Category: Dundee

480 Quid Pro Quo

I’ve found out today that I’ve received a provisional B2 grade for the latest module I completed at Dundee University – Basic Latin for Archivists and Researchers. Once confirmed, I will have the 60 credits necessary to graduate with a Post Graduate Certificate in Family and Local History. Yay!

After initial reservations about picking that particular module (I would have preferred Ecclesiastical Archives), I found it to be a nice change in format from previous modules. These had continuous assessment Tasks and final Assignments consisting of Report and Essay writing whereas the Basic Latin module was mostly translations with some interpretation questions. Although I can’t say I spent a lot of time remembering how to conjugate verbs or decline nouns, I did pick up the skill of parsing a Latin sentence and picking out the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. and noting their case/gender/person/tense and gradually being able to put an English translation together. As a (sadly former) programmer I rather enjoyed this method.

I also learned the importance of having of good Latin-English dictionary to hand – and how bad Google Translate is!

Originally I had intended to carry on and study for a Post Graduate Diploma, but my finances dictate that I need to call a halt to my studies. The Basic Latin module was worth 10 credits and cost £480. I note that there has been a slight increase to £485 for the next academic session and a 20 credit module will now cost £970. So, to continue on to the Diploma would have cost £2,910 – money I just don’t have.

I am sad to be leaving the course as I really enjoyed it. All the modules I studied were very interesting and I learned a lot about Skills & Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland, Military History and Heraldry. The virtual learning environment has been improved recently with the introduction of Office 365 and a cloud storage service called Box. The flexibility of the modular approach helped me (as someone still in full-time employment) and I definitely made the right choice over the rival Strathclyde University course.

So, I’ll miss Dundee University but will have fond memories. Unfortunately, I’ll also miss the graduation ceremony in June so I will graduate in absentia. But, at least I’ve learned enough Latin to know what that means!

P.S. I had the following modules in mind if I had been able to continue:

Module Title Credits
Scots Palaeography & Diplomatic 20
Ecclesiastical Archives 10
Understanding Latin in Documents and Archives 10
Educational Archives 10
House History 10

War of Attrition

Gosh! I haven’t posted for almost a year now…

Part of this is because I’ve been engrossed in my One-Name Study of the RETTIE surname and it can very quickly become all-consuming. I’m at the stage of being able to link the family trees of people currently living in Scotland with distant cousins living in the USA and Canada. Twitter has been a great help with establishing contact and also for quick-fire questions to establish the correct line. I’ve found WikiTree useful for publishing the findings as it lets people see the details in a $FREE environment and is also somewhere where they too can contribute.

Last April I finished the Military Archives module I’d been studying on my post-graduate course in Local and Family History at University of Dundee.

It was tough and a real hard slog. At one point I felt like surrendering and waving the white flag. I took ill at the end of January 2013 and was off work for three weeks. I fell behind with the course material and the submission of tasks for some of the module units. I had to play catch-up once I got better, and I managed to submit the Report assignment by the due date, but ended up late with the Essay. You get docked a grade for each day you are late with your assignment, although mitigating circumstances may be taken into account. The Essay and Report are each 35% of the overall module mark, with the remaining 30% being derived from the various unit tasks. Thankfully, I scraped through with an overall C1. So, having already passed the Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland module, this means I’m half-way there to obtaining my Post-Graduate Certificate.

The module tutor was Simon Fowler, author of Tracing Your First World War Ancestors, and it was the first time this particular module has been offered. In addition to the online Discussion Board, there were also a couple of Skype sessions where issues could be raised with Simon more interactively.

I thought the module material was very good and I learned a lot, not just about the archives themselves. Topics ranged from the Board of Ordnance to the Militia to World War One and Two and covered the Navy and Air Force as well as the Army. Another important aspect was the Home Front and the vital role that women played, including the various Voluntary Aid Detachments.

Joseph Lee, 'A captive at Carlsruhe : and other German prison camps', John Lane, London, 1920.

Joseph Lee, ‘A captive at Carlsruhe : and other German prison camps’, John Lane, London, 1920.

One of the sources I discovered whilst researching the Report topic was the works of Joseph Lee from Dundee. I had never heard of him until now and yet contemporary reviews rated his war poetry alongside Owen, Brookes and Sasoon. His book Capitive in Carlsruhe of his experiences as a prisoner of war is fabulous, aided by the fact that he was an accomplished artist and drew pen portraits of his fellow inmates – French, Italian, Serbian, and Portuguese. When the camp guards mutinied and overthrew the commandant during the German Revolution, he even made it to Berlin, where he witnessed Erich Leibnecht and Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist Movement.

I’d thoroughly recommend this module to anyone considering the Masters course.

As an indirect result of the course, I now have my Great-Grandfather George RETTIE‘s service record from his time in the Royal Navy Reserve.

The National Archives, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Naval Reserve Ratings' Records of Service, BT 377/7/110328.

The National Archives, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Naval Reserve Ratings’ Records of Service, BT 377/7/110328.

