News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Victorian Medical Advances

    Vaccinations have been around longer than you may think. The small pox vaccination, which had been available freely since 1841, was made compulsory in 1853 for children in their first three months of life. The local registrars gave blank vaccination certificates to parents of newly born children, who had to return them within the specified time, signed by a medical man to indicate a successful vaccination, or face a fine. Poor Law guardians set up the public vaccination service and the vaccinations were usually performed by the Poor Law medical officers.  Surviving vaccination certificates can be found in county record offices and can help in family history research. The records show the name and age of the child, the name of a parent (usually the father), the address, parish and name of person issuing the certificate.

  2. Rogationtide and the “beating the bounds”.

    Rogationtide  was a religious festival held between the Monday and Wednesday before Ascension Day, and was  a period of fasting and prayer. It was accompanied by processions around the parish boundaries, and our ancestors in this procession would have recited the Litany of the Saints.

    After the reformation this lost it’s religious significance but the procession remained, often taking place on Ascension Day or Ascension Sunday. It became known as “Beating the Bounds” and was a way of preventing encroachment by neighbours, making sure boundary markers had not moved and were visible, and to pass on the knowledge of where the  boundaries were to the next generation.


  3. Newspaper records in tracing ancestors

    Family historians will naturally gravitate towards records of General Registration and census returns when tracing nineteenth century ancestors.  These, of course, provide an essential backbone to any family tree, and a framework from which to work.

    It is always interesting to “flesh out” that family tree however, and newspaper records can be a really excellent resource.  As well as including birth, marriage and death notices, full obituaries may be found, detailing an ancestor’s life.  As well as this, advertisements could give clues to businesses which were run by our predecessors, or even if they were caught breaking the law. The results of local quarter and petty sessions were regularly reported on, and it is certainly interesting to see what type of offences were reported by the local newspaper.

    One of our genealogists has traced her own family in newspaper records, the results of which can be viewed here.  From wife abandonment to stealing turnips, newspaper records offer a varied and interesting view of our ancestors lives!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  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. The origin of carol singing.

    Our tradition of carol singers going from house to house is a result of carols being banned within churches in Medieval times, due to them disrupting the service.

    The word “carol”  means to sing and dance in a circle, deriving from the ancient Greek ‘choros’, which means “dancing in a circle,” and from the Old French word ‘carole’, a song to accompany dancing. Carols were introduced to Church services by St Francis of Assisi, and the tradition spread through Europe; however the intrusive nature of the singing and dancing led them to be banned from Church. The traditional time to sing carols is from St Thomas Day (21st December) until Christmas Day morning.

    Carols, alongside other traditional celebrations of Christmas, were banned completely from 1647-1660 by the Puritan government.

  9. The meaning of Advent

    Advent officially began yesterday, marking the period up until Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus.  The word itself comes from the Latin “adventus”, meaning coming or arrival.  It always commences on the Sunday nearest St Andrew’s Day, being the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and marks the beginning of the liturgical year, as it did for our ancestors.

    Traditions surrounding Advent including lighting an Advent candle and opening Advent calendars.  In terms of its history, the idea of Advent and the preparations for Christmas has been around since the fifth century.  However, some of the traditions associated with Advent, such as chocolate in the calendar, have more recent origins!




December 2018
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