Monday, 19 May 2014

"Lives of the First World War" - Helpful Hints

I keep finding clever ways out of problems on Lives of the First World War, and the forum isn't very well organised for sharing them.  So here they are, and I'll keep adding them when I find more. Click on the screen shots to see them in a larger size.

For my most recent post on how to start adding information to Lives of the First World War (January 2015) please click here.

Searching for men
  • The information we can currently search is from the Medal Cards, only men who served overseas had these, so your man might be missing if he served only at home, often the case for an older man.
  • You can now use wildcards in searches: Searching for “Re?d” would give results for “Reed”, “Read”, “Reid". Searching for “T*y” would give results for “Tommy”, “Tammy”, “Timmy”, “Toby”.
  • If your man has two first names try putting in just one with his surname, as often the middle one is just an initial.  eg Alonzo Wilson Swallow would be shown as Alonzo W Swallow (or was until I updated it!)
  • If you have his service number try that ... you can then filter the results down by surname (or look for obvious transcription errors - eg Lewis for Lewin)
Adding a Profile picture
  •  The silhouette at the top of the Life Story page doesn't have to be a picture of your soldier, it can be any image.  I've used gravestones, regimental cap badges, newspaper cuttings, memorial cards - anything you've got, where you've got copyright to the image, can be used for the profile picture.
  • Click on the option for "Upload an Image" in the Add to Life Story box.
  • Click in the blue box and navigate to your image of choice, upload it.
  • Be very, very careful when you complete the "Image Caption" and "Describe this photo" boxes - currently there is NO WAY to edit this text after you have uploaded the image.  If you find you've made a spelling mistake the only way to fix it is to delete the image and start again.
  • Click "Connect to *name of your soldier*", it will say "Uploading" and then you'll get the standard Thank You message.
  • Now scroll down to the bottom of the page - there's the image.  
  • Click on it and then click on "Set as Profile Picture" - the box vanishes and nothing else seems to happen.  Look up to to the top right, click on the X.  This doesn't work on my Samsung tablet (Tab2, 7.0) I have to click my return hard key at the bottom of my tablet to get out of the screen - but I guess that's a bug and they will fix it eventually.
  • Now if you scroll back up to the top, you'll see the image has replaced the silhouette.  Hooray! 
  • If you don't like the image as the profile picture, upload another image.  Follow the same procedure, and when you scroll down and click on the new picture it will ask you if you would like to set the new image as the profile picture - click as before and it will change the image at the top of the screen.  
  • You can delete images by clicking "Remove Evidence" next to the image caption in the Add to Life Story box.
Screen Freeze
  • If the screen freezes up when you are in the middle of adding facts from evidence, you can't scroll down to the "Save these Facts" button.
  • Simply change the magnification of your screen to 75 or 50%, you will be able to see the button and can click it to escape from the fact addition screen.
I want to add some information about my soldier without paying
  • When you go to the fact on the grid section of the soldier's Life Story and click on the pencil icon and choose "Improve from Evidence" it seems to do nothing useful, a pop up box appears that tells you to Connect Evidence and Use Evidence.  When you click on Got It, you are back on the same screen.  Hmmm!
  • Instead think about how you know his name - have you got a certificate with his full name on, or a photo with his name written on the back?
  • Have a look at this blog post where I explain how to add information from a marriage absolutely for free.
I've added some evidence and now I want to change something that's already there
  • I added an image of a memorial card for George Morley and used that to change his name which was listed by IWM as George A Morley instead of the full correct George Alfred Morley.
  • I clicked on blue link which named the memorial card "evidence" and then clicked "Add Facts from this Evidence"
  • I clicked on the option for All Names on the left.
  • Click on the pencil and "Improve", make your changes and then scroll down to the Continue button and then click "Save these Facts".
I want to delete a fact
  • But you don't want to delete the evidence and all the hard work you've put in adding facts.
  • Go to the fact on the grid section of the soldier's Life Story, click on the pencil icon and choose "View Change History", be patient, it takes ages to load.
  •  I changed George Morley's name from George A to George Alfred.  If I click on that X at the end of the row showing my information it asks if I want to remove my amendment.
  • Click "Remove my Amendment" and then the Close button. 
  • If I had added all the amendments for the fact I would be able to click all the Xs and thus remove the entire fact.  It still lurks there somewhere, but you can't see it anymore!  
  • I managed to remove a surplus wife, accidentally added to one of my great-uncles this way.



