Archives for Family history research

How to use British trade directories #researching #familyhistory

The earliest known trade directory was probably a list of merchants in London published by Samuel Lee in 1677. The Little London Directory [below], searchable online at Archive.org, has ‘A collection of the names of the merchants living in and about the City of London. Very useful and necessary’. Merchants mentioned include Theodore Trotle whose address is listed as ‘near Fishmongers Hall, Thames Street’, and Anthony Depremont, of Austin Friars. Directories are a glimpse into another world, offering a chance to locate a relative and learn more about a specific trade. The directory business blossomed in the 18thcentury when trade directories were joined by local town guides and tourist guides, all useful sources of information for family history researchers whether looking for specific people, local history or background information about lifestyle at a particular period in time. With the Industrial Revolution, these directories became more professional, covering whole counties and included advertisements. Trade specific directories also started to appear and publishers updated the information every few years. Information included businessmen and their addresses, businesses listed by category, maps and classified listings. In 1836, Frederic Kelly bought the Post Office London Directory from the Post Office and went on to publish county
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

#Familyhistory Was your relative a #gardener at a country house?

We are all familiar with the life upstairs downstairs at a great house thanks to Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. What is less familiar is the outside job of gardener to a wealthy family. The life is governed by the seasons and has evolved from a menial task to a highly skilled and qualified position. Gardeners have been employed to grow fruit, vegetables and to manage sometimes huge formal gardens, since Tudor times. And many more intrepid men and women changed gardening into what it is we recognise today. For example, father and son gardeners John and John Tradescant [below] travelled the world collecting plant specimens. John the father sailed to the Arctic Circle and fought Barbary pirates on the coast of Algeria. His son John sailed to America. Father and son were both, in turn, appointed Royal Gardener. So, having a gardener in your family tree could be very interesting! Where to search for your relative Gardeners employed at large houses should be found in the wages books, garden accounts or the  records of estate management. Start first at the National Archives Discovery catalogue. Also try regional trade directories, the autobiographies of landowners and histories of stately homes. Try local newspapers
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

#FamilyHistory… researching European relatives #research

Do you have European relatives on your family tree but find the prospect of research a little intimidating? The wealth and ease of information varies from country to country, some records are highly digitised but others are slow to go online. Much of it, though, is searchable in English. Here are some places to start. At Family Search,the search/records/research by location facility allows you to choose a specific country. For each location there is an index of collections and some ‘image only’ entries where the original document is photographed. A quick search for Spain revealed a bewildering amount of information, much by Spanish region or city, including births, marriages and deaths, business records and occupations, church history, census, taxation, land and wills. The benefit of starting here is that the Family Search website is in English, allowing you to travel through the relative sections with ease. Wie Was Wie, or Who Was Who, is a Dutch genealogical site available in English. It has a wealth of information including civil registration certificates, population registers, church books, statements of succession [wills], sea voyages, family announcements in newspapers, military registers, prison and hospital registers. In total, 174 million people feature in the Wie
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

#FamilyHistory… Was your relative a nurse in the Great War? #nursing

Diaries, notebooks and sketchpads are dynamite for family history researchers as an insight into the lives of an ordinary people in your period of interest. If you are interested in filling in the life of a relative who served in a VAD [Voluntary Aid Detachment] during World War One, autograph and memory book of Cheltenham VAD nurse Dorothy Unwin may be of interest. Held at The Wilson art gallery and museum, it provides a very personal view of the war. The book includes photographs of herself, the wards she worked on, soldiers and staff. Most poignant are the comments given to Nurse Unwin by patients. Some soldiers write only their name, number and the date but some offer more information. Private Clapton of the 1stGloucestershire Regiment was ‘wounded in shoulder’. Percy Bedford of the 14thCanadian Battalion was ‘blown out of trench at Ypres 25 April 1915’. Many messages are of thanks. Patients are pictured playing sports and performing in plays and revenues. It offers a powerful insight into the men who fought in the Great War and also the daily life of FAX nurses. Vera Brittain [below left], who would go on to write Testament of Youth, was reading English
Read More

Categories: Family history research and On Researching.

