really save James Darby’s eyesight? 

In 1942 James Darby told the story of being blinded by sand during tank training exercises in England.  They put him in a hospital in Millbank, England, and told him that his condition could not be treated. For 5 months he said he was trying to accept his blindness and that he started learning to make crafts as a blind person. He said that a Royal Surgeon came by and told him that he might be able to help him but there were some risks.  He accepted the risks, had surgery, and eventually his eyesight was restored so he could go back to fighting in World War 2.   

Where was the hospital grandpa was in during world war 2?  How could a Royal Surgeon just happen to pass by?

What we did?  Visited the Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks in London – right next to the parade ground where Dad would have had to march up and down.  Was told that there was a military hospital at Millbank.  Went to the Tate Britain Gallery at Millbank and asked about the history of the area and if there had been a military hospital nearby.  Told that Millbank (which is just a few hundred yards upstream of the Houses of Parliament) had been the site of the largest prison in Europe in the 1800s – that this was where many of the convicts were deported to places like Australia.  Eventually the prison was demolished – it was a terrible place! – and 3 buildings were constructed on the site: 1.  Gallery for Tate Britain – a very beautiful building to house treasured paintings by British artists, opened 1897, 2.  A military hospital, and 3.  The Royal Army Medical College .  After our visit to the art gallery we went to some adjoining buildings and eventually found someone who could tell us more of the history.  For the past 10 years the buildings have been used as a college of art, but in basement of one of the buildings there was still a room labelled Morgue – was this the hospital?  Turned out no, it was the medical college and the old hospital was less than a 100 years away.  But it did explain how a Royal Surgeon – from the Royal Army Medical College – came by!

What we could have done?  More online research on military hospitals in Millbank – even a search of Wikipedia would have given information on the Military Hospital and the Royal Army Medical College – which has extensive articles with pictures of both.  The hospital was the Queen Alexandria Military Hospital opened in 1905 and closed in the 1970s.  Part of the hospital was used as an extension of the Tate Art Gallery.  The Royal Army Medical College was opened in 1907 and closed in 1999.

It was great to walk in your father’s footsteps!


Remains of Queen Alexandria Military Hospital, Millbank, London

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Online Webinars from the Family History Library

“Have you ever wanted to attend a class at the Family History Library but you don’t live in Salt Lake City?  The Family History Library has begun offering online webinars that can be viewed from the comfort of your home. All that is required is a computer with speakers and an internet connection.” (from FamilySearch Wiki)

How do you find them?  How do you connect to them? And better yet, many of them have handouts you can download!

Step 1:  Go to the wiki at (under menu Search)

Step 2:  Use search term Webinars

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Step 3: Select one of the 4 choices!  Each page shows you webinars that are planned in the future, gives access to previous webinars, and access to handouts.

Note:  International means anyway in the world other than Latin America, British Isles, United States and Canada – I was interested to see some South Africa webinars in the International section.

Step 4:  When you are on the page for the region you are interested in, go to the top of the screen and click on Watch – so you get an email notifying you if the page changes! (have to be signed in for this to work!)

Here are some sample images:

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Recent Research Experiences Part 1

We just returned home after a trip to visit Peter’s cousin in England – and yes, we did some family history while we were there.  Although you may not be able to just go yourself there were some experiences in research that will help you as you work at home.

Don’t take archives for granted.

We had a short list of research objectives we wanted to do in the Nottinghamshire County Archives – mostly verifying births and marriages.  The Nottinghamshire Archives are housed in a building that opened in 1993 – so quite new for an archive building.  Imagine our horror when we walked in the front door to find all the equipment and records in piles and being moved out!  They had just closed the archives for 6 or 7 months for renovations!!!  They closed on Oct 18 and we got there on the 23rd!

So no research done?  Actually this is where the lesson comes . . .  we eventually located the staff in a meeting upstairs – and they said we could email our research requests and they would reply for free if we gave full details of where to look – i.e. name of parish, event, and date.  Within days we had the information we were looking for! – and an offer to send us images if we sent some money.  The money they asked was about $2.40Can per item – although we will have to use an International Pound Money Order – very reasonable  we thought – and much cheaper than flying to England to go to the archives!

If you want them to do the research for you then the fee was $50 per hour – seems like a lot but again much cheaper than air fare, plus accommodation and meals, and without the jet lag!

