Talk Success!

Thank you to everyone that came to my talk last night in the Events Suite at the Hereford Campus, Folly Lane, covering an Introduction to Family History. It attracted approximately 40 people, keen to either start or develop their own family histories.

Many thanks also to Herefordshire Family History Society who came with their stall to spