News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Still struggling for a Christmas present?

    Are you still struggling to think of something special to give that someone special for Christmas? Do they have everything including the kitchen sink, and you don’t know what to get them?

    Why not think of giving them their family history for Christmas. Family history research is a unique gift to give a loved one, and one that they can keep forever, and pass on to other family members.

    Contact us today to find out more about our Christmas gift certificates.

  4. A perfect gift for Christmas

    Are you stuck for a gift idea for a loved one this Christmas?  Someone who is hard to buy for, or seems to have everything? Well worry no more, for why give them a gift certificate to have their family history traced for Christmas.  This is a truly unique present, and one that they will remember forever.

    We provide a stylish A4 certificate that can be given on Christmas day, and we can then liaise with them in the New Year to find out their particular areas of interest to start the genealogical investigation.

    Contact us today to find out more about purchasing a gift certificate for family history research for Christmas.

  5. A “grass widow” in the 1911 census

    In genealogical research, occasionally absolute honesty is encountered within census returns.  It could be a woman living as a householder’s “housekeeper” together with their children for example, or other similar circumstances.

    In this 1911 census, one woman gave her marital status as “grass widow”.

     

    This was a term used when the husband was often absent, and has several different possible origins. A more modern interpretation could be that a hobby such as golf often separates a couple, although it could also derive from the 19th century when women in the British Raj were sent to cooler, mountainous regions.  An interpretation from earlier centuries is that a couple laid on the grass together, rather than a marital bed.

    Whatever the exact derivations, in this case the census enumerator has crossed through this term, and shown her to be officially married.

  6. 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.

  7. Virtual tour of our library

    For anyone interested in our late medieval premises, and in particular our library, we now have a virtual tour available online, accessible here.

    This shows our ground floor shop and reception, small museum and lecture hall. Upstairs our library is made up of three large rooms, which hold significant collections of genealogical, heraldic and historical sources.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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