Oct 272010

As we prepare for the AddressingHistory launch we are delighted to welcome another guest blogger to the AddressingHistory blog.

Shauna Hicks has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and holds a Diploma in Family Historical Studies from the Society of Australian Genealogists. Having worked in government for over 35 years, primarily in libraries and archives in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, Shauna is currently Director of Shauna Hicks History Enterprises and regularly blogs about genealogy news, events and experiences.

Shauna is a collaborative partner in Unlock The Past a new venture promoting history, genealogy and heritage in Australia and New Zealand. She is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society; a recipient of the Australian Society of Archivists Distinguished Achievement Award and in 2009 received the AFFHO Services to Family History Award.

Shauna has written a piece for us on the usefulness of Post Office Directories in her own family history research.

Using Australian Post Office Directories to Trace Ancestors

Post office directories (PODs) have similar contents regardless of where in the world they were published. In Australia due to our smaller population in the 19th century, PODs tend to list most people (usually the head of the family) who were resident in a given area. Even miners can be found if they stayed long enough in an area to make it on the annual POD. While there are State based directories, there are also individual ones for capital cities and for regional areas. There were numerous publishers over the years but well known names include Sands and Wise.

An example from my own family history will highlight both the usefulness and the potential traps of using directories for family history research. All information should be confirmed by at least two different sources.

The 1898 Wise Directory for Queensland lists my Scottish gg grandfather John Carnegie as a selector living at Toorbul, 41 miles north of Brisbane. Listed as a selector indicates that he had land and a land search revealed he selected two farming areas. John’s daughter Clara married Charles Davis and a Charles Davies is listed as a selector living at Toorbul. Researchers need to be flexible with spelling as in this instance Davies is in fact Davis.

The 1909 Wise Directory still has John living at Toorbul but he died in 1903 so researchers need to be aware that directories may not be totally accurate but provide clues to be followed up. Similarly a Chas Davies is still listed at Toorbul and illustrates how given names may be abbreviated and taken into account when searching. Charles disappeared in the Western Australian goldfields ca 1895 so he wasn’t there in either 1898 or 1909 but had been living there prior to going to WA in 1893.

The majority of Australian PODs have been digitised by Archive Digital Books Australasia and are available for individual sale. They are also in the collections of FindMyPast.com.au and Ancestry.com.au. Western Australian PODs are searchable online 1893-1949 for free at the State Library of WA.  A useful article by Graham Jaunay on Directories and Almanacs is available online and in my article Find Your Ancestors in Church Publications Part 2 I used directories to find out what churches existed in places my ancestors lived.

Over the years I have found Australian PODs extremely useful in my research and with digitised copies and online access it is easier than ever to use directories. I already know that John Carnegie’s wife Helen Stratton was the daughter of Charles Straton listed in the 1842 Oliver & Boyd’s New Edinburgh Almanac and National Repository as a writer in Montrose. The Stratton family moved to Edinburgh and lived there between 1847 and 1859. I am really excited and looking forward to accessing Edinburgh directories online and finding out new information on my families.

AddressingHistory API Google Group

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Oct 262010

If you are interested in the AddressingHistory API (Application Programming Interface) we have set up a Google Group to allow discussion, sharing of ideas, comments and tips about using the API for your own projects etc. We hope that it is going to be a really useful space for people who want to create new mashups and tools using AddressingHistory data.

You can sign up for this discussion list by joining the Google group here:


AddressingHistory Launch Date Set!

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Oct 192010

This is a very short but exciting update on AddressingHistory.  Following a successful preview with lots of useful feedback we are now preparing to fully launch AddressingHistory on Wednesday 17th November 2010. Mark the date in your diary and look out for more news soon!

Edinburgh Beltane Annual Gathering 2010

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Oct 122010

Last week our Project Officer Nicola represented AddressingHistory at the Edinburgh Beltane Annual Gathering 2010, a workshop and networking event on community engagement.

Last Wednesday afternoon around 40 members of educational, research and cultural organisations from Edinburgh and beyond gathered together at the Engine Shed (native Edinburghers may know it better for it’s delicious tofu than as an events space) for a workshop organised by Edinburgh Beltane, a National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement with partner organisations across – and beyond – Edinburgh.

