AddressingHistory Update

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Sep 212012

The waiting is finally over! The AddressingHistory team are pleased to announce that the remodeled AddressingHistory crowdsourcing tool is now available. We have added six further Post Office Directories to the collection for the years 1881 and 1891 (to coincide with census years) and extended the geographic coverage to include the cities of Aberdeen and Glasgow in addition to Edinburgh.

The tool itself has been refashioned with refined parsing capabilities incorporated. Searches can now be made across those instances of records with multiple addresses, those records with multiple addresses also being editable. Spatial searching can now also be conducted using a bounding box facility and the searching of professions has been enhanced by assigning Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to Professions.

As mentioned in a previous blog post you can now explore an “Augmented Reality” version of AddressingHistory using your iPhone or Android device.  Currently this is for Edinburgh only but plans are afoot to extend this to other geographies within the web tool.

In addition to new features and functionality it is now possible for requests to be made for a new POD to be added to AddressingHistory.  Once a request for a new POD has been made we can either provide assistance in using our POD parser (this requires some time and technical knowledge) to convert the requested POD, or we will add that POD to our priority list for future AddressingHistory development.

We are currently evaluating possible business models for sustainability and would like to hear of any ideas or initiatives that could feed into this exercise.

Please get in contact and let us know what you think.

Stuart Macdonald
AddressingHistory Project Manager

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 ( 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!

Further Website Tweaks

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Dec 082010

Just before the AddressingHistory Launch event we promised you some goodies – this is a brief update with directions on where to find those goodies!

One of the new AddressingHistory HTML badges.

An image of the AddressingHistory blog showing all of the new tweaks.

An image of the AddressingHistory blog showing all of the new tweaks.

And we are still on the look out for guest blog posts from our first users of AddressingHistory – we’d love to hear what you think of it, what you have been researching or anything really interesting you’ve found out through the historical directories. Drop us an email ( if you would be interested in contributing.

Report and Speaker Videos from the AddressingHistory Launch Event

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Dec 082010

Apologies for things being rather quiet on the blog lately. Following the launch we’ve been busy following up with various new contacts, new interest in AddressingHistory and writing reports of the event.

The AddressingHistory Launch event seemed to be a fantastic success from our point of view. We had a super array of speakers but, most importantly, we had the opportunity to meet over 50 of you. It was fantastic to finally meet such interesting and engaged AddressingHistory supporters and to hear about your historical research and interests. It was also fantastic that some of you who weren’t able to attend in person were able to join us via Twitter.

We wanted to make sure that no-one would be left out of the launch so over the last few weeks we have been busy updating the live blog posts that were added during the event to include images, links and to remove some typos and errors that crept in on the day.

Now we bring you the videos of the launch event. These are currently provided as they are but if you would be willing to volunteer a little time helping us to create transcripts and subtitles for these we would love to hear from you.

Speaker Videos from the AddressingHistory Launch Event

The videos are presented in the same order that the speakers appeared on the day though some talks have had to be split into two shorter videos for upload to YouTube. You can view all of these films on the AddressingHistory YouTube channel as well as here – and you are very welcome to embed them on your blog, website, Facebook page, etc. You could even respond with a video about how you are using Post Office Directories or AddressingHistory if you’d like  (do let us know if you do – we might be able to feature your video, playlist, website, or a guest post from you here on the blog).

Welcome – Cate Newton (Director of Collections and Research, National Library of Scotland)

Cate Newton, Director of Collections and Research at the National Library of Scotland welcomed everyone to the event and explained how AddressingHistory complements the wider digitisation work undertaken by the NLS over the last decade:

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Introduction – Professor Robert Morris (Emeritus Professor of Economic and Social History , University of Edinburgh)

The introductory presentation was given by Professor Robert Morris who highlighted the advances made in the digital era by showing punch-cards from the 1970s version of computerised directories. He emphasised the need for an appreciation of both context and content when using digital resources for rigorous research:

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AddressingHistory presentation and launch – Stuart Macdonald (AddressingHistory Project Manager, EDINA) & Nicola Osborne (AddressingHistory Project Officer & EDINA Social Media Officer)

Stuart Macdonald and Nicola Osborne from the AddressingHistory project team gave an overview of the work that had been undertaken to convert digitised trade directories into a geo-referenced database which facilitates both browsing and editing and concluded by officially launching the AddressingHistory website (provoking a flurry of excitement on the event’s Twitter hashtag #AHLaunch):

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Visualising Urban Geography Project – Professor Richard Rodger (Professor of Economic and Social History, University of Edinburgh) and Stuart Nichol (University of Edinburgh)

The afternoon continued with presentations on the Visualising Urban Geographies project – including demonstration of some innovative usage of the AddressingHistory API:

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Statistical Accounts of Scotland – Dr Helen Chisholm (EDINA)

Helen spoke about the Statistical Accounts of Scotland online service highlighting some of the gems from the Dumfries accounts and the new Statistical Accounts Facebook and Twitter presences:

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At this point on the day there was a coffee break so why don’t you join us in grabbing a tea or coffee and a piece of shortcake for an authentic bit of refuelling before the second set of speakers?!
NLS Digitised Historic Mapping – Chris Fleet (Senior Map Curator, National Library of Scotland)

The penultimate presentation looked at the wide ranging National Library of Scotland Digitised Historic Mapping activities including discussion of how maps, like those used in AddressingHistory, are digitised and geo-referenced:

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Tobar An Dualchais – Kenny Beaton (School Of Celtic and Scottish Studies, Univ. of Edinburgh)

Kenny provided an overview of the Gaelic media project “Tobar An Dualchais” and talked about the audio digitisation process, the types of materials included and the innovative way in which the project had been run across Scotland to reflect the digitised content.