Sunday, 18 May 2014

"Lives of the First World War", a scientific (well, kind of) experiment

Lives of the First World War (LFWW) was launched to the public last week.  In their publicity blurb the Imperial War Museum state that they want families to add their own photographs, stories and memories to build a "permanent digital memorial" to the people from Britain and the Commonwealth who served in the war.  Read this article by the BBC.

Screen shot from the BBC News website dated 12 May 2014
I have written three posts about this project so far, two whilst I was taking part in the beta testing prior to the public launch.  One here about my hopes and first impressions of the site and another here about the Communities feature.

Then I wrote another post last week after the launch in response to the difficulties people were having using the site.  One writer on the Great War Forum was kind enough to comment that my blog post was, "the way the user manual should have been written"; thank you sir!  But that doesn't help the hundreds or is it thousands of people trying to use the site with recourse only to the site's own help messages.

This weekend I went to stay with my daughter and her partner in Leicester and after a suggestion by the OH (my other half) we carried out an experiment to see how easy it really was for a non-family historian to add data to the website.  I have over 20 years experience of family history and have had a full subscription to Ancestry for over 9 years and to Find My Past for 2 with previous pay by view visits for occasional items.  I regularly research WW1 soldiers for my own family history and for the Barnsley War Memorials Project. I am not really an average tester for this new site.

My three testers, the OH, my daughter and her partner were each assigned a WW1 soldier from the OH's family tree.  I gave them name, service number, regiment and date of death.  I asked them to add the date of death to the man's record on the LFWW site.

The OH, M48, to use the parlance of Mass Observation, is very computer literate, edits Barnsley CAMRA's magazine and website and recently won a national award for his guide book to Real Ale pubs in Barnsley.  I assigned him his great-great uncle Walter Clarke Priestley.  14th York and Lancaster Regiment, service no. 14/429 who died on 15 April 1918.  My mother in law still has Walter's Memorial Plaque, also known as a Dead Man's Penny.
An example of a WW1 Memorial Plaque from the Barnsley Soldiers Remembered site
I asked my participants to imagine the scenario that they knew about their man as family members who had his name and details via family knowledge and documents.  Regiment details and numbers can be found on the edge of medals, on paper work relating to the war and, if the man died, on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.  I advised my participants that if they hit a pay wall at any point to back out as they should be able to complete the task without any charge.

My daughter, F25, who has an Education Studies degree from Leicester De Montfort University and who will be starting her PGCE at Leicester Uni this September (I'm so proud!) was assigned George Edward Kilner, 13th York and Lancaster Regiment, service no. 13/548 who died on 3 March 1918.  He is remembered on his parents' gravestone in Carlton Cemetery, near Barnsley.
George Edward Kilner remembered on his parents' gravestone

Her partner, M30, who has a Masters Degree, was assigned George Frederick Jaques, 3rd York and Lancaster Regiment, service no. 3/4541 who died 9 August 1915.

The choice of three men was purely based on the OH's family tree and the availability to me of their basic information and a date of death.  Many people will NOT have their relative's regiment and service number ... and for men who returned from the war whose Army Service or Pension records no longer exist it is not an easy task to find these out.

First comments - why do you have to create an account? You need to have email to do this ... what happens if you don't have email or are using a computer in a library or archives or someone else's computer?  Despite what the government tells us I am sure that many people still do not have ready access to email even if they do know how to surf the Internet in a limited way.  Why the requirement to set up a difficult password - ie one containing numbers and letters?  It's not as if the site was going to contain highly confidential information.

F25 - who is dyslexic - commented that the pages are not laid out in a very readable font for people who have difficulty reading.  The search page was OK, not a lot of words to cope with, but the Help pages, once she had dug down through five or more pages to find the article on "Adding a Life Story" were too closely packed, the instructional videos had no sound and did not answer her question about how to add a date of death from personal knowledge and that the impression she got was that "you seem to be frowned upon for just KNOWING a piece of information - you just want to put on the website when your grandad died and they aren't telling you how to do that."

She was able to find her soldier, George Edward Kilner, but unable to add his date of death to the site.  She continued to try to read the help pages while the other two participants worked on their men.  I asked her not to give them any clues!

M48 was trying to set his man up using a rather old web book computer - well, we were on a visit away from home.  He had trouble creating the account, he had to load three different pages on the machine, to create the account, check his email and return to the site.  The first few times he tried the search functionality he just got blank pages instead of results.

