Thursday, March 31, 2022

RootsTech in Review

RootsTech was an online event again this year, which means that even even though the event has closed, we still have plenty of time (all year) to watch the talks. Which is just as well because there are so many great talks to watch. But more of them in a minute.

First, I want to make another comment on the theme of the conference: #ChooseConnection. I have already written about the way this resonated for me with regards to the current war in Ukraine, but I have also been making new connections of my own. Three weeks ago we got a little puppy, Cassie. Because we have been taking her to the grass at the front of our home to do her business, and because she’s so cute and adorable, people have been coming up to look at her and sometimes to pat her. This means that I have got to know people who live two doors down, and others from all over our estate. These are people who’ve been here for years and years, but only now have I got to meet them. These are wonderful new connections I have made! And it has enhanced my sense of community in the enclave in which I live.

Anyway, back to the talks in this year's RootsTech Connect. There are so many to choose from, and (unsurprisingly) I have not yet had time to watch all the talks that I am interested in. But here are some of the ones I have particularly enjoyed.

First, just some of the keynote speakers:

Apollonia Poilâne – this quietly spoken, gentle young woman was faced with tragedy aged 18 and now controls her family’s business https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/session/steve-rockwood-and-apollonia-poilane-main-stage-general-session-1

Matthew Modine – how incredible to find that you had ancestors who lived within a stone’s throw of the place where you chose to live yourself! https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/special-session/matthew-modine-acting-and-the-power-of-connection

Molly Yeh – a wonderful story of the connections forged through food https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/registered-session/molly-yeh-shaping-her-legacy-through-food


And, of course, some of the many other talks:

Sophie Kay - Ancestral Hide-and-Seek in the Roaring Twenties: The 1921 Census of England & Wales. An excellent talk about the newly released 1921 census https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/series/ancestral-hide-and-seek-in-the-roaring-twenties-the-1921-census-of-england-wales

Nick Barrett - When Harry met Dotty – using DNA to break down brick walls. An interesting case study (I always enjoy those). https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/session/when-harry-met-dotty-using-dna-to-break-down-brick-walls

Daniel Horowitz - Genealogy of the Food Brands. A fun way to illustrate the records available on MyHeritage by examining the families who are the names behind some famous food brands. https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/session/genealogy-of-the-food-brands

Ugo Perego - What does it mean to have Neanderthal ancestry. A very interesting talk about the evolution of homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and what your DNA can reveal about any neanderthal ancestors you may have. Particularly interesting for me as apparently I have more neanderthal DNA than 85% of my contacts (no comments about my height, please!) https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/session/what-does-it-mean-to-have-neanderthal-ancestry

Janet Few - How to Handle Sensitive Topics in Family History (aka Family History Warts and All: How inclusive is your family story). Not so much how to handle them, but an examination of the type of things that might crop up (criminals, mental health problems, illegitimacy, slavery etc) https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/session/how-to-handle-sensitive-topics-in-family-history

Maxine E Meurs - Researching the identity of my Chinese Great-Great-Grandfather. Growing up in Australia I am often guilty of only thinking about the European history of my country in the 19th Century, so this was an interesting and eye-opening talk about the family of a Chinese man who came to Australia during the gold rush. https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/session/researching-the-identity-of-my-chinese-great-great-grandfather

Why not go to RootsTech Connect 2022 and watch some of the talks and let me know which ones you liked!

Saturday, March 5, 2022

If Only Putin would #ChooseConnection not Division

I am breaking my own rule and making a post that contains my political opinions, but it is so relevant to the message of RootsTech Connect 2022.

NOTE: These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of FamilySearch International and RootsTech.

This year’s theme is #ChooseConnection. I was watching the news last night after the first day of this year’s RootsTech conference, and the contrast between that message and the current Ukrainian situation struck me so strongly. Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, stated

‘When we say “connection” we mean connection to people: our family and friends of today, our ancestors of the past, and connection to those who are strangers today but as we discover our common ancestors, our common homelands, they become close friends and even cousins of tomorrow. We mean connection to the world, including our homelands; connection to our culture, our heritage … We mean connection to principles. Principles of trust, love, faith, honesty and compassion. And most of all connection to each other, especially at this time when so much division is being thrust upon us.

This theme and the ideas and scripts were developed long before the current situation commenced, yet they couldn’t be more relevant right now. What is happening is horrifying and frightening.

Most of the world is united in its support of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. None of us want this to continue. Volodymyr Zelenskyy begged Putin to talk to him face to face ‘I am your neighbour. I don’t bite.’ But still it continues.

Back in 2018 Rockwood talked about the theme of that RootsTech conference: “Connect. Belong”. He said that FamilySearch wants people to connect, because when we connect we treat each other differently. Connections can generate emotions, as with the discoveries LeVar Burton made in 2017 which brought him to tears.

