News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. New Director of Education appointed at The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies

    Our sister organisation is pleased to announce the appointment of Les Mitchinson as the Institute’s Director of Education.   Les will initially assume the role on a part-time basis with immediate effect. Les is a graduate of the Institute having gained the Higher Certificate in 2008 and the Diploma in Genealogy (DipGen) in 2009.   Les has also been a member of the IHGS Education Board since 2012 and a Course Tutor since 2010. Les is also the owner of LMentary Family History and Education, and has a portfolio of professional development courses ranging from beginner through to Diploma in Genealogy.   A number of LMentary students have successfully attained the IHGS Higher Certificate and IHGS Diploma in Genealogy awards.   We look forward to a long and successful partnership with Les.

  2. Burial in Woollen

    Family history research can often raise questions, not just who was our ancestor! Searching in parish registers we can find terms we are unfamiliar with. For example, have you ever seen the word affidavit in a burial register and wondered what it meant?

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    Following the Restoration, Britain’s sheep farmers were producing more wool than was being used and so to address the problem and boost the wool trade, in 1666 the first Act ordering that all bodies had to be buried in a shroud made of woollen cloth was passed.  In 1678 a second Act was passed with more stringent regulations, ordering an affidavit signed by a magistrate to be produced to confirm that a burial had met the necessary requirements. In 1680 a concession was made allowing the affidavit to be signed by a minister. Richer people often chose to flaunt their wealth by ignoring the regulation and choosing to pay the fine for non-compliance.  The fine was in the sum of £5, of which 50% was paid to the informant and the balance to the poor.

    So even the word affidavit in a parish register reveals another detail of how our ancestors lived.

  3. Bank Holidays

    We are all now back at work after the New Year’s bank holiday (those of us who were lucky enough not to have to work them that is!). However, our ancestors did not enjoy the same break from work. It was not until 1974 that New Year’s day became a bank holiday in England. It had been recognised in Scotland since 1871.  Regarding set holidays more generally, before 1834 the Bank of England observed 33 saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays. In 1834 the number of bank holidays was set by the Bank of England at only four being May Day, 1st November (All Saints’ Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day.  In 1871 the first parliamentary legislation was introduced which made them official and it settled on Easter Monday, Whit Sunday, the first Monday in  August, and Boxing Day as official bank holidays. This was alongside Good Friday and Christmas Day which were common law holidays. In 1978 the first Monday in May in the rest of the UK, and the final Monday of May in Scotland was also included with the bank holidays.

  4. The misdemeanours of the Kerry family of Suffolk

    Family history research in the nineteenth century is usually based on General Registration certificates of birth, marriage and death, together with the decennial census returns enumerated from 1841 onwards.  But newspaper records can help fill in fascinating details about our ancestors’ lives, bringing them alive in a way that few other records can.

    One such example is with the Kerry family of Suffolk.  Genealogical sources had revealed them in census returns, GRO records and parish registers.  Dennis Kerry was baptised in Wattisfield in 1796, and lived most of his life in the village of Badwell Ash, in North Suffolk.  He and his sons were consistently recorded as agricultural labourers, as was the majority of the rural population at the time.  They did not leave wills, and it is often difficult to find out more about our normal, working ancestors.

    However, here we were aided by the digitised newspaper collection, which included the Suffolk publications The Bury and Norwich Post as well as The Suffolk Chronicle.  These newspapers included information on family notices of birth, marriage and death, local tradesmen’s adverts, as well as records of the local petty and quarter sessions.

    The reports in the local newspaper made for intriguing reading.  Dennis Kerry married his wife Ann Makins in 1820, but in 1830 he was charged with abandoning her.  Dennis was recorded in The Suffolk Chronicle of 23rd October 1830 as being committed to the Bury St Edmunds Gaol, for leaving his wife and family, thus making her chargeable to the parish.

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    Parish registers indicate that Dennis quickly returned to his wife, and they continued baptising children at Badwell Ash until the year 1839.

    Dennis and his family appear in later newspapers, for a variety of reasons.  The Suffolk Chronicle of 12th January 1861, showed that he was convicted to ten days hard labour at the Ixworth Petty Sessions for steeling turnips.

    2In 1873 Dennis and his wife Ann were called as witnesses to a theft of money, as recorded in the Bury and Norwich Post.  Two years later, in 1875, their son James, and grandson John Kerry, were convicted together of stealing “two ash poles”.  This was again recorded in the Bury and Norwich Post.3

    This newspaper record gives valuable information about who the Kerrys were working for, in a way that few other records do.  It is interesting to find that the son was let off, and the father given 14 days hard labour.  Young John would have been 17 at this time, and the court clearly felt that his father had led him astray.

    Newspaper entries relating to the Kerry family covered many decades and several generations of the same family, finding reference to them from the 1830s onwards.  Whilst Dennis was convicted of leaving his wife, he clearly returned to the parish of Badwell Ash, where he and Ann were witnesses to a theft in later decades.  Dennis himself stole some turnips in the 1860s, perhaps to help feed his family, whilst his son and grandson later stole wooden poles from their employer.  An interesting investigation indeed.

  5. A 17th Century Mince Pie Recipe

    Mince pies were once quite different from those we know of today. Originally filled with meat, such as lamb, goose or beef, they were larger than today’s and were  oval in shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in. A tradition has it that if you eat a mince pie on every day of the twelve days of Christmas, you will have twelve months of happiness. Here’s a recipe for you to try, that your ancestor might once have used.a

  6. Genealogy the perfect Christmas Gift

    As Christmas draws closer, why not think about a unique gift for your loved one.  A Christmas Gift Certificate for family history research could be the perfect present for Christmas day.

    We can provide an attractive certificate to give as a gift on Christmas day, and then work with the recipient on the research after Christmas.  Why not contact us to find out more.

  7. New series of Who Do You Think You Are? starts tomorrow

    The new series starts with the actor Danny Dyer finding out he is descended from royalty. He finds he is related to William the Conqueror and Edward III. He also finds a English Civil War Cavalier amongst his ancestors. The series is aired on BBC1 at 8pm on Thursday 24th.

    Finding a gateway ancestor to royalty will extend your family tree back beyond medieval times, William the Conqueror was himself descended from Charlemagne who was born in 747. In our library here we have a large collection of pedigrees of the nobility and gentry form across Europe to help with your research.

  8. New study on the origins of names

    The Guardian has an interesting article on a four-year study by linguists and historians which analysed family names by looking at British and Irish records back to the 11th century . Whilst the theory of the origin of many names, such as Smith, has not changed some have been reassessed. The work, The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, has been published in four volumes and will be available in public libraries with a subscription. The original article can be viewed www.theguardian.com/science/2016/nov/17/dictionary-of-50000-surnames-and-their-origins-published

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  9. New GRO Indexes

    The General Register Office has launched its own version of birth indexes, 1837-1915, and deaths indexes, 1837-1957. See www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content.

    These indexes have been created independently from other online indexes. They were made from the register images, so avoiding errors you may find on other genealogical websites (although they may have made new ones!).

    The new indexes are significant as they are the first to include the mother’s maiden name before 1911 and ages at death before 1866.  This will make family history research easier, No more buying a death certificate not knowing if the age matches your ancestor.

    A downside to the indexes is that they will only allow a search for a given  year plus two either side.

    In the future they should be extending the indexes available and adding an option to purchase the certificate as a PDF. This is currently being trialed.

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