#FamilyHistory: did your relative work in the #confectionery trade?

As a child I remember buying sticks of liquorice root [below] at the chemist and chewing the wood to release the flavour. Pontefract in Yorkshire was the first place where liquorice was mixed with sugar to be eaten as a sweet, a Pontefract Cake [below], as we understand the phrase today. There is no certain date for when liquorice was first grown in the UK, though there are records from the 16thcentury when it was grown in monastic gardens and as a garden crop. Confectionery became a strand of cookery in its own right in the 17thcentury when sweet confections, made by confectioners, were quite separate from the dinner table. In the late Tudor and early Stuart period, they were served as a separate course. It was a job often done by gentlewomen because of the association then of sugar with medicine. Then in the 18thcentury, sugar became cheaper thanks to the British Empire’s control in sugar plantations – West Indies and the American colonies – and the link between sugar and medicine was broken. Confectioners made anything sugar-based including jellies, ice creams, sweet pastries, set creams and French-style cakes that we know as patisserie. Sales of confectionery boomed in
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: was your relative a detective?

If there is a record of your early 20th century relatives serving in the police, don’t miss the accounts from 1902-1909 of Frederick Wensley [below]. A British police officer from 1888-1929, he was head of ‘H’ Division in the East End of London before becoming chief constable at Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigation Department. If you want to know what the job of a detective in Edwardian London was like, read Fred Wensley’s notebooks. When he retired in 1929, Wensley told his story including serialisations of his major cases in the Sunday Express in 1930. He also wrote his own memoir in 1931, Detective Days, retitled 40 Years of Scotland Yard [below] for publication in New York. While serving in Whitechapel, Wensley was involved in the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders, a still unidentified serial killer in East London in 1888. The Ripper’s victims were women, female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of the East End [see the map below]. Their throats were cut and their bodies mutilated. The Ripper case aside, Wensley’s notebooks are probably most valuable for the glimpse they give of life before the Great War. Crimes mentioned include murder, housebreaking, theft, running an illegal gaming house, stealing alcohol,
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: was your relative an apothecary?

The role of apothecaries changed in the UK in the mid 18thcentury. Until that time, an apothecary’s role was to prepare and sell medicines. They trained via an apprenticeship and no medical qualifications were required. They were not allowed to charge for medical advice, only for the preparations they sold. Much of an apothecary’s day was spent making medicines, dispensing medicines from the shop and, from the mid 18thcentury, visiting patients at home. In small towns and rural areas, the apothecary was the first port of call in illness. In 1790, Adam Smith described apothecaries as ‘the physicians of the poor at all times and of the rich when the danger is not very great’. Women were able to work in the occupation, assisting a husband or father. The 1815 Apothecaries Act recognised the ‘general practise’ work done in the community by apothecaries and permitted them to charge fees for attending patients. It also introduced a five year apprenticeship, the trainee had to pass an examination set by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries [above]. The Society of Apothecaries was incorporated as a City Livery Company by royal charter from James I on 6 December 1617 in recognition of apothecaries’ specialist
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

#BookReview The Indelible Stain by @wendy_percival #genealogy #mystery

When the key character of a novel goes on holiday or visits a picturesque place, you know something is going to happen. Genealogist Esme Quentin in The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival goes to Devon to help a friend archive the records of a local charity for underprivileged children. Second in the Esme Quentin genealogical mysteries, this is an enjoyable story of convict history set in a beautiful Devon location. But beneath that beauty lurk fraud, lies and revenge. Hatred and bitterness reach from the past to the current day. Up early on her first morning, Esme takes a walk on the wild beach and finds a body. The woman, just alive, seems to have fallen from the cliffs. Her last words, spoken to Esme, are key to the mystery which follows. “I lied,” she says. Beside her body is an old sepia photograph. The police don’t take seriously Esme’s concerns that the woman’s last words combined with the mystery photograph indicate foul play, so Esme decides to identify the family in the photograph. Meanwhile, Neave Shaw is worrying about her mother who has disappeared after sending a confused, possibly drunken, email. Worried and not understanding her grandmother’s dismissive attitude
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Book review: The America Ground

