Paul Milner is UGA’s Newest Fellow

Awarded 26 January 2018
Paul Milner receives the 2018 Fellow Award from the Utah Genealogical Association from Kelly Summers current president

The UGA Fellow Award is given in recognition of those living individuals whose distinguished contributions and on-going commitment to the field of genealogy are of national or international scope. This may be evidenced by any combination of publications, teaching and speaking, or leadership of major genealogical organizations over a significant period of time.

Paul Milner was the latest recipient of the UGA Fellow Award. Paul is a native of northern England. After the death of his father in 1980, he started researching his family history and turned professional in 1993. Part of his business plan was to be speaking nationally within five years. This goal was accomplished in 1996 when he spoke at his first FGS conference in Rochester, NY. He has spoken at one or both national conferences ever since as well as speaking widely at societies across the United States.

Additionally, he has spoken internationally at conferences in England, Canada and Australia and is returning to Australia to speak again in March. He has spoken on Genealogy Cruises to Alaska, the Baltic, the Western Caribbean  and the South Pacific.

The first institute he attended as a student was SLIG in 1999 with a course coordinated by Dean Hunter, another UGA Fellow. He took additional courses from Dean and Burt Rawlings. The first institute he taught at was in 2002 at the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America. He has subsequently taught English and Scottish tracks at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, the British Institute, and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.

2018 Fellow of UGA award presented Jan 2018

Paul has served in numerous capacities on the boards of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Association of Professional Genealogists, the Genealogical Speakers Guild, as well as his local society – the British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois.

Paul has written six how-to books on English and Scottish research as well as nearly 1,000 book reviews for the FGS Forum. He was the newsletter editor of his local society newsletter – BIGWILL for ten years and has written reviews on British Isles-related resources for 25 years.

Paul continues to develop new presentations to grow and to pass his wisdom and experience along to his enthusiastic students.

NEWS: New GRO Birth and Death Indexes and Digitized Certificates for reduced price – short time only

GRO-General Register Office Home page showing how to search indexes and order certificates
GRO-General Register Office Home page showing how to search indexes and order certificates

 News – New Indexes for civil registration birth and deaths in England and Wales that are a game changer. Plus for a short time period there is the option to order cheaper digital versions of the certificates. Read on for more details.

On November 3rd the General Register Office put online at www.gro.gov.uk completely new indexes for births (1837-1915 – 100 year closure) and deaths (1837-1957 – 50 year closure). These are completely new indexes created from the original registers made during the now abandoned DoVE project (Digitization of Vital Events). For these time periods these new indexes will certainly replace the other indexes that are readily available on free and commercial websites. All other national indexes have been created by transcribing the existing national indexes, which are at least two generations away from the original certificates, and thus transcription errors do exist.

It is the additions to the indexes that make for exciting news here. In the birth indexes the mother’s maiden name has been added to all records, originally this information was not added until 1911. In the birth indexes the age of death is now included in all records, something not added until December 1865. Also in both indexes all forenames have been extracted. There are no initials used here as in the published national indexes.

Urgency – What is time sensitive here is that on November 9th the General Register Office started offering digital copies of the birth and death certificates, in these periods only, for a reduced price of 6 Pounds (US$7.45), as opposed to the regular price of 9 Pounds 25 Pence (US$11.49) for the paper copies. This a trial offer and is only available for 3 weeks or 45,000 pdfs, whichever comes first. It will probably be the number of certificates as this is a bargain. So do your searches now. What the government will choose to do after this is a complete unknown. I personally ordered 4 certificates yesterday on the first day and have ordered another 10 this morning. I will be ordering more.

GRO - General Register Office search entry screen before login
GRO – General Register Office search entry screen before login

How to Access the new GRO Indexes and Order Certificates

Go to the website – www.gro.gov.uk. Click on the link for Order Certificates Online – this will take you to a certificate ordering service notice. Click on the link for Order Certificates Online and search the GRO historic birth and death indexes.

At this point you will first need to register. If you have done this in the past you will need to sign in and then you will be sent a validation key to your registered email address. If they are going to send you digital pdfs they want to guarantee that they have a valid email address. My validation key came quickly, but online discussion groups suggest that it might take an hour. If it still has not come check your spam folder, or check old email addresses you may have used in the past.

Once in you will be asked if you want to search the birth or death indexes. Making the choice opens up the appropriate search template.

