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RootsChat and the Media

This page lists some of the media coverage about RootsChat.
and some media events which have captured the imagination of RootsChatters,
resulting in many discussion and/or research on these events.

See also: Topic: *** RootsChat in the Public Eye ***

West Midlands Police Federation
BBC News - UK Edition
Western Mail
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
Cleator Moor Crack
Ancestors Magazine
Radio Merseyside
Castle Combe Museum Website
Liverpool Echo
Loughborough Echo

Not specifically about Rootschat, but

Not a media report, but
 Aug. 2005
 Jan. 2006
 May. 2008

Genealogists used in police inquiry
The kinship of strangers
New website where genes detectives take on other people's past
Photo sparks world wide hunt
Mention in Ancestors Magazine
An Interview with Paul E
Sampler Discovered In New Zealand
Honour at last for war hero
Are you a relative of Alfred Parr ?

Also mentioned in ....

"My thanks to RootsChat . . ."

West Midlands Police Federation
Published 10 June 2005

Genealogists used in police inquiry

In order to try and solve the death of a four year old girl in Bromsgrove 50 years ago, West Mercia police officers have turned to amateur genealogists for help.
It was at this point that a West Mercia officer turned to the internet for help, and posted a request in a genealogy forum, Rootschat.

The full article can be read at the West Midlands Police Federation web-site

RootsChat Topic: Local Detective Constable seeks your help in historic enquiry...

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BBC News - UK Edition
13 June, 2005

The kinship of strangers
By Rob Liddle

What do family historians do when the trails for their own kin go cold? They join forces to uncover the life history of a randomly chosen individual from the past. [...]

Random Numbers

Members of the 16,000-strong Rootschat forum now take part in a monthly challenge, in which an individual with whom none of them has any known connection is randomly selected from the 1881 census.
The job is to find out as much as possible about the mystery person within the next four weeks. It's pot luck - the person could have died a week later - but there's always something interesting to discover about them. [...]

(c) bbc.co.uk


Researcher Paul Etherington, who initiated the challenges, sees the site as a "truly altruistic experience".

"My own experience was that I was given advice and guidance by total strangers, and it only made me determined to want to offer the same to others. [...]

Paul also came up with the idea of censuswhacking - searching for a first name, surname or occupation that appears only once in a given census (as transcribed) - which has proved a big hit on the site.

Where else would the lives of Ginnie Pig, Spud Murphey and Alfred Goold - 1901 occupation "living on condensed milk" - be recorded for posterity?

The full article can be read at the BBC web-site
(for as long as the article remains on the site).

This article, which also described Googlewhacking, was widely read
and was reprinted, in part or in whole, amongst other places, in

Genealogy Blog
The Genealogue
Footie's Blog (also mentions, and includes a link, to "Census Whacking")

As a result, several american sites "latched onto" Censuswhacking, and tried it for themselves ...

For instance: The Genealogue: Censuswhacking in America

RootsChat Topics: The April 2005 RootsChat Challenge and Censuswhack

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The Western Mail
Thursday, 16th. June 2005:

New website where genes detectives take on other people's past
Sam Burson, Western Mail

A WELSHMAN and his fiancee are behind the latest internet craze - random genealogy.

Trystan Davies set up rootschat.com 18 months ago with Sarah Mackay. The couple wanted to make it easy and free for beginners to trace their ancestors and find family links on the world wide web.

But the detective work the process involves has now proved so addictive, people are happy to dig into the past of those with whom they have no link after running out of their own relatives to research.

The website gets 2m hits a month, and has 160,000 members across the globe.

Its most popular feature has proved the monthly challenge to obtain as much information as possible on a randomly selected person from the 1881 census. As well as being fun, the results hold valuable clues so others have a better chance of finding long-lost relatives.

Just three months after setting up the random search game, which challenges genealogy detectives to keep digging beyond their own lineage puzzles, the pair are now having to consider a second technological upgrade to keep up with the huge demand.

Mr Davies, 35, said he was taken aback by how successful their project has been.

The chemical engineer, from Llanfair PG on Anglesey, said, "I've been totally astonished by the number of people who are interested, and by the amount of hits we've had. We've just reached the point where the advertising can pay for the technology, because it's popular enough.

"We've already installed one new server to cope with the amount of demand, and we're going to have to upgrade things again."

And he says people are more than happy to look for other people's ancestors.

"It's like detective work," he said yesterday. "It's so enjoyable it doesn't seem to matter whether people are building their own family trees or other people's.