The America Ground by Nathan Dylan Goodwin is based on a fascinating piece of local history, indeed Goodwin’s own family history, and made into a historical thriller. On April 28, 1827, a woman is murdered in her bed. Eliza Lovekin is the second to be killed, Amelia Odden is to be next. This is the story of Eliza, her daughter Harriet and a piece of ground in Hastings, East Sussex, which for a short period of time was claimed as a piece of the United States of America. Forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is on the trail of his own adoption story, the identity of his birth father. But a visit to his adoptive father seeking answers sets him instead on the trail of a new mystery. The portrait of a woman from the 1800s: ‘Eliza Lovekin, Hastings, 1825’. Morton’s client is the proprietor of an antiques business who wants a potted family history of Eliza to add value to the painting before it goes up for sale at auction. Initially resenting time away from researching his own family, Morton is soon captivated by Eliza’s story. In the 1827 story strand, we follow Harriet Lovekin, teenage daughter of Eliza, as she
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: did your ancestor work in a pub?

British pubs, or public houses, can be traced all the way back to Roman taverns. After the departure of the Romans, there came the Anglo-Saxon alehouses based in domestic dwelling. The ‘alewife’ would put a green bush up on a pole to let people know her brew was ready for drinking. These alehouses rapidly developed into popular meeting places for the community so in 965 King Edgar decreed there should be no more than one alehouse per village. In 1393, Richard II made it legal for pubs to have to display a sign outdoors to make them easily identifiable to passers-by. Then in the 19th century came the development of tied houses [when a pub is linked to a particular brewer]. The pub is different from the inn, in that the latter was located along a highway or in the country [above] and provided stabling and fodder for horses, accommodation for travellers, and [if on a mail route] fresh horses for the mail coaches. Inns tended to be larger and grander than pubs. Many pub names date from times when customers were often illiterate and could only recognise pictorial signs. Pub names have a variety of origins, from objects used
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: understanding your ancestors’ baby name choices

Naming a baby can give you clues to all sorts things about your ancestors. Time of birth [Christmas or Easter perhaps], religion, hobbies, the place of birth, for maternal or paternal grandparents, and for the royal family. Modern day babies may be named for the star of a hit television show, or the father’s favourite footballer. This style of naming choice is not new. Finn, meaning fair, or white, originates from Fionn mac Cumhaill [below], the mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology. Names can be traced in families through the generations, not only first names but sometimes a mother’s maiden name too. Many second names amongst 19th century gentry were the mother’s maiden name, it was a way of keeping a surname alive if the male line died out. At least ten American presidents have their mother’s maiden name as a middle name. Sometimes this led to the use double-barrelled surnames; in the 18th and 19th centuries, the mothers of illegitimate children would give them their father’s full name and their own surname. So if one of your relatives from that time has a surname for a middle name, it is likely he was illegitimate. Names go in and out of
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Was your ancestor a doctor?

The medical profession has changed out of all recognition since the 18th century and if you are searching for a relative who was once a doctor or medical professional, there are a number of useful sources to check which may lead you in an intriguing direction. In the 18th century, only physicians were called MD, doctor, with the status of being a gentleman. They charged for their advice and remedies but did not dispense medicines. They were university educated in contrast to surgeons and apothecaries who were trained via apprenticeships. Surgeons did not give medicines to patients, instead they specialised in pulling teeth, lancing boils, blood-letting, and amputations. Apothecaries dispensed and sold medicines from a shop, charging for their medicines not their advice. There was ample opportunity for quacks. The turning point came with the passing of the Medical Act in 1858. This meant that in able to practise medicine, all qualified medical professions had to be listed in the new Medical Register, and also licensed by one of 19 licensing bodies. If you are tracing a relative in the 19th century who you suspect worked in the medical professions in the UK, the two places to check are the
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: using photographic archives