Eventually he did find his man, Walter Clarke Priestley, and then tried to read the Help pages to find out how to "enter a date of death".  A search on that phrase gave him 22 responses but none had the word death in them!  He impatiently skipped the 90 second tutorials - he just wanted an answer to his question.  
Logo in the Header of the Help pages on LFWW
Footer text on the Forum pages of the LFWW site

Suddenly he found he was not logged into the site and that the page wanted him to sign in again.  He clicked the logo at the top of the page, which he expected to return him to the home page to restart the process, but it just stayed where it was on the help pages.  Eventually I had to tell him to scroll down to the bottom of the page to the small text in the footer and click on the words "Lives of the First World War" to return to the home page.  He was getting rather frustrated by this time.

Finally with help from comments on the Feedback Forum he managed to add the category of evidence (read my earlier blog if you don't know what this means) "Personal Knowledge of ...."  That actually displays his name on the screen - I had forgotten to advise my testers that this would happen and to create aliases - lots of people don't actually want their real names displayed on the Internet, it should be made clear that this will happen before they set up their accounts.   

He found the entry for date of death in the facts grid below the evidence section and clicked on the pencil icon adjacent a few times, he reported that nothing happened except that he was told to "Improve from Evidence".  At this point he gave up in disgust.  

The four ways in which you can connect Evidence on LFWW
When I showed him that he could have clicked on the Evidence that he had added, his "Personal Knowledge", and entered a story attached to it he pointed out that that wouldn't have helped him achieve his task of adding Walter's death date as the story fields are just narrative and don't link to the date of death field.  Quite true.  So obvious that I hadn't thought of that before!  You can't just add a story and update your man's facts from that ... you have to add at least an External Reference, a website url, the name of book or other source, or the title of a piece of official documentation or other evidence that you have, which could be a letter or a date written on the back of a photo I suppose.  But you do still have to work out how to add external evidence.

Meanwhile M30 was unable to find his man, George Frederick Jaques, on the site at all.  He had a little previous knowledge about resources for WW1 research and tootled off to find his man at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website to check his details.   He soon found George there and discovered that he was buried in Barnsley Cemetery aged 42.  This suggested that George may not actually have ever served abroad, he was older than the other soldiers and buried at home.  The LFWW database is, so far, only based on the seed data from the Medal Cards and a man who only served at home, on guard duty maybe or in the reserve, or who was killed during training for example, does not have a medal card.

M30's successful entry with date of death (his name obscured by me for this blog post)
Helpfully for me, M30, then took on F25's man, George Edward Kilner - although he couldn't find him straight away, unlike F25, and had to be shown where the soldier was hiding was by her!!  George was listed on his medal card as George E Kilner and M30 had been searching for George Edward Kilner but unable to find him because the search tool on the LFWW does not allow wildcards to be used.  Putting in too much information as M30 did brings back only exact results.  You can just put in single words such as Kilner or a service number, but in this case the number 13/548 caused complications for M30 as he was aware that the 13 simply denotes the battalion and he had assumed it wasn't needed in the search.

M30 then went on to successfully add the CWGC site as External Evidence linking to George's actual entry on the CWGC site.  Marvellous!  The CWGC is free to access, unlike Ancestry and Find My Past and other pay to view genealogy sites - adding a link like this allows other users of LFWW to view the CWGC site directly.

Pop up box when you click on the CWGC evidence in the example above. 
The grey icon after the CWGC on this screen shot is a link to the CWGC website.
He was able to amend George's name to his full name, add his date of death, add his parents' names and the address of George's parents as given on his CWGC records (an assumption that this was George's home address at some point).

So the results of my 'scientific' research are:
  •  Two out of three of my highly computer literate testers were unable to complete the task
  •  F25 complained that the site was not accessible by dyslexic people, the training videos had no sound and there were too many pages to drill down through in the Help section before you got information, which was then laid out too densely and in a hard to read font.
  • The suggestion on the BBC news item that the site was created to gather family stories is not borne out by her experience - she felt that little help was available for anyone wanting to do this, all the online help was directed towards people adding evidence from official documents. 
  •  M48 could not find the answer to his query about how to add a date of death on the Knowledge Base
  • The answer he found on the Forum would have helped him add a narrative 'story', but did not tell him how to actually update the soldier's date of death
  • The pages are unhelpfully laid out with links that appear to lead nowhere, eg the logo at the top of the Help pages and the pencil icon on the facts grid.
  • Soldiers who did not have a medal card do not appear on the site, but this was not made clear on the BBC news item
So IWM, are you going to make some changes to Lives of the First World War to help people add their relatives' stories?  I, and all the other experienced users on the site have been giving you suggestions for a while now, when will they be actioned?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

"Lives of the First World War" - Finding your Great-Grandfather and inputting a story

* January 2015 - This blog post has been superseded by a new version, please click here to go to it.

