News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Pets in the 1911 census

    When Frances Catherine Stone was filling in her 1911 census enumeration form, she showed that she was a single woman and the head of the household.  No other people were recorded, but she chose to name her dearly beloved cat and dog, presumably who she considered to be equal residents of the property.  So below her name, was recorded “Timothy the cat” who was seven years old, and “Jack the dog” aged 8.

    Timothy the cat, Jack the dog

    The census indexer has included them under these names in the indexing process, although other searches for “dog” and “cat” do not find any further pets listed in the index itself.

    Do you have ancestors who loved their animals enough to record them in genealogical records?  Why not find out by contacting us to find our more on your family tree.

  2. Do you have a Happy Woddle in your family tree?!

    Genealogy can uncover all kinds of odd forenames and surnames.  Children named after battles, maternal surnames or even train stations  can make a change from the usual line of Johns, Marys and Williams.

    Whilst researching a family in Kent this week, one of our genealogists unearthed a gem of a name: Happy Woddle (or Waddle in some sources) was baptised at Hawkhurst in 1833, and married in Kent in 1857.  We wonder whose chose her interesting name!  She appears on the 1851 census, as below.

    happy woddle

    Do you have an interesting name in your family history you would like to research?  Contact us today to find out more.

  3. Dates of birth in wills

    Probate records can be an excellent source of information for family historians, sometimes providing information over several generations.  They can confirm family relationships over a large distance, from different counties or even countries, and provide the proofs required that a particular family is the correct one being traced.

    However, they do not normally provide exact dates of birth, either of the testator or any beneficiaries mentioned.  Children and young adults were usually described as simply being under the age of twenty one, and sometimes in age order, such as “my eldest son”, “my second son” etc.

    But one will examined recently by our research team was unusual in that the testator, William Innes, included exact details which he wished to include on a memorial table to be put up in his memory, and that of his wife.  Perhaps he did not trust his executors to get the details right, and he included his date and place of birth, as well as marriage, within the will itself.


    William Innes’ date of birth is given at the beginning of the fourth line, and his marriage date in the middle of the fifth line.

    It just goes to show that whilst generalities can be made within genealogy, you never know what the next document will show!

  4. Always check the original . . .

    Whilst carrying out family history research, indexes are undoubtedly extremely useful, not to mention time and cost saving.  A search of a parish register can take just a few minutes, or even seconds, to cover several hundred years looking for all occasions of a particular surname.

    But it is always essential to check the indexed entry against the original.  It could be that details have been transcribed incorrectly, such as a name or a date, but as well as this it could be that additional information is included in the register that has  been omitted by the transcriber.  Such information could be an occupation, the circumstances in which the event took place, information about bad weather or other local events.  This can add to our knowledge of our ancestors lives, and bring alive events which otherwise could be just a list of names.

    One example is that of John Duncalfe, who was buried in St Mary, Kingswinford, Staffordshire, in 1677.  His burial entry is included within the National Burial Index with simply his name and date of burial.

    But when the original parish register entry is examined, a fascinating story emerges.  In fact, he had recently stolen a bible and as a result, his hands and legs had rotted, causing his death.  The story is elaborated on at length by the parish incumbent, beginning “John Duncalfe the man that did rott both hands and leggs was buried who confessed hee stole a bible . . . .”

    Often these additional details can lead to further research in other sources to find out more about the particular incident.  In the case of John Duncalfe, it appears that his bible stealing became famous both locally and nationally, after his story was the subject of a sermon by a local preacher, which was subsequently published.

    Without looking at the original register, the death of John Duncalfe could have been recorded as simply another name and date.

  5. Missing birth records?

    There can be all sorts of reasons why a birth certificate cannot be found within records of General Registration.  The GRO was set up in 1837, and was the first time all births, marriages and deaths were systematically recorded by a non-religious body.

    But sometimes entries, particularly births, may not be forthcoming despite careful searches.  It could be that a birth was not registered, which is more likely in the earlier years of civil registration.  However, before concluding that this is the case, it is important to make sure that all possible scenarios are covered.

    Was the birth registered with a variant spelling, of the forename or surname?  For example the name Smith could be rendered Smyth or Smythe.  And Ann could be Anna, Annie or Anne.  Using the wildcard option within search engines can help find spelling variants.

    Did the birth take place prior to the parents marriage?  In this case, it would probably be recorded under the mother’s maiden surname.

    Check the dates searched – was your ancestor a little older, or younger, than later records suggest?

    Was your ancestor born outside of England or Wales, such as in Scotland, Ireland or even farther afield?

    Using these tips, searches of civil registration can be made a comprehensive as possible.

  6. Who is the head of the household?

    Why is it always men who are named as the head of the household in census returns?  Even if they are not present, such as working away from home on the night the census was taken, their wives at home were still sometimes recorded as the “wife” rather than the “head”.

    Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule! 1861


    Here in 1861, Delphine (incorrectly spelled as Deplin) Halke is named as the the head of the household, whilst her husband William is recorded as her husband.  So often in genealogy women are listed secondly, separately or not at all, so it is refreshing to find enumerations like this!



December 2018
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