Photographs are not just a record of people but of places, lifestyles, streets, countryside and the changing times. If you really want to understand the life of your relative, searching the photographic archives now available online and at your local record office can make their world seem real for you. The clothes they wore, their holidays and work days, their parties and local community.  A simple way to start is to use Google and search using ‘images’. Other great starting places are Flickr, Pinterest or Instagram. I’m currently researching London during the WW2 Blitz, and a quick search produced literally hundreds of photos. One photo may lead to a new avenue of research. A studio portrait of a family member may lead you to a particular photographer. A uniform can help you to confirm a regiment or employer. History Pin is clever in that it allows you to collect images and pin them to Street View so you build up a wider picture of the area of interest. I found Collage, the London Picture Archive, particularly useful in my focus on the capital. It has more than a quarter of a million photos of London streets and includes the London
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Was your ancestor a boatman?

During the UK’s Industrial Revolution, raw materials and finished goods were transported around the country by canal. By the mid-19th century though, the new railways were taking away the business of the barges. Working on a canal boat was a tough life. Slow boats could take up to seven days to go from Birmingham to London and boatmen were expected to work up to 20 hours a day. Under threat from the railways, ‘family’ boats became numerous with a wife and children travelling with her husband. Boating became a closed occupation and outsiders, gongoozlers, discouraged. Boat people developed their own dress, language and took great pride in the decoration of their boats. Acts of Parliament were passed in 1877 and 1884 making canal boats subject to inspection to check living conditions, and some of these inspection reports survive in local archives. Considering the itinerant nature of the boatman, there are a number of excellent resources for family history researchers:- The Boat Families website is a resource kept by local enthusiasts, cataloguing life on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal & associated waterways, especially in South-West Lancashire. Names are listed by canal family, with more than 32,000 individuals named. A search for ‘boatmen’ at
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Did your ancestor train as an apprentice?

If you know your ancestor’s trade, there is a good chance he or she may have trained through an apprenticeship scheme. In 1563, the Statute of Artificers and Apprentices forbade anyone from practising a craft without first serving as an apprentice. And from 1710, a duty was levied. These records form a central register of apprentices by the Inland Revenue and held at The National Archives. As well as trade apprenticeships, there were also apprenticeships which were arranged specifically by parish overseers of the poor and were intended to prevent the child being a burden on the parish. As pauper apprenticeships were liable for duty the records are kept separately, often found in local record offices and parish chests. If your research is based on London, start with London Lives where pauper apprenticeship records range from 1690-1800. It has a useful guide ‘Researching Apprenticeships’. Some of the apprentice records held at The National Archives have been digitised and are now available at Find My Past, including the London Apprenticeship Abstracts [1440-1850] which list all those apprenticed to livery companies in London. It also includes regional records from Manchester and Lincolnshire. The Board of Stamps apprenticeship books record payments on the
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: Films bring history to life

Film archives are a great boon for family history researchers, as they shine a lens onto life as it was lived in a dusty daily glory. There are many gems, from the Mitchell & Kenyon archive at the British Film Institute with hundreds of short films made in Edwardian England, to the Imperial War Museum’s film archive of war-related footage [below]. The best place to start is with the ‘Britain on Film’ project [above] at the BFI National Archive which is easy to search by region, date and subject. From here you can expand to regional film archives of which there are many including the Yorkshire Film Archive, the East Anglian Film Archive and the North West Film Archive. For images of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, try the Irish Film Institute which includes documentaries, news reels and Irish culture; the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive with 1900 clips about Scotland; films at Northern Ireland Screen include rural life, true stories, and footage lost and found; and National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales has many films about mining. To add colour to your understanding of your ancestor’s life, watch newsreels dating from 1910 to the 1970s at British Pathé
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Book review: Shadow Baby

