News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. The genealogical problem of Titanic’s Rose

    Whilst re-watching the epic film Titanic this weekend, it struck me how the life of the central character, Rose DeWitt Bukater, is a good example of how a genealogical “brick wall” can come about.

    Rose boards the Titanic with her mother Ruth, finance Cal Hockley, and their servants. She would have been recorded on the shipping records as Rose DeWitt Bukater. She falls out with her finance during the voyage, and meets Jack Dawson. Once the ship has sunk, she chooses to give her name to the authorities as Rose Dawson: thus there is no Rose DeWitt Bukater recorded on the surviving passenger records.

    Although this is a fictional story, the fact that Rose changed her name and effectively re-invented herself after moving to America is a scenario that happened time and time again. Rose would simply have claimed that she lost everything on board, and giving herself a new name would have been simple. Her family were in England, so who was there to know about her old life?

    Anyone researching a real Rose could easily come up against a “brick wall” when a change of name occurred. In reality however, names were often changed to something familiar, such as a mother’s maiden name. In this case, Rose takes Jack’s surname, even though he dies at the time of the sinking.

    If you have your own “brick wall” which needs breaking down, why not contact us today for a free quote.

  2. What’s in a name – plum to plumb

    Hawk-eyed visitors to this website may have noticed a slight spelling variant in our festive item about the plum(b) pudding riots. In fact, research into this word as a surname reveals some interesting statistics.

    Oxford University Press’ A Dictionary of Surnames states that the surname Plum originated as a “topographic name for someone who lived by a plum tree”.  Variants of this name include Plumb and Plum(b)e.

    When considering the use of both Plum and Plumb as surnames, it appears that the latter is a much more widespread name: in the General Registration birth indexes 1837-1915 there are over 6000 Plumb births registered, but less than 1000 Plums.

    Thus our ancestors would have been familiar with both spellings, with Plumb the more widely used. In the 1650s, when the riots against Puritan Christmas sobriety took place, plums and plumbs would have been interchangeable!

  3. New Year’s resolutions . . . in family history

    January 1st is often a day where resolutions are made. Old habits are given the boot, new ones are ushered in.  How long they are kept to, however, is another thing.

    Why not make a New Year’s resolution to last? If you have always wondered about your family history, why not contact us today to find out more.  Make it this year’s task to find out where your roots are. Whether it is an unusual surname or a family legend to investigate, we are here to help you unearth your genealogy.

  4. Day courses in Genealogy

    Our sister organisation, the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, has just released its 2018 programme of family history study days.  These include everything from how to draw a pedigree, how to research military ancestors, or if you fancy getting stuck in even more, a weekend course on “Taking your family history further”.

    Further information on dates and booking details can be found here.

  5. Oral Wills

    It was perfectly valid for a will to be made orally until 1837, when the right was restricted to soldiers on active service or sailors away at sea. Indeed it has been estimated that around a third of wills were oral or nuncupative as they are known. So these wills are invaluable for family history research.

    Many wills were spoken verbally because they were made on the deathbed of the testator. The Statute of Frauds of 1678 specified that they had to be made in the testator’s own home in their last illness. Three witnesses were also required to be present who had to write down the words within six days and after fourteen days, present the will at a probate court. Genealogist can find these wills in local archives

    Many of those in their final days would have been incapable of handwriting their will (holographic) or organising a lawyer to write out a will on their behalf for them to sign. Many could not read and write and women, particularly widows, made a high proportion of nuncupative wills.

    Not surprisingly, many of these wills were the subject of dispute in the ecclesiastical courts. Relatives who received nothing would argue that the will was not valid, for if an administration was ordered, they could receive part of the estate. Records of these disputes often contain information that is of genealogical value. and give us a clue to the the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors

  6. Who Do You Think You Are? Clare Balding

    Clare Balding Sports presenter and broadcaster investigates a family rumour.  Her maternal great-grandfather Sir Malcolm Bullock was said to have been involved in a family scandal and the ‘thing that has been sort of whispered in the family – could he have been gay?’ Getting to the truth of the matter is a challenge when all the evidence comes from a time when homosexuality was illegal.

    Her father’s family tree takes her to New Jersey and New York, where she uncovers an extraordinary dynasty and American roots stretching back generations.

  7. More unusual occupational terms

    Finding out the meaning of an ancestors occupation can give you an insight into how they lived and lead to other sources for your genealogical research. Many occupations simply no longer exists. For example, a Higgler was an itinerant trader who bought and sold goods such as butter, cheese, poultry eggs and fish. Higglers and other travelling salesmen, such as peddlers and badgers (those who sold corn and grain), needed a licence. Licences were issued by the Justices of the Peace at the Quarter Sessions and the surviving records are held in local archives. Searching these records can add detail to your family tree and enhance your understanding of your ancestry.

  8. Old Occupational Terms

    As you study your family history you may come across terms that we no longer use. This is especially true of occupations where trades are no longer practised or the terms has fallen out of use. For instance a Fellmonger. This was a dealer in hides, most commonly sheep skins. They would also prepare the hides for tanning. The word comes from from the Old English ‘fell’ meaning skins and ‘monger’ meaning dealer. A good reference source for genealogists to find out the meaning of  archaic words and phrases is The Oxford English Dictionary.

  9. Who Do You Think You Are? Warwick Davies

    On BBC1 tomorrow [15th February] at 8pm the 8th episode of the series features the family History of Warwick Davies.  “Actor Warwick Davis owes his big break aged 11 to his paternal grandmother Edith, who heard a radio ad ‘looking for short people to appear in Return of the Jedi’. Warwick takes a non-judgemental approach as he researches the family line stretching back from Edith, finding humanity and humour in some uncomfortable stories. On his maternal side, Warwick is equally open-minded when he finds out about his three-times-great-grandfather – a postman who lived a double life”.



March 2018
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