Reproduced by kind permission of Sam Burson, Western Mail

"I think there's also the feeling people get of helping each other."

He added, "With a lot of other sites you have to pay, so the fact that ours is free definitely would have something to do with how popular it's becoming.

"It's also a huge help to people.

"About 90% of people using the site say it has helped them, and the more people use it, the more information goes on it, so the more useful it becomes."

His fiancee Sarah, 31, began the project after becoming frustrated during searches into her own lineage.

She said, "I was getting annoyed because all the results coming up from the internet were geared towards people living in America - stuff like census and trade information, old photos and maps. All my relatives were British and it was pretty difficult.

"I was complaining to Trystan and he asked me what I would do if I were running a website.

"Then he said, 'why not do it?' so we did."

The site went online on December 31, 2003.

The deal has been for Ms Mackay to do the researching and genealogy side, which Trystan admitted was not quite his cup of tea.

He said, "Personally I'm not greatly into genealogy. I've always been a bit of a geek, so I've been doing the technical side."

Ms Mackay, who has also been researching Trystan's family history, revealed her work had turned up some interesting results for the couple who now live in Bury, Lancashire.

She said, " It turns out he had an ancestor who came from a really small village called Chirbury. What's a bit worrying is that I've also got an ancestor from the same place."

But she laughed, "It was in 1851 though, so we should be OK."

RootsChat Topic: >> RootsChat in the Western Mail <<

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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.
18th. June 2005


Sarah Mackay of Bury, Lancashire, England, used the Internet frequently in an attempt to learn about her family tree. However, she became annoyed because most of the results were geared towards people living in America - stuff like census and trade information, old photos, and maps. All of Sarah's ancestors were British, so the information found seemed worthless to her.

Sarah discussed the problem with her fiancť, Trystan Davies. According to Miss Mackay, "I was complaining to Trystan, and he asked me what I would do if I were running a website. Then he said, 'Why not do it?' So we did."

The result was launched on December 31, 2003. RootsChat.com is described as an easy-to-use messaging forum for everyone researching their family history or local history. The focus is on Ireland and the British Isles. The site's home page states, "Local Historians and Family Historians have a great deal of knowledge to share. This service is entirely free, with the hope that you and the historian and genealogy community as a whole will benefit from it."

Reproduced by kind permission of Dick Eastman

In fact, there seem to be no records or transcribed lists on this site. It is devoted almost entirely to message boards, one for every county in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. The site also has separate message boards for genealogy beginners, one for specific census records, and even one labeled, "For Sale/Wanted."

Trystan Davies says that people are more than happy to look for other people's ancestors. "It's like detective work. It's so enjoyable, it doesn't seem to matter whether people are building their own family trees or other people's. I think there's also the feeling people get of helping each other."

The site's most popular feature is the monthly challenge to obtain as much information as possible on a randomly selected person from the 1881 census. As well as being fun, the results hold valuable clues so that others have a better chance of finding long-lost relatives.

The website gets about 2 million hits a month and has 160,000 members across the globe. According to Davies, "About 90% of people using the site say it has helped them, and the more people use it, the more information goes on it, so the more useful it becomes."

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Cleator Moor Crack
produced by
The Whitehaven News
July 6, 2005

Photo sparks world wide hunt

The appearance of an old photograph of Wath Brow Mission sparked a worldwide search across the internet.

    A Canadian woman tracing her family discoverd the picture, but unsure of it's origins, placed it on a family history web-site used by Whitehaven man, Andrew Rutherford.

    The photograph was highlighted on the RootsChat.com site which is used by people across the globe to trace their relatives.

    Site users share their knowledge and offer practical help to those looking for their ancestors.

    With around 2,500 hits, the picture stirred up a great amount of interest with people from Cananda, Britain and America all wracking their brains to discover where the photograph was taken.

    Site-users studies the number plates, the make of the car, the sign-posts, searching for any clue which would help them identify the photograph.

    People wrote how they used magnifying glasses to search the photograph, with one user attempting to identify the year of the picture as 1955 by the make of the car, an Austin A35.

Reproduced by kind permission of The Whitehaven News

    However, it was only when Andrew came across the picture and recognised the location that the mystery of the photograph came to an end.

    He said: I use the site all the time and when I saw the photography I realised it was taken at Wath Brow. I went and took a recent photograph and sent it to the woman who said she was "over the moon."

