Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bromley transcripts go online

Kent Online Parish Clerks now have new transcripts online. Visit the Bromley parish page for all the links in one place here, Remember if you are a Firefox user you must right click on a link and select "Open in a new tab " to get the link to open for you.
The 1801 census transcript is the second 1801 census I have transcribed; such survivals are rare and Bromley Archive includes one. I know this will be a very useful transcript to searchers from emails to me once it became known I was preparing the transcript for online publication.
It is worth remembering that Kent Online Parish Clerks transcripts will be available by search engine search for an individual and it is well worth trying to search using this method as search engines may find your ancestor was included in transcription as a witness to marriage or in a Land Tax transcript as well as some Census transcripts.
I have had a number of email requests using the large search engine Yandex which is used in Eastern Erope and throughout the Russian Federation and parts of China.
Traffic to this blog represents interest from Alaska, Ukraine and traffic via Yandex as well as Google.
I must express gratitude to Susan D.Young the Kent Online Parish Clerks County Administrator who I load with transcript material. I fear that I test her weekly with transcript overload and my limited technical ability creates a heavy workload for her. She points out the newest transcript additions for the county takes Kent Online Parish Clerks past 300,000 individual entries.
I have 1/3 of the Bromley earliest Composite register at proof reading stage and subsequent Burial registers to 1812 in progress. This will greatly increase the OPC individual entries later this year and throughout 2014; we hope to transcribe all pre 1837 material and publish online.
Finally can I outline that the transcript process involves several experienced staff at the Archive and fellow genealogists kindly reviewing images of entries and proof readings so the transcript involves approximately 7 stages of review. With the exception of a predictive text month error (I no longer use this method of compiling entry material) I know of no other error in well over 100,000 entries. I am particularly grateful to genealogists who were friends of the late Bob Rubie A.G.R.A AGP and others for their generosity in assistance and donations of material. The Bromley transcripts from the 1840's onwards include Bob's own unique work as a local genealogist in tracing railway employees family history.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Bethlem Royal Hospital and Archive

