News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Spring clean your family history

    Today at our headquarters in Kent the sun is streaming in!  So why not be inspired by the good weather to dust off your family history files, and have another crack at those “brick walls”?

    Sometimes sitting tight on research and taking stock before revisiting it at a later time can work wonders.  Those ancestors which were so elusive may come out of the cracks, perhaps with an inspired guess at a surname variant a clergyman or transcriber may have inadvertently used, for example.

    Alternatively, if those brick walls are proving hard to bring down, contact us today for a one-to-one chat with a genealogist.

  5. Focus on . . . trade directories

    Trade directories and family history research

    The earliest British trade directory was a list of London merchants published in 1677.  The next London directory appeared in 1734, and thereafter at least one directory of London has been published in each year to the present day, although some no longer exist.  Directories for areas outside London did not appear until the end of the 17th century.

    From 1800 onwards the Post Office London directories were issued, but there were several companies which produced excellent guides, historical, statistical and topographical.  Among the most informative are those by William White, Kelly & Co.,and Pigot & Co.

    For genealogists, trade directories can be useful in tracing the business interests and premises of a family, and establishing when a son took over from his father, for example.  In later years a “private residents” section was included within trade directories, of the more prominent local residents.

    As well as showing where and when our ancestors’ businesses were operating, they also provide a contemporary description of a town or parish, often including information on the local economy, places of worship, transport links and schools.  As such they can invaluable to the genealogist when completing family history research.WP_20160414_09_47_41_Pro[1]

  6. Local dialect surnames

    As all genealogists will have found, family surnames were often spelled in a variety of ways.  Spelling simply was not consistent, even into the twentieth century, and widespread illiteracy compounded this in earlier generations: normal working people would not have been able to confirm the spelling of their surnames to the authorities.

    Spellings may be so inconsistent, some imagination may be needed to connect them. Equally, saying the surname aloud in a local dialect may help matters.

    Whilst researching a Reynolds family from Norfolk, a baptism was found in the parish registers of one James “Rannells”.  It was exactly correct based on date and place when compared to census records.  But how to explain the spelling variant?  Indeed, saying “Reynolds” in a broad Norfolk accent renders it very similar to “Rannells”.  Perhaps the local clergyman had recently graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, and simply had not yet gotten used to the local accent.

    Having trouble with spelling variants?  Try saying the surnames in the local dialect, and see how many variants you can find!

  7. Interested in heraldry?

    Are you interested in heraldry and would like to find out how it can help with your own family history research?  Our sister organisation the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies is running a day course on heraldry on Saturday 20th February 2016.

    To find out more, and for cost and booking details, click here.

    Alternatively, if you are unable to visit Canterbury, why not contact our research team to see how we can help you investigate the heraldic aspects of your family history.  Click here to contact us for advice and a free quote.

  8. Genealogy Christmas gifts

    There is still time to commission family history research in time for this Christmas.  What more unique gift could your loved one receive on Christmas day, than the history of their family?  We can undertake research based on as much, or as little, information as you know about the family, to create an unforgettable Christmas present.

    Contact us to find out more, and for a free quote.

  9. It’s never too early to think of Christmas presents . . .

    It’s never too early to think of Christmas presents! As the nights start drawing in, it might be that thoughts start turning to Christmas, and what unique presents to get.

    Having your family tree researched is a unique gift to give to family members, so why not get ahead of the game, and contact us to see what we can offer. Family history research can take several weeks to undertake, so do not delay in contacting us for a free quotation well in time for Christmas.

    Alternatively, we can provide a Christmas Gift Certificate, to give your loved one on Christmas Day itself, and we can then work with them to complete the research, based on the information that they know.

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