    The woman had been helping her 90 year-old mother trace the location of the photograph and they were both delighted when their family heirloom had been identified. Their family came originally Cumbria or Shropshire, and the picture was originally marked with a cross above one of the houses in the picture.

    Andrew said: When I took a new picture of the church and put it on the website everyone thought it was great we had got a result !"

    RootsChat.com is used by many Copeland "ex-pats" who live all over the world. Andrew has also helped a man who moved from Whitehaven to Australia over 50 years ago to help trace his relatives, by trying to trace family graves in the town.

    "I have been using the site to trace my relatives," Andrew said. "It is interesting being in contact with people acroos the world who offer their help trying to trace Rutherfords."

RootsChat Topic: Where is this photo taken? Please? (with "old" and "new" photographs)

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Ancestors Magazine
August, 2005

"... we had a mention not once but twice in the Ancestors Magazine (August Edition) this is the National Archives own magazine ... "

"And also: Your Family Tree Magazine, Issue 28 September 2005 Page 11."

RootsChat Topic: Mention in Ancestors Magazine

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Interview Radio Merseyside
September 16, 2005

In an interview today, on Radio Merseyside, RootsChatter 'Paul E' talked about RootsChat, mentioning among other things, the RootsChat Monthly Challenges and Censuswhacking.

RootsChat Topic: Is there no end to this shameless plugging? This time its Radio Merseyside...
This includes a link for listening to the interview over the internet.

After hearing the broadcast, several listeners joined RootsChat.
Here is a fast reaction from a listener who signed up immediately , and another from a second listener

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Sampler Discovered In New Zealand
Jan. 2006

Maybe not national media coverage, but a nice thank you to RootsChat from the Castle Combe Museum ...

The kind folks at www.rootschat.com have done an amazing job following up on the history of the sampler donated to the museum a couple of years ago. Read more here

RootsChat Topic: An interesting story......

This topic also led to an article in Cross Stitch Collection, Issue 131. June 2006

RootsChat Topic: Cross Stitch Collection - more publicity for Rootschat!!!!!

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Liverpool Echo
18th. April 2008

Honour at last for war hero

INTERNET campaigners from around the world have won their campaign to honour a Liverpool war hero.

Hundreds of people, from countries including America, Canada, Australia, France and Spain, joined forces to commemorate Lt Robert William Stead, a World War I soldier who died in 1926.

Lt Stead, formerly of Anfield, returned home safely after being wounded in battle, but died of a brain tumour at the age of 30.

Now his gravestone in St Peterís Church, Woolton, will be repaired and re-erected as a mark of respect. [...]
The full article can be seen on the Liverpool Echo website.

Letís Honour our troops

IT TOOK the effort of internet campaigners from all over the world, but Liverpool World War I hero Lt Robert William Stead has finally been honoured.

The Anfield soldier died in 1926 of a brain tumour shortly after he returned home from the front lines.

His grave in St Peterís church, Woolton, had fallen into disrepair but it is now set to be cleaned and re-erected thanks to an online petition signed by people from countries like Australia, Spain, France and America. [...]
The full article can be seen on the Liverpool Echo website.

These articles do not mention RootsChat by name, and they didn't get all the facts right
(for "historical website" think: RootsChat; for "petition" think: "RootsChatters" ...)
but you can read the full story on the RootsChat topics named below.

This all started when a Rootschatter received this e-mail:
25 years ago, when I was General Secretary of the town hall of LA COUTURE, a village between ARMENTIERES and BETHUNE, just on the western front, I found, among old coins and a button of british trench coat, a piece of metal engraved in english.

Since that day, I search in the british cemeteries of my sector the grave of the man (there are many of them near my home)

In fact, with help of members of the forum and of a new friend from minnesota one day I see I mistaked, the man survived the conflict an go back alive at home Watford / Walford Road, Anfield Liverpool

The memory of this men, that I do not know haunt my spirit, my best wish is to restore the wrist tag to his descent, if it exist, that is very very important for me.

Of course, no money in this history, just to be in peace with my soul, this medal is not mine, it must go back in his real place.

Do you think someone is able to take, in a first time few photos of the house of Stead where he goes back after been discharged in 1918 ?

The challenge was taken up by Rootschatters all over the world and resulted in the following topics:

RootsChat topic: Are You Sitting Comfortably?? Then I'll begin!!
RootsChat topic: Are You Sitting Comfortably Part 2
RootsChat topic: Are You Sitting Comfortably Part 3

and this synopsis:
RootsChat topic: Robert William STEAD (1896 West Derby -1926 Gateacre)

Robert Stead was buried in the graveyard of St. Peter's Church, Woolton - Liverpool

The story of Robert William Stead has now also been added to the St. Peter's Church web-site.

and to the Liverpool Remembered website.