I am very fortunate to have access to two archives in the London Borough of Bromley and a lengthy association with Bethlem Royal Hospital through work as a psychiatric social worker, as well as a genealogist.
I pursued a suggestion from my late uncle in recent years to research a distant relative he recalled from childhood. I found a fascinating history as a result. The person my uncle recalled was a civil servant (additonally a marathon runner in the first two decades of the 20th century) but it was his father that interested me. I established at Lambeth Palace Library that he had been ordained in the Church of England and had moved from a curacy at an estate church in the Midlands to an appointment as chaplain to the Surrey County Asylum (later known as Springfield Hospital). I can only imagine what that appointment meant to him leaving a rural living with his family to enter London and adjust to meeting the needs of  those with mental health problems in an institution.
I researched the Asylum records and other items referring to his lengthy ministry in the Asylum and additionally to staff outside the recorded hours praised by the Board. He lived initially close by the Bethlem Royal Hospital and worked with the chaplain there in visiting other asylums at Colney Hatch and Friern Barnet and advocating improvements to the then institutionalised care of those with mental health problems. He was mentioned in parliamentary debates as petitioning on behalf of staff and inmates alike and was therefore at the fore front of changing conditions of Victorian work house infirmaries and Asylums in caring for those with a range of health problems. He was very clearly committed to serving long hours over many years as there are written references to evening staff meetings as late as the year of his death. What emerged was an uplifting human being who clearly had a great influence upon many  people through personal commitment.
In researching material I discovered that asylum staff received a daily alcohol intake not unlike the Naval rum ration. This was ended after a suicide at Springfield when an attendant was found asleep and intoxicated and criticism by the Coroner and others who carried out more rigorous inspection of staffing and conditions lead to withdrawal of this allowance to staff.
The Bethlem Heritage blog is also linked to a Facebook page.
During the next year the existing Museum,gallery and archive buildings are being developed to create the new "Museum of the Mind" and an accompanying oral history project is under way. I am happy  to support both.
For decades I have enjoyed the rich art heritage of Bethlem Royal Hospital. The Imperial War Museum now occupies the most famous of the various sites in London which were in use prior to the 20th century relocation to Monks Orchard Road in Beckenham of the Hospital.  The word "Bedlam" is derived from the Bethlehem Hospital original name when the hospital was sited just outside the walls of the City of London. In the 17th century it moved to Moorfields until it's 19th century relocation to St.George's Fields in Southwark;the site familiar to my ancestor and now occupied by the Imperial War Museum. The move to Beckenham took place in the 1930's and it was to that site that I travelled to support people who were receiving treatment.
The online gallery of the Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust conveys some of art work in the collection and since the 1970's I have visited art exhibitions  now conserved by the Trust. I was very pleased to see that the Tate Gallery chose for a London wide poster campaign one of the William Dadd Fairy paintings. Dadd is one of many celebrated artists associated with the hospital art collection.
In October I was able to visit the current exhibition at Bethlem Gallery and learn of the larger sculpture works  loan during building work associated with the Museum development in 2014. See Raving & Melancholy Madness on Tour
The Archive is of interest to a Kent Online Parish Clerk,since it is possible that transfers and records of them between Asylums in Kent or Surrey may include those from parishes in the Bromley or South Bromley area.
There are hints in transcribing parish burial registers that coroner's verdicts or local clergy attitude to suicidal behaviour was compassionate and the  burial of suicidal persons varied. The Keston Burial registers record a higher than average suicide rate through various means in or on the banks of the River Ravensbourne but also the death months after an attempt at suicide by a retired army officer later befriended by the rector who died months later of infection from sword wound attempt at cutting his throat. There is clear care of the man and detailed record that he was offered christian burial at Keston.
I continue to research with the archivist for documentary evidence in the Bethlem Archive of local people linked to any parishes in Kent.
Copyright Henry Mantell 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Microfilm or original for transcribers?

Microfilm is an excellent conservation medium for archivists; indeed since the 1930's microfilm has preserved records which no longer exist in their original form. I recall the Vicar of a Norwich parish who invited microfilming of his parish register material by the Genealogical Society of Utah in the 1930's in his vestry because he feared that war was possible. The "Baedecker raid" Luftwaffe bombing of Norwich destroyed the church and all parish registers, high explosive blasted the walls of the building and incendiary bombs set fire to roof and interior. The only survivals are those microfilm images.
However the transcriber of parish registers faces several difficulties as a result of the methods used by microfilming. As Online Parish Clerk for Downe the Composite register which begins with an entry in 1529 offers the microfilm viewer an immediate challenge as it is bound in an ancient deed unrelated to the parish. The microfilm therefore presents a puzzling series of images. Duplicate images are also present as a result of instructions to the microfilm operator. The pages contain many faded entries and edge of page folding and these result in duplication of image with focus adjustments on different areas of  the page. Microfilm imperfectly captures pencil entries including the page numbering of the original. If a transcript is produced only from microfilm version it will not be able to collect as many entries as handling the original document. I am fortunate that Bromley Archive have always allowed me to handle original documents. If I had used microfilm or digital images of the Downe register for transcript many entries affected by edge of page date fade would be missing. The omissions from batches of index material for the parish and errors in transcription contained in the International Genealogical Index material are as a result of microfilm only transcription with a lower quality standard for the index entries. The Downe transcripts I undertook have no omissions from the earliest years and are online at the Kent Online Parish Clerks webpage for the parish Downe Parish page.
Handling any paper or parchment document requires personal preparation. First a word of caution. A genealogist colleague ordered up material from an archive and had a cut on his finger. He worked in the archive for several hours and later developed an infection so severe a finger had to be amputated.
The white cotton archival gloves which were used in earlier decades are now regarded as potentially harmful to certain papers because of abrasion and the possibility that laundering them introduces chemicals to the document which will attack both paper and ink pigments. Another disadvantage I have found is the loss of sensitivity and since a transcriber needs to write or type onto a keyboard this is a major disadvantage.
The Conservation Register is the recognised source for professionally qualified restorers and conservators in the UK and Ireland and a couple of years ago I had a paper piece of my grandmothers teenage artwork which was badly in need of paper restoration. I went to a local professional art conservator who works regularly for the major art collections in London and learned a good deal as well as having my grandmother's work listed on the Conservation register. The Register criticise Institutional insistence that staff and researchers don white cotton gloves to prevent dirt and skin oils from damaging collections since gloves are as easily soiled as hands. Gloves also have the disadvantage of collecting and transferring dirt to page surfaces.
Many archives have taken advice from the register as all archives need paper conservators to examine deteriorating material. On visits to the London Metropolitan archive I have been advised by staff of three different methods of handling original material. Different grades of latex gloves are available to deal with:

