News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.

    It is nothing new for parents to choose names for their children that reflect their views or religious beliefs, or are in honour of a historical figure or current celebrity. Many a child was recorded in parish registers with the forenames ‘Lord Nelson’ after 1812. The names our ancestors choose can give insight into their lives. One such is a puritan father christening his four sons, with lowering expectations, Live-well, Do-well, Die-well and Fare-well.  A set of twins had much to live up to being christened Peter the Great Wright and William the Conqueror Wright. However for family historians an unusual name can be a blessing with genealogical research. There was no difficulty in identifying the correct Temperance Sober Lane in census records. The same could not be said for her cousin John Smith. These kinds of names were often not popular when children reached adulthood. For example, John Robinson Crusoe Heaton opted to live his adult life as the more prosaic Evan James, little guessing knowing the difficulties he would present for family history research a century later. Contact us

  2. The sun on our medieval headquarters

    Working in a medieval building has it’s challenges, and perks.  This week, notwithstanding last night’s thunderstorms, we have seen some beautiful sunshine.  We thought we would share a photograph of the blue sky above our 14th century timbered building, with some lovely poppies in the foreground.  Long may this weather last!

    If you are local to Canterbury, and would like to come and see our lovely building, and discuss your family history requirements, we would love to show you around.  Click here to contact us today.


    Achievements building

  3. Summer starts here

    Today marks the official first day of summer, and the longest day of the year.  Canterbury has seen heavy rain and lovely sunshine over the last 24 hours, and hopefully the weather will settle down!

    The summer solstice, this year taking place on 20th June, refers to the sun reaching it’s highest point in the sky at noon (as opposed to the winter solstice, when it is at its lowest).  The word solstice itself comes from the Latin words for sun sol and to stand still, being sistere.  Thus at the solstice the sun appears to stand still, before going in the opposite direction.

  4. Weekend course – Essential Sources for Family Historians

    We still have places on the course “Essential Sources for Family Historians”, run by our sister organisation the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.  This is taking place on Friday 8th July to Sunday 10th July.

    Topics covered will include life and death records, parish registers, parish records, wills and paleography.  Further information, including booking details, can be found here.

  5. Dutch influence on Norfolk dialect

    Our ancestors would most likely have spoken very differently from us today, particularly when many of us have moved far from our roots.  When looking at old records, such as parish registers or wills, it is always important to bear in mind spelling variants and words which may have been due to local dialect or accent.

    Searcher Liz Yule has Norfolk ancestors, and she has found the surname Reynolds written down in the parish register as “Rannells”, being a clear case of the clergyman writing down what he heard.

    With Norfolk dialect in particular, it is interesting to note the Dutch influence.  As a county very close to Holland, many incomers brought with them their own language, some words of which have stuck.  One example is “dwile” , referring to a cloth, and another being “push” meaning a boil or spot.

    So if an old document does not appear to make sense, investigate the local dialect further, and see if this helps with unusual words!

  6. The interesting etymology of the word “endorsement”

    Parchment was the most usual writing surface for our medieval ancestors.  Whilst flat pages were written on both sides, termed “recto” and “verso”, some documents were on rolled up parchment.  It was usual to write on only one side in this case, being the flesh side (rather than the hair side) which was called the “face”. On occasion the other side, or “dorse”, was also used and when this was for the purpose of authenticating a document, the practice was termed “endorsement”. An example of this would be the practice of endorsing wills on manor court rolls.

  7. Family names in genealogy

    Genealogists will often find that naming patterns are much more prominent in their ancestry that in more modern generations.  The same forenames were often passed down to each generation in turn, be it the more usual John and William, or perhaps more unusual forenames.  Indeed, it can be such naming patterns which can help prove a family tree, when other evidence is missing.

    During recent research in the parish of Felsted, Essex, one of our genealogists came across several interesting forenames repeated in the family being researched.  In particular, the forename Esdras appeared in the late eighteenth century, and was in almost every generation back to the early 1600s.  This intriguing name is a Latin version of the biblical Ezra, and it was clearly important to the family to pass this name on.

    A later Esdras at Felsted was married to a lady named Summers, and the couple passed her forename on to their own daughter.  Whilst Esdras was a biblical name, it was likely that Summers was named for a maternal surname in her family tree, for this is more usually found as a surname.

    Another example of a surname being used as a forename is the instance in the neighboring parish of Stebbing, Essex, of the baptism of Loveday Chopping in 1771.  Loveday is more usually found as a surname, and again had clearly been passed down as a forename as a memorial of a branch of the family.

    So if you have any more unusual forenames in your family history, investigate further and see how long they have been present, and where they may have originated!

  8. An “exposed child”, of unknown parentage

    Parish registers and other genealogical records often show words and phrases which are alien to us today.  When looking at the parish registers at Felsted in Essex, one of our searches came across the baptism, on December 8th 1726, of one John Felsted, an “exposed child”.

    The term “exposed child” refers to one who is of unknown parentage, and who presumably has been abandoned by their parents.  In this case, the parish clearly took care for the child, baptising him in the local church with the surname of the parish in which he was found.  A sad situation, but hopefully the parish took good care of him!



June 2016
« May   Jul »