All of the attendees had signed up for the day with a tweet to the event hashtag (#ebag2010) describing areas of interest and ideas so we knew we would be meeting a really interesting group with a diverse set of ideas for engagement and communication – from mathematical knitters to theatrical chemists. I grabbed a space for AddressingHistory with this tweet:

“Social Media evangelist seeks genealogy & local history collaboration and/or expertise for @Addresshistory project and blog”
Image: Our Group's Ketso Board halfway through the afternoon...

Our Group's Ketso Board halfway through the afternoon...

The idea of the workshop was to develop event ideas and we split between tables representing various possible venues (AddressingHistory joined the National Museum of Scotland’s (NMS) table) and began forming ideas for events using the “Ketso” planning and ideas tool. The goal was to find three viable event ideas for each of six venues that could then be voted on.

Ketso, which I’d not used before, is a tiny bit like Fuzzy Felts for groups of adult brainstormers. A large felt planning area with several “stems” forms a background (which looks like a tree root structure) to add ideas and comments on little leaf shaped cards which you can stick anywhere on the stems. The process involves several rounds of idea sharing and, in this workshop, also several rounds of switching tables to comment on other’s emerging idea boards (adding comments and approval to their ideas, suggesting new event ideas based on their interest areas).

The National Museums of Scotland table attracted a diverse group and, in addition to representatives of NMS and AddressingHistory, there was a scientist working on communicating renewable energy projects, an expert on language and language preservation, a member of the BSLUptake project and a representative from the University of Edinburgh’s sustainability office.  Having written our ideas and resources down (on brown leaves), our good ideas and clever solutions to combine lots of ideas (on green leaves), our concerns (on grey leaves), our comments (on white strips) and having picked out our favourite ideas (little yellow ticks and red exclamation marks) we had an enormously fruitful and full Ketso board and three fully formed ideas to take forward.

The NMS Group's Ketso Board at the end of the day.

The NMS Group's Ketso Board at the end of the day.

The ideas that went through from our table were all for possible events to be held in a new area of the National Museum of Scotland (in part of the building being refurbished under the Royal Museum Project):

  1. LangEvol: Language diversity and diversity in language: origins, evolutions and futures of language
  2. Meaning: Debunk the jargon! Speed dating exploration of science through sign language, visual arts, dance, etc.
  3. Idea: Mapping the ideas and innovation of Edinburgh institutions.

I was particularly excited about the potential for AddressingHistory to be a part of either the possible event on the history of ideas in Edinburgh or the possible event on  language – since the origins and changes in place-names are a really interesting c0nnection to the historical post office directory data.  The history and changes in language over time was an important part of forming the “LangEvol” idea but one of the most interesting contributions that first sparked the idea was from Bob of BSL:Uptake who explained that the sign language for telephone has changed three times since telephones was first invented and that all three signs remain in use. The signs each says something about the type of phone being described and about the signer since they represent either an early mouthpiece/earpiece set, a relatively modern handset or a mobile phone.

Post It Note of our LangEvol idea

The main reason for compiling all of these ideas was to share experience and make new connections but some of the ideas may go on to become real events which is a thrilling prospect as every group came up with superb suggestions any one of which would be huge fun to take part in (all of the ideas are listed on the workshop blog). All eighteen event ideas also went forward to the evening networking event at InSpace where both workshop attendees,  and lots of additional communicators and researchers who had joined us, were able to vote on their favourites.  The results of the voting have just been released on the Beltane Blog (see the graph below and click on the image to go to the full results) – I am delighted to see that Langevol received the most votes but I think all of the winning ideas sound fantastic!

#ebag2010 Votes

The remainder of the workshop consisted of presentations from two previous Beltane grant recipients who presented on  two very different projects.

BSL Sign Language Interpreter - from the BSL:Update Website

BSL Sign Language Interpreter - from the BSL:Update Website

The first presentation, from Bob Duncan of Heriot-Watt and BSL:Uptake, was about a Knowledge Exchange Cafe for the deaf community that enabled networking, engagement in public policy – particularly the ability to contribute to a consultation document by being videoed signing their responses – and socialising over tea and cake as well of course.

3D Tree Image ("3D-02-22-09-0018a geese in holding pattern above the trees") - Image by Flickr user Jim Frost (jimf0390)

"3D-02-22-09-0018a geese in holding pattern above the trees" by Jim Frost (jimf0390) from Flickr

The second presentation, from Dan Ridley-Ellis of the Centre for Timber Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University, was on “Real Life Science – Wood Biomechanics 3D”. This was a weekend of activities at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh in which various organisations concerned with increasing public awareness of trees and woodland worked with a secondary school student to create engaging displays including a 3D tree exhibition.