[NB: post updated 21st March 2011: YouTube video removed by request]

Internet Archive digitisation project(s) – Ines Mayfarth (National Library of Scotland)

The final talk from Ines Mayfarth of the National Library of Scotland gave a very interesting overview of the Internet Archive digitisation project that has inspired and provided data for the AddressingHistory work:

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Wrap Up – Peter Burnhill (Director, EDINA)

Peter Burnhill, Director of Edina wrapped up the event sending us forth for several hours of socialising and productive networking and chatter:

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The evening ended with wine, nibbles and discussions of the various projects that had been demonstrated during the day. Do post comments below to join in the extended conversation (wine optional).

We would love to hear what you thought of the speakers and the online version of the event and we hope you have had a chance to look at and try out the AddressingHistory tool.

Thank You!

A huge thank you from all of the project team goes to all of our speakers, our event hosts and project partners the National Library of Scotland, those who encouraged us and joined in via the blog and Twitter on the day and to all who have been so supportive and inspiring throughout the project. It has been hugely exciting to get AddressingHistory ready for launch and we are extremely excited to see what you now do and research with the tool – we’d love to hear your stories, ideas and find out how we have helped you to trace your ancestors, your area or your other historical interests. 

Finally, we are also indebted to Hot Aches Productions for recording and producing these videos of the launch event so quickly and to such a high standard. Hot Aches do corporate filming but they specialise in climbing films and have just released a historical documentary about Scottish mountaineering that may be of interest to AddressingHistory readers. The Pinnacle is a tribute to Robin Smith and Jimmy Marshall’s famous week on Ben Nevis in 1960.

Two New Videos on the Historical Post Office Directories

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Nov 172010

We have had various blog posts throughout the last few months that help explain why the historical Post Office Directories that feed into AddressingHistory are so useful. But a few weeks ago we decided we would go one better and go and look around, take some pictures and ask our various project partners and supporters if they wouldn’t mind being on camera. As a result we will be sharing various videos over the next few weeks that explain what the PODs are, why they are useful, how they have been digitised and – my personal favourite – the strange things one can find out from them!

So… why are the Post Office Directories – especially when connected to the map in AddressingHistory – so useful? Richard Rodger, Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh and Chris Fleet of the National Library of Scotland have some suggestions:

We know there are lots of reasons why you find the PODs and, hopefully, AddressingHistory so useful and we would love to hear your own comments and thoughts in any format – maybe you could make your own video!

Since we have been working mainly with the data from the Post Office Directories we were excited to be able to photograph and film both the physical PODs and the scanning process that the NLS and the Internet Archive are currently undertaking. Our second video features Zaria and Jamie who are digitising some 600,000 pages of Post Office Directories – they explain the process and show off their scanning kit!

We hope to bring you more videos soon as we have various silly POD highlights to share and our developer Joe has explained the process of turning the PODs and maps into the AddressingHistory website. We will also demonstrate how you edit an entry in AddressingHistory and the kinds of searches and information you can run very shortly. If there is something specific you would like to see or contribute we would love to hear from you.

Recent Presentations, Publications and Website Tweaks

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Nov 162010

Things have been getting really busy prior to the big AddressingHistory Launch event this week so we thought we would quickly let you know what we’ve been up to.


We were delighted to be featured on page 8 of the Herald newspaper yesterday (Monday 15th November).

Last month we were also featured, along with the excellent AskScotland project, in IS News: the Newsletter of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland.

You can find information about these and other articles about the project in our new publications area. Do let us know if you have written about AddressingHistory for your local history newsletter, genealogy magazine, etc. and we will be delighted to mention and link to it here.

Recent Presentations

Earlier this month Stuart attended the  RunCoCo Community Collection Online Sustainability and Business Models workshop to give a short presentation on AddressingHistory and to hear about the other exciting projects in the JISC Developing Community Content Programme which we are part of.

In late October Nicola also gave a presentation on AddressingHistory, and how we have been using social media (like this blog), to the CILIPS Autumn Gathering in Dunfermline and was delighted to meet librarians from across Scotland many of whom took AddressingHistory flyers and posters for their libraries and local history groups. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to do the same.

Changes to this Website

In readiness for our launch of the AddressingHistory tool we have been adding and changing a few things around here. We have added two new pages for Presentations and Press.