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) launched Lives of the First World War (LFWW) yesterday, Monday 12 May 2014.  There were pieces on tv and radio and in many newspapers.  I wonder how many people logged on yesterday and started to search for their solider ancestors?  And how many managed to find Great-Grandad?

I have been monitoring the user feedback since I started beta testing the new platform a couple of weeks ago (see my two previous posts here and here) and I have been a little bit worried that the IWM might have made a mistake in the way this potentially wonderful new method of saving our ancestors stories has been set up.  Many of the people who accessed the feedback forums, even the beta testers who were drawn from experienced family historians and military historians, expressed concern that the method for finding an ancestor and adding a story was too complex.

Yesterday the numbers commenting on the feedback pages (which are, in my opinion, a bit confusing themselves, having three headings, discussion, feedback and improvement which are not mutually exclusive) gradually increased over the day.  There was a steady stream of people who had tried the system, hit the pay wall and backed away in horror.  And another strand of people who had just been unable to find their ancestor ...

This post is an effort to support those people and the IWM - give it a chance! - the admin staff are promising ongoing improvements - we must continue to tell them how we find the system so they know what to change.  

This is how I found my husband's Great-Grandfather and how I added a story about him.  It cost me nothing and was fairly easy to do with a few simple steps.
Birth Certificate of Gladys Croft born 1916 in Barnsley

The OH's (my other half!) great-grandfather was Joseph Croft, born 1892 in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.  On the birth certificate of his eldest child Gladys he is noted as being a Private number 48081 in the 20th Labour Battalion Notts and Derby Regiment (and previously a Carter for Barnsley Corporation).  This was a lucky find for me as Croft is a fairly common name in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire and finding the military details for a man who survived the First World War is much harder than finding them for a man who died.

For an ancestor who was killed in the First World War I would have started at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website - see my previous post about finding men from the Redfearn Brothers Glassworks War Memorial and adding them to LFWW.

After opening LFWW ( and logging in (you do have to create an account to use the site, but you don't have to pay to do this, but I would suggest that if you don't want your real name on view online that you use an alias for First Name and Surname) you will see a search box at the top of the screen.
Snip of opening or "Dashboard" screen of LFWW showing white search box at the top

Be prepared to try a few different ways of searching for Great-Grandad - if one thing brings back lots of results try another way.  

Entering Joseph Croft brings back 31 results - actually that's not bad - but to pick out the right man you would need to know either his regiment or service number.  I was lucky and found this information on Gladys' birth certificate, as you have seen above, you might also find this information on the edge of his medals, on a paybook or other First World War documentation, or you might be an experienced family historian and have already found his Army Service or Pension records on Ancestry (which is free to use in many libraries around the country).  

The results screen showing the filters for First Name and Surname on the left

Another way of searching is to put in your man's service number.  Joseph's number was 48081.  That brings back 23 results and using the filters on the left of the screen it is easy now to pick him out.  I clicked View all under the First name heading, and clicked through the options until I saw Joseph - there was only one man called Joseph with the service number 48081 so I chose him.  Sure enough he was in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment confirming that I had the right man.  Click on his name to open up his very own page.
Comparing a man with info and an almost blank entry

Now I have Great-Grandfather the first thing to do is to Remember him.  Now I'm at a bit of a disadvantage showing you this as I've already added some information to Joseph, so to compare I've shown you a man to whom I haven't added anything yet.  Walter Armitage - he's my OH's  2x great aunt's husband's half brother, but you didn't need to know that! - Walter is showing a silhouette in the image box, whereas Joseph has an image of his cap badge from the Notts and Derby (I don't have a family photo of Joseph, but I wanted to put something in the box). Walter has Date of Birth: not yet known and similarly Date of Death: not yet known.  Don't be disheartened by this - it is easy to add this information.  But back to remembering your man ... just click the Remember button, the big light blue one under his name.  The 0 will turn to a 1, if someone else is also remembering your relative it might already show a number, don't worry, more than one person can remember a soldier.

Incidently I keep saying soldier - the LFWW people are promising sailors, airmen, nurses and even civilians as time goes on, but at the moment the men in the database are all soldiers who received at least the British War and British Victory medals as the seed data is taken from the Medal Cards (read about Medal Cards here).  