Awaiting the results of the Public Engagement Challenge Award

Awaiting the results of the Public Engagement Challenge Award

The afternoon workshop was followed by a lovely evening meeting others’ working at academic organisations, museums, galleries and similar organisations throughout the city, and also finding out the winner of the Public Engagement Challenge for the year (which was the BSL:Uptake project!).  I was able to share AddressingHistory flyers with various researchers and made contact with organisations including the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Hopefully AddressingHistory may feed into the work or events of some of the organisations we met at the Beltane Annual Gathering but we’d also love to hear from you if you your local history groups would like flyers, posters or would like to include AddressingHistory in an event or piece of work of yors or of a community group you are involved in.

Huge thanks to Heather Rea at Beltane and all who organised the Annual Gathering – I had a superb time and was delighted that my fellow attendees were really excited to hear about AddressingHistory and keen to have a play with the website when it launches in November!

Guest Blog Post: Around Causewayside in Old Maps and Photographs

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Oct 012010

Today we have another excellent guest blog post from Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator at the National Library of Scotland.

When the AddressingHistory team popped in to take some pictures of the PODs and Maps this week Chris showed us the exhibit of Causewayside in Old Maps and Photographs that he has created for the new Maps Reading room and he agreed to tell us more about what he’s been finding out about the area of Edinburgh that the AddressingHistory project calls home. We hope Chris’ post will inspire you to send us your own stories about people, professions and locations you hope to use AddressingHistory to help you explore and research.

Around Causewayside in Old Maps and Photographs

Post Office Directories and maps are often just the starting point for exploring the history of particular streets and buildings. With the recent move of the NLS Maps Reading Room, we not only face our AddressingHistory partners EDINA across the same street, but we have also put together a small exhibition  –  Around Causewayside on old maps and photographs.

Chris Fleet stands next to part of the Causewayside in Old Maps and Images exhibit at the National Library of Scotland Maps Reading Room

Chris Fleet stands next to part of the Causewayside in Old Maps and Images exhibit at the National Library of Scotland Maps Reading Room

Causewayside – recorded as a causey or paved routeway from the 1580s – was historically the main highway from the Burgh Muir south to Liberton. However, it was not developed for feuing (the legal process under Scottish law of selling land) and housebuilding until after the acquisition of the Newington Estate by Dr Benjamin Bell of Hunthill in 1804. Most of the streets were laid out by the time of Kirkwood’s map of 1817, and Leslie’s map of 1826 shows extensive residential development and the names of individual proprietors.

During the 19th century, there was a partial transition from residential to manufacturing development along Causewayside, with new printing and publishing works, as well as the famous Middlemass Biscuit factory.

Middlemass & Son entry in the 1905 Edinburgh Post Office Directory

Middlemass & Son entry in the 1905 Edinburgh Post Office Directory

Robert Middlemass was born in Peebles in 1819, and we know from the Post Office directories that he started biscuit production through premises in West Preston Street in 1835. From 1869 he acquired a second site on Causewayside, which expanded in phases, to front onto Salisbury Place and Upper Gray Street by 1897. This expansion of the factory can be seen on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1877, and 1893. These photographs of the exterior and interior of the Middlemass Biscuit Manufactory were taken in around 1910:

Exterior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtosy of the National Library of Scotland)

Exterior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtosy of the National Library of Scotland)

Interior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Interior of the Middlemass Biscuit Factory (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

The Middlemass Factory is of particular interest to NLS, as it originally housed the NLS Map Room from 1974, and the Factory was subsequently demolished in 1984 to allow the current Causewayside Building to be built.

A recent addition to the NLS Digital Archive is the fascinating set of 138 photographs of the South Side of Edinburgh, including Causewayside, taken by Alfred Henry Rushbrook for the City of Edinburgh Improvement Trust, 1929.

Exterior image of 72-78 Causewayside (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Exterior image of 72-78 Causewayside (image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland)

Our small display of photographs and maps of Causewayside can be seen until the end of October inside the new National Library of Scotland Maps Reading Room, 159 Causewayside. Opening hours: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9.30 am – 5.00 pm; Weds 10.00 am – 5.00 pm; Sat: 9.30 – 1.00 pm.