Birth Indexes

GRO - General Register Office birth search Screen for Callaghan - Hagan children
GRO – General Register Office birth search Screen for Callaghan – Hagan children

There are three fields that are required – surname, gender and year. With surnames you can search for: exact matches only; phonetically similar variations; or similar sounding variations. Personally I have had good luck with the similar sounding variations especially when dealing with my easily corrupted names like Finnigan and Callaghan. With gender you have to select male or female which means you will probably be repeating all searches twice if you are looking for the children of a particular couple rather than an individual. Then you choose a year of registration – remember this may not be the year of birth if the even occurred towards the end of the year. You can choose to select +/- 0, 1 or 2 years. So when searching for the children of a couple open the range to 2 years, and repeat the searches at 5 year intervals to pick up all the intervening years, repeating again to pick up both sexes.

Your most likely search will be the addition of the mother’s maiden name, and again you have the three same variations as you had on the surname field.

Let’s do a search for the female children of a Callaghan and Hagan couple. For Callaghan I am choosing similar sounding names, and in this example I am choosing exact name for Hagan. I am searching in 1882 +/- 2 years. I get to two results. Mary Callaghan – mother’s maiden surname Hagan – GRO Reference: 1884 S Quarter in Gateshead Volume 10A Page 887. I also get Bridget Callighan – mother’s maiden surname Hagan – GRO Reference: 1881 J Quarter Volume 10A Page 932. Note the difference in surname Callaghan and Callighan. I knew of Mary’s existence as she lived long enough to be in next census, but not Bridget. I thus checked the death indexes for Bridget and have ordered those certificates. Currently on the same line as the relevant search result you can choose to order a certificate or pdf.

GRO - Genearal Register Office Search Results showing spelling variations on Callaghan surname for sisters
GRO – Genearal Register Office Search Results showing spelling variations on Callaghan surname for sisters

Selecting either one prefills the order template. Scroll down the screen and ensure that you are ordering the less expensive pdf by email and not the standard certificate (unless you want to). Further down the screen you can also select the number of copies and you can add a personal reference number.

Illegitimate Births – To find an illegitimate birth, father unknown, you put the child’s surname which will be the mother’s surname in the surname at birth field (a required field) and leave the mother’s maiden name blank. I tested this with a couple of certificates I already had in my files and it found them.

Death Indexes

Here the age of death is a real bonus but you still might have to get creative with your searches and watch for some errors. Again you have to provide a surname, gender and a year to search. In this example I was searching for a Mary Ann Callaghan born in the June Quarter of 1879 in Gateshead district but was not found in the household in the 1881 census. So I searched on Callaghan – similar sounding variations, first forename Mary, female 1880 +/- 1 year to catch all between 1879 and 1881. There were 111 Mary Callaghan’s. Since Mary was born in Gateshead district I assumed she might have died there, so I limited the search district to Gateshead. There was only one result for a Mary Ann Callaghan in the March Quarter of 1880 aged 11 years. I still think this is mine and I have ordered the certificate but it highlights another potential problem. Evidence is appearing online that in some case if a child dies at age 11 hours or 11 days or 11 weeks or 11 months they may get indexed as 11 years rather than a 0. Obviously this can happen for any infant so be careful and you may have to order additional records to confirm.

District Geography Issues – On the search screen there is a good listing of all registration districts by name and when they were used by time period. For many people outside of England or Wales you may not be familiar enough with local district names to know if a name is close or far from where you expect to find an event. If you are not familiar with the district names and the places within the districts look to the Registration Districts in England and Wales page on Genuki created by Brett Langston. You can see here the names of the districts within each pre and post 1974 county. You can also download a pdf Place Name Index from the same page.

On the GRO website you are limited to searching in one district. You cannot select multiple districts or counties as you can with FreeBMD so sometimes it may be better to search on other sites first. There is a workaround for this limitation to pick up a wider geographic area. For any given time period the registration districts are combined into volumes. So for example in my 1880 death search Gateshead is in Volume 10A. I can omit anything in the district field but put 10A in the Volume field and it will pick up, in this case, all entries from County Durham, giving me 4 options. District 10B would be for Northumberland. The volume numbers vary by time period so you can use the List of Registration Districts provided on this site to find the relevant numbers for the time period of interest. Note that for numbers less than 10 add a 0. So Kent which is district 2A, on this site you search on 02A

Marriages – Nothing has changed here. Marriages were not indexed or digitized as part of the DoVE project before they ran out of money. You therefore have to use the existing images and order full paper certificates.