If only Putin would agree to talk instead of attack, negotiate instead of sending missiles, #chooseconnection instead of division we could return to peace instead of standing on the brink of a disaster.

This is all very serious, I know, and it brings down the mood, but as with so many of the RootsTech conferences, the messages and themes resonate with me.

Back in 2017 when LeVar Burton spoke, he said that until he saw people like Diahann Carroll in the sitcom Julia, and Clarence Williams III in The Mod Squad, he had never before seen people like him starring on TV. That comment has come back to me many times since then. It was a perspective that I had never encountered before, though I should have realized it by myself. By making the connection I did when listening to his keynote I understood the world a little bit better from another point of view.

Whatever can bring that understanding can only help the world. Finding out about your ancestors and ancestral homelands – especially if that journey uncovers some surprises – can only help us connect with others and contribute to making the world a better place.

LeVar Burton after hearing about his family

NOTE: These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of FamilySearch International and RootsTech.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

RootsTech Connect 2022 is coming soon

 It is now less than six weeks until RootsTech Connect 2022 starts (yikes! I’d better get on and watch more of the 2021 talks, which are still available online).

Last year’s conference was the first fully online conference, and it was excellent, attracting 1.5 million viewers worldwide. But with more experience of this new online world, this year’s conference promises to be even better!

Three of the keynote speakers have already been announced, and new speakers from around the world will be announced each week. 

Some of the memorable keynotes from the past were LeVar Burton, Donny Osmond, Saroo Brierley and Jake Shimabukuro, Cece Moore and Dan Snow. These links will take you to my comments about their talks.

So what does this year have in store?

Apollonia Poilâne is a Franco-American baker who, at the age of 18, took over her family’s business, founded in 1932 and based in Paris. Learn about her story and how her family revolutionized the way we think about bread. Read more here and here.

The famous pain Poilâne

Matthew Modine is an American Actor famous for Stranger Things, The Dark Knight Rises and Full Metal Jacket. His story will talk about connects and the ripple effect they can have. Read more here and here


Argentine singer, songwriter, producer, musician, and actor Diego Torres talks about how music is a universal language that connects people through the generations. Read more here and here.  


Register for free to hear these, and many other talks, at rootstech.org

Disclaimer: I am a RootsTech Influencer, Presenter and Exhibitor.




Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Registry of Deeds in Ireland

You may not have heard about the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, but if you are interested in Irish research then you should know about it. 

The Registry of Deeds was established in 1708 to allow people to record deeds and other documents relating to land transfers. A major driver in its establishment was to enforce the laws that prohibited Catholics from owning land or entering into leases longer than 31 years. It was never compulsory to register a deed, so not all transactions are recorded, but by 1833 when the numbering system changed, over 600,000 documents had been recorded. 

Tombstone Books in the Registry of Deeds.
Photo Credit: Nick Reddan (with permission) 
Memorials or synopsises of deeds and other documents were recorded in large books known as memorial books or tombstone books. They are not true copies of the original document, but contain all relevant information relating to the land transaction or transfer. Amongst the documents recorded are land sales, leases, mortgages, marriage settlements and even wills. Anything that might relate to land could be included. The wills are a particularly valuable inclusion because all the original wills were destroyed in the fire in the Four Courts in Dublin in 1922 and this may be the only source of the information included in a will. 

Among the things you might discover that will help you build your family tree include names and relationships, ages and death dates, wives' maiden names, and residences. 

Example of a page from one of the
Tombstone Books

Two sets of indexes were created to allow access to the Deeds. The first is the Grantor Index. The name of the primary grantor, and occasionally a second grantor, can be used as a finding aid. It does not always include all grantors, and it never indexes the grantees. The second index is the Land or Place Index which includes the location as well as listing the primary grantor. Later versions of these particular indexes also include the name of the primary grantee. Thus it is worth working through both sets of indexes to find any memorials that might be of interest. These indexes will give you the information you need to look through the books of deeds to find the memorial of interest. 

So who would register a document? It was not only wealthy landlords, but can even be some of the most humble tenants, though generally it will be the middle class and above. Merchants were very well represented amongst those registering documents, if only because a registered deed took precedence over an unregistered one if there was any dispute. In theory, Catholics would not be able to register a deed unless it was a lease for less than 31 years, but I have seen some leases registered for Catholics for longer periods. As there was a cost of registration the humble labourer or small holder would probably not register one. However, they might still be mentioned, particularly in relation to identifying the location of a property ("north of the stream and west of Patrick Murphy's cottage"). 

 As mentioned, it might be only the primary grantor and primary grantee that listed in the indexes. Yet a deed can list many, many more names. One deed is known to list 196 names! In order to try and slowly build up a full index to all the names in the deeds, the Registry of Deeds Index Project website has been set up (http://irishdeedsindex.net). This free site allows you to search deeds that have been indexed and to enter details of deeds you have found yourself. 

