Book Upload Scandal, Mothers’ Day Gift Idea, Presentations, a Rather Soggy Encounter and other Historical Randomness

Those of you who know that my recent blogging silence has been due to the arrival of my latest and very precious grandchild (hello Peter Robert) might wonder why he doesn’t feature in the lengthy title of this post. He, like his sister and cousin, will rate a post all of his own but that needs to be carefully crafted and will be for a later date.

So, what else has been happening? Much of my time this week has been spent fighting (not literally but I wouldn’t rule it out and we have swords) a truly despicable person who has illegally uploaded one of my books, along with others from respected history book publishers, to a site where subscribers can download it for free and I assume, the uploader gets a payment for each download. To say I am furious would be an understatement of immense proportions. Needless to say, these sites do not make their contact details easy to find but find them I did and I did not mince my words. To be fair, the site did take down the initial link very quickly but it was still available via another link. A few days later the same set of 70 or so books appeared again, allegedly uploaded by someone different. I am heading for setting a record for the number of desist notices one can send in a short space of time. I just hope that it took whoever this thief is a VERY long time to scan every page.

Two warnings to take away from this. When you download a ‘free’ book, are you sure it is being made available legally? Here is a hint, if you can buy a new copy on Amazon (other booksellers are available) the answer is almost certainly No. It may be tempting to go for the free option but unless they are J K Rowling, authors make little enough out of their work as it is – think pence not pounds per copy. Books take many, many hours to write. A little like craft workers, very few of us achieve anything like the minimum wage for the time we put in. We are familiar with the scandals of illegal music and film downloads but spare a thought for beleaguered authors too. Secondly, if you are an author, I strongly suggest that you do an internet search for your titles, perhaps together with the word ‘free’, on a regular basis. I only discovered my book had been stolen because it is new and I was searching to see if it had been reviewed.

CoverSupport a struggling author – buy a book. What about a gift for Mothers’ Day (UK) in a couple of weeks time? Of course it would be great if it was one of my books, the latest is particularly appropriate (email me for details) but any book would be great. Having said email me, my emails have been very erratic lately, so please keep trying. Pretty much, if I haven’t replied within 48 hours I haven’t received your message.

I am now officially inducted as a tutor for Pharos Tutors and will be leading online genealogy related courses for them along with a great band of fellow tutors. Look out for my first course on Maps and Surveys, due to start in August. This is one I am picking up from a previous tutor but I will have courses of my own devising in the not too distant future. As part of my training I am taking an existing course and have chosen one on Scottish Ancestry by Chris Paton. This would work well if I had any Scottish ancestry but my ancestors never got further north than Northumberland. Fortunately, my children do have some Scottish forebears that I can ‘borrow’, as do my grandchildren, so I am all set. I will report on my progress in April.

I spent a great day at the recent Guild of One-Name Studies Twentieth Century Seminar, where I was one of the presenters. The proceedings included a convivial meal in a restaurant that was not going to win any awards for fast service. Given that said meal began after my bedtime, by the time the dessert arrived at gone 10pm I was ready to attack it with gusto. The only cutlery available was a fork. Ever tried eating a sundae with a fork? Another ten minutes and spoons were in evidence – like I am going to sit looking at a gently melting sundae for ten minutes.

The seminar itself was very interesting but due to one of the speakers being taken ill, we were ‘treated’ to an truly excruciating ‘video’ (whose pictures did not work) of a webinar on a similar subject. I tried very hard to be respectful. I failed. It did rate highly for its entertainment value though, or as an exercise on how not to present. The remaining presentations were excellent. Firstly was Nigel Lutt, a former archivist who gave a thought provoking presentation in a dryly humorous style, highlighting why twentieth century archives are not likely  to stand the test of time as well as those from earlier eras. The sheer volume of material results in weeding, modern inventions such as paper clips and sellotape do damage, data protection leads to deletion of records and the move to electronic records, such as school admissions’ registers, will leave us the poorer. Ian Waller spoke about adoption and divorce records and the day finished with Gill Blanchard encouraging us to write our family’s story. As ever the best part of the day was catching up with so many old friends and meeting new ones too.