  • Leather rust. Leather bindings which are red rust both red green and blue and handling a volume for an hour is a dirty business. volume is positioned in a cradle. Transcription is hampered and keyboard cleaning and hygiene before and after is recommended.
  • Brittle paper. During the 1930's to 1950's the quality of printed paper is such that any public records or publications are very fragile and archists have generally prefeered to film or digitise material.
  • Vellum or paper records. These are likely to include any parish material prior to 1754 for marriages when printed paper marriage registers were introduced or the 1812 printed Stationers register for Baptisms and burials. Even storage of relatively modern 20th century registers can result in damage by insects or rodents.
I was a volunteer during my years as a family history student in arranging the contents of three tea chests of early parish register pages in chronological order. One of the chests had a large hole in the corner and sure enough had formed a rats nest. Fortunately the archive had provided gloves gauntlets and a boiler suit for me! Those original pages were later bound and microfilmed and are complete with little damage and no loss of entries.
From personal experience I recommend that before handling an original document you should ask for instruction from the archivist responsible. Thoroughly wash your hands to the personal hygiene standard for food hygiene and ensure you protect any cuts in the way you would for food handling before you handle the documents.Use protective gloves if advised to (I take a personal supply) as the document you are handling may contain bacteria and if rodent damage is present it is possible the paper may harbour harmful bacteria. I use my right hand to touch the document and type with my left and wipe clean my keyboard before and after any session.
I have for many years used essential oils and when I have ended work in an archive I thoroughly wash my hands and then apply tea tree oil which is a powerful antiseptic. I dispose of gloves used in a clinical waste bag and my local hospital and family doctor surgery accept clinical waste.The microfilm of the 1812 Downe Baptismal register is so faint for many years as to be of limited use for transcription and the original is legible. This remaining challenge is nearing completion. I have some concerns about the efforts of online indexing  for example by FamilySearch Indexing volunteers where the original filming appears to produce indexes with no correction feature and which are clearly wrong resulting in failures of search engines to locate entries in the original material. The England & Wales census series only available on microfilm for indexers illustrates the difference between The Ancestry index with corrections included and Family Search version with no corrections. I do hope that FamilySearch enable corrections soon!

Copyright Henry Mantell 2013

Friday, 25 October 2013

Bexley Archive closure

I have received the following reply from the consultation team:
Dear Mr Mantell

Thank you for your enquiry.  Here is a link to the online information about the proposal you are interested in:

Please find below a link to the consultation survey, in which you can leave your comments and feedback.

I hope this information is useful. Please do not hesitate to come back to me if you need further assistance.