The Future – Unfortunately we don’t know what will happen at the end of this 3 week trial period. The results will be evaluated, but that does not mean the government will act on it.

The Opportunity right now is to have access to great indexes (likely to stay) but also to be able to get lower priced digital certificates. This is a golden opportunity to find those missing children and dead ancestors that you have not been able to locate yet. Take advantage of it.

GB1900 – Online Project – Great for Genealogists

GB1900.org Opening Screen - Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900
GB1900.org Opening Screen – Project to save Great Britain place names identifying all places on 6 inch to one mile maps for 1900

Online Project to Save Great Britain’s Place Names – Great for Genealogists

Come join the project to identify all the place names in Great Britain. First I will explain what the project is, how it works and then why it is a great way for you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestor lived.

The new online project – GB1900 – is calling for volunteers to help make sure local place names can live on and not be lost forever. GB1900 aims to create a complete list of the estimated three million place-names on early Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). It will be a free, public resource, of great value to local historians and genealogists. I will come back to this later.

The project partners include the University of Portsmouth (Great Britain Historical GIS Project: A Vision of Britain through Time); National Library of Scotland; National Library of Wales; University of Wales; The People’s Collection of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

On their new GB1900 web site, http://www.gb1900.org, volunteers work on digital images of all the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey County Series maps of the whole of Great Britain, at six inch to one mile scale. These maps show not just every town and village but every farm, hill and wood – and include names for most of them. The site’s software enables contributors to mark each name by clicking next to it, and then to type in the name itself. To ensure correctness each name needs to be identically transcribed by two different volunteers.

The final list of place names will be not just the most detailed gazetteer ever created for Britain, it will be the world’s largest ever historical gazetteer. It will be released under a Creative Commons license, making it usable by everyone without charge.

How the GB1900 Project Works

Go to www.gb1900.org. The first time you will need to register – name, email address and password. In the future when you return to login you will provide your email address and password. As of this morning there are 590 volunteers who have transcribed 440,789 places, and confirmed 42,766 places. What this means is that many more individual places have been tagged by individuals that have been confirmed by a second transcriber. Every place is being identified by two transcribers.

The first time into the system read the brief tutorial. It is easy to understand, but read it carefully. The mistake I made by not reading the tutorial carefully enough is that I was placing the marker on the map at the location of the feature, e.g. farm, mill, etc. This was wrong. The marker needs to go under the first letter of the text for that feature. Having tagged enough places now on the maps I can see the validity of this, especially in the crowded urban areas. Unfortunately, if you put a marker in the wrong place you can’t undo it.

You will see three types of markers. Brown – these are the places you have tagged; Green – these are places someone else has tagged; Purple – these are places tagged by someone and tagged again correctly by a second transcriber. When registered, you place the cursor under the first letter of a place name and hit enter. An entry box appears. Type in the name of the feature and confirm. The marker appears on screen, but you can’t see how it is labelled. If you are confirming a green marker and type in what the other person typed it changes to a purple marker, if you type in something different you get a brown marker. As you do more data entry menus will start to appear on your data entry box as you start typing. This is especially useful if you have common features in your area of interest, e.g. quarries, old mine shafts, foot paths, foot bridges, etc.

Common mistakes that I have made include – apostrophes in the wrong place, or missed; expanding an abbreviation, e.g. street when its only st on the map, which is easy to do especially when the entry box covers up the information on the map; or being too quick and ending up with a marker being placed where there is no feature. Unfortunately, if you make a typing error and immediately spot it, or put a marker in the wrong place there is no way to correct it.

Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)
Personal Statistics identifying how many places you have transcribed and confirmed, and listing the top 10 users (Paul Milner at number 10)

If you log out and then come back into the system, then click on your name you will be told how many entries you have transcribed and how many entries you have confirmed. There is a ranking table for transcribers, and the number selected is the lower of your two numbers. So as of this morning I am number 10 on the top ten user list with 2,021, having transcribed 2,021 names, while I have confirmed 2113 places first marked by others.

As a Genealogist you should get involved.

You should get involved because looking at these detailed 6 inch to the mile maps helps you to get to know the neighborhood in which your ancestors lived. Doing the transcription reinforces in your mind the places names – streets, farms, mills, rivers, woods, all of which are named. But also you will learn about the: wells, parish boundary markers; public houses, foot paths and foot bridges.