Along with many people who have UK ancestry I was there on 16th, ready and waiting to take advantage of the 1939 Register being made available as part of my FindmyPast world subscription. Up until then I had managed to restrain myself and had not ventured past the indexes to the point where I had to part with hard earned cash. I am getting very mixed results and have submitted a host of transcription error reports, once I had discovered the not very obvious way that this could be done that is. The company is claiming an 85% transcription accuracy; are my relatives really so atypical (don’t answer that!)? The tally so far, for 13 searches:- 5 (38%) were problem free. 2 had christian name mis-transcriptions. 2 had the address transcribed incorrectly, 1 had both the address and the birth year wrong, 1 had the birth year, initial and address wrong, 1 had the occupation from the next entry incorrectly ascribed to my relative, although it was clearly on the next line and one person is not transcribed or indexed with his household (or any other) at all, although he is there when you search via his wife. I stress that these were all transcription errors, not errors with the original record. So sorry, great resource but still ‘could do better.’

And the soggy encounter you ask? I accidentally (obviously) got a pint of water rather too close to the nearly new laptop. A swift move and I upended the laptop so water could pour (well, drip steadily) from the keyboard. At first all seemed fine but then it quietly died without so much as a wimper. I tried not to panic and dried it by the woodburner for a while. I was then in danger of adding a degree of meltedness to the soggyness but managed to avoid this. Still no signs of meaningful life. I removed the battery and shook the drips off it – battery replaced and whoo hoo it turned on …… and then promptly turned itself off. A few attempts at this and I seemed (everything crossed please) to have achieved a partial recovery. Ongoing issues are a rather strange opening screen when I first turn on (that I can live with), randomly, the clock losing 45 minutes and having to be reset (solved) and then there is the problem with the second letter of the alphabet. Either it does not work at all (all the bs in this post have been achieved by cutting and pasting) or, on the rare occasions when it does work, you get rows and rows of bs. I am hoping this will right itself, although it is good for me to try to think of alternative ways of expressing myself, ones which do not involve words containing the errant letter (try it, it is surprisingly difficult).

Time Travelling

This week I was scheduled to give two talks on the same day. Not, fortunately, at the same time – sadly I have not quite yet perfected the art of being in two places at once. One was a virtual webinar for Ontario Genealogical Society, the other was a Mistress Agnes gig for a local women’s group. When the webinar was first booked I had worked out that it was due to begin at 3pm my time and began to prepare. Up came the little notice ‘this webinar has not yet started’. What passes for my brain began to whirr – Canada is behind us (in the nicest possible way) not ahead, a quick recalculation. I was due to start presenting at midnight! Midnight! In case you don’t know I just don’t do midnight, not ever, not even on New Year’s Eve; 10pm is a late night for me. Getting up at 5am, no problem at all but midnight! Had I not had the evening booking as Mistress Agnes I could have gone to sleep first but this was not going to be an option.

First then extolling the delights of seventeenth century living at a venue in a small village near me. I have to say the roads en route were realistically seventeenth century like but we made it there and back. Some of my incredulous friends had been made aware of my webinar time slot, ‘Are you really presenting at midnight?’ Well it looks like I am now. The one good thing about this sort of webinar is that it is audio only, so I only had to sound as if I was awake and it didn’t matter what I looked like. I was also competing against Rootstech sessions – the largest genealogical event in the world. Maybe I would be talking to myself anyway. It turned out that 174 people had applied for the 100 places participating in this webinar in real time and I think I manage to sound as if I was vaguely alert. The topic was ‘A to Z of less well known British sources’ and at the end my addled brain fielded diverse questions on such topics as Scottish cab drivers, non-conformists and Buckinghamshire quarter sessions records. It was fun in the end and I get to do it all again with another virtual webinar in December!