News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. 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.

  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. Obituaries, death notices and funeral notices.

    Increasingly newspaper records are being indexed and digitised, and these can be really helpful for genealogists.  Family notices can provide information on dates of birth, marriage and death, and obituaries can provide detailed histories of a specific person.

    As well as notices of birth, marriage and death, there were often reports of funerals in local newspapers, which can give a wealth of genealogical information, which may not even be provided in an obituary.  An example here is taken from the Bury Free Press, of 24th December 1932.

    It starts with information on the deceased, including address, age and where they were buried:

    Dorothy information

    And continues with precise details on the family mourners present at the funeral, including sons, married daughters and daughters in law, as well as grandchildren.  Helpfully places are given for those living away from Bury St Edmunds:

    Family mourners

    Additional details from this one funeral notice include a floral tribute from the “broken-hearted” widower:

    Floral Tributes

    Thus, newspaper records in general and funeral reports in particular can be invaluable when looking for additional details regarding our family history.

  4. Family history based comedy at Canterbury Festival

    Ever wondered about a family history based comedy routine?  Well now you don’t have to, as Mark Steel brings his show “Mark Steel: Who Do I Think I Am” to the Canterbury Festival this year.  Based on his experiences of finding out about his birth parents, this is surely not to be missed by any genealogist fans of comedy.  The Festival guide describes it as “a surprising and enthralling story” and we cannot wait!

    The show is being held on 30th October at The King’s School in Canterbury, and further information can be found on the Festival website here.

  5. Death by . . . .gravel?!

    An intriguing cause of death was found this week by one of our researchers on a Scottish burial record of 1845.  In the “cause of death” column, the word “gravel” was given.  Other people on the same page died of things such as “paralysis” and “consumption”, but what on earth was “gravel”?

    Gravel death description

    In fact, further research suggested that “gravel” was a word for the modern equivalent of kidney stones.  A good example of how family history can always throw up new terms to investigate!

  6. New series of Long Lost Family and Who Do You Think You Are?

    Evenings will be filled with genealogy on television this summer, with the return of the tear-jerking Long Lost Family tonight, and the announcement of who will feature in the new series of Who Do You Think You Are?

    The television guides promise an emotional start to the new series of Long Lost Family, whilst we cannot wait to see what hides in the family trees of the likes of Greg Davies and Ricky Tomlinson.  Roll on summer we say!

  7. Newspaper records in tracing ancestors

    Family historians will naturally gravitate towards records of General Registration and census returns when tracing nineteenth century ancestors.  These, of course, provide an essential backbone to any family tree, and a framework from which to work.

    It is always interesting to “flesh out” that family tree however, and newspaper records can be a really excellent resource.  As well as including birth, marriage and death notices, full obituaries may be found, detailing an ancestor’s life.  As well as this, advertisements could give clues to businesses which were run by our predecessors, or even if they were caught breaking the law. The results of local quarter and petty sessions were regularly reported on, and it is certainly interesting to see what type of offences were reported by the local newspaper.

    One of our genealogists has traced her own family in newspaper records, the results of which can be viewed here.  From wife abandonment to stealing turnips, newspaper records offer a varied and interesting view of our ancestors lives!

  8. 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.

  9. Family names in genealogy

    Genealogists will often find that naming patterns are much more prominent in their ancestry that in more modern generations.  The same forenames were often passed down to each generation in turn, be it the more usual John and William, or perhaps more unusual forenames.  Indeed, it can be such naming patterns which can help prove a family tree, when other evidence is missing.

    During recent research in the parish of Felsted, Essex, one of our genealogists came across several interesting forenames repeated in the family being researched.  In particular, the forename Esdras appeared in the late eighteenth century, and was in almost every generation back to the early 1600s.  This intriguing name is a Latin version of the biblical Ezra, and it was clearly important to the family to pass this name on.

    A later Esdras at Felsted was married to a lady named Summers, and the couple passed her forename on to their own daughter.  Whilst Esdras was a biblical name, it was likely that Summers was named for a maternal surname in her family tree, for this is more usually found as a surname.

    Another example of a surname being used as a forename is the instance in the neighboring parish of Stebbing, Essex, of the baptism of Loveday Chopping in 1771.  Loveday is more usually found as a surname, and again had clearly been passed down as a forename as a memorial of a branch of the family.

    So if you have any more unusual forenames in your family history, investigate further and see how long they have been present, and where they may have originated!

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