Why didn’t I just order the microfilm from  the Family History Library in Salt Lake?  They don’t have films on every parish and although many of the parishes in Nottinghamshire are available the parish we were interested in was not available at the FHL.

How do I find an archive?  The following website gives links to English Record Offices and Archives on the Internet – as well there is a link to Welsh and Scottish Record Offices on the same website.  Sadly this website has not been updated for a number of years .

You also go to and use the link to Find An Archive at the bottom centre of the page.

As I alternate – and maybe where you should go first – use the wiki at – specifically – scroll down the article to the section on County Record Offices and click on Show next to the link England Record Offices by County.

So email and ask for help – but be patient as many archives don’t have a lot of staff – and don’t just assume you can go to England and look it up yourself!

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Digital Content and the FH Library Catalog

The FH Library in Salt Lake has a very comprehensive and helpful catalog that is available to us online at  It is helpful in finding what records are available for the place where our ancestors lived, so we usually search by Place.  There are many other ways to search but they would need a whole workshop!

We have been pleased to see the great efforts being made by FamilySearch to digitize family history resources.   This isn’t limited to microfilms – and the companion Indexing projects.  There is now an extensive collection of digital books available at (currently under the Search tab and select Books) – that collection is now over 150,000 items – not just family histories but also reference books – and is generally accessible to us from home.

The Family History Library has other digital collections that have been available on computers at the library – books and CDs -  but some of which are being made available to us over the internet!  This is good news!  But, you need to understand some of the rules for accessing them!

You may encounter access to digital materials when you do a search in the Catalog (, under the Search tab, then Catalog).  You may then find that you are denied access!  You need to understand the following:  Copyright, Number of viewers, and Location!

Some digitized materials are still under copyright and the owners of the material may limit the number of simultaneous viewers – so  if the library has one copy of the resource only one person at a time may use it, even after it has been digitized.  Some times the limit is more than one!  Also some materials are only available in the FH Library or in a FH Centre.

I found the following question and answer on the Internet this week in the FHCNET group:


“I punched in the film number, 1035529 (a book), in the search function of the

catalog. Apparently it has been digitized  and is available on the Internet.

I get this message in red:

“To view a digital version of Vol. 1 of this item click here.

To view a digital version of Vol. 2 of this item click here.”

When I “click here,” I get a new screen that says:

“You do not have sufficient rights to view requested object. Access Denied”

Where do I go from here?”

Answer from the Manager, Cataloging and Metadata Services, FamilySearch:

“When you click on the “To view a digital version of…this item click here” you are going to a digital copy of the book on the FamilySearch book site. In this case the book is under copyright and access is restricted to one user at a time, and only if you are in the Family History Library, a family history center, or a partner library. If you are in one of these locations and get this message, someone is viewing the book, and you need to try later.

We have been trying to get the message changed to explain this, but the request is sitting on the enhancement list waiting for priority. “

Let’s hope a clearer message appears soon!

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Verify, Verify, Verify, Verify – always verify information given to you especially if you see no sources

When I was a small boy – and that’s quite a while ago! – I remember begin scared by movies about genies . . .   – not the funny ones we later had on TV – but nasty dangerous genies that always seemed to be doing bad things!  I also remember my parents teaching me the saying “the genie is out of the bottle.”

With the Internet there are many many potentially nasty FH gifts from “genies” running around!  These are family trees and individual information that people generously share but give no sources and no evidence where it came from.  Let me be kind and say this happens because people start doing research and post their early ideas and findings as if they have evidence to support them.

Generally I would suggest that you don’t share information on the Internet until you have done reasonable research and are fairly confident of the accuracy.  Once the genie is out of the bottle  . . .   you can’t get it back – but Peter I can go to that tree I created on the Internet and change/correct my information!  But who knows who has copied and re-posted the original less accurate information? and how many times?  Once it is on the internet you don’t know where it has gone!

We should make a reasonable effort to find where and when our ancestors lived, and have seen evidence that they did live – real people! 

So . . . .  be cautious with information you obtain from online collections of family trees.  Some information is excellent – well documented, good sources – some of it …. well we just don’t know where it came from.

Nine years ago when we were training to be volunteers at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City we spent days in a training lab with a sign on the wall at the front – Family History Without Sources is a Myth.