Right - now we are going to add a story to Joseph's page and a bit of information about him.  I have Joseph's birth certificate, his marriage certificate and his Army Pension records.  You can't get any of these things via LFWW (as yet) so the thing to do is to add them as an External Link and enter the information from them yourself.  This won't cost anything.
Adding information to Joseph's Life Story

LFWW call a soldier's page a "Life Story" and provide four different options for adding information, each piece of information is called "Evidence" and you can see that Medal Index Card has been added already by the Imperial War Museum - this is the seed information I was talking about:
  • Searching Official Records, this will cost you money (mostly), the records appear to be the same ones available on Find My Past, but even having a subscription on that site doesn't save you on here - you'd have to pay again to add the links to Census returns and Army Service Records.  You might already have this information at home, so read on to find out how to add it for free.
  • Uploading an image, like the cap badge I have used for Joseph, but it could be a photo of your soldier, a scan of a letter or a piece of documentation you own such as a paybook, but NOT a scan of any official document you have had to pay for from Ancestry or Find My Past -  that's breaking copyright. 
  • Add an External Reference, this is what we are going to do
  • Use your Personal Knowledge, this can be almost anything and the process is similar to adding a story attached to a piece of evidence.
Click on the Add an External Reference button. 
Adding a Certificate

I have Joseph's marriage certificate - bought years ago when I first started doing the OH's family history.  I can't upload a scan of it to LFWW, it is a copyright document, but I can add the information from it.

There are three options at the top of the box:
  •  Website
  • Book/Publication
  • Copy of Official Document
If I was adding a piece of information from Ancestry or Find My Past I could add a Website External Reference ... if I'd found the information in a book or magazine or item from an Archive I'd choose the second ... but we are adding a marriage certificate, so I chose the third option.  The boxes underneath change for each option that you pick and helpfully they are populated with suggested text so you get an idea of what to put in.

I put in "Copy of a Marriage Certificate" and the reference number I had used to order it,  "Q2 1914 Barnsley 9c 549", for the source I just used the suggested "Copy from the General Register Office" and for description I put "This is a copy of Joseph and Alice's marriage certificate".
The bottom half of the above adding screen

You also have to justify why you are adding the information lower down this screen.  So for Joseph's marriage certificate I put that it matched his surname and other names (from the Medal Card info already online) and in explain your reasons I added "These are my husband's great-grandparents".  I thought that was enough, I suppose I could have said, "I bought this marriage certificate after searching the FreeBMD website for a Joseph Croft marrying a lady called Alice as I knew that those were the names of my husband's great-grandparents and I used the reference I got from there to order the certificate online from the GRO" - but that was just unecessary if absolutely true!

Now click "Connect to *Joseph Croft*" and the system will think about it for a little while and then thank you for adding this evidence to Private *Joseph Croft* (your man's name *here* of course!).

A new entry then appears under Medal Card - "Copy of Marriage Certificate" and it also notes that it is an external official document and was added by me (my real name that I used when I created my account, this is why I suggested using an alias when you create your sign up).

The next thing to do is to pick out facts from the "Evidence".  Click on the blue words indicating your evidence and a new screen opens.
Adding Facts from the Evidence

This screen summarises the information already known about the evidence - you can see all the data I entered in the screen above when I was connecting the evidence.  Including my name!

It does say on my screen snip that "2 Facts were added in this source of evidence" - that's because I've already been through and added Alice's name and the date of their marriage - but I'll tell you how to do it ... theoretically.

Be careful if you look at evidence added by other people, be wary of adding the same information in duplicate - last night I managed to add Alice, Joseph's wife, twice and I've had to log a help request to ask how to sort it out, silly me!  If you need help or do something wrong look for the blue question mark in the bottom right of the screen, click on that an a box will pop up for you to log your question or help request.  Answers take a couple of days at the moment though.

Click on "Add Facts from this Evidence" - a 60 second video starts that shows you what to do, but I have seen one comment on the Feedback Forum already complaining that this is too fast and a slower video or preferably something written down might be more useful.  Hopefully this blog post will be helpful.  You do have to say that you don't want to watch the video again in order to progress ...
Adding Facts from the Evidence

You should only add facts that you can see in the evidence you have added.  So for this marriage certificate I have already added the date of the marriage and the name of Joseph's wife.  I can also add his address on the date he married, his age and his occupation too.  It is also possible to add a "story", which is free text and this could be a family story about the marriage or a memory about Joseph and Alice as a married couple.  You can't add the names of the bride and groom's parents as a fact, but you could enter them as a "story". 