From the long list of ship names it first appeared he had seen lots of action, however upon close investigation they all turned out to be shore stations – even HMS Victory II.

The National Archives, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Naval Reserve Ratings' Records of Service, BT 377/7/110328.

The National Archives, Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Naval Reserve Ratings’ Records of Service, BT 377/7/110328.

Having volunteered in Aberdeen before the Royal Proclamation declaring War on Germany, his service ended five years later after being discharged at Dover.

Six months later there is a note to say that Mrs RETTIE has written claiming desertion and demanding payment of his war pension. Perhaps George was a little too demob happy and was enjoying a drink or two with this mates!

Confessions of a Mature Student

Haven’t posted for a while – that’s because I’ve been busy with my University course.

I’ve started studying for a Masters degree in Family and Local History via distance learning at the University of Dundee.

Module Structure

Each module is split into a number of units. Each unit covers a distinct element of the module and has a task to complete at the end. Some of these tasks are assessed and have to be emailed to the module tutor for marking, but others are not assessed and involve emailing other students or posting onto the module discussion forum. A guideline mark together with helpful comments are sent back from the module tutor for each assessed task.

At the end of the Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland module there were also two main assignments – an Essay and a Report. These were 2,500 and 2,000 words respectively and had to have proper footnotes and a bibliography. I rather left things to the last minute and rushed both of these, but I was reasonably happy with what I submitted. Time will tell if I did enough to pass…

Too Much On My Plate

At the start of the course I had a problem accessing my email account at Dundee University and this led to me starting the first module a bit late. Also, due to bad planning on my part, the Pharos course on One-Name Studies started at the same time!

I pretty quickly realised I’d bitten off a bit more than I could chew by trying to do 2 courses at the same time and learn a new job (my previous Java Developer role was offshored to India and I’m now retraining as a Database Administrator). I knew the Masters course would be demanding, so adding other stuff on top was really pushing things…

I had to make a decision to drop something and I chose the unmarked module tasks. These are mostly to encourage interaction among the students and are a good idea. But, since they aren’t graded, I thought they could be sacrificed. Luckily the Pharos course was not assessed, but I rather missed out on some of the joint class exercises involved.

As a consequence, I didn’t get as much out of that course as I could have – but it was very good and highly recommended. It too had a discussion forum and there was also a weekly chatroom conversation which was always entertaining with folks chipping in their opinions from all over the globe (well, at least Scotland, England, USA and Australia).

Lessons Learned

This first University module has really opened my eyes into the number of sources available for Scottish family history research. Suddenly there is whole wealth of data that I’m going to have to include in both my one-name study into the RETTIE surname and my own family history.

I also learned a lot about the social, political and economic history of Scotland by seeing the level of detail that some of the records contain. Burgh records in particular were a real eye-opener. See example from Inverness Burgh accounts.

Up Next

The next module – Military History – just started on Monday and, being only a 10 credit course, last two months. I’m really looking forward to it and will be trying to improve my time management skills – hopefully leading to a better grade.

Interestingly, the module tutor is Simon Fowler who has written a number of family history books relating to military records e.g ‘Tracing Your Army Ancestors‘, ‘Tracing Your Naval Ancestors‘, etc. So, he obviously knows his stuff!

The Future

I’ve now decided on the four modules I’m going to study to achieve the 60 credits required for a Postgraduate Certificate. However, I’m not sure at the moment if I really do want to go on and undertake the Diploma afterwards – it’s a lot of work…

Year Module Title Credits
1 Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland 20
1 Military History 10
2 Heraldry 20
2 Ecclesiastical Archives 10

City of Discovery

Jute, Jam, Journalism and, er, Genealogy!

Upon returning from holiday in Spain, I got some good news in the post: I’ve been offered a place on the Postgraduate Certificate course in Family and Local History run by the Centre for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) at the University of Dundee. Yipee!

Having previously attended 3 sets of evening classes in Genealogy at the University of Strathclyde (which I highly recommend for dipping your toe into family history), I had initially been tempted to continue onto their own Postgraduate course. However, having had a class visit from the course administrator and having read Kirsty Wilkinson’s experiences, I decided I couldn’t commit to the required 20 hours a week study time.

The Dundee course is much more flexible, allowing the study of individual modules one at a time and building slowly to the Certificate/Diploma/Masters accreditation over a longer period of time. This fits much better when having to study as well as being in full-time employment. This was also the schedule I followed when studying for my BSc in Information Technology at University of the West of Scotland a few years ago: one 3 hour session per week in Paisley after work was about all I could handle! And with the Dundee course being distance-learning, there will be no need for such long, long days this time.

Another minor selling point was that if I pursue the course until Masters level, the award is an MLitt rather than MSc. Being a Master of Letters in addition to a Bachelor of Science just sounds so much better and I get to have two sets of letters after my name LOL!

The two modules I’m planning to study this year are the compulsory Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland and the optional Ecclesiastical Archives. I can’t wait to get started…