Monday, November 23, 2009

Investigating British census data in

Having spasmodically investigated my family history since secondary school I now have access to the website At the weekend I decided to check the England census for 1851 and 1861 and the Scotland census for 1841 for George Mackillop.

The census data provides the names of people in a house on the night of the census. In each case George was the head of the family. Lists of names of other people in the house are provided, their age, relationship to the head of the house, where they were born and their occupation. The address or partial address of the house can also be provided.

From the English census results for 1851 and 1861 I discovered that George and his family lived at 26 Grovenor Place in Bath. A search via Google revealed that Grovenor Place was built in 1790 and includes a terrace of 42 houses which are still standing today.

The census results listed the number of servants in the house. In the England 1861 census the family of George's daughter were visiting from India.

In 1841 George and his family lived at 16 Melville Street Edinburgh. The eldest daughter had been born in Scotland but the next two daughters were born in Van Diemens Land when the family spent a number of years in Australia.

Census results provide useful and interesting information but the results for George and his family demonstrate the misinformation that can occur. George's wife was Jean Eleanora but in the 1851 England census she is listed as Jane and Eleanora is misspelt. The person recording the information wrote the name incorrectly. Also in the 1851 England census the printed summary of the information provided by states George's birthplace as Shitingsh, Scotland. A close look at the copy of the handwritten information reveals that he was born in Stirlingsh, Scotland (Stirlingshire). In the 1861 English census the name of George's son-in-law is presented in the printed summary as William T Hutton instead of William F Hutton. There is also misspelling of other family names. Van Diemens Land on one occasion was also written in the printed version as a 'Diemansland, Devon, England' when it is clearly Van Diemens Land in the handwritten record.

Provided that the researcher is aware the possibility of error in recording and / or transcribing material the census data presented in is a great resource for discovering information about family members. Because of possible errors if a name is not immediately found lateral thinking for alternative forms of the name may locate the required person.

The girl who kicked the hornets' nest

The third volume of the Millenium series. Two badly injured bodies arrive at the hospital, one being that of Lisbeth Salander whose wounds include a bullet wound in her head. The second person is her father, Zalachenko, who after defecting from Russia lived under the name of Karl Alex Bodin.

Lisbeth survives surgery and is kept under guard in hospital until well enough to be tranferred to prison and then tried for a number of offences including attempted murder. She continues her policy of limited communication with the police but is persuaded by her lawyer, Advocat Gianni, and the lawyer's brother, Mikael Blomkvist, to prepare her story to present at the trial

Lisbeth has many supporters, particularly Mikael Blomkvist, the staff at Millenium, her former employer, Armansky, her former guardian, Palmgren, her doctor and some members of the police who with many others work to help her and to expose the injustices that have been done to her in the past. Millenium plans to publish a special issue of the magazine and a book to coincide with the beginning of the trial. However Lisbeth also has made many enemies, especially those who will lose their jobs if the truth is revealed.

Like the two other books in the series - The girl with the dragon tattoo and The girl who played with fire - this book is hard to put down as the plot unravels. The girl who kicked the hornets' nest provides a fitting conclusion to this three volume story, unravelling a number of events that commenced in the earlier volumes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

D-Day: the battle for Normandy

On 6 June 1944 an armada of vessels crossed the English Channel from England carrying Allied soldiers to land on the French coast. So began what has also been called ' the longest day' as soldiers fought their way ashore to liberate France from German occupation.

Antony Beevor provides a detailed account of events leading up to D-Day, the landings on numerous beaches on the coast, the casualties with some landing places proving harder to get the soldiers safely ashore than others, consequent battles to remove the Germans from the area as the Allied forces progressed to Paris. The effect of this event on the French people who had lived under German occupation since 1940 is also described. Pages of photographs throughout the book contribute to this account of a turning point in World War Two.

Family history in the genes

DNA testing is increasingly being used by some as a tool for genealogy research. Chris Pomery discusses how tracing DNA can help expand a family tree. The various organisations and schemes promoting this methodology are discussed along with web addresses of DNA testing companies. Information on how to set up a DNA testing project among family members and possible pitfalls is examined. The author also describes the Genographic Project sponsored by National Geographic which since 2005 is investigating migration paths of people throughout the world from Africa.