The Registry of Deeds Index Project homepage (http://irishdeedsindex.net). 


It is easy now to access the indexes and deeds. Familysearch (http://familysearch,org) have filmed all the Indexes and Tombstone Books, and most of them have been digitised and are available online for free. They are not indexed, and have to be accessed via the catalog, but there are links direct to them on the Index Project site mentioned above. 

If you have Irish ancestors, spend some time looking for them in the Registry of Deeds.

This is an updated version of a blog post that originally appeared in The In-Depth Genealogist blog in 2018

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Definition Day - The Manor

 * This is part of an occasional series where I explain certain terms that you might come across when studying English history or genealogy.

A Generic Medieval Manor. 
William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas,
1923 (Public domain)


A Manor (from the Latin manerium) was the basic social and economic unit of society in England from before the Norman Conquest. They do not have a specific date when they ceased to play an important role as it varied from manor to manor, but it was often well into the 17th and 18th centuries, though some manors continued to hold manorial courts into the 19th and 20th centuries.

A manor does not map onto a parish or village: it might cover several parishes, or only part of one parish, or part of one parish and part, or all, of other parishes. Neither does it map onto a village. A manor might consist of a village and its lands, or a single village might contain two or more manors, or a manor might cover land in more than one township

Basically, it is the series lands held by one lord, though a lord might hold more than one manor. That lord might be holding the land directly from the crown, or from another tenant-in-chief, or a combination of both. Prior to the dissolution, a manor might have also been held by a religious house, such as an Abbey or Monastery. Are you confused yet?

Manors could vary in size: some were small and some were very large.

The manor consisted of the land the lord retained for his own use, known as his demesne (pronounced “domain”), the land that was tenanted out, the land for common usage, and the waste (areas not cultivated).

There were two main types of tenants. Unfree tenants, or villeins, held their land on condition not only of paying rent, but also of rendering services to the lord, such as working his land for a certain number of days, helping to repair the manorial mill, or providing goods, such as butter, eggs, etc. The other type of tenants were the free tenants, who held their land by payments of rent and sometimes by some services. The types of services in each case depended on the customs of the manor.

Before the Black Death unfree tenants were not able to leave the lord’s land and go and work elsewhere unless the lord gave his permission. Villein tenants came to be known as customary tenants and villein tenure evolved to become copyhold tenure. The tenant’s title was written into the manor court rolls, and he was given a copy as proof of his title. On the death of a tenant the land transfer had to go through the manor courts, and required the payment of a heriot – a money payment or the tenant’s best beast – before the land could be transferred. Other transfers of copyhold land required the payment of an entry fine to the lord. Copyhold tenure was not abolished until 1925.

Free tenants held their land absolutely and were not subject to the customs of the manor. The tenant could devise or sell his land at will (freehold). As with copyhold land, a heriot had to be paid on the death of a tenant to allow the land to be transferred to his heir. The heir of the land, or purchaser if it had been sold, also had to pay a relief to the lord of the manor before taking up the land. The relief was usually a cash payment to the value of one year’s rent.

Little Moreton Hall, a Tudor Manor House
(© Jenny Joyce, 2014)

Over time a third type of tenure evolved, a lease. A lease might be for a single year, for 21 years, or for three lives. The terms by which land was leased out were set by the lord of the manor.

Over time some tenants came to hold different portions of land under each type tenure, though not all manors had all three types of tenure.

There were also other people living on the manor who were not tenants, as they held no land. They were employed as labourers by the lord or a well-off freeholder. They may have had a cottage with a small garden and were called cottars or bordars.

Tenants had certain rights, like pasturing a beast on the common, taking turves of peat from the common, of having access to certain amounts of wood, plants or thatching material. Tenants had to have their grain ground at the Lord’s mill, and had to pay a fee for this.

Each manor had its own customs, which included these rights, but included other matters as well. The rights were upheld by the manor courts, which will be the subject of the next “Definition Day” post.

WARNING: Some land in England was never included in a manor, and only some parts of Wales were subject to the manorial system.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Get your fix of GenFlix

I’ve had a sneak peek at the website for RootsTech Connect, and it’s very impressive.  Just as Netflix lets you binge watch your favourite series like The Crown or Line of Duty (which I am currently watching and highly recommend), RootsTech Connect will let you binge on Genealogy.

So far over 300,000 people from more than 200 countries and territories have registered. And 89% of those have never been to a RootsTech conference before. There will be over 1000 classes and Tips & Tricks sessions. And in case you were wondering,  I am one of those speakers, and will be giving two sessions 10 things you are probably doing wrong with your research and Managing scanned and digital photos.