This is not to say that we should not use online trees to gather information and to share our information – far from it – what I find in trees online can be invaluable guideposts in my research, sharing my research has put me in contact with some wonderful researchers who have helped me.

Verify your information – share your sources – make information on online trees better

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New Features in Record Search at

The map in the Browse collections has had new features added – helpful new features!  Go to Search – Records and on the right of the screen that has Search Historical Records on the left there is Research by Location on the right.

You can click on the map of a country or area, select a province, or state or country and be taken to a search screens for that selection.

So  . . .  click on Canada on the map, select British Columbia – (Alberta is the only province in Canada with no record collections!) – then click on Start Researching British Columbia

From that search screen on the left is a link to see all the historical record collections for British Columbia – under Filter by Collection – Click on View all 13 collections – this will show you all the indexed collections and let you select which one(s) you want to search.

In the lower left is an area displaying any collections for British Columbia that have not been indexed which you can browse by images

On the right they have now added a link to the FH Catalog and the Research Wiki for British Columbia

These are helpful tools.  Try these steps for areas where you have research interests!

Here are some screen shots for British Columbia:

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Getting Started Again? – Take Down a Brick Wall!

Fall is in the air . . .  time to get back to family history!

How to get started or re-started?  If you are keeping ToDo lists then that is a good place to go for inspiration – or look through your Research Logs – remember to keep a research log for each couple. If you use software like RootsMagic then Research Logs are created for you in the program or you can just use a word processor or just a blank sheet of paper.

If you are brave – and you have to face them sooner or later – you could take on one of your brick walls also known as road blocks – you know, those research problems that bring finding your ancestors on that line to a complete stop!   We all have them.  Overcoming them feels great!  Running into them doesn’t feel so good!  We recommend that after you bash your head against the brick wall a few times, you put the problem aside for a while.  Perhaps you need to approach the problem from a different angle. Maybe I can find information on great Grandmother by researching her brother?  Maybe new information has become available?  FamilySearch usually adds millions of new records almost weekly.

Or you could read an article with suggestions on solving brick walls.  We just came across a new article which contained several good suggestions.  As you know we are regular readers of GenealogyInTime Magazine – a good online Canadian resource which sends us one email a week on Friday!

This article, entitled “More Great Genealogy Brick Wall Solutions”  - this is the second time they have published an article on overcoming brickwalls – suggests 21 solutions!  Several of them we found particularly interesting:

#2.  Names of women remarrying – this begins “Most marriage certificates list a woman’s family name before she was married. Do not assume this is your ancestor’s maiden name.  The marriage certificate you are looking at could be a woman’s second marriage and she may be listed by the family name of her first husband. This was incredibly common back it the days when people often died young and had to remarry quickly for economic reasons.

Always look for corroborating evidence that you are, in fact, looking at your ancestor’s maiden name. Otherwise, you may end up tracing the family tree of your ancestor’s first husband.”

#3 Maiden Names – suggests some ways to locate maiden names

#6 & 7.  Anglicized Family Names – this solution merits 2 sections in the article!  Did you know that the Quebec GenWeb project maintains a list of English surnames and their North American French equivalents? Just how does LaLiberte become Bow?

#10 Finding people missing on the census – who doesn’t love researching a census when one is available?  What a frustration when we know our ancestor should be there and we can’t find them.  Maybe these suggestions will help

#11 City Directories – these might be help if  you can’t find your ancestor on the census?  Think of directories like phone books – wait a minute, when did I last use a paper phone book?  Directories can help with locations and occupations.

#21 Searching historic small town newpapers – has a link to an article on searching historic small town newspapers put out by GenealogyInTime. 

Bonus tip from us: did you know that several historic Alberta newspapers have been digitized and are available – see Early Alberta Newspapers at  - the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project and also


“Contrary to popular belief, your ancestor’s family name was not changed by an immigration official. Official immigration records were derived from ship passenger lists. It was the responsibility of the ship’s officers to maintain the passenger list. Unlike immigration officials, many ship officers had limited understanding of foreign languages. They often wrote down the wrong family name.”  (from caption under photo on page2 of  Genealogy In Time article on more solutions on breaking down brick walls)

This article is 6 pages long, but well worth the effort to read it.  We hope you enjoy it!

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