Genealogy in Hertfordshire
This web site had to take a back seat during March - and Franci was a major factor. He was 8 years old when our daughter Belinda died and we inherited him, so he was particularly treasured. We never expected him to live so long - but he was a really tough old nut. He loved country walks, as long as he was allowed plenty of time to stop and sniff, and he was remarkably fit for his age. In fact Belinda's "young" dog, Kayleigh, who became the family pet of a local vet, died at the age of 12 in January. Not surprisingly Franci was slowing down and at the beginning of March (at the age of 17½) he took a dislike of his normal dog food - although he was happy to eat chicken, turkey, corned beef and liver. He was put on a course of antibiotics and at the end of that he picked up for a few days, before other troubles appeared, including increased weakness in his back legs. While we knew we would miss him, it was clear that it would be far kinder to call in our vet friend, and after a short walk he quietly went to sleep in his favourite spot with his family all around him.
We will not be getting another dog in the immediate future (if at all) as my wife will probably be having a knee replacement operation later this year and we plan to take a dog-free holiday - plus act as host to a visiting friend from Australia later in the year. In addition I am determined that I should keep up walking - and will resist pressure to spend even more time sitting at the keyboard. During March I have been able to answer all quick queries (most of which do not appear on the web site) and I plan to gently polish off the backlog of longer queries over the next few weeks. I also hope to complete all the links from the google map to the relevant town and village pages in the not too distant future.
A recent experiment with the "My Map" feature of Google Maps suggested that it could easily provide a map-based access route to the place-related pages on this web site, This is now in place with access to the map to all the ancient parishes and many other places. This can be accessed from the opening screen, the normal home page, and from the place menu. There is some more fine tuning to be done over the next few weeks. Implementing the feature has highlighted some of the weaker areas of the place pages, and it may be that for the larger towns dedicated maps will be introduced when time allows. To help planning your comments on this new feature will be very welcome.
At the beginning of the year a target was set to raise £1000 for mental Health in Hertfordshire and £705 in donations were placed in the electronic collecting box. Gift Aid has boosted this to about £815 and it is understood that some donations were given directly to the Herts Mind Network, while in a least one case a cheque donation was made to a mental health charity in the country where the donor lived to avoid horrendous bank charges on small international paper donations. So thanks to all who have donated as a result of using this web site in 2009 - and hopefully we will hit the target of £1000 in 2010.
Some time ago I purchased some important 19th Century documents which relate to William Brown, a Tring Estate Agent, for the Tring Local History Society. They provide a window on the past which is often overlooked by family historians and over the next few months I will be posting extracts - starting with 20 pages from a client account book.
The Webmaster is exploring ways in which the places pages can be tidies up and for smaller places such as Ayot St Lawrence, Ayot St Peter, Kings Langley and Thundridge a right hand menu with thumbnail pictures has been introduced. One problem is that links to external web sites can vanish without warning (please let me know if you find any) and where appropriate references to The WayBack Machine is being introduced.
During the summer months I spent limited time updating the web site to allow me to consider how it can rest be continued, now that so many other web sites exist which contain potentially relevant information. I have decided that the Ask Chris facility is an essential component and that users of the site will be encouraged to notify me of other relevant web site, books and other publications, which will be added to the relevant place pages (see How You can help).
My original plan to restrict myself to about 2 hours a days is not going to work and I needed an approach which would leave me time to "have a life" and also continue running the site. I have decided that I should answer questions and quick amendments A.S.A.P. after they arrive and to have the occasional blitz day - each of which will be dedicated to a special feature. There are three special feature pages in October (Extracts from old newspapers relating to Hemel Hempstead; Did your ancestor play football? and information on the Hertfordshire Association of Local History's publication Herts Past and Present.) The aim will be to post an average of two special features a month - depending on the time I have available.
The attempt to raise funds for the Herts Mind Network started well, but donations tailed off during the summer. However there is still a possibility of reaching, and maybe even exceeding the 2009 target [Have you made a donation yet?]. To help I am advertising the supply of high definition scans of old postcards, etc., as pictures showing where your ancestors lived could make suitable Christmas cards.