News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Hepzibah . . . or Hepperabath?

    We all know that our ancestors could not spell.  Anyone who has looked at a parish register will have found variants of even the, to us, easiest of names to spell. One of our genealogists today was researching a family in Somerset, with the mother named Hepzibah.  On one of her childrens’ baptisms, in 1751, the clergyman recording the event clearly had trouble with the spelling of Hepzibah’s forename, and recorded it as “Hepperabath”.

    It was unlikely that Hepzibah was able to correct the clergyman when he recorded this in the parish register, if she was illiterate, which was one reason that some many spelling variants appear.

  2. Oral Wills

    It was perfectly valid for a will to be made orally until 1837, when the right was restricted to soldiers on active service or sailors away at sea. Indeed it has been estimated that around a third of wills were oral or nuncupative as they are known. So these wills are invaluable for family history research.

    Many wills were spoken verbally because they were made on the deathbed of the testator. The Statute of Frauds of 1678 specified that they had to be made in the testator’s own home in their last illness. Three witnesses were also required to be present who had to write down the words within six days and after fourteen days, present the will at a probate court. Genealogist can find these wills in local archives

    Many of those in their final days would have been incapable of handwriting their will (holographic) or organising a lawyer to write out a will on their behalf for them to sign. Many could not read and write and women, particularly widows, made a high proportion of nuncupative wills.

    Not surprisingly, many of these wills were the subject of dispute in the ecclesiastical courts. Relatives who received nothing would argue that the will was not valid, for if an administration was ordered, they could receive part of the estate. Records of these disputes often contain information that is of genealogical value. and give us a clue to the the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors

  3. Old Occupational Terms

    As you study your family history you may come across terms that we no longer use. This is especially true of occupations where trades are no longer practised or the terms has fallen out of use. For instance a Fellmonger. This was a dealer in hides, most commonly sheep skins. They would also prepare the hides for tanning. The word comes from from the Old English ‘fell’ meaning skins and ‘monger’ meaning dealer. A good reference source for genealogists to find out the meaning of  archaic words and phrases is The Oxford English Dictionary.

  4. Professional Family History Research

    Are you thinking of engaging a professional genealogist?  There can be lots of advantages to doing this, from ensuring that a correct line is traced, to being able to access genealogical records not available online.

    There is a wealth of genealogical sources available online, but shifting through what is relevant to your family line can be difficult.  This is particularly the case when dealing with widespread surnames such as Smith and Jones.  It is essential to provide proof that every stage of research is correct.  For example, when looking for a John Jones born in Cardiff, it is extremely likely that there will be more than one candidate of the right age, and so proofs that the right Jones family is being traced is essential.

    Professional genealogists have years of experience in the field, and usually possess a qualification in genealogy, such as those offered by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (the Higher Certificate or Diploma in Genealogy) or from the University of Strathclyde.  If you are thinking of commissioning a professional genealogist to undertake research on your family tree, or to verify research already undertaken, why not contact us today to see how we can help.

  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. Spring clean your family history

    Today at our headquarters in Kent the sun is streaming in!  So why not be inspired by the good weather to dust off your family history files, and have another crack at those “brick walls”?

    Sometimes sitting tight on research and taking stock before revisiting it at a later time can work wonders.  Those ancestors which were so elusive may come out of the cracks, perhaps with an inspired guess at a surname variant a clergyman or transcriber may have inadvertently used, for example.

    Alternatively, if those brick walls are proving hard to bring down, contact us today for a one-to-one chat with a genealogist.

  7. Place of abode? “here”

    Pre-printed baptism and burial registers were introduced after George Rose’s Act of 1812.  This meant that standardised information was given, whereas before it was up to the officiating clergyman how much, or little, he gave within the parish registers.

    One of the pieces of information asked for in parish registers after 1812, in both baptism and burial records, was for the “abode”, or address, of where the person in question lived.  In cities a specific street may be given, although often in more rural areas, just the name of the parish might be stated.

    In one case, our genealogists were looking at burials in the village of Sawbridgeworth, in Hertfordshire.  For place of abode, “here” was stated for most entries.  This was a rural parish, clearly with very few outsiders, who presumably would have been from over “there”!

    Sawbridgeworth burial register

  8. Family history . . . . of a piano?

    Last week genealogist Liz Yule obtained a piano.  One was going spare and it seemed like a good idea.  As a historian, of course, the first question is how old is it?  Followed by where did it come from?  Apparently it was around 60 years old.  But why not find out more?!

    The maker is one “C H Wood and Co, Hollinwood”.  So a piano from Manchester then. Research then revealed that C H Wood was one Charles Henry Wood, who died relatively young in 1901.  His daughter continued the business alongside family member John Bainbridge, but kept the name C H Wood.  When Charles died he left an estate worth around £2000: fifty years later at the death of John Bainbridge, he left over £100,000.  The piano business clearly served the Wood family well, and it is clear Liz’s piano was built under the tenure of John Bainbridge.

    And the future of the piano business?  On John’s death his two sons were working as a solicitor and a chemist respectively, so it appears that the business possibly died with him.

  9. Festive surnames

    Genealogist Liz Yule is used to festive jokes about her surname, but Yule is just one of a number of seasonal surnames that exist.  Christmas is of course the most festive example, particularly when coupled with the forename Mary.  But how about Bell, White or Snow?  Or those representing festive blooms, such as Ivy.

    Forenames can also be festive.  Our searchers have found two births registered with the forename Mistletoe, for example: Mistletoe Ellis was born in 1906 in Hampshire, whilst Mistletoe Spencer was born in 1910 in Doncaster.

    If you have festive or unusual names in your family tree, why not contact us to find out about researching your ancestry.

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