News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. 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.


  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  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. New GRO Indexes

    The General Register Office has launched its own version of birth indexes, 1837-1915, and deaths indexes, 1837-1957. See

    These indexes have been created independently from other online indexes. They were made from the register images, so avoiding errors you may find on other genealogical websites (although they may have made new ones!).

    The new indexes are significant as they are the first to include the mother’s maiden name before 1911 and ages at death before 1866.  This will make family history research easier, No more buying a death certificate not knowing if the age matches your ancestor.

    A downside to the indexes is that they will only allow a search for a given  year plus two either side.

    In the future they should be extending the indexes available and adding an option to purchase the certificate as a PDF. This is currently being trialed.

  6. New free Irish General Register Office records online

    Yesterday was an exciting day in the genealogical world: Irish General Registration records became available online for free, via the website  Not just the indexes, but the images of these records as well.  Beforehand, once a likely indexed entry had been found, the documents itself had to be ordered from the relevant authorities.

    Now however, birth certificates for over 100 years ago, marriages for over 75 years ago, and deaths for over 50 years ago, are available to search and view online, at no cost.  Officially these are being launched tonight, although the search engine already appears to be up and running.

    And what a boon to research in Ireland this will be!  This is particularly the case when researching widespread surnames, where you may have found several possible birth certificates.  Instead of laboriously, and at some cost, ordering each certificate to see if it is relevant, it will be available online, at no cost.

    The search engine appears relatively easy to navigate, and we all look forward to tracing Irish family history in the future!

  7. The surname Poldark . . . . ?

    The epic adaptation of the Winston Graham novels about Ross Poldark has, finally, come back to our televisions on Sunday nights.  Set in Cornwall, they portray brooding Ross Poldark’s shenanigans with his mine business, and relationships.

    But what of the surname Poldark?  Is it really a Cornish name?  Well no, is the short answer.  Searches of records of General Registration for the 19th century do not find one reference to the surname whatsoever, in Cornwall or otherwise.

    Similarly, searches of the International Genealogical Index, being transcripts of registers of parishes across every county in England, reveals no reference to the surname at all.  The closest to the surname are some sixteenth century isolated examples of variants including Poltord, Poltrid and Paltork.

    A similar situation emerges when considering the surname of Ross Poldark’s arch rival, George Warleggan.  Warleggan just does not appear as a surname within modern genealogical sources, or indeed within the International Genealogical Index.  Variants that do emerge include Worlech, Worlock and Warling, although it appears that in the end both Warleggan and Poldark were created for Graham’s books.

  8. Born during a thunderstorm?

    The theme of the week has been forenames representing weather events, and today’s focus is on the name Storm.  The first instance of Storm as a forename in General Registration, which began in July 1837, is the marriage of a Storm Beard in 1839 in Bath.  Storm is a British surname, so it is possible that he was named after a maternal surname in his family tree.  Alternatively, he may simply have been born during some memorable weather!

    This seems to be the case for Stormy Thompson who was born in Sunderland in 1851, and who died just a year later.  Perhaps the most interesting name found during this search is Stormy Petrel Hodgson, born in 1887 in Poplar.  Whilst this child was born in London, perhaps it’s parents had an affinity with marine life as well as the weather!

    Storm is more usually found as a surname, and intriguingly the first Storm entry in General Registration is the death of one Christmas Storm in 1837 in Yorkshire.  What a name combination!

  9. A son or daughter named Rainbow?

    Today’s weather in Kent has lost it’s appeal!  Rain has been coming down all morning, and looks set to stay in for the day.  Whereas last week we looked at the name Spring when used as a forename, today we considered the name Rain and Rainbow.

    Very few children were called “Rain” when looking in the General Registration birth indexes, although Rainbow appeared with more frequency.  As with the name Spring, it appeared to be used as both a boy and girls name.  This unusual choice of forename may have been inspired by a particularly spectacular rainbow appearing at the time of their birth, perhaps after a storm.

    Equally however, further research suggests that the surname Rainbow appears with more frequency, with nearly 4000 birth entries for the period 1837-1930.  Family commemoration may also have influenced the giving of Rainbow as a first name, as much as unusual weather.  Either way, surely this forename would have been shortened to “Rain” by friends and family?!

  10. Boadiceas in General Registration

    In any family tree research, surprises can await at any turn of the genealogical research process.  This week one of our genealogists was researching an Evans family in Wales and Somerset.  They were relatively mobile, but nothing out of the ordinary.

    But the 1871 census showed that the parents John and Eliza Evans had named their daughter “Boadicia”.  What prompted them to give their daughter the name of this historic Celtic warrior?  Whatever it was, it certainly makes genealogical research more straightforward when dealing with such a rare forename.

    In fact, searches of birth records of General Registration reveal that there were 120 children given this forename, from 1837 to 1915.  Spellings vary, including Boadicia and Boadicea, but the Queen of the Iceni from the 1st century AD has clearly been remembered in our ancestors’ naming patterns of the nineteenth century.



December 2018
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