A lot of people have been asking when the schedule for the conference will become available. But, except for the main stage, there is no schedule.  There are four main sections to the conference:


The Main Stage will have keynotes, sponsor sessions and discovery content (stories, fashion, dance, language, food and much more), and it will run 24 hours a day, with Keynote speakers come from all around the globe, a truly “follow the sun” model. The contents from the first day will be repeated on the second day with the sessions in a different order (to be cater for the fact that there will be people in different time zones), and afterwards the content will be available on demand for a year. The timetable for the main stage is available here.


The Expo Hall (or Exhibition Hall, if you prefer) will have virtual booths for the 20 sponsors and 72 exhibitors. Booths will have product demos, and you will be able to chat to the exhibitors. You will also be able to see the latest innovations at the Innovators Portal, which will be accessed via the Expo Hall. There will also be a Demo Theatre here, which will be familiar to those who have attended a RootsTech in person.

Sessions and Guide Me is where you will find the classes, given by presenters from 51 countries. You can join a chat room about a class, or download a class syllabus (handout) here. You can select classes to be added to your playlist that you can watch at your leisure. There are also guided streams, in case you find it all too overwhelming and don’t know where to start. The full list of talks is available here.

Connect lets you communicate with speakers, other attendees, exhibitors, newly found cousins and more. It will be accessed via a Connect button on the bottom right hand side of your screen. The Ask Us at the top of the chat is where you can ask FamilySearch staff questions about the conference. This is also where you will be able to make contact with your Relatives at RootsTech.

** This is the only section that will only be available while the RootsTech Connect conference is actually live.

And all of this (except Connect) will be available on-demand for a whole year.

So, now for some practicalities.

If you have already registered for the conference you need to know that registration was only so the organizers could send you information about the conference. You should have received one of those communications recently.

You will be able to access the content without having to log in to that account. But you will get more from the conference if you log into your FamilySearch account. By logging in, you will get access to playlist and chat, along with the chance to connect with any of your relatives who are also at RootsTech. These connections will be made based on the FamilySearch Family Tree. If you haven’t got a FamilySearch account they are free and can be set up from https://www.familysearch.org/. If you haven’t added a tree the get cracking!


If you haven't registered yet, don't worry. Just go there on the day and login with your FamilySearch account.

Now, the final and most important part. When does it start.  Well, it the talks all kick off at 9pm Wednesday 24th Feb in Salt Lake City time. That’s 3pm on Thursday 25th of February in Sydney. (If you need help converting to a different time zone check out https://www.timeanddate.com/).

BUT … the Expo Hall opens four hours earlier: that’s 10am on Thursday in Sydney time.

This is going to be a fantastic fully virtual event.

See this episode of Road to RootsTech to get a peak at the site yourself

Monday, November 9, 2020

Have you registered for RootsTech Connect?

 RootsTech in 2021 is going to be a bit different. It even has a different name – RootsTech Connect. In case you have been living in total isolation (hang on, hasn’t everyone?) and haven’t heard the news, RootsTech Connect will be 100% online and 100% free. All you need to do is register at https://www.rootstech.org/. This new online conference will mean no crowds, no jetlag and no expensive hotels.


Since this conference will not involve a trip to Salt Lake City in person, I won’t tease you with pictures of the Family History Library.

As the Expo Hall will be online, pictures of the Expo Hall in previous years won’t be relevant. But rest assured, there will be Exhibitors.

Neither is it relevant to show you pictures of the people I could catch up with at the conference.

So what can I show you to whet your appetite and tempt you to attend RootsTech Connect in 2021?

Well, there will still be speakers.  Even more of them than we’ve had in the past. We have had some really great speakers and really great talks in the past, and this year will be no different.  The speakers haven’t been officially announced yet, but I have heard some whispers and there are some fantastic speakers, many of which have never spoken at RootsTech before.

Myko Clelland - always interesting


A panel from FamilySearch telling us what is new


Nick Barratt - speaker, and MC
for RootsTech London 2019


We might be lucky, and get some new announcements, like that of Ancestry's Genetic Communities back in 2017, or the indexing of the 1940 US census in 2013



And, of course, there will be Keynotes. Saroo Brierly, who was lost as a little boy in India, adopted by a Tasmanian couple, and found his birth family via Google Earth, told a wonderful story. Jake Shimabukuro’s was so proud of his family’s background, but it was his ukulele playing that blew us all away.


Read my reports of their sessions here.

And who could forget Donny Osmond, who appeared at RootsTech in Salt Lake City in 2015 and in London in 2019.



But my absolute favourite keynote was LeVar Burton. I wrote about how his story brought us all to tears here.


Make sure you join the 130,000 who have already registered for RootsTech Connect 2021. Register for free at https://www.rootstech.org/.