The gazetteer on the opening pages seems to use the underlying modern Open Street Map index, so it will not find all locations on the map. It can be used to find a village or town that you want to explore. A slider in the upper right corner of the map can show you how the area has changed between the old 1900 maps and present. For my readers outside Great Britain the find my location button will not work.

For those with Welsh ancestors this project grew out of the Cymru1900wales.org project, so there are more place names already identified in Wales than other places in Great Britain.

For those with Irish connections, the old maps are not part of this project (yet?). However, the modern interactive map of Ireland is available on the opening screen, move the slider in the upper right to the left to see the modern underlying map.

This is a fun way to get to know the area in which your ancestor lived, be involved in a worthwhile project, and most importantly you don’t have to worry about old handwriting issues that you may have with other transcription projects. Come join this fun project, help yourself and your fellow researchers. Learn your ancestral neighborhood.

English Research Course and Upcoming Institutes

2016 IGHR Course 6 - English Research students with Paul Milner
2016 IGHR Course 6 – English Research students with instructor Paul Milner

English Research Course

20 Students gathered during the week of June 13-17 for the English research course, one of ten courses, at Samford University in Birmingham Alabama for the 51st gathering of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. There was 25 hours of learning both in the classroom and computer labs. What a great group of adult learners with a very wide range of experience both in genealogy and in English research specifically. All were challenged with their knowledge base expanding during the week; with the majority leaving feeling they could do this research for their family lines. Some made progress on their research during the week itself.

Next year’s Institute moves date and location. The Institute moves to the week of July 23-28, 2017 to be held at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. I will be teaching a track on Scottish research, which will be one of at least 10 intense learning opportunities. You will in the near future be able to find more information at http://ighr.gagensociety.org though the site is currently under construction.

For those who regret missing the English research track you have the opportunity to attend a modified version of the course entitled English Research: The Fundamentals and Beyond at the British Institute October 10-14, 2016 hosted by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History (ISBGFH), meeting in Salt Lake City. Early registration for this event ends 14 September 2016. More information can be found at the ISBGFH website.

Come join us at one of these events and improve your English or Scottish research skills.

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 Webinars

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success - 4 webinars recorded at Fountaindale Public Library on 16 March 2016 with speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation
Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success – 4 webinars recorded at Fountaindale Public Library on 16 March 2016 with speakers from the Ulster Historical Foundation

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success is the title of 4 excellent webinars recorded on Wednesday March 16 at Fountaindale Public Library in Illinois. The speakers were Finlan Mullan and Gillian Hunt from the Ulster Historical Foundation who spoke with clear understandable Irish brogues. They were both a fountain of knowledge gained from practical experience and this came through clearly in the tightly packed presentations. The webinars did keep the speakers on schedule as there was a definite sense that they had more that they could have shared. I attended in person but I have looked at segments of the webinars again since getting home.

Irish Genealogy: Resources for Success (4 Webinars)
• Introduction to Irish and Scots-Irish Family History Research parts 1 and 2
• Using Land Records: Griffith’s Valuation, Tithe and Estate Records
• Census Substitutes and other important sources for Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, plus records related to different churches in Ireland
• Sources for Finding Seventeenth Century Families in Ireland

The webinars can be accessed for 30 days from the date of recording. You can find the webinars in Fountaindale Genealogy Blog posting for February 24, 2016. The YouTube videos have been inserted into the blog posting. On the same page you will find a number of practical downloadable print resources provided by PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), NAI (National Archives of Ireland), NLI (National Library of Ireland) and the UHF (Ulster Historical Foundation). I especially liked the two timelines that are provided, but there are hundreds of pages of material here saving you the time and effort of searching for them.

There is material here for the beginner, but there also a lot here for the experienced researcher. I have been lecturing on Irish research for many years but there were still documents shown I had not seen before and the session on 17th century sources helped to clarify this complicated period in Irish history. It also showed the wealth of material that is actually available for the period. Now if only we could get all our Irish lines back that far.

Have a look at these excellent webinars with lots of valuable practical information, but remember they are only online for 30 days.

Upcoming speaking events around the country

Paul Milner - Virtual Institute for Genealogy - the Big Four Records for English Research - English Census research - English Parish Register research - English probate research - English Church Records Research
Paul Milner – Presenter Par Excellence 🙂

For the genealogists around the country who like to know where I am speaking here is my Upcoming schedule (outside the Chicago area – that list was posted a couple of weeks ago). Come and join me, a lot is changing in the world of British Isles genealogy.

