News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Place of birth . . . . “on the sea”

    Census returns are crucial when undertaking nineteenth century family history research, particularly as they can provide detailed information regarding place of birth.  A town or parish in any given county can then lead to parish registers of that place to help research a family back in time.

    One of our researchers this week was researching a family where the place of birth of “on the sea” was given.

    Fair enough, we thought, perhaps the wife of a military ancestor was caught out by an untimely birth whilst crossing the Channel, or similar. However, it turns out his father was a publican, so who knows what the family were doing at sea – further research is clearly required!

  2. Lath and plaster work revealed

    Building work at our medieval premises this week has revealed the lath and plaster work from a ceiling in one of our ground floor offices.  This was a traditional method of building construction, used from the medieval period (replacing the use of wattle and daub) until the 1930s, when plasterboard was introduced.

    The oldest parts of our building date from the 14th century, when it was used as a pilgrims’ hostel for those visiting Canterbury Cathedral.  However, it is likely that the lath and plaster exposed here dates from Georgian times, when significant alternations were made to the building.


  3. How to draw a family tree diagram

    Presentation of family history research can sometimes be a sticking point – finding your own way of doing it satisfactorily can take some time.  The IHGS Director of Education, Les Mitchinson, has developed a system using Powerpoint to display a family tree, and runs regular courses at our headquarters in Canterbury on drawing up pedigrees.

    The next course is running on Saturday 16th June. To find out more and to book your place, click here.

  4. Spring is here!

    Spring has firmly arrived, and with the all the fine weather we have been inspired to give our patio at Achievements a good wash, in readiness for the annual Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies awards day in July. Lets just hope the weather remains fine for the next few months! Here is a photo of Martin cleaning the patio, and the finished result in the sun.


  5. Causes of death in genealogical records

    Until General Registration began in 1837, it was up the clergyman recording a burial as to whether a cause of death was provided (it rarely was noted in the register, and never after 1813 when pre-printed burial registers were introduced). One of our genealogists working on a case this week came across a parish register where causes of death were being recorded however, and they make fascinating reading.

    The most common causes of death given were: fever, decay, and decline,  Other causes of death given on just two parish registers pages included: convulsions, abscess, inflammation, whooping cough, jaundice, dropsy, as well as being burnt, drowned and killed by a fall from a horse.  Some of these were specific, recognisable conditions (or accidents) to us today, although some were a little more unspecific, including the cause of death shown here of a “stoppage”.

    This poor lady died aged forty-four, of a “stoppage”, and modern minds can only wince at what this might have meant for her. Genealogy is a fascinating pursuit, but it can also highlight the benefits of living in the twenty-first century!

  6. Hepzibah . . . or Hepperabath?

    We all know that our ancestors could not spell.  Anyone who has looked at a parish register will have found variants of even the, to us, easiest of names to spell. One of our genealogists today was researching a family in Somerset, with the mother named Hepzibah.  On one of her childrens’ baptisms, in 1751, the clergyman recording the event clearly had trouble with the spelling of Hepzibah’s forename, and recorded it as “Hepperabath”.

    It was unlikely that Hepzibah was able to correct the clergyman when he recorded this in the parish register, if she was illiterate, which was one reason that some many spelling variants appear.

  7. Libeahthe . . . is this Elizabeth or Liberty?

    Whilst undertaking some family history research in Somerset this week, one of our genealogists chanced across a baptism with a very unusual forename. Spelling variants are by no means unusual within parish registers, particularly when so many people were illiterate and would not have been able to correct the clergyman recording the information, although in this case it was a little unclear what name was meant.

    The baptism of one child, in 1785, seems to have foxed the person the recording the information and “Libeahthe” was recorded.

    Was this the minister’s spelling of the unusual forename Liberty, which he wasn’t sure how to spell? Or was the name Elizabeth being attempted but he was having an off day? Was he interrupted whilst recording the baptism, or were the parents clear that this was the name they meant?  For now, clearly more research is required in the parish register to ascertain her forename!


  8. Military Records day course

    Most of us will have ancestors who served in the armed forces at some time, and military records can provide information not only into your ancestor’s life whilst in the military but can also give essential genealogical information to help extend your family tree.

    Our sister organisation, the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, is holding a day course entitled “Military Records – Army, RAF and Royal Navy” on Monday 23rd April at our headquarters in Canterbury.  The course will cover the 18th to 21st centuries and will discuss both online and original sources. The day will be led by Les Mitchinson, IHGS Director of Education and Vice Chair of AGRA.

    Click here to find out more information, and to book a place on this course.

  9. Festive surnames – Easter, Christmas and Yule

    Easter is rapidly approaching, and our thoughts have turned to festive surnames.  In fact, the surname Easter is not that rare, with over 3000 Easter births registered in General Registration within the period 1837-1915.

    Like the surnames Christmas and Yule, if your name is Easter then it could be that an earlier ancestor was born on Easter day, or had some other connection to Easter.  However, unlike these other two surnames, Easter does have other possible etymological origins.

    It could derive from someone living east of somewhere, or it could be a locational surname from villages in Essex, whose name in turn probably derives from the Old English ‘eowestre’ meaning sheepfold.

    So if your surname is Easter, your ancestors may have been born on Easter day, they may have lived in the east, or near a sheepfold!

  10. Thinking of becoming a professional genealogist?

    If you have ever thought of becoming a professional genealogist, our day course entitled “The Professional Approach” may be for you. Run by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies together with other professionals working in the field, there are only a few places on this popular day course left.

    It seeks to cover all aspects of working as a professional family historian, from how to acquire clients to what to charge. Meet others in the same position, and share ideas and experiences. Click here to find out more.



June 2018
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