News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. The curious case of “That’s It” Restell

    Recent research of one George Restell, born in around 1886 at Northfleet, initially did not give any reason for intrigue.  He was present in the 1891 census with his parents, and whilst he had been incorrectly named as Joseph rather than George in 1901, he was again living at home with his family. His birth was registered in the December quarter of 1886 in the Strood registration district in Kent. So far so good.

    Matters became a little more intriguing when a copy of his birth certificate was obtained. It recorded the following information:

    Whilst George’s forename was recorded in the final column, under “name entered after registration” the original forename given was “That’s it Who’d have thought it”. Such an unusual name! Particularly as George was not even a final, perhaps unexpected, child.  He was the second child of Robert and Louisa Restell, born just three years after their marriage when both parents were in their 20s. The certificate shows that it was the father who registered the birth, so perhaps he thought he’d have some fun at the time. Who knows?!

    What it does go to show is that it is always important to obtain original documentation, rather than relying on other sources, or perhaps indexes.  There was no indication in the General Registration indexes that any other forename had been given at birth (presumably as the name had been amended very soon after registration) and the child was known as George in later life.  He remained living in Kent, and died in 1948.


  2. Place of birth . . . . “on the sea”

    Census returns are crucial when undertaking nineteenth century family history research, particularly as they can provide detailed information regarding place of birth.  A town or parish in any given county can then lead to parish registers of that place to help research a family back in time.

    One of our researchers this week was researching a family where the place of birth of “on the sea” was given.

    Fair enough, we thought, perhaps the wife of a military ancestor was caught out by an untimely birth whilst crossing the Channel, or similar. However, it turns out his father was a publican, so who knows what the family were doing at sea – further research is clearly required!

  3. 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.

  4. House histories

    Interested in the history of your property?  Not sure where to start?  Why not contact us to find out how we can start tracing the history of your house.

    It is first of all important to collate as much information as you know about the property.  Approximately when was it built?  In the 20th century? 19th century? Or much earlier?

    Was it ever given a different name?  Or even different house number?  With this information, searches can be of sources such as trade directories, census returns and probate records.  In turn, these can give an idea of who lived there and what type of occupations they had.

    For older properties, it might be that tithe and manorial records could be used.

  5. Place of birth Mexico . . . . or Middlesex?

    Transcription errors are far from rare within indexes of genealogical sources, not least in census records.  Poor handwriting and misunderstanding information can cause all sorts of mistakes to be made within the original records themselves, as well as the indexes compiled at a later date.

    A perhaps surprisingly common error is the indexing of “Middlesex” to read “Mexico”.  Type in Mexico as a place of birth within any census search engine, and many results are given.  But look closely, and how many suggest indexing errors?  For example, with the 1901 census surely “Holborn Mexico” and “Southall Mexico” and the numerous entries relating to “London Mexico” all refer to the county of Middlesex?

    So take care when examining indexes, and always look at the original!

  6. Mis-understanding places of birth

    One of our genealogists was tracing a family living in Hull this week, where the father of the family came from over one hundred miles away, in Staffordshire, specifically Burton on Trent.  But how had the census enumerator of 1901 interpreted this place of birth?  As “Burton Brent”.  He had probably never heard of this place, and had interpreted it as best he could.

    This is a common scenario when undertaking research into census returns, and sometimes a little thinking-outside-the-box helps when using the various indexes available.

    Place of birth Burton Brent

    Unable to find your ancestors in census returns?  Contact us to see how we can help.

  7. How to trace your family history, a quick start guide.

    Starting family history research can be daunting, when presented with an array of websites online offering various records available to search.  However, it is important to start with the basics.

    1. Collate what information you have.  Talk to any older relatives about anything they remember.  Ask questions to prompt them, to help with dates etc.  For example, what was the weather like at your grandfather’s funeral?

    2. Birth, marriage and death records.  General Registration (GRO) began in 1837, and in theory every birth, marriage and death should have been registered since then. Various websites provide the quarterly indexes to GRO records, to obtain the relevant volume and page number required to order copies of the certificates.  With this information a certificate can then be ordered via the GRO website for a small fee.

    3. Census returns.  With the information from GRO, searches can then be made of census records.  The most recently available for public scrutiny is that of 1911, and again various websites allow access to these records.  These provide information such as age, place of birth and occupation which are essential when building up a picture of our ancestors’ lives.

    4. Parish registers.  Prior to the earliest census of 1841, and the beginning of GRO in 1837, parish registers are the most useful resource for genealogists. They record baptisms (rather than births), marriages and burials (rather than deaths).  The Anglican church should be the first place to start, unless the family has known links to non-conformists denominations or Roman Catholicism, which have different registers (where they survive).

    5. Probate records.  Wills can represent an excellent resource to add to our knowledge of our ancestors, and even labourers sometimes left such documents.  They are mostly available from the appropriate local record office, although records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are now available online.

    These are the main sources to use when starting out on your family history journey, but of course this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Delving into genealogy can take you on unexpected journeys – just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!

  8. Who is the head of the household?

    Why is it always men who are named as the head of the household in census returns?  Even if they are not present, such as working away from home on the night the census was taken, their wives at home were still sometimes recorded as the “wife” rather than the “head”.

    Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule! 1861


    Here in 1861, Delphine (incorrectly spelled as Deplin) Halke is named as the the head of the household, whilst her husband William is recorded as her husband.  So often in genealogy women are listed secondly, separately or not at all, so it is refreshing to find enumerations like this!



December 2018
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