Convict women

Kay Daniels wrote this account of the experiences of convict women in Australia in 1998 looking primarily at the transportation of convict women to Australia and the conditions they faced in the new colony. Two chapters deal with assignment and the female factories. Case studies illustrate the lives lived by convict women. The argument that a high ratio of convict women were prostitutes is also explored.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The lost Mona Lisa: the extraordinary true story of the greatest art theft in history

In August 1911 the painting, the Mona Lisa, disappeared from its gallery in Le Louvre. The theft of the painting became an international story and was a great source of embarrassment for the French. How could anyone walk into a gallery and steal one of the most famous works of art.

In December 1913 the painting was returned. When it was offered to a Florence art dealer for a large sum of money the police were informed and the Italian who had stolen and kept the painting in his rooms for more than two years was arrested and later tried for the theft of the painting.

The book examines how the painting was stolen as well as the many theories as to why the painting was stolen. Unfortunately proof that any of these theories is correct has not been found however the book provides an insight into the furor caused by the theft of the painting and the changes that have since occurred to keep this and other paintings safe. The Mona Lisa now has two guards watching over her in her bullet proof case which is securely attached to the wall of her own galley in Le Louvre. An intriguing account of an international art theft.

The Lawn: a social history

The lawn has traditionally been an important feature of garden in Australia although the recent drought may have changed our attitude to and expectations of the perfect lawn, especially in the summer where brown lawns are now the norm in Victoria.

Peter Macinnes examines the history and importance of lawns in many parts of the world but particularly in the United Kingdom, USA and Australia. Prior to the invention of the lawnmower in the early 1800s shortening patches of grass was possible by grazing animals in the required area or by using scythes. The lawnmower made it possible to have a more even surface of grass coverage. Lawns originally signified status and wealth but eventually as the design of lawnmowers improved and the machines became affordable lawns were available in the gardens of the general populace. The development of lawns also contributed to the development of many sports, athletics, tennis, lawn bowls, croquet and of course, cricket. The rise of public gardens contribute to the environment of our cities. Allusions to lawns in literature are also provided in this illustrated treatise on the lawn.

Getting real: challenging the sexualisation of girls

Television programs, advertisements on TV, advertisements in magazines and on billboards, comments on radio, lyrics of popular music and even children's toys, clothing and the internet bombard us with sexual images, references and inuendo. This is the world in which young children are growing up,

Edited by Melinda Tankard Reist this collection of articles looks at the pressures faced by girls and young women particularly in regard to the 'sexualisation and objectification of girls and women' in the twenty first century. Children have the right to be children and should not be bombarded with concepts of the 'right' body image, dressed in adult clothes at a young age and face the need to conform to the latest trend as portrayed on tv, film or other media. Articles include studies of the objectification of women in advertising and the media, examine the need for a healthy lifestyle without the need for medical and other intervention to conform, and a discussion on the risks of premature sexualisation of children. The final chapter provides a case study of a campaign by Julie Gale to raise awareness of current practices and to place pressure on advertisers, companies and shops to be more responsible when promoting and selling products.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wolf Hall

Set in the reign of Henry VIII this novel by Hilary Mantel explores the intrigues and machinations of life at Court when King Henry decides to disolve his twenty year marriage to Katherine so that he can marry Anne Boleyn. The book chronicles the rise of Thomas Cromwell from his early life as the son of a violent blacksmith to become the chief advisor to the King. The politics of Court, Church and Parliament are fully described as the struggle to enable the King to marry Anne is played out. The aftermath of this decision including the trial of those who oppose the King's remarriage and his new position as Head of the Church in England aligned with the beginnings of the protestant movement overseas and the impact of printing making the Gospel available to common people is explored. Fluctuating fortunes of prominent families including the Boleyns, the Seymours and the Howards are documented as well as Englands relations with countries overseas. The novel emphasises the instability to the country caused by not having an heir to the Crown. It creates a dramatic picture of life in Tudor England, particularly from 1527 to 1535. This is only part of the story. Undoutably there will be a sequel to this winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009.