News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Clues to fathers’ names . . .

    Finding unmarried ancestors is by no means unusual in genealogy, but finding the name of the father in such cases is not so easy.  A birth certificate or baptismal entry will usually only record the mother’s name, with no reference to the father.  After 1875 a father could be included on the birth certificate of a child of unmarried parents, but only if he attended the registration as well as the mother.

    But there can be clues to parentage.  Whilst birth certificates usually don’t record fathers where the mothers were unmarried, this was not always the case at baptism.  For example, where a child was baptised in a small, rural parish, it is possible that the father was widely known.  In which case, the clergyman recording the baptism might insert their name, with the term “reported father” or similar.

    But even then birth certificates can sometimes help.  Particularly for male children, the mother may give the father’s full name as middle names for the child.  For example, one Charles Llewellyn Evans Morris was born in Penrith in 1844, the son of Sarah Morris, who was unmarried.  It would seem more than likely that Llewellyn Evans represented Charles’ father and in this case it would be certainly worth seeing whether there was anyone living locally of that name.

    Equally, people sometimes told the truth at marriage: a father with a surname different to the party marrying gives a clue that such a scenario happened.  It might even be that the father had a role in the child’s life, but for whatever reason the parents simply did not, or could not, marry. Thus it might be that the clues to parentage are there in the records all along!

  2. It’s snowing in Canterbury today!

    Today is the 26th April.  Next week it is May. And yet East Kent (and much of the rest of the East coast) is on its second snow shower of the day.

    Unusual and freak weather is always a topic of conversation, and this was no different for our ancestors.  Without social media outlets to discuss and share pictures and information, other ways were found to record odd weather or other natural events.  One of these was the parish register, where the local incumbent sometimes included events of local importance, such as a freak storm, snow in the warmer months, or a devastating flood.

    As genealogists and historians, look out for such information.  It might be that death occurred seemingly as a result of such an event, or a marriage or baptism took place during a period of intense heat, or a severe winter.  Such information records in parish registers can add to the context of our ancestors lives!

  3. Royal Family History

    Today is the Queen’s 90th birthday and the nation has turned its attention to all things Royal. Royal pageants and parades have been a feature of British history for centuries, and 2016 is set to be no different.

    For genealogists, the holy grail can be to trace a family tree back to Royalty, and claim a relationship with the Queen and her family.  With such research, as with any family history investigation, it is crucial to be sure that the sources are correct, and that each generation can be proven with documentary evidence.  Without such proof, connections to Royalty can only ever be mooted.

    Research in the modern period, from the 1530s onwards, in theory should be more straightforward.  Genealogical sources such as parish registers and probate records should help to build an accurate picture of a family tree.  Before the 1500s however, research can be more difficult.  In this case sources such as Heralds’ Visitations are invaluable, and can help prove links to landed families, which could lead to Royalty.

    If you have a Royal link you would like investigated, contact us today now to find out more.

  4. Longevity in family trees

    Queen Elizabeth II turns 90 this week.  She has been on the throne for over sixty years, and looks set to remain so for some time to come.

    Family history research can often reveal surprisingly long-lived ancestors, although do not always believe what you read!  If an agricultural labouring ancestor is recorded as over 100 on burial or death, it might be worth checking out to see whether a few years may have been added to the age.  This is by no means unusual, particularly in elderly ancestors, just as when looking at marriage certificates it is not uncommon for bride or groom to round down their age.

    In such cases, it is essential to track an ancestor through as many records as possible, such as finding them in each census return to see whether different ages are given.  Finding a birth certificate or baptismal entry then provides a clearer idea of when an ancestor was born, and to then asses whether later ancestors may have told a few fibs about their age.

    Think that your ancestors lied about their age?  Not sure what records to check?  Contact us today to find out more.

  5. Focus on . . . trade directories

    Trade directories and family history research

    The earliest British trade directory was a list of London merchants published in 1677.  The next London directory appeared in 1734, and thereafter at least one directory of London has been published in each year to the present day, although some no longer exist.  Directories for areas outside London did not appear until the end of the 17th century.

    From 1800 onwards the Post Office London directories were issued, but there were several companies which produced excellent guides, historical, statistical and topographical.  Among the most informative are those by William White, Kelly & Co.,and Pigot & Co.

    For genealogists, trade directories can be useful in tracing the business interests and premises of a family, and establishing when a son took over from his father, for example.  In later years a “private residents” section was included within trade directories, of the more prominent local residents.

    As well as showing where and when our ancestors’ businesses were operating, they also provide a contemporary description of a town or parish, often including information on the local economy, places of worship, transport links and schools.  As such they can invaluable to the genealogist when completing family history research.WP_20160414_09_47_41_Pro[1]

  6. WDYTYA? Live 2016

    Last week we had a successful 3 days at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the NEC in Birmingham.  We attended with our sister organisation the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, and had an enjoyable 3 days there meeting all sorts of people from the genealogical research community.

    The picture below shows our Principal Dr Richard Baker alongside IHGS tutor Karen Cummings. We are very much looking forward to next year’s event!

    IHGS stand at WDYTYA Live

  7. Chelsea in- and out-pensioners

    Many genealogists will find ancestors who spent at least some of their lives in the army during family history research, and it might be that they served long enough to be entitled to a pension.  There were two categories of Chelsea pensioner, being in-pensioners and out-pensioners. In-Pensioners were retired pensioners who surrendered their Army Pension and were admitted as residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

    Out-pensioners were those who lived ‘out’ of the Royal Hospital, in the UK or abroad, and received their pension in cash from agents around the country.

    Until 1842-1843 payment of out-pensions was made through convenient local officials, such as Excise officers and Chief Constables of Police, but it was then made the responsibility of the Staff Officers of Pensioners who were appointed responsible for a number of districts. They were required to make regular returns to London recording pensioners who had moved into or out of their districts as well as those whose who had died. In 1877 this responsibility passed to Army Paymasters. Since 1882 payment has been through a convenient Post Office.

    Originally out-pensions were paid annually in arrears, but since 1754 they have been paid in advance; at first half-yearly; from 1812 quarterly; from 1842 quarterly, monthly or weekly as desired; and from 1877 quarterly.

    Do you have military ancestors who may have received a pension? Contact us to find out more today.

  8. Getting ready for WDYTYA? Live this week

    There is a flurry of activity here at our headquarters in Canterbury as we get ready to attend this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the NEC in Birmingham, running from Thursday 7th-Saturday 9th of April.  This is the largest genealogy conference in the country, and is not to be missed by any family historians.

    We will be situated at Stand 71, so please do come and say hello to us there.  Further information on tickets, travel, workshops and exhibitors can be found here.

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