May 272011
 

We’ve been hinting on the blog for a while that we hope to bring you some improvements to AddressingHistory and we are finally able to bring you more news on those developments…

Earlier this year we kicked off several months work (using internal funds) to improve AddressingHistory with our developer, George, currently working on some very clever ways to improve the way address information from the directories is parsed (understood by machine) that will help us to present historical directory information more clearly and more accurately. The work will address some of the feedback we have had on AddressingHistory since we launched and it should mean that it is much easier to find your way around the maps and lists of search results.

We are not only improving what is already in place but we are also hoping to add some new directories including several fom cities outside of Edinburgh – one of which we know a lot of AddressingHistory users will be pleased to see. We can’t tell you more for now but we are confident you will be able to see a really positive difference once the changes are rolled out later this year. Keep an eye on this blog for updates over the coming months.

Finally we were delighted to see a post by Dr Peter Mattews, a lecturer at the School of the Built Environment at Heriot Watt University, on his excellent Urbanity and History blog.  Peter recently found out about AddressingHistory through his Twitter account and decided to use it to look at the distribution of advocates in Edinburgh and how that changes with the development of the New Town. His blog post “Historical development and concentrations of affluence” includes some more background and some screen shots of the maps he created through AddressingHistory.

We love to hear about how you are using AddressingHistory and are always happy to feature research and interesting discoveries here on the blog so please do leave comments here, let us know about your own blog posts and websites or get in touch via email (addressing.history@ed.ac.uk) if you have a story to share.

 

Jan 062011
 

To mark the start of the new year we are delighted to bring you a guest post by Celia Heritage. Celia is a professional genealogist and lecturer in Family History and, yes, her surname really is Heritage. Celia offers professional research service, online research advice and Family History Courses. She is currently working on putting her popular 5-week beginners’ and refreshers’ course “Building Your Family Tree” online and has  several talks on using maps in family history coming up in her talk schedule over the next few months.

Using Maps for Family History Research

As family historians we often become set in our ways in the types of records we study. Records of birth and marriage tell us about our ancestors in relationship to other people, while census records provide us with a glimpse into the lives of our families once every ten years, showing us where they lived and what they did for a living. If you hope to really get to know your ancestors however, it’s time you turned to other sources and two of the sources we regularly underuse are maps and directories. We are very lucky to live in the world of digitisation! Digitisation has revolutionised family history, taking records that were previously only available in isolation on the bookshelf and, not only making them accessible at home via the Internet, but evolving them in order to achieve a far greater depth of meaning.

Whereas maps tell us what sort of environment our ancestors lived in, giving an indication of local facilities from railway stations, public houses, factories and public baths, directories give us specific information about the people who actually lived in that environment: where they lived and often their occupation. Directories are excellent sources for fleshing out your  family tree. I traced two of my own relatives Joseph Hemus and his wife Martha in the post office and trade directories for Birmingham between 1880 and the 1920s. From the directories I discovered that although Joseph ran a draper and hosiery business, his wife had her own business as the proprietor of a domestic service agency, initially from the same address as her husband and later at a separate address. The directories also showed that Joseph and Martha had originally lived in and run his draper’s business from one premises but, presumably as his business prospered, he was able to rent separate premises for the business a few streets away from the family home. In his later years a study of the directories once again shows that he moved the business back home and guess he must have downsized the business in his later years.

The beauty of the AddressingHistory project is that it marries these two concepts, producing as it does the results of a surname search in the directories plotted on a map of the environment in which they lived. This means that not only is it easy to pinpoint exactly which part of the city an ancestor  lived in at that time, but that you can simultaneously locate other family members with the same surname living in Edinburgh.  The Edinburgh directory of 1784 predates the first national census that was of any use by some 57 years while both the 1865 and 1905 directories are useful stop gaps in between the decennial census returns. And while we are here – the other great thing about this project is that with the selection of three  maps many years apart it makes  a superb tool for watching the city of Edinburgh develop through the years before your very eyes!