By Judith Phillips
Many thanks to June Parkin who helped two groups of volunteers get to grips with using Ancestry. It was fascinating, not least because in each training session we came across several ‘difficulties’ – reminders that Ancestry won’t necessarily provide all the answers all the time!
June had provided guidance notes to using various types of records and also to searching for individuals by name. We started each session with a different entry in the Absent Voters list produced in 1919. The great thing about these lists is that they give name and home address, usually followed by service number, rank and service unit (or, at least, some of this information). We found them in the census returns (1911 and 1901) which helped pinpoint a year of birth. This made searching the military records more precise, especially where there several entries with the same name.
The range of records available on Ancestry is impressive. One name we searched took us to Canadian census and military records. Another name took us to census records in three different places (not all in Teesdale) as we followed the family. The bonus here was identifying a brother of potential military service age that we’d been unaware of, so we tracked down his records and found that he had been discharged during the war as no longer fit for service. That’s why he’d not turned up on a war memorial or in the Absent Voters list.
By the end of the sessions we had information on six individuals to add to the Roll of Honour – some new entries, some where we could add information. It was a real eye-opener to the possibilities (and occasional frustrations) of using Ancestry. We’ll be running some more training sessions in the New Year, so look out for the dates. The project has two laptops for ancestry use when the Reading Room is open to the public, so please feel free to get in touch and arrange to come along and use them.