A slow-build read which, by halfway, had me glued to the page. It is in part a story about unplanned pregnancy – choices, motherhood and how a girl grows to be a mother herself – and part social history. The history is the skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs and inter-connects. Two young women fall pregnant, Leah in 1887 and Hazel in 1956. Both abandon their babies. Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster is the story of Leah and her daughter Evie, Hazel and her daughter Shona. The circumstances are different – Evie is brought up first in a children’s home and then by reluctant relatives; Shona is adopted by a family desperate for a child with a mother whose care is suffocating – but the stories so similar. Both daughters are obsessed with their birth mothers. From generation to generation, mistakes are uncannily mirrored. Attitudes from the 19th century reappear in the 20th. Shadow Baby is a thoughtful and measured exploration of how the nature of being a mother differs from woman to woman, expectations, fears, well-meaning but hurtful family and social pressure. And how, when the daughter grows into a woman who in turn becomes pregnant,
Read More

Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: Finding your nonconformist ancestor

If your ancestor was a nonconformist and belonged to a church, there are numerous records for you to search. Nonconformity is the term for all non-Anglican protestant denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Quakers and Presbyterians. In English church history, a nonconformist was a protestant Christian who did not conform to the governance and usages of the Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. This term specifically came to include the Reformed Christians such as the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Calvinists, plus the Baptists, Methodists and Puritans. The Methodist Revival began as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century, led by John Wesley [below]. It originated as a weekly club at the University of Oxford where the club’s members lived a ‘holy life’. Ridiculed as ‘Methodist’ by fellow students because of the way they used ‘rule’ and ‘method’ to go about their religious affairs, Wesley adopted the name. By law and social custom, nonconformists were restricted from many parts of public life including access to public office, civil service careers and degrees at university. A good
Read More

Categories: Family history research.

Family history: how adoption became a legal process

Only in 1926 did adoption of children in the UK become a legal process, it was part of a process to remove illegitimate children from their ‘unfit’ mothers and place them with a respectable married couple. Until the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, adoptions were often arranged privately or via the mother-and-baby home where the birth took place. In the 19th century there were hundreds of mother-and-baby homes where an unmarried pregnant woman would be housed and her pregnancy and birth overseen. She would remain with her baby during the early weeks while an adoption was arranged. Many women attended these homes secretly to avoid the stigma of bearing an illegitimate child. As an alternative to adoption, some single mothers left their child in the care of baby farmers who would care for the child for a fee, supposedly enabling the mother to return to work. However some baby farmers were found guilty of abuse and neglect. Prior to the 1926 Adoption of Children Act, ten bills had been introduced to Parliament by 1922 in an effort to regulate adoption. Finally the act became law on January 1, 1927. It provided assurance for the adoptive parents that the birth parents
Read More

Categories: Adoption and Family history research.

Family history: Using UK newspapers

Marriage, birth and death, sporting events and school performances are some of the everyday events in which almost everyone participates and which may be reported in a local newspaper. So if you are searching for information about a relative, UK newspapers are the place to start. If your relative held a prominent position of job, then national newspapers may yield results, as may a professional newspaper or magazine. If you search is focussed on drawing a picture of the times in which you relative lived, illustrated newspapers and magazines will be most helpful. From the fashions people wore, the books they read, their hobbies and pastimes, magazines are a useful source. Tailor your newspaper research according to the type of information you seek. There are two major newspaper collections available online: the British Newspaper Archive is available by direct subscription and is also included with the membership of Find My Past. Alternatively, try Newspapers.com which is available as part of some Ancestry subscriptions. This is mainly concentrated on American newspapers dating from the 1700s to 2000s but also includes some titles from the UK, Australia and Canada. Useful if you are searching for relatives who emigrated overseas. Access to some
Read More

Categories: Family history research.