Adding an address
To add the address from which Joseph married I would scroll down where it says "Family and Civilian Life" until I see the heading "Addresses".  On the way past you will see headings for Spouses - this heading includes the fields for adding the date of a marriage.  

In "Home Type" I am going to choose "Parents" from the dropdown list that opens when you click the little arrow (little arrows mean 'more options' as my friend Lesley B used to say at IT class!) I am fairly sure that 55 Tower Street, the address on the marriage certificate is Joseph's parents' home address as that is where they were living in the 1911 census.

In "Address/Location" I can type 55 Tower Street, Barnsley - it's odd that they haven't made town a separate field, so be sure to add it to the address or no-one will know where you are referring to.

Country is just United Kingdom. 

And for the date options ... I used "Known at" in this case as I know he was at 55 Tower Street on the date of his wedding, 16 May 1914, because he states it on the certificate, but that doesn't prove he was there before or afterwards or for how long so I can't use "From" and "To".

Click continue to carry on ... ignore "Add another Address", you can't add Alice's address here, you should only add facts to your soldier.  The only way to record Alice's address is in a "story".

Let's just click "Save these Facts" at this point.  As with all computer systems LFWW can fall over at any time.  Always SAVE your work.  It's much easier to add things in little chunks than enter a whole load of information and then lose it all because something goes wrong.  So keep SAVING!  I returned to the Adding the Facts screen by clicking on the title for the "evidence" to add Joseph's age and occupation as stated on his marriage certificate. Remember to SAVE after each fact or after no more than a couple of facts at the very least.

Adding a story about the marriage
To add that "story" about Joseph and Alice, containing all the rest of the facts about their wedding that can't be added directly to Joseph's personal "Life Story" just click on the blue title for the piece of evidence again and this time choose "Share a Story" at the bottom of the Adding Facts from Evidence screen.

I noted the full details from the marriage certificate here:

Joseph Croft, a bachelor aged 22, working as a Boilersmith's Labourer and living at 55 Tower Street, Barnsley married Alice Ann Duncan, a spinster aged 19 living at 44 Castle Street, Barnsley on 16th May 1914 at Lodge's Memorial Primitive Methodist Chapel on Buckley Street, Barnsley. His father was Joseph Croft, a Gardener, her father was Thomas Duncan, a Joiner.

I added Barnsley for place and the date of the marriage at the bottom.

Note that at the top of the screen in my snip it shows my added story "The Marriage of Joseph and Alice", so it looks as if I can go back in and correct my stories and add information to if if I want.  Other users will be able to see your stories but not change them (as far as I can see).

Remember to click Continue and SAVE!
The "story" about Joseph and Alice's Marriage.

Back on Joseph's screen, the story shows at the bottom of the page.  I don't like the way it splits the words up, but I suppose that's a minor grumble.  Note how the caption states that this was added by me and is attached to the "evidence" Copy of Marriage Certificate.

The facts are displayed on a grid with multiple tabs in the middle of the screen - we have been working on the tab "Family & Civilian Life" so clicking on that opens it up and you can see Alice's name, the date of their marriage and Joseph's home address on the day he married.  If this grid is too large for you try changing the magnification at which you are viewing your browser (in Internet Explorer this option is at the bottom right of your screen, in Firefox it is in on the toolbar in the menu indicated by the three lines) I prefer viewing these pages at 75%, you can see more at one go.

Adding this information has been completely free and although it has been a bit laborious I have been able to add all the information from Joseph's marriage certificate.  

I could move on to his birth certificate next or his Army Pension Records, but I think that's enough for today.

Please feel free to visit Joseph Croft next time you are logged into LFWW - I might have added that extra information by the time you call in!

I hope this has helped you to see how information can be added to LFWW easily and at no cost to you, so please go and remember your First World War soldiers (and others as the project progresses) now.

Lest We Forget.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Using Communities on "Lives of the First World War" - Beta Testing pt2

IWM Lives of the First World War logo
Yesterday I got an email announcing that the Lives of the First World War (LFWW) people had decided to let us beta test the Communities feature.  This was a surprise as we (there is an active forum of beta testers) were still reeling under the shock of being told the price (yes, price!) of becoming a 'Friend' of the LFWW when it goes live in a couple of weeks.  Quite a few people lodged a query about this, the record sets we are using are obviously the same as the ones on Find My Past and many of us already have subscriptions to that site.  The prices are currently being touted at £6 a month or £50 a year.  This is a lot to pay for record sets we already have access to and the only other selling feature was the ability to make 'Communities'.

