News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. The Family History Show – London 22nd September

    We are gearing up to the Family History Show in London later this month.  Run by the organisers of the Yorkshire Family History Show, we are excited to attend this year, on Saturday 22nd September.  It is held at Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, Surrey, which has ample free parking and good rail links.  There will be free talks given throughout the day, and many family history societies and other genealogical groups will be attending.

    If you have any genealogical queries, or are interested in any of the courses run by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, pop along to the IHGS stand where representatives of both Achievements and IHGS will be there to help.  We look forward to seeing you there!

    Further information on the day can be found here.

  2. 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.


  3. Missing a burial record?

    Researching family history is extremely satisfying when each ancestor can be successfully “hatched, matched and dispatched”.  But it is not always possible to “dispatch” all ancestors.  General Registration after 1837 means that searches of registered deaths can be made of the entire country, in case a family member died far from their home.  But before 1837, researchers are reliant on church burial records.  If an ancestor is not found in the parish in which they married or produced children, searches for burials records can be rather open ended.

    It could be that an accident or misadventure occurred far from home, which means that no burial record will ever be found, particularly if those burying an individual had no idea who he or she was.  Two examples found this week by our beedy-eye researchers illustrate this scenario well.

    In 1811, an explosion in a gunpowder mill killed one Thomas Wiltshire, who was buried on 16th December.  The clergyman helpfully recorded that “the names of the others are inserted from memory as no proper account was hand written”.  This listing is reliant on the clergyman’s memory, and no forenames are given.

    In the same parish in 1820 “a man unknown” was found floating in the local River. He was estimated as being 45 years old, and was wearing a green jacket and leather waistcoat with a blue and white striped shirt. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we’d ever know exactly what our ancestors were wearing on the day of their death to establish whether this man could be relevant to any search!

    Both these notes in the burial register are good examples of how the burial records of our ancestors can be lost to time, and how despite exhaustive searches not all genealogy can be neatly tied up!




  4. 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!


  5. WDYTYA? Live 2016

    Last week we had a successful 3 days at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the NEC in Birmingham.  We attended with our sister organisation the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, and had an enjoyable 3 days there meeting all sorts of people from the genealogical research community.

    The picture below shows our Principal Dr Richard Baker alongside IHGS tutor Karen Cummings. We are very much looking forward to next year’s event!

    IHGS stand at WDYTYA Live

  6. Can manorial records extend your family tree?

    There will always be a point in genealogical research, where the parish registers run out, and every possible avenue has been considered.  But it might be that manorial records exist which can help trace the earliest generations of the family tree.

    Within any parish there could be one or more manors, and the records created by the courts held there deal with the day-to-day life of the manor.  As such, it might be that proof can be found that the surnames being traced were present in the manor one or more generations before the earliest parish registers show.

    As well as court records, manorial documents could include customs, surveys and maps to help build up a picture of village life of our ancestors.  So if you think you have got as far as you can with your family history, why not contact us to see whether manorial records could help you extend your line.

  7. 1939 National Registration

    The 1939 National Registration has recently been released in digitised format, after much excitement.  It was previously under NHS administration, and only they could conduct searches of this useful twentieth century record.  But what information does it provide?  And why was it created in the first place?

    The 1939 National Registration represents a census-like document of all non-military personnel as of 29th September 1939, which records formed the basis for Second World War identity cards.

    The information given includes address, name, exact date of birth, marital status and occupation.  The key to genealogists here is that exact dates of birth are given, not just an age.

    As well as this, the 1939 National Registration fills in a gap in the genealogical records: the 1921 census is governed by a 100 year confidentiality ruling so will not be available for another six years, the 1931 census was destroyed in a fire, and the 1941 census never taken.

    Thus, the 1939 National Registration is an important document for twentieth century genealogical research.  Contact us today to find out where your relatives were living in 1939.

  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. General Registration around the world

    General Registration is where most people start when tracing their family tree.  English, Welsh and Irish records provide both parents names, including mothers’ maiden surnames, on birth certificates, as well as address and occupation of father (or sometimes mother is she is unmarried).  Marriage records give the age of parties, occupation, address and the father’s name and his occupation.  Death certificates provide an age, occupation and residence.

    Apart from additional information gleaned from witnesses or informants names, this tends to be the limit of information provided.  But when looking into General Registration, or vital records, of other countries, extra information can be given.

    In terms of the UK, Scottish General Registration is particularly useful, for marriage certificates also provide the mother’s name and maiden surname, and death certificates (should) give both parents’ full names.  This can be particularly useful if dealing with a death in the 1850s for example, of an elderly person perhaps in their 80s: if known, their parents names should be stated.

    When considering General Registration from further afield, again additional information is often given when compared to English records.  Australian and New Zealand certificates include place of birth on marriage and death certificates, as well as place of birth of the parents on birth certificates.  This information is invaluable, particularly due to the large number of incomers to these countries in the nineteenth century.

    Other countries with particularly good civil registration records, include Holland.  So if you find links to other countries, investigate their records of civil registration and see what additional information can be found.



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