News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Unusual terms

    Somethings as you research your family tree you come across terms that have fallen out of use, such as a  “Knobstick” wedding. This was the marriage of a pregnant single women to the reputed father due to pressure from the parish officials. The couple would usually be married by licence obtained by the churchwardens or the overseers of the poor. They forced the couple to marry to prevent the child needing parish relief and so save the parish money. The name Knobstick referred to the churchwardens staves of office, which had a knob on the end. The churchwardens, overseers or parish constable attended the event to ensure the marriage went ahead and often acted as witnesses.


  2. AGRA conference last weekend

    Our Principal Dr Richard Baker attended the AGRA (Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives) conference this weekend at St John’s College, Cambridge, entitled “Demolishing Brick Walls”.  A thoroughly enjoyable event, covering diverse aspects of genealogy, his favourite talk was by John Titford, which was called “Barking up the wrong tree”. It exposed the dangers of researching the wrong family tree, a trap that many family historians can fall into.

    Other highlights included Rebecca Probert’s “The rise and fall of the crime of Bigamy” and Debbie Kennett’s “DNA demystified”.  We all look forward to the next AGRA conference.

  3. A stranger in the parish

    If you see the term “stranger” in a parish register this might refer to a Huguenot. Huguenots began arriving in England from the Spanish Netherlands during the reign of Elizabeth I, seeking refuge from persecution. Many settled in Norwich, where they had been invited by the city authorities. Indeed at one time they accounted for a third of the city’s population. Their earliest church was established in 1550 at Threadneedle Street. After the Revoking of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Louis XIV of France, their numbers increased and it is thought that about 50,000 Huguenots arrived in England. So many of us may have Huguenots in our family trees. They brought with them new skills, especially in weaving (particularly silk), gold and silversmithing, clockmaking, furniture making, printing bookbinding and papermaking. Whilst the term strangers fell out of use as they established themselves in England, the legacy of the term “stranger” can still be seen in street signs and buildings. For example there is a Stranger’s Lane in Canterbury and the Mayors house Norwich is called Stranger’s Hall.

  4. Next available course on compiling pedigree diagrams

    Due to popular demand, our sister organisation the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies is laying on a second course this year on How to Draw a Pedigree Tree.  This will take you through all aspects of pedigree compilation, using Microsoft Powerpoint.  This is set to be a really useful course to genealogists, providing an accessible and flexible way to display a family tree.

    This is running on Saturday 12th November, and further information on booking and payment can be found  here.

  5. Family tree design day workshop

    Genealogists will often grapple with the issue of how to display, in a correct and easy-to-follow way, their family history.  There are various computer programmes available, but few with the flexibility of a hand-drawn pedigree, where multiple spouses can be added easily, and generations expanded without a problem.

    If this sounds familiar, then a course run by our sister organisation the IHGS, may be for you. Running on Saturday 8th October, this day course provides everything you need to know about creating a family tree diagram in Powerpoint format, from creation, standard pedigree abbreviations, to printing the final product.  For more information, click here to find out more and book a place.

  6. Weekend course in genealogy

    Interested in finding out more on fleshing our your family tree?  Not sure where to start?  Then the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies Beginners to Intermediate weekend course on genealogy might be for you.  It will cover topics including parish registers, parish record, wills and paleography.

    Taking place at our headquarters in historic Canterbury, this course is running from Friday 8th-Sunday 10th July.  To find out more, including booking information and accommodation provided, click here.

  7. 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.

  8. An ancestor called “New Year”?!

    Following on our festive names theme, our searchers have found the use of “New Year” as a forename exists from at least the seventeenth century.

    For example, New Year Carlile was baptised in Cumberland in 1690.  New Year Studlin married in Gosport, Hampshire, in 1746, whilst a New Year Maw lived in Yorkshire in the later eighteenth century.

    It was perhaps more common as a middle name in later years: John New Year Holley is just one doubly festive example, baptised in Norfolk in 1814.

    What festive names will you find in your family tree?



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