News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. “Good sister” . . . or sister-in-law

    Census returns and other historical documents can be vague about family relationships.  “Cousin” historically could refer a whole host of family ties, whilst “brother” or “daughter” on a census was often recorded rather than “brother-in-law” or “daughter-in-law”.  Perhaps the census enumerator didn’t have enough space to record the full term, or perhaps the head of the household treated his daughter-in-law as his own daughter.

    Another term that is less usually found in census returns is “good sister” or “good son” or similar, which also referred to an in-law, be it sister-in-law or son-in-law etc.

    1881 census good sister

    This example from the 1881 census records the head of the household, his wife, two sons and his “good sister”, or sister-in-law.  It is a term to look out for in census records, as well as other genealogical sources.

  2. “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!

  3. Pets in the 1911 census

    When Frances Catherine Stone was filling in her 1911 census enumeration form, she showed that she was a single woman and the head of the household.  No other people were recorded, but she chose to name her dearly beloved cat and dog, presumably who she considered to be equal residents of the property.  So below her name, was recorded “Timothy the cat” who was seven years old, and “Jack the dog” aged 8.

    Timothy the cat, Jack the dog

    The census indexer has included them under these names in the indexing process, although other searches for “dog” and “cat” do not find any further pets listed in the index itself.

    Do you have ancestors who loved their animals enough to record them in genealogical records?  Why not find out by contacting us to find our more on your family tree.

  4. Do you have a Happy Woddle in your family tree?!

    Genealogy can uncover all kinds of odd forenames and surnames.  Children named after battles, maternal surnames or even train stations  can make a change from the usual line of Johns, Marys and Williams.

    Whilst researching a family in Kent this week, one of our genealogists unearthed a gem of a name: Happy Woddle (or Waddle in some sources) was baptised at Hawkhurst in 1833, and married in Kent in 1857.  We wonder whose chose her interesting name!  She appears on the 1851 census, as below.

    happy woddle

    Do you have an interesting name in your family history you would like to research?  Contact us today to find out more.

  5. 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.

  6. Occupation in 1891 – “anything (out of work)”

    Census records often just record one occupation for the head of the household, even if he or she was undertakings several jobs.  Occasionally two may be recorded, such as “shoemaker and farmer”.

    Our searchers this week were investigating a Nunn family of Lambeth, where the father gave “anything” for his occupation in the 1891 census.  Unfortunately he was then out of work, so presumably he was really willing to do any job that came along!

    1891 census - occupation anything

  7. Scottish genealogy at a glance

    Scottish research can be similar to tracing families in England and Wales, with General Registration records of birth, marriage and death, together with census returns creating the basis for nineteenth and early twentieth century research.

    As in England and Wales, the latest census available to genealogists with Scottish ancestry is the 1911 census.  Later enumerations are governed by one hundred year confidentiality rulings.  Once a family has been found here, they can be tracked back using earlier decennial census returns.

    Alongside census records, General Registration birth, marriage and death certificates are also available for Scottish research. Unlike England and Wales, Scottish General Registration only began in 1855, rather than 1837.  However, this is somewhat made up for in the level of detail given within Scottish certificates.

    In England and Wales, only the father’s name is given on a marriage certificate, whilst Scottish marriage records also include the mother’s forename and maiden surname.  Likewise, with Scottish death records both parents names are given for the deceased.  This is particularly useful, as English and Welsh records do not include this information on a death certificate, which can make the death of one John Jones hard to distinguish from another John Jones living in the same place.

    Prior to General Registration and the first census of 1841, Old Parish Registers, or OPRs, are the next genealogical resource to consider in Scotland.  These are records of the Established Church, and the particularly useful aspect of OPRs is that they have most been indexed and digitised.  Thus relatively comprehensive searches can be made for the whole country of surviving Church of Scotland records, whereas in England and Wales indexing of Anglican parish registers can be patchy.

    New to genealogy?  Why not contact us for assistance on your Scottish ancestry.

  8. Tips for researching Irish families in England

    Tracing family history in Ireland can be daunting, especially if the town, or even county, or origin is unknown.  An English census may simply read “Ireland” for the place of birth.

    A fire at the Public Record Office in 1922 destroyed most Irish census returns pre 1901, and if a family left Ireland prior to this, then this lack of records can be difficult to overcome.  As well as this, Irish General Registration only began in 1864, compared to 1837 in England.

    But there are ways to overcome these issues.  Firstly, find a person of Irish birth in as many censuses in England as possible: just one of these may give more information on place of birth.  If they lived until 1911 particularly, it is more likely that a precise place of birth would be given on this record.

    If both parents are born in Ireland, but they have children in England, buy the birth certificate of one of these children.  This should give the mother’s maiden surname, and this may lead to their marriage record in Ireland.  This could be essential if no specific place of origin is given in census returns in England.

    If these methods are fruitless, then the mid nineteenth century census substitute Griffith’s Valuation could help localise a surname.  This was taken between 1847-1864 in order to asses liability to pay the poor rate.  As such, it represents a useful resource where other genealogical records for the same period are lacking.

  9. How to start tracing your family history

    Most people are interested in some way about their family history, but to the uninitiated knowing where to begin can be difficult.

    Always start by talking to elder family members, who may be able to remember details back to the nineteenth century.  If they are vague on dates, ask about what time of year they remember particular events, which can help jog memories.

    From there, either progress to General Registration records of birth, marriage and death, or if possible, to the 1911 census.  There is currently a one hundred year confidentiality ruling regarding census access, so the returns of 1911 are the most recently available to the public.  Once a family has been found within census records, it should be possible to trace backwards using BMD certificates and census returns, back until 1841, which was the first census enumerated.

    Hit a brick wall with your research? Not sure where to start?  Why not contact us for a free quote to investigate your genealogy.

  10. More census transcript errors – who is Hornet Dicks?

    Genealogists and family historians come across census errors in census transcripts as a matter of course.  An interesting transcription of “Hornet Dicks” attracted the eye of one of our researchers this week.  She was living with George Dicks in Wiltshire.

    Surely her name could not be Hornet?  We investigated further, and saw that the original rendered the name as follows:

    hornet dicks

    What had clearly happened was that a sloppily written Harriet had been mis-transcribed as Hornet.  Whilst not very clear, we do wonder how the transcriber came up with Hornet rather than Harriet!

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