News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. 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.


  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!


  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. Address please? “Pudding Bag”

    Our searchers this week have been focusing on Leicestershire family history, and several census returns and other sources show an intriguing address of “Pudding Bag”, or “Puddingbag” in the parish of Blaby.


    There are suggestions that this could represent a dialect word for a cul-de-sac, although no ideas put forward of how this name came about. In fact, further investigation finds this address name still represented in modern day Leicestershire with Pudding Bag Lane in Kings Norton and Shepshed, as well as in Thuralston in Warwickshire, Pilsgate in Lincolnshire,  and Exton in Rutland.

    And the feature which links them all? They are all cul-de-sacs.

  9. The genealogical problem of Titanic’s Rose

    Whilst re-watching the epic film Titanic this weekend, it struck me how the life of the central character, Rose DeWitt Bukater, is a good example of how a genealogical “brick wall” can come about.

    Rose boards the Titanic with her mother Ruth, finance Cal Hockley, and their servants. She would have been recorded on the shipping records as Rose DeWitt Bukater. She falls out with her finance during the voyage, and meets Jack Dawson. Once the ship has sunk, she chooses to give her name to the authorities as Rose Dawson: thus there is no Rose DeWitt Bukater recorded on the surviving passenger records.

    Although this is a fictional story, the fact that Rose changed her name and effectively re-invented herself after moving to America is a scenario that happened time and time again. Rose would simply have claimed that she lost everything on board, and giving herself a new name would have been simple. Her family were in England, so who was there to know about her old life?

    Anyone researching a real Rose could easily come up against a “brick wall” when a change of name occurred. In reality however, names were often changed to something familiar, such as a mother’s maiden name. In this case, Rose takes Jack’s surname, even though he dies at the time of the sinking.

    If you have your own “brick wall” which needs breaking down, why not contact us today for a free quote.

  10. Receptionist Frances retires after 38 years

    Many of our clients and students will know our receptionist Frances Gilday.  She retired last month after 38 years of service to the IHGS and Achievements.  Frances first started work as a typist in 1978, before becoming our receptionist in 1982, and she will be greatly missed. Colleagues past and present gathered today to say goodbye, and wish her well in her retirement.




December 2018
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