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The Loughborough Echo
May. 2008

Trying to solve this "ANZAC puzzle", a RootsChatter got in touch with the Loughborough Echo, who printed this story.

Are you a relative of Alfred Parr ?

Can anyone in Loughborough help to find any living relatives of Alfred John Parr ?

    D. wrote in to Looking Back hoping that readers would be able to help her trace some family members to a story she came across.
    D. said: "as a member of RootsChat on the internet, I have picked up on an interesting local hero story.
    "It originates in Australia on ANZAC day when someone found a letter from World War One.
    Alfred John Parr received a DCM for courage under fire. He wrote a letter to the mother of a Charles Forster who was killed by a bullet meant for Alfred, now people are trying to trace the families involved to return the letter".

Reproduced by kind permission of
Colin Stainton and the Loughborough Echo

    D. says that Charle's family have now been traced through the efforts of people on the internet site 'RootsChat' that helps people around the worls trace lost family members, and now they have turned their thoughts to the family of Alfred John Parr.
    It is hoped that someone has information to Alfred's family who once lived in the town.
    D. added: "A lot of work has already been done, but I really hope that there still living members of Alfred's family living in the town and if so, I'd love to hear from them.
    "It would be great if the Echo could help find any living relatives of Alfred so the letter can be returned"
    If you have any information on Alfred's family who may or may not be living in Loughborough pleas call Looking Back on 01509 635 812 and you details will be passed on to D.

After the article was printed, D. was contacted by two of Alfred's relatives, which lead to the following article:

WAR HERO: Touching letter sent to grieving mum

'Dear ... your son's death was instantaneous'

"Just wanted to say thank you to Looking Back for including the article on Alfred Parr in Echo May 16 - some relatives gave now been traced." said D.

    D. contacted us asking to ask readers if they could help to find any living relatives of Alfred Parr.
    After last week's Looking Back D. says there has been some success. D. said: "I've now been in touch with brothers Dereck and Norman .... who contacted the Echo"

Reproduced by kind permission of
Colin Stainton and the Loughborough Echo

    "Nick, who lives in Australia and who has the original letter, has now been in touch with Derek as well, and he has arranged to send Alfred's medals to him"
    Looking Back thought with the recent success, we would give our readers a bit more background information on the life of Alfred.

[A summary follows of the information that RootsChatters had gathered. Click here for the full article ]

    If you can shed any more light on the life of Alfred Parr, contact Looking Back and your details will be passed on to D.

RootsChat Topic: ANZAC puzzle

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Rootschat has also had mentions, in various articles, here and there .....

BBC News - Monday, 24 April 2006, reporting the release of the 1841 census on Ancestry.com:

Shortcuts to your family's past
The online publication of the 1841 census for England and Wales completes a set of basic resources for people researching their family trees. As Rob Liddle reports, doing your family history online is now easier than ever.
I found distant cousins on the internet who were researching the same lines and other people on forums such as Rootschat who were just keen to offer their expertise, taking me back further into the mists of time.

The full article can be read at the BBC web-site
(for as long as the article remains on the site)

RootsChat Topic: Name check for Rootschat on 1841 BBC web story

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Not all RootsChat work gets mentioned in the media. In September 2005 RootsChatters responded to this BBC article:
Family of dead WWII airman sought
The remains of three of the crew members were found in May
The RAF is trying to trace the family of a Kent airman killed during World War II after what were believed to be his remains were found 63 years later.

Sgt John Robinson, from the Sevenoaks area, died when his Stirling bomber crashed in the Netherlands in 1942.

The RAF wants to find his next-of-kin so that he can be buried with full military honours.
The full article can be read at the BBC web-site
(for as long as the article remains on the site)

RootsChatters liaised with the RAF and the BBC during their successful search, which culminated in this message:

My name is Emma Robinson and I am the grand daughter of Flight Engineer J V Robinson. My father, my sister and I are flying out to Holland in a couple of weeks for his funeral and I would just like to say thank you for all your hard work and efforts for making this possible. I know we are all incredibly grateful for the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye properly, I am amazed and touched by all the hard work that has gone into it.

Best wishes and many many thanks again.


See the full story here, including links to accounts of the following memorial service.
RootsChat Topic: BBC: A Challenge for Rootschatters

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