5 Mar 2016 – Midwest Genealogy Center’s Spring 2016 Seminar at Stoney Creek Conference and Hotel Center, 18011 Bass Pro Drive, Independence MO. For more Info –

  • Irish Emigrants to North America: Before, During and After the Famine
  • Irish Maps and Tools for Finding the Right Place
  • Finding Your Ancestors in Ireland
  • Irish Land Records

12 Mar 2016 – Dallas Genealogy Society Spring Seminar – “From Whence They Came” – 1st Floor Auditorium, J. Eric Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St., Dallas TX. For more Info Dallas 2016 Spring Seminar

  • Effective Use of England’s National Archives Website
  • Irish Emigrants to North America: Before, During and After the Famine
  • Scottish Emigrants to North America: Before, During and After the Rebellions
  • Overlooked Sources for 17th and 18th Century English Research

2 Apr 2016 – St. Louis Genealogical Society 45th Annual Family History Conference – A Whole New World for Genealogists – Maryland Heights Centre, 2344 McKelvey Road, St. Louis, MO. For more Info St Louis Genealogical Society Conference

  • Effective Use of England’s National Archives Website
  • Internet Tools and Sites for British Isles Research
  • Are You Lost: Using Maps, Gazetteers and Directories for British Isles Research
  • Irish Emigrants to North America: Before, During and After the Famine

4-7 May 2016 – National Genealogical Society 2016  thirty-eight Family History Conference, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd,  Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For more Info NGS Conference

  • Are You Lost: Maps and Gazetteers for English and Welsh Research
  • Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest

12-17 June 2016 – Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, Samford University, Birmingham, AL. Course 6: English Genealogical Research. Online Registration now open and filling IGHR Registration

  • English Context – History, Sources, Repositories & Processes
  • Find the Correct Place: Maps & Gazetteers
  • Civil Registration
  • English Internet – National Archives (lab)
  • English Internet – Free Sites (lab)
  • English Internet – Commercial Sites (lab)
  • Making Sense of the English Census
  • Church & Diocesan Records for Birth/Marriage/Death
  • Tips & Tools for Navigating the English Probate System
  • Parish Chest/Poor Law/Quarter Session Records I +II
  • Nonconformists & Recusants
  • Occupation, Guild, & Freeman Records
  • British Military I + II
  • England Land & Landscape Records
  • Sources for Landed & Titled People
  • Overlooked Sources: 17th & 18th Centuries
  • Overlooked Sources: 19th & 20th Centuries
  • Planning Your English Trip

31 Aug – 3 Sept 2016 – Federation of Genealogical Societies 2016 Conference, Springfield IL

  • English Parish Registers: How to Access, Use and Interpret
  • Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest
  • Tracing Your Pre-WWI British Soldier
  • 1914: Finding Your British WWI – – Dead or Alive

Upcoming Speaking Events in the Chicago area

Paul Milner - Virtual Institute for Genealogy - the Big Four Records for English Research - English Census research - English Parish Register research - English probate research - English Church Records Research
Paul Milner – Presenter Par Excellence 🙂

Upcoming Events for my followers in the Chicago area. Come and join me starting this coming weekend in Arlington Heights, IL

6 Feb 2016 – Northwest Suburban Genealogical Society, Arlington Heights IL. Meeting at Arlington Heights Senior Center, 1801 Central Road, Arlington Heights IL at 10:00 am. For more Northwest Suburban Genealogical Society Meeting Page.

  • Irish Emigration to North America: Before, During and After the Famine

9 Feb 2016 – Schaumburg Public Library, 130 S. Roselle Rd. Schaumburg IL at 7:30 pm. For more Schaumburg Public Library 2016 Program listing

  • Finding Your Ancestors in Ireland

11 Feb 2016 – Tinley Morraine Genealogists, meeting at Tinley Park Public Library, 7851 Timber Drive, Tinley Park IL. For more Info Tinley Morraine Genealogists meetings

  • Effective Use of England’s National Archives Website

21 May 2016 – Ottawa Genealogy Forum, Otttawa IL

  • Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest

15 Aug 2016 – Zion Genealogical Society, IL

  • New Resources for British Isles Research

31 Aug – 3 Sept 2016 – Federation of Genealogical Societies 2016 Conference, Springfield IL

  • English Parish Registers: How to Access, Use and Interpret
  • Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest
  • Tracing Your Pre-WWI British Soldier
  • 1914: Finding Your British WWI – – Dead or Alive

I will add another post soon for my followers who are not in the Chicago area but still like to attend events where I am speaking.