Saturday, 17 October 2009

We All Have One Thing In Common

I was watching, on BBC TV, a programme about Darwin's Theory of Evolution when the presenter, his grandson, made an observation which is both obscure and self-evident. It doesn't matter whether one believes in the theory, wholly, partially or not at all, and it is that we all have one thing in common - we are the children of survivors. His point was, of course, that the weaker members of society did not survive, leaving the stronger to advance the species. This is not my point, but it did get me thinking.

From the late 1930s, I was brought up in Eccles, Lancashire, England, which was then a town on the western edge of Salford, although it is now part of that city. From being a rural area Eccles had developed into a mixed industrial and farming town following the construction of the Bridgewater Canal in 1763; the main industries being cotton and engineering. Where I lived, in a house built in 1938, we had farmland facing us and to the west, but at the top of the road, to the east, was a cotton mill and over the Bridgewater Canal the Royal Ordnance Factory. My father was a crankshaft turner for Gardeners' Diesel Engines, a couple of miles away. Interestingly, during WW2 the field near the cotton mill and facing the ordnance factory was a barrage balloon site, with its ack-ack guns, always an attraction for us kids!

I have given this description to illustrate that Eccles was a mixed town with a variety of housing and people, and cannot be stereotyped as a poor industrial area with people living in cramped accommodation lacking basic facilities. Yes, there were some areas like that, but they were atypical.

When I was a kid we all suffered from what we called childhood illnesses, measles, mumps, whooping cough etc. and although medicines were less advanced than now I do not recollect anyone dying from them. There were the odd cases of polio and TB from which there were some deaths, but my two sisters and brother all got scarlet fever and survived, I had nearly 2 months off school, in isolation, as a result - great! I can remember very well the men coming round and using a sulphur spray around the house in order to kill the infection.

What brought all this back to mind, was a visit to Manchester Central Library researching the Eccles Parish Burial Registers between 1835 and 1850 when I was forcibly struck by the mortality rates for children. I recorded details of seventy people with one of two surnames, so the selection was reasonably random and found that 59% of the deaths were children, that is died before the age of 21 years. Obviously during the 100 years between then and the period to which I refer above there were improvements in housing, sanitation and medicine. But we still had no vaccines and, other than the new penicillin, no antibiotics, so if one became ill it was very much a matter of letting the illness take its course "in a quiet darkened room" (from a 1930s medical book).

This does indicate, therefore, that our forefathers who did survive had a greater, natural resistance to childhood illnesses than those who died, and maybe passed this on to the next generation. Or did they?

© Ron Ferguson 2009

Friday, 2 October 2009

What to do With Genealogy Source Images!

A regular question on genealogy forums, and not only from beginners, is how to store and use images from genealogy websites, such as Amazon and Findmypast, on one's PC. The question of storage depends on which genealogy program is being used and whether it only stores the paths to the images or embeds the image in the Source.

For myself, I use Legacy Software which only stores the path, thus only one instance of an image is required to source a number of Events, whereas some other software will embed the image in the Source. In the latter case the number of images increases as the number of times a specific Source increases and is, therefore, very memory intensive. In the latter case, it is better to use the image once only eg. a census may be linked only to the head of a family, but do try to be consistent. When only the path is linked then it can be linked to every instance the Source is used with very little extra memory being taken up. Remember also that images in grey scale use less memory than those using RGB..

Why link the images in the first place?

I find on an almost daily basis when working on my data that I need to check something with the original data, it maybe just a date of birth, and having it only one click of a button away is so much more convenient and faster than going back to the website or searching through a load of hard copies.

How can I publish the images?

This can be tricky! Although the data may be copyright free, the images and indexes are almost certainly not. The answer to this question is to always read the small print on the original source very carefully. The UK censuses, for example, are Crown Copyright, and as I have no wish have action taken against me by Her Majesty the Queen I do not publish these images. Similarly the indexes will be the copyright of the organisation which compiled the index, and how these may be used is determined by that organisation.

I have on my web site some searchable parish registers, this data is copyright free but the format and coding is my copyright. So, abstracting and using the data is fine, but that is all! (I will happily allow copying, with my express consent, provided that my site is acknowledged as the source).

There is another problem with publishing many images, and that is their physical size. For hard copy of censuses a new page will be needed, otherwise they will be virtually unreadable, and for web pages the most convenient way is to use expandable thumbnails.

© Ronald Ferguson 2009