The Presentations page lists and links to the presentations we have been giving on the project – including numerous mentions of our wonderful blog readers and community around the project. The Press page has been prepared for journalists, bloggers and others who want to write about the project. There are links here to information about the project, the project partners and our new collection of images associated with the project.

There are a few other smaller changes to the website:

  • AddressingHistory Launch Event link added – this is a new area of the website for all things launch related. If you are in Edinburgh and can make it along or if you would like to read blog posts and live blogging from the event then this is the place to click.
  • Flickr link added – AddressingHistory is proud to announce our new Flickr account. Here you will find images of the physical Post Office Directories and maps which AddressingHistory will be making available online. We will also be adding images from our launch event, screen captures of the tool, and other images we think may be of interest to you or to people writing about the project.
  • AddressingHistory API Google Group link added – we have recently set up this Google Group (an easy to use email list)  for those interested in using the API (Application Programming Interface) for AddressingHistory for their own websites, projects, or mashups.

You can view all of these changes on the site or see our annotated image below:

Previews of Forthcoming Attractions

Over the next few days we will also be adding:

  • A link to the AddressingHistory tool ready for tomorrow’s launch.
  • AddressingHistory Badges for you to add to your own website or blog.
  • Videos about the AddressingHistory project.

We also hope to add some guest postings from our first users of AddressingHistory – we’d love to hear what you think of it, what you have been researching with it or anything really interesting you’ve found out through the historical directories. Do drop us an email ( if you would be interested in contributing.

Nov 122010

Extremely exciting news: today we are making a limited number of tickets available to our fantastic AddressingHistory Launch Event taking place next Wednesday (17th November).

We hope that you will be able to join us to celebrate not only the launch of our AddressingHistory online tool but also to celebrate the rich history and historical resources of Scotland. The programme for the event includes some fantastic speakers and will highlight some really fantastic resources and projects around local, family and Scottish history.

You can reserve your (free) place via our booking page ( and we recommend doing this as soon as possible as our venue has a strictly limited capacity and we anticipate significant interest from local historians, genealogists and academics.

If you cannot join us on the day (we know that you, our lovely readers, are both very busy and located all over the world!) we will also have various online celebrations. Videos of our speakers will appear here shortly after the event whilst we also hope to post images and blog postings live from the launch. You can also contribute directly by adding your comments to the Twitter hashtag #AHLaunch, by commenting here on the blog or by adding your thoughts to our Facebook page. We will also be adding some extra special goodies to the website over the next few days so watch this space…

Finally, if you would like to add a mention of AddressingHistory or the launch event to your blog, your community group website, a newsletter or publication you are involved with or any other space you contribute to please get in touch ( and we can provide you with information, a link to the preview of the tool and images. We can also provide you with our new and fabulous HTML badge so that you can show your support for the project (full info on that coming soon).

We look forward to seeing you in person or online for our launch next week!

AddressingHistory Launch Programme Announced

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Nov 082010

We have just confirmed the programme for our official AddressingHistory Launch which is taking place on Wednesday 17th November. We will be celebrating local Scottish history with a range of speakers and invited attendees with particular interests and expertise in genealogy and local, social and Scottish history.

We will be writing up the event here on the AddressingHistory blog (in as close to real time as available wifi/3G networks allow) and we will be posting videos from the event a few weeks afterwards. You can also join us via Twitter using the #AHlaunch hashtag.

The Programme

We are absolutely delighted that we have speakers from a huge variety of Scottish history projects and digital resources and we think that the videos from the day will be fantastic viewing!

  • Welcome – Cate Newton (Director of Collections and Research, National Library of Scotland)
  • Introduction – Professor. Robert Morris (Emeritus Professor of Economic and Social History , University of Edinburgh)
  • AddressingHistory presentation and launch – Stuart Macdonald (AddressingHistory Project Manager, EDINA) & Nicola Osborne (AddressingHistory Project Officer & Social Media Officer, EDINA))
  • Visualising Urban Geography project – Professor. Richard Rodger (Professor of Economic and Social History, Univ. of Edinburgh)
  • Statistical Accounts of Scotland – Dr Helen Chisholm (EDINA)
  • NLS Digitised Historic Mapping – Chris Fleet (Senior Map Curator, National Library of Scotland)
  • Tobar An Dualchais – Kenny Beaton (School Of Celtic and Scottish Studies, Univ. of Edinburgh)
  • Internet Archive digitisation project(s) – Lee Hibberd /Ines Mayfarth (National Library of Scotland)
  • Wrap Up followed by demonstrations

We will be making a small number of tickets available to blog readers so do keep an eye out for an update on that shortly.

If you would like to show your support for the project we are also going to be making various HTML badges available when we launch. If you’d like to be one of the first sites to feature one of these then email us at:

We would also love to hear what you plan to do with AddressingHistory or, if you’ve been using our preview version, any interesting stories and comments about what you’ve already been exploring. Email us or leave us a comment linking to your blog postings, videos, pictures etc.

AddressingHistory Launch Date Set!

 Addresshistory API, Project Updates  Comments Off on AddressingHistory Launch Date Set!
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!