News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Causes of death in genealogical records

    Until General Registration began in 1837, it was up the clergyman recording a burial as to whether a cause of death was provided (it rarely was noted in the register, and never after 1813 when pre-printed burial registers were introduced). One of our genealogists working on a case this week came across a parish register where causes of death were being recorded however, and they make fascinating reading.

    The most common causes of death given were: fever, decay, and decline,  Other causes of death given on just two parish registers pages included: convulsions, abscess, inflammation, whooping cough, jaundice, dropsy, as well as being burnt, drowned and killed by a fall from a horse.  Some of these were specific, recognisable conditions (or accidents) to us today, although some were a little more unspecific, including the cause of death shown here of a “stoppage”.

    This poor lady died aged forty-four, of a “stoppage”, and modern minds can only wince at what this might have meant for her. Genealogy is a fascinating pursuit, but it can also highlight the benefits of living in the twenty-first century!

  2. Libeahthe . . . is this Elizabeth or Liberty?

    Whilst undertaking some family history research in Somerset this week, one of our genealogists chanced across a baptism with a very unusual forename. Spelling variants are by no means unusual within parish registers, particularly when so many people were illiterate and would not have been able to correct the clergyman recording the information, although in this case it was a little unclear what name was meant.

    The baptism of one child, in 1785, seems to have foxed the person the recording the information and “Libeahthe” was recorded.

    Was this the minister’s spelling of the unusual forename Liberty, which he wasn’t sure how to spell? Or was the name Elizabeth being attempted but he was having an off day? Was he interrupted whilst recording the baptism, or were the parents clear that this was the name they meant?  For now, clearly more research is required in the parish register to ascertain her forename!

     

  3. Military Records day course

    Most of us will have ancestors who served in the armed forces at some time, and military records can provide information not only into your ancestor’s life whilst in the military but can also give essential genealogical information to help extend your family tree.

    Our sister organisation, the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, is holding a day course entitled “Military Records – Army, RAF and Royal Navy” on Monday 23rd April at our headquarters in Canterbury.  The course will cover the 18th to 21st centuries and will discuss both online and original sources. The day will be led by Les Mitchinson, IHGS Director of Education and Vice Chair of AGRA.

    Click here to find out more information, and to book a place on this course.

  4. Thinking of becoming a professional genealogist?

    If you have ever thought of becoming a professional genealogist, our day course entitled “The Professional Approach” may be for you. Run by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies together with other professionals working in the field, there are only a few places on this popular day course left.

    It seeks to cover all aspects of working as a professional family historian, from how to acquire clients to what to charge. Meet others in the same position, and share ideas and experiences. Click here to find out more.

  5. The genealogical problem of Titanic’s Rose

    Whilst re-watching the epic film Titanic this weekend, it struck me how the life of the central character, Rose DeWitt Bukater, is a good example of how a genealogical “brick wall” can come about.

    Rose boards the Titanic with her mother Ruth, finance Cal Hockley, and their servants. She would have been recorded on the shipping records as Rose DeWitt Bukater. She falls out with her finance during the voyage, and meets Jack Dawson. Once the ship has sunk, she chooses to give her name to the authorities as Rose Dawson: thus there is no Rose DeWitt Bukater recorded on the surviving passenger records.

    Although this is a fictional story, the fact that Rose changed her name and effectively re-invented herself after moving to America is a scenario that happened time and time again. Rose would simply have claimed that she lost everything on board, and giving herself a new name would have been simple. Her family were in England, so who was there to know about her old life?

    Anyone researching a real Rose could easily come up against a “brick wall” when a change of name occurred. In reality however, names were often changed to something familiar, such as a mother’s maiden name. In this case, Rose takes Jack’s surname, even though he dies at the time of the sinking.

    If you have your own “brick wall” which needs breaking down, why not contact us today for a free quote.

  6. What’s in a name – plum to plumb

    Hawk-eyed visitors to this website may have noticed a slight spelling variant in our festive item about the plum(b) pudding riots. In fact, research into this word as a surname reveals some interesting statistics.

    Oxford University Press’ A Dictionary of Surnames states that the surname Plum originated as a “topographic name for someone who lived by a plum tree”.  Variants of this name include Plumb and Plum(b)e.

    When considering the use of both Plum and Plumb as surnames, it appears that the latter is a much more widespread name: in the General Registration birth indexes 1837-1915 there are over 6000 Plumb births registered, but less than 1000 Plums.

    Thus our ancestors would have been familiar with both spellings, with Plumb the more widely used. In the 1650s, when the riots against Puritan Christmas sobriety took place, plums and plumbs would have been interchangeable!

  7. New Year’s resolutions . . . in family history

    January 1st is often a day where resolutions are made. Old habits are given the boot, new ones are ushered in.  How long they are kept to, however, is another thing.

    Why not make a New Year’s resolution to last? If you have always wondered about your family history, why not contact us today to find out more.  Make it this year’s task to find out where your roots are. Whether it is an unusual surname or a family legend to investigate, we are here to help you unearth your genealogy.

  8. Still struggling for a Christmas present?

    Are you still struggling to think of something special to give that someone special for Christmas? Do they have everything including the kitchen sink, and you don’t know what to get them?

    Why not think of giving them their family history for Christmas. Family history research is a unique gift to give a loved one, and one that they can keep forever, and pass on to other family members.

    Contact us today to find out more about our Christmas gift certificates.

  9. A perfect gift for Christmas

    Are you stuck for a gift idea for a loved one this Christmas?  Someone who is hard to buy for, or seems to have everything? Well worry no more, for why give them a gift certificate to have their family history traced for Christmas.  This is a truly unique present, and one that they will remember forever.

    We provide a stylish A4 certificate that can be given on Christmas day, and we can then liaise with them in the New Year to find out their particular areas of interest to start the genealogical investigation.

    Contact us today to find out more about purchasing a gift certificate for family history research for Christmas.

  10. 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.

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