News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. 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!

  2. Railway workers in your family?

    With the Flying Scotsman fully restored, and makings its first journey from London today in many years, now is a good time to investigate the railway workers in your family tree.  From engineers, drivers, station staff, goods handlers and platelayers, there were all types of occupations associated with the railway.

    Life in the employment of the big rail companies could take families all over the country.  An unexpected place of birth for an ancestor’s child may point towards the family being more mobile that was first thought, for example.

    Many railway companies do have surviving records.  Why not contact us to see whether any of your family members worked on the railways?

  3. Pets in the 1911 census

    When Frances Catherine Stone was filling in her 1911 census enumeration form, she showed that she was a single woman and the head of the household.  No other people were recorded, but she chose to name her dearly beloved cat and dog, presumably who she considered to be equal residents of the property.  So below her name, was recorded “Timothy the cat” who was seven years old, and “Jack the dog” aged 8.

    Timothy the cat, Jack the dog

    The census indexer has included them under these names in the indexing process, although other searches for “dog” and “cat” do not find any further pets listed in the index itself.

    Do you have ancestors who loved their animals enough to record them in genealogical records?  Why not find out by contacting us to find our more on your family tree.

  4. Place of abode? “here”

    Pre-printed baptism and burial registers were introduced after George Rose’s Act of 1812.  This meant that standardised information was given, whereas before it was up to the officiating clergyman how much, or little, he gave within the parish registers.

    One of the pieces of information asked for in parish registers after 1812, in both baptism and burial records, was for the “abode”, or address, of where the person in question lived.  In cities a specific street may be given, although often in more rural areas, just the name of the parish might be stated.

    In one case, our genealogists were looking at burials in the village of Sawbridgeworth, in Hertfordshire.  For place of abode, “here” was stated for most entries.  This was a rural parish, clearly with very few outsiders, who presumably would have been from over “there”!

    Sawbridgeworth burial register

  5. Do you have a Happy Woddle in your family tree?!

    Genealogy can uncover all kinds of odd forenames and surnames.  Children named after battles, maternal surnames or even train stations  can make a change from the usual line of Johns, Marys and Williams.

    Whilst researching a family in Kent this week, one of our genealogists unearthed a gem of a name: Happy Woddle (or Waddle in some sources) was baptised at Hawkhurst in 1833, and married in Kent in 1857.  We wonder whose chose her interesting name!  She appears on the 1851 census, as below.

    happy woddle

    Do you have an interesting name in your family history you would like to research?  Contact us today to find out more.

  6. Family history and heraldry

    Don’t miss out on the day course run Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies on heraldry, being held at our headquarters in Canterbury on 20th February.

    If you are new to heraldry, or would like to find out more about how heraldic research can help with genealogy then this course is for you.  Click here to find out more.

  7. Ship Money in the 1630s

    Ship Money was a tax that could be levied by the Monarch, without the approval of Parliament, during wartime on coastal communities.

    In 1634 Charles I applied the tax and in 1635 extended it to those living outside of maritime areas to elsewhere in the country. It was levied on our ancestors every year until 1640.  It was very unpopular and Parliament disagreed with the King over the tax, and the Ship Money Act of 1641 made it illegal.

    Many of the lists from 1634 to 1640 survive and are held in The National Archives amongst State Papers Domestic. Records of defaulters are found in the Exchequer records in class E179.

  8. Heraldry day course 20th February

    The IHGS day course on Heraldry, on Saturday 20th February, is confirmed as running.  Places are filling up, so to avoid disappointment book your place now.

    This course aims to show that the records of heraldry can be of great use to family historians, and is suitable for absolute beginners as well as those with some experience. Practical guidance will be given on how to understand heraldry and how to identify coats of arms.

    Further information, and booking details, can be found here.

  9. Medieval Canterbury Weekend

    Interested in Medieval history?  Local to Canterbury?  Then the Medieval Canterbury Weekend should be of interest.  Taking place from the 1-3 of April, Canterbury Christchurch University have organised an array of exciting talks place across the city, with some top experts in the relevant fields.  Church, war, royalty and social history are all covered in a wide range of lectures, by experts such as David Starkey and Helen Castor.

    It looks to be a really excellent weekend, and further information, including booking details, can be found here.



February 2016
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