Sunday, 22 August 2010

English & Welsh Birth Registration

Birth registrations are of great importance when studying genealogy, and for this reason I looked at the total registrations for the Fergusons as part of my Ferguson one-name study.

Initially, I examined the total births, given in Free BMD, which showed an increase between the years 1841 and 1910, tending to flatten off after about 1880. I then looked at the percentage change in the birth rate in 10 year blocks, using 1841-1850 as the base point. I was shocked! The graph on the right show an increase in the rate of growth from around 25% to 28% up to 1881 and then a massive fall to an average of around 6% thereafter. Why?

My first thought was that because birth registration was not compulsory until 1872, more and more people were registering up to that date, and then the rate levelled off, but I could not believe this. So could it be due to immigration from Ireland and Scotland?

To check this, I looked at my brother-in-law's family, the Grimshaws, a family which I know to have been English born and bred from at least the 16th century. His graph showed a steady decline, even going negative at one point! My next step was to compare these results for the total registered births and the censuses (from the ONS) between 1841 and 1910/11. The results are shown in the graph below:

Interestingly, the path taken by the rate of change for my Fergusons follows that of the total births for England and Wales (T%Change), although the changes for the Fergusons are much more pronounced before 1891. The Grimshaw results seem to be completely anomalous, Alan Grimshaw swears that this is due to an extremely high level of female births in his family!

It is also of interest that the changes in the birth rates and censuses follow the same trend until 1880 when they, arguably, diverge. It is said that both the censuses and birth registrations understated the true figures for this period and by the fall in the rate of change post 1880/81 this does seem to be the case.

To summarise, we may conclude that prior to birth registrations becoming compulsory there was significant under registration, and, similarly, the censuses did not settle down until after 1881 (and we know that even after that they were incomplete). The high figure for the rate of births for the Fergusons can only, therefore, be explained by immigration from Ireland and Scotland, and this factor, I would suggest, should also be applied when considering others with a name associated with these countries.

© Ron Ferguson 2010

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Create a Search Engine Sitemap

Although my genealogy website has been on line for many years I have not bothered to include an XML Sitemap for use by search engines, although, naturally, I had a sitemap for humans. However, to have a decent ranking it is becoming more important that an XML sitemap is included, especially for Google and Bing.

Naturally, being a genealogist, I am a reluctant payer, and I searched for a free sitemap creation program. I could not get the Google Sitemap Creator to install on my PC, so I looked at site after site using Google, all of which had a limit on their free entries of between 500 and, say, 3000 pages. I have almost 9,000 pages on my site, so they were not of much use. I then came across Xenu.

Unlike the other programs which created the sitemap on-line, with Xeno you download the program, and run it on your own PC, which was when I realised that there was an unexpected bonus with this program, it has a Link Checker! Actually, this may be the main function of the program, but by this time I was suffering from tunnel vision! So I ran it, and it tested the links on my 8,600 pages in 44 minutes, identifying a number of broken links of which I was unaware - brilliant.

The XML Search Engine Sitemap was created in no time at all, and I uploaded it to the root of my site and submitted it to every Search Engine I knew. I now await with interest to see if the visits to my site increase. The program also produces a report of its activities whilst searching your pages but, probably because of the size and depth of my site, it took far too long for me to wait until it completed its work.

It was never my intention to use this Blog to promote software, however I am making this exception for Xeno because (a) it is free and (b) it is perfect for the job I wanted it to do, and more. I rank this program as my "Find of the year".