You might want to nip back and read my previous post about beta testing LFWW - it will make some of what I say next a bit clearer.

Life Stories are the individual men who we are adding evidence to and from that evidence drawing out the facts.  You can just add a 'story', that's meant for family members with personal information about a soldier, letters, photos, medals, all that kind of thing.  These additions will still be possible without payment of any kind of fee when the site goes live - but the addition of 'evidence', that is attaching census records, military records, birth, marriage and death records and so on as provided by LFWW, will all only be available to 'Friends' who have paid the fee.

The blub says that included in the services provided on payment of the fee we will have the ability to become Community Managers and create our own communities by grouping together Life Stories we are interested in.   I can see an immediate use for this as part of the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP) - a community for the whole of Barnsley which will include all the men (fallen and returned) who should end up on our Roll of Honour AND individual communities for each war memorial we have discovered.

A dark bronze portrait shaped tablet, it is hard to make out the names, but there is a list on the Barnsley War Memorials Project site linked alongside.
Redfearn Brothers' Glassworks War Memorial Tablet

I decided to test out the Communities feature with one of the smaller War Memorials we have listed on the BWMP site. 

The Redfearn Brothers' Glassworks war memorial tablet contains just 24 names and I have already done some work on six of the men and found some information on another two.  If you follow the link above you will see that some of the names are in blue, clicking on them takes you to additional information about each man.  

The OH's first cousin 3x removed, Reginald Leslie Duncan is on the memorial too, and he's one of my favourite WW1 soldiers as I seem to have spent a lot of time on him over the last few years.  You can read his story here.

One of the men,  Benjamin Riley Green, even featured in a recent edition of Memories of Barnsley, the local quarterly history magazine.  What the author of that piece hadn't spotted is that T Green just below Ben on the tablet is his brother Tom, another worker at Redfearn's Glassworks.  Sad enough to lose two sons, but towards the end of the list are three Whites ... you guessed it ... all brothers and all killed.  How absolutely dreadful for their families!

Anyway, enough of that, this was meant to be a techie, beta testing post!

I created a Community for the Barnsley War Memorials Project - it's just a case of filling in a few fields on the online form provided on the site - then I realised that they also wanted you to say what organisation you are affiliated to.  Well in my case that's also the Barnsley War Memorials Project so I added that and was able to upload my favourite picture of the Barnsley Town Hall War Memorial - the one that forms the background to the BWMP webpages.  It turns into a little icon on the page displays, see below.  The blurb made a selling point of being able to do this - extra advertising for your organisation they said.  Hmm, OK, I see their point and they did allow me to add a weblink going back to the BWMP main page.  It seems that additional features will include the ability to upload community images (so I'm imagining uploading a photo of each war memorial) and the display of the communities on the Life Story pages.  Well, that's a given surely, there wouldn't be much point otherwise, no-one but the manager would know about them if they didn't do that.  They are also planning shared management, I guess this means I would be able to let GB and PS (other members of the BWMP committee) play on the site along with me - but would we each have to pay the fee?  Could this be something we could charge to the BWMP, when and if we get some grant funding?  Now there's a thought.  Or should one organisation only have to pay one fee - they might be part time charity or volunteer staff for example, they aren't all going to be accessing the system at the same time?
Quite attractive - if you like purple - the Communities page for the Redfearn's Glassworks group I created with nine soldiers attached.
The Redfearn's Glassworks Community page (2 of 3) with men added. 
If you click on the picture you will see more detail

Then I created the Redfearn's Glassworks Community - and added the description that it was for all men who were on the memorial or who had worked at Redfearn's prior to enlisting.  We might find reference to these men in the local newspapers or family members might know that Grandad worked at the glassworks.  

It seems a good way to keep a subset of men together.  A community could be a football team, all the men from one street in a town or small country village I suppose, as well as a place of work as I have used it.

As you can see from the screen shot above I have added the men from the war memorial to the community, it does run to three pages with up to nine men on each page.  There is just one man missing, Fred Swaine, for some reason I just can't find his information on the LFWW site.  I have put in a query to the administrators about this.  The man with the little photo is Reginald Leslie Duncan, that's a picture from his obituary in the Barnsley Independent.  

