Using Twitter For Genealogy Brickwalls

November 2nd, 2010

Yesterday I had a spare 30 minutes while dinner was cooking so I thought I would do a quick UK census search as I have been having quite a lot of success finding families that I couldn’t find years ago while searching through microfilms.

My gg grandmother was Harriet Judge who was born in Brackley, Northamptonshire in 1840 and she married George Gardiner in 1860 in London. A quick search found them in Tottenham, Middlesex with a daughter Mary Jane. No wonder I never found her in microfilms for Brackley, Northamptonshire and how much easier it is today doing online searching.

However a similar quick search didn’t find them in 1871 and after trying a few searches on George, Harriet and Mary Jane I skipped to the 1881 census and there they were with quite a few more children but at the same address as 1861. So back to the 1871 census as it looked liked they hadn’t moved.

I tried looking for the other children’s names but no luck. Then surname variations Gardiner, Gardener, Gordiner, Gordener and as dinner was well and truly cooked by this time, the family started stomping round saying ‘we want dinner’! While I would have preferred to stay and solve the puzzle, I quickly put a message on my Twitter account @HicksShauna expressing my frustration, not expecting any response.

However, when I went back to Twitter some hours later I had all these messages with various suggestions including perhaps they were visiting elsewhere, or even that they had gone to Australia for a visit, plus tips for just searching on given names and also surname variations. It was really pleasing to see that others were intrigued with my problem and so willing to share their own experiences and knowledge.

One person even said if I sent the details they would have a quick look for me. So I did and within the shortest time possible, he messaged back that he had found them under Gardner. With hindsight I can’t think why I didn’t think of that variation, perhaps it was because I was trying to do it quickly and the family were hassling me for dinner. A lesson here is don’t try and multi task! Research is a serious business.

Anyway I had know found Harriet in both 1861 and 1871 census and that proved that she did not raise her daughter Elizabeth Judge born in 1857 as part of her family with George Gardiner.

So this still leaves me with the problem of who did raise Elizabeth as she does not appear in the census returns for her grandparents John and Hannah Judge in Brackley, Northamptonshire. In fact, and I hesitate to say this, I still can’t find Elizabeth Judge in the 1861 and 1871 census. I know she married Thomas Price in 1878 in Staffordshire and they immigrated to Queensland, Australia that same year. Elizabeth must have been somewhere and I assume it was under the name Judge as that is on her birth and marriage certificates. When I have some more uninterrupted time, I will revisit this brickwall and try again.

The real point of this blog is not for others to solve my brickwalls for me but to highlight the value that Twitter can bring to genealogy. In an earlier blog, Using Twitter For Genealogy, I pointed out all the reasons why I like Twitter. My experience yesterday reaffirms my belief that it is a wonderful resource for those researching their family history and that others are only too willing to help with suggestions that we might not think of ourselves.

If you are not using Twitter, but reading this blog and do go back and read my earlier blog, I encourage you to have a look at Twitter as a genealogy resource. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Using Twitter for Genealogy

June 24th, 2010

I give a lot of talks to genealogy and family history groups and I always ask the question – Who uses Twitter? Invariably people laugh and very few, if any, admit that they are on Twitter. I go on to say that I think Twitter is one of the best genealogy resources today and that I have learnt more from Twitter in the last twelve months than I have in years. This usually makes peoples eyebrows go up and people look at me even more strangely.

Lately I have started to give specific examples to help prove my point, hence this blog post. I (HicksShauna) have nearly 500 followers  and I am following about 450  people. There is a mix of genealogy, family history, archives, libraries and some personal interests and quite a few where I am not sure why they are following me. I am also the person behind ausarchivists for the Australian Society of Archivists.

Why do I choose to follow certain people or organisations? Obvious examples are state archives like staterecordsnsw (State Records New South Wales) or state libraries such as slqld (State Library of Queensland) or Library_Vic (State Library of Victoria). These allow me to keep up to date with what is new or happening with them. Other examples include genealogy societies like SocAustGen (Society of Australian Genealogists), GenealogyWorld (Genealogical Society of Victoria) or QueenslandFHS (Queensland Family History Society) – again to learn about news and events.

There are so many people writing genealogy blogs now it is hard to keep up with them all so I follow certain people with similar interests to me who tweet about what they are reading. Examples here include CaroleRiley, Infolass, geniaus and lifeasdaddy tweets on a wide range of topics – not everyone uses a real name or a photo of themselves. You can have some fun wondering what various people actually look like in real life!

I also follow entities like UnlockThePast for news on genealogy in Australia and New Zealand, the GuildOneName (Guild of One Name Studies – GOONS), fibiswebmaster (Families in British India Society) and commercial companies like GouldGenealogyfindmypast and Ancestrydotcom to learn about free offers, what’s on sale, discounts or other news.

Then there are those I follow because my research interests are in their area and here I follow people in New Zealand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and of course Australia. Most of these people tweet links to new resources or highlight resources and it is these that can often lead to breakthroughs in genealogy research.

I am going to the New Zealand Family History Expo in July and had been planning to do some research while over there. I was particularly interested in passenger lists and was under the impression that I would have to go to the Archives New Zealand in Wellington and had been exploring their website in preparation. One of my New Zealand tweeters genebrarian gave a link to passenger lists which were indexed and available through the Auckland City Libraries online. I now also follow Auckland_Libs as well.

A quick click on the link, data entered the name and up popped my family with the date and name of the ship they travelled to New Zealand on from Victoria, Australia. How easy was that? I still want to get copies but at least I got the basic facts within seconds and at no cost – amazing when I think of the effort I had to go to in the 1970s to get passenger information before indexes were compiled.

What do I tweet about? Sometimes it is about what I am doing or new genealogy sites that I have discovered. I also tweet about what is happening in archives and libraries and of course, some of my personal interests including food. I also retweet other tweets if I think my followers would also be interested.

Along the way I have become ‘Twitter friends’ with a range of people all around the world and it is amazing how you get to know them and aspects of their personal lives through their tweets.

You can set up different lists so that you can quickly scan certain tweets as quite often the different time zones mean that we may be asleep when those we follow are tweeting. As the number of people following you grows, it becomes impossible to read all the tweets which is why retweeting often works because you may see something when it is retweeted.

Twitter can be addictive and it can be time consuming but used ‘in moderation’ it can certainly help with your genealogy research and your overall genealogy skills and knowledge. Why not give it a try?