News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. A back to front surname

    Every day you discover something new in genealogy. Research revealed that George Nyleve an artist was the illegitimate son of John Evelyn, a rather wealthy gentleman. He was named Nyleve which is Evelyn backwards.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1

    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.

  4. Pick up your family history research this Autumn

    As the nights get longer, and the days shorter, why not think about looking at your family history research once again.  It might be that in the past you have put away research after hitting a proverbial “brick wall”, or simply that other things in life got in the way of completing further research.

    Whatever your research needs, Achievements is here to help.  As professional genealogists, we have many years experience working on all aspects of family history, whether it is sorting out a specific problem, or undertaking in-depth research into a particular family going back several centuries.

    Why not contact us today to find out how we can help you with your genealogical research today.

  5. 32 family members named in a will . . . .

    Wills and other probate records can be invaluable to genealogists, particularly when family members from across a county, or even country, are named.  This can allow the family history trail to diverge in previously unknown directions, perhaps finding the marriages and burials of family members some distance from where the rest of the family lived.

    One of our researchers this week was completing research on a Ridley family of Surrey, when she came across a will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury naming some thirty-two family members.  Elvy Ridley died in the 1840s, and clearly did not have any surviving children, and had outlived his wife.

    will-of-elvey-ridley

    However, he was keen to divide his estate fairly between his wider family, which was extremely useful from a genealogical point of view.  He recorded his family in an ordered fashion, dividing them into his nieces and nephews from his different siblings, including recording who was still living.  Married surnames were given for the women, as well as where each nephew and niece was then living.  Thus an extensive family tree could be drawn up, and then research could follow each niece and nephew to further extend the family tree.  Without the evidence from the will, further research would have been much more time consuming, and family relationships may have remained probable only.  A good find during this research!

  6. Professional Family History Research

    Are you thinking of engaging a professional genealogist?  There can be lots of advantages to doing this, from ensuring that a correct line is traced, to being able to access genealogical records not available online.

    There is a wealth of genealogical sources available online, but shifting through what is relevant to your family line can be difficult.  This is particularly the case when dealing with widespread surnames such as Smith and Jones.  It is essential to provide proof that every stage of research is correct.  For example, when looking for a John Jones born in Cardiff, it is extremely likely that there will be more than one candidate of the right age, and so proofs that the right Jones family is being traced is essential.

    Professional genealogists have years of experience in the field, and usually possess a qualification in genealogy, such as those offered by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (the Higher Certificate or Diploma in Genealogy) or from the University of Strathclyde.  If you are thinking of commissioning a professional genealogist to undertake research on your family tree, or to verify research already undertaken, why not contact us today to see how we can help.

  7. AGRA conference last weekend

    Our Principal Dr Richard Baker attended the AGRA (Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives) conference this weekend at St John’s College, Cambridge, entitled “Demolishing Brick Walls”.  A thoroughly enjoyable event, covering diverse aspects of genealogy, his favourite talk was by John Titford, which was called “Barking up the wrong tree”. It exposed the dangers of researching the wrong family tree, a trap that many family historians can fall into.

    Other highlights included Rebecca Probert’s “The rise and fall of the crime of Bigamy” and Debbie Kennett’s “DNA demystified”.  We all look forward to the next AGRA conference.

  8. Obituaries, death notices and funeral notices.

    Increasingly newspaper records are being indexed and digitised, and these can be really helpful for genealogists.  Family notices can provide information on dates of birth, marriage and death, and obituaries can provide detailed histories of a specific person.

    As well as notices of birth, marriage and death, there were often reports of funerals in local newspapers, which can give a wealth of genealogical information, which may not even be provided in an obituary.  An example here is taken from the Bury Free Press, of 24th December 1932.

    It starts with information on the deceased, including address, age and where they were buried:

    Dorothy information

    And continues with precise details on the family mourners present at the funeral, including sons, married daughters and daughters in law, as well as grandchildren.  Helpfully places are given for those living away from Bury St Edmunds:

    Family mourners

    Additional details from this one funeral notice include a floral tribute from the “broken-hearted” widower:

    Floral Tributes

    Thus, newspaper records in general and funeral reports in particular can be invaluable when looking for additional details regarding our family history.

  9. Family history based comedy at Canterbury Festival

    Ever wondered about a family history based comedy routine?  Well now you don’t have to, as Mark Steel brings his show “Mark Steel: Who Do I Think I Am” to the Canterbury Festival this year.  Based on his experiences of finding out about his birth parents, this is surely not to be missed by any genealogist fans of comedy.  The Festival guide describes it as “a surprising and enthralling story” and we cannot wait!

    The show is being held on 30th October at The King’s School in Canterbury, and further information can be found on the Festival website here.

  10. Death by . . . .gravel?!

    An intriguing cause of death was found this week by one of our researchers on a Scottish burial record of 1845.  In the “cause of death” column, the word “gravel” was given.  Other people on the same page died of things such as “paralysis” and “consumption”, but what on earth was “gravel”?

    Gravel death description

    In fact, further research suggested that “gravel” was a word for the modern equivalent of kidney stones.  A good example of how family history can always throw up new terms to investigate!

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