Now that opens a whole can of worms about copyright - whenever I use something I've got from Barnsley Archives on here or on the BWMP site I am very careful to credit the Archives and provide a link to their website.  It's not that easy to do that on LFWW, they seem to expect that people will only upload family photos which they will of course have copyright to.  But most of the soldiers I have researched only have the fuzzy little images from the newspapers or De Ruvigney's list.  I will have to be very careful to credit the Archives in the photo descriptions if I upload any more like this.   

It wasn't an easy task to identify each man from just an initial and a surname, I am currently feeling very guilty about assigning the OH's cousin RE the St Peter's, Doncaster Road, War Memorial Tablet which again only has initials and surnames.  They are tricky.  However with the added information that the men worked at Redfearn's prior to their enlistment once I had found a likely man on Soldiers Died in the Great War on Ancestry (where you can put place of birth or enlistment in the search) and cross-checked them on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) site which often provides additional information about next of kin there were only a few men where I needed all my genealogy skills to hunt down.

William Austin's entry on Soliders Died
in the Great War (from Ancestry)

Here's an example:

W Austin, who worked at the Aldham Works site of Redfearn's Glassworks.  That's on the edge of Wombwell so we aren't looking for a man who lives in Barnsley town centre.  There were two William Austin's on SDGW, neither born in Barnsley, but both had enlisted there.  Looking at their records on the CWGC using their dates of death and regiments to cross reference (Can you spot the problem with his service number? It took me a while!) I could straightway see that the man shown this SDGW entry's next of kin was his brother Thomas who lived at Stairfoot, which is on the main road out of Barnsley going towards Wombwell.  A W Austin also appears on the Ardsley Christ Church memorial  (we haven't got a photo of that one yet, but we do have a listing from the Barnsley Chronicle of the names on the plaque).  Ardsley would have been the parish in which William and his brother Thomas were living.
W Austin, service number and regiment matching with the record above, and addtional information giving his brother's name and address in Stairfoot, Barnsley.
William Austin's entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site
The CWGC gives us an address so I could then look for William and Thomas in the 1911 census.  The Find My Past site used to allow address searches, but for some reason they aren't working properly at the moment which is annoying, but as there are only a few William Austins in Barnsley it didn't take me long to find the entry shown here.

1911 census snip for the Gregory family and their two boarders, Thomas and William Austin from Aenor, Derbyshire.
1911 census entry for 59 Shaftsbury Street, Stairfoot (from Find My Past)
Ok, it's not the same address, but consulting a local map (or local knowledge) tells us that it is quite close by.  The names of the men and the place of birth of William, Heanor in Derbyshire (spelt here without an H, typical of the Barnsley accent!) leads me to conclude I have the right men.  You will see that William is a Colliery Labourer but his brother Thomas works as a Labourer in .... a Glass Bottle Works.  There's the connection.  

The other William Austin turned out to be still living with his mother in Chesterton, Staffordshire in 1911, he must only have enlisted at Barnsley, and collected a wife from the area later - so on balance of probabilities I went with the lad from Derbyshire.
The LFWW search results screen showing the filters available to the left for name, surname and regiment.
Results for William Austin in the search on LFWW
Lives of the First World War is populated with data from the WW1 Medal Cards; provided a man served overseas his record should be there and they are promising to add other men, nurses and associated civilians at a later date.  Searching for William Austin brought back 385 suggestions as you can see, I did try filtering them by regiment but my man didn't appear. 
The same search results screen but now showing only one result for number 22677 our man Willie Austin.
The one result when searching by service number on LFWW
Service numbers are not unique, they repeat in different regiments, but at least the choices are usually a lot less.  As you can see above the reason I couldn't find my man in a search for William Austin is that he was filed as Willie!  Well, now I know!
A little panel listing the two communities I have created so far.  You add the man by clicking on the + signs to the left of the titles.
The pop box with options to add a man to your Communities on LFWW

Finally I added him to my communities, both of them, the overarching BWMP one and the one for Redfearn's Glassworks.  Job done.  Mostly anyway, all bar the elusive Fred Swaine.

I believe we have a few more days before the site is due to go live, but I have an Open University essay to write and an exam to revise for so I don't know how much more I will be able to do on the LFWW site before they start charging to access the 'evidence' record sets. 

I do think the process of using the site is quite complex - and I'm a genealogist with over 20 years experience and a bit of a techie geek to boot.  I'm not sure what a regular family member out to record the story of their great uncle or grandad will make of the site.  I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.