News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. What’s in a name – plum to plumb

    Hawk-eyed visitors to this website may have noticed a slight spelling variant in our festive item about the plum(b) pudding riots. In fact, research into this word as a surname reveals some interesting statistics.

    Oxford University Press’ A Dictionary of Surnames states that the surname Plum originated as a “topographic name for someone who lived by a plum tree”.  Variants of this name include Plumb and Plum(b)e.

    When considering the use of both Plum and Plumb as surnames, it appears that the latter is a much more widespread name: in the General Registration birth indexes 1837-1915 there are over 6000 Plumb births registered, but less than 1000 Plums.

    Thus our ancestors would have been familiar with both spellings, with Plumb the more widely used. In the 1650s, when the riots against Puritan Christmas sobriety took place, plums and plumbs would have been interchangeable!

  2. New Year’s resolutions . . . in family history

    January 1st is often a day where resolutions are made. Old habits are given the boot, new ones are ushered in.  How long they are kept to, however, is another thing.

    Why not make a New Year’s resolution to last? If you have always wondered about your family history, why not contact us today to find out more.  Make it this year’s task to find out where your roots are. Whether it is an unusual surname or a family legend to investigate, we are here to help you unearth your genealogy.

  3. The plum pudding riots

    After the defeat of Charles I and the English Civil War in the 1640s, Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector over what was termed the Commonwealth.  Cromwell was a puritan, which was a strict Christian movement, and which sought to rid Britain of activities deemed immoral, sinful, corruptible or non-Christian.

    The puritans saw Christmas as a Roman Catholic celebration with no relevance to the bible. In fact, they deemed it as an immoral festival that enticed debauchery and excessive drinking, and Cromwell set about banning all activities relating to Christmas.

    Parliament banned Christmas, together with celebrations for Easter and Whitsun (Pentecost). This involved a ban on anything associated with Christmas celebrations, including mince pies and plum pudding.  Soldiers even roamed the streets seizing food by force if they believed it be associated with a Christmas feast.  Church services were banned on Christmas day, and ministers who ignored this were taken into custody.

    Ordinary folk protested at these new laws, particularly when they were forced to keep their shops open on Christmas day.  Shopkeeper who refused to open their premises could have been sent to the stocks.  Locals were angry at this, and riots took place against the government legislation regarding Christmas in Canterbury, Norwich and Ipswich.

    Christmas continued to be celebrated, albeit in secret, and King Charles II reinstated Christmas once more on his restoration in 1660.

  4. Still struggling for a Christmas present?

    Are you still struggling to think of something special to give that someone special for Christmas? Do they have everything including the kitchen sink, and you don’t know what to get them?

    Why not think of giving them their family history for Christmas. Family history research is a unique gift to give a loved one, and one that they can keep forever, and pass on to other family members.

    Contact us today to find out more about our Christmas gift certificates.

  5. A perfect gift for Christmas

    Are you stuck for a gift idea for a loved one this Christmas?  Someone who is hard to buy for, or seems to have everything? Well worry no more, for why give them a gift certificate to have their family history traced for Christmas.  This is a truly unique present, and one that they will remember forever.

    We provide a stylish A4 certificate that can be given on Christmas day, and we can then liaise with them in the New Year to find out their particular areas of interest to start the genealogical investigation.

    Contact us today to find out more about purchasing a gift certificate for family history research for Christmas.

  6. A “grass widow” in the 1911 census

    In genealogical research, occasionally absolute honesty is encountered within census returns.  It could be a woman living as a householder’s “housekeeper” together with their children for example, or other similar circumstances.

    In this 1911 census, one woman gave her marital status as “grass widow”.


    This was a term used when the husband was often absent, and has several different possible origins. A more modern interpretation could be that a hobby such as golf often separates a couple, although it could also derive from the 19th century when women in the British Raj were sent to cooler, mountainous regions.  An interpretation from earlier centuries is that a couple laid on the grass together, rather than a marital bed.

    Whatever the exact derivations, in this case the census enumerator has crossed through this term, and shown her to be officially married.

  7. Mother’s name on a marriage certificate

    Recent news items have highlighted the fact that mothers’ names do not appear on General Registration marriage certificates – on the the father of the bride and groom is given, together with his occupation.  Proposals to include mothers’ names have been met with positivity over the years, although as yet no change to the marriage certificate has been made.

    But what if our ancestors simply ignored the “father’s name” section, and included a mother’s name instead?  That seems to be the case with one marriage from 1872.  The bride, Mary Frances Billington, names her “father” as Mary Ann Billington.

    As with all genealogical research, often one piece of information leads to more questions. Had the bride’s father died, and she named her living parent?  Did she not know her father’s name, and simply gave the name of the parent whose name she did know? Was it a protest, and she felt her mother’s name should appear? Clearly further research is needed here!


  8. It’s never too early to think of Christmas . . . .

    Tomorrow is the beginning of November, and there is now less than two months to Christmas.  Whilst this may seem a long time, it will just fly by!

    If you are looking for a unique Christmas gift for a loved one, look no further than a bespoke package of family history research. A truly one-off present, something that won’t be replicated by anyone else.

    Click here to contact us to find out more.

  9. Day courses in Genealogy

    Our sister organisation, the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, has just released its 2018 programme of family history study days.  These include everything from how to draw a pedigree, how to research military ancestors, or if you fancy getting stuck in even more, a weekend course on “Taking your family history further”.

    Further information on dates and booking details can be found here.

  10. “Deceased since schedule served”

    Ever wondered how our ancestors were enumerated if they died on the day a census was taken?

    The 1871 census was taken on 2nd April that year. A census schedule would have been given to each household to fill in, which would have been collected by the census enumerator.  In the case of one householder however, the enumerator wrote that they were “dead since schedule served”.

    The census enumerator has spelled schedule as “sheudle” – but to be honest it is a difficult word to spell!



December 2018
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