Many thanks,

Mollie  Pepper Communication and Consultation Officer Ext: 4069 DDI: 020 3045 4069

Proposed closure of Bexley Archive and removal to Bromley

On the 21st of October a "public Consultation" began on the proposed closure of Bexley Archive and transfer to The Library Bromley. As a researcher in several archives in London and the South East I was concerned and wished to contribute to an exercise which ends in December. Bexley have a website and indeed a consultation team, however they have yet to post this consultation is underway or give any information about the proposal. I emailed the consultation team and have been promised by automatic responder a reply in 5-10 working days.
I became aware of the general drift to amalgamate when the Bromley Archivist post was vacated and then filled by transfer of the archivist from Bexley. There were other indicators at Bromley too.
Bexley and Bromley have a long history of united services across a range of provision and the The Library Bromley is managed by the same post as that for Bexley. All archives are under financial pressure and library closures are common to all London Boroughs.
If the public consultation is to be meaningful then it needs to be transparent. I would submit that at present it is far from that.
I am well aware of the problem of travel to Bexley Archive from my home by public transport and would like to see how the proposal addresses this issue. For those who live in Sidcup it is possible for bus journey from Sidcup to Orpington then change bus to reach Bromley. For people in the remainder of Bexley a public transport route is not apparent. That is not a sound basis for closing and removing an archive collection if the present research and user community has immense difficulty in reaching it.
Archives are publicly funded by Community charge payers and I have a series of detailed points as a regular user and contributor to Bromley Archive which I wish to contribute to the consultation process. I'll blog again when I receive a response from Bexley.

To blog or not to blog

For some years friends, colleagues and Geneabloggers have asked me why I don't blog. My answer has been that I don't have time, since my archive research and transcription of  parish material takes up time and another media outlet both challenged my technical ability and time management. However gradually it appeared that the voice of the Parish Online Clerk is increasingly being heard (and occasionally listened to) and that help was available from long standing Geneabloggers the world over.
So here goes….
I first began transcribing in the 1960's as a result of a school project with my Latin teacher Mr. Diamond at Xaverian College Manchester. He took his students into Manchester Cathedral Archive to examine the Latin parish register of the ancient parish of Manchester. This was my first encounter with a Collegiate Church and I managed to not only transcribe two pages to submit to the Cathedral Archivist but also two pages for my class mate to copy and submit. Dave never threw any of his school things away and a few years ago scanned the two pages he still has to me in an email. The Archivist recommended grades. I had a high grade Dave had the lowest grade with a note that copying anothers work is unacceptable!
I returned to the archive and was encouraged to link with 3 genealogists who were busy transcribing parish registers in the Manchester Archive and at Cheshire County Record Office. I learned much from them and the team of four produced many typed transcripts.
As the surving member of the team I hold copyright to the transcripts. One of the copyright violations in recent years occurred when FamilySearch Indexing introduced a typed burial register (which they withdrew) to a collection of parish material from Lancashire parishes.
Nowadays in retirement I can look back over around 50 parish register transcripts I have produced. My 1940's portable typewriter (Army Clerks for the use of) was acquired from the Quartermaster's Stores of the 16th/5th Staffordshire Yeomanry in the 1950's. It helped that my father was Regimental Quarter Master and the machine was declared surplus to Museum requirements. It was reputed to have visited France in 1944 via Normandy.
From the keys flowed thousands of typed transcript entries and as a genealogy student much more besides. I could still use the art of assembling an alphabetical index of parish entries although that art is dying out as a generation of long serving archivists retire and transcribers depart.
For two years I have been an Online Parish Clerk for Downe in Kent and my research and transcriptions are available on several other Kent Online Parish Clerks pages. Downe has a parish register which commences in 1829 and is bound in a deed. The deed has no connection with Downe; save the mention of an ancestor of an owner of Down House. The deed became the outer cover of the early Composite register in the late nineteenth century due to the thickness of the vellum and the Rector includes a conveniently dated note of the binding of the register. Down House became home to Charles Darwin and his family for the last 40 years of his life.
It is a pleasure to be invited to family reunions in the village, the most notable being the Manning family whose forebears left the village in the 1500's!
Copyright Henry Mantell