News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. What is a “cess collector”?

    Sometimes an occupation on an historical record can bring you up short. Whilst researching genealogy all sorts of odd terms crop up, and this week it was the occupation of a county “cess collector” on a birth certificate.

    First thoughts turned to sewage, as in the more familiar “cesspit” but that did not feel right for the research.  In fact, the term “cess” is used to mean rate or tax, and comes from the word “assessment”, and so the father of this child was the local rate collector.


  2. The meaning of a Badger

    Names can have many origins and meanings. One example of this is a Badger.

    “Badgers” was a term used in Tudor times to refer to a licensed beggar. It is thought that the origin of the surname Badger derived from this occupation or from those whose who made bags.

    Another possible origin of the surname was as a habitation name taken from a  small parish in Shropshire.

    So if you are a Badger one of your earliest ancestors were either a peddle, a bag maker or from Shopshire. What is certain was they were not named after the animal!

    Just to complicate things further part of the Old Poor Law Settlement Act of 1697 required those receiving poor relief to wear a badge on their right shoulder bearing the letter “P” and as a results paupers became know as “badgers”. However this was long after surnames were established. This act stayed in force until 1810.

    The term badger was not used for the animal until the 16th Century. The earliest recorded use was in 1523. Before that, it was called a “brock” or “bauson”. National Badger day is the 6th October every year.


  3. More unusual occupational terms

    Finding out the meaning of an ancestors occupation can give you an insight into how they lived and lead to other sources for your genealogical research. Many occupations simply no longer exists. For example, a Higgler was an itinerant trader who bought and sold goods such as butter, cheese, poultry eggs and fish. Higglers and other travelling salesmen, such as peddlers and badgers (those who sold corn and grain), needed a licence. Licences were issued by the Justices of the Peace at the Quarter Sessions and the surviving records are held in local archives. Searching these records can add detail to your family tree and enhance your understanding of your ancestry.

  4. 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.

  5. Odd words in family history . . . . a pightle?

    Odd-sounding words can be found in all sorts of genealogical sources.  From occupations on census returns unrecognisable to us today, such as a puddler (someone who made iron) or ostler (working with horses), to local dialect words found in wills.

    One of our searchers found a more unusual word in a will of an East Anglian ancestor, being the term “pightle”, apparently referring to land.  In fact, this word refers to a small amount of land, being a field or enclosure.  It is particularly used in Norfolk, where the word can be found as the name of a property, or small road.

  6. A stranger in the parish

    If you see the term “stranger” in a parish register this might refer to a Huguenot. Huguenots began arriving in England from the Spanish Netherlands during the reign of Elizabeth I, seeking refuge from persecution. Many settled in Norwich, where they had been invited by the city authorities. Indeed at one time they accounted for a third of the city’s population. Their earliest church was established in 1550 at Threadneedle Street. After the Revoking of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Louis XIV of France, their numbers increased and it is thought that about 50,000 Huguenots arrived in England. So many of us may have Huguenots in our family trees. They brought with them new skills, especially in weaving (particularly silk), gold and silversmithing, clockmaking, furniture making, printing bookbinding and papermaking. Whilst the term strangers fell out of use as they established themselves in England, the legacy of the term “stranger” can still be seen in street signs and buildings. For example there is a Stranger’s Lane in Canterbury and the Mayors house Norwich is called Stranger’s Hall.

  7. More interesting newspaper records . . .

    Following our post from last week about what type of information can be found in newspapers, here is another snippet.  Whilst researching the Yule family of Scotland, an advert was found for James Yule, selling “Upper Peruvian Guano”.  That certainly wasn’t stated on the census entries for James, who was more usually recorded as a farmer.  Such adverts and newspaper snippets can provide additional information on what occupations our ancestors were practicing, and how they were diversifying their businesses!


    Yule advert

  8. Occupation in census . . . .”concubine”

    Genealogists and researchers will often find odd or unusual occupations within census returns.    One of our searchers this week came across a more unusual occupation when investigating the 1861 census.  Sarah Atkinson of Hull is shown as a “concubine”.  There is no partner present in the household, although there are two children.  She was clearly honest with the census enumerator, which is certainly less usual!

    Sarah Atkinson concubine

  9. Occupation in 1891 – “anything (out of work)”

    Census records often just record one occupation for the head of the household, even if he or she was undertakings several jobs.  Occasionally two may be recorded, such as “shoemaker and farmer”.

    Our searchers this week were investigating a Nunn family of Lambeth, where the father gave “anything” for his occupation in the 1891 census.  Unfortunately he was then out of work, so presumably he was really willing to do any job that came along!

    1891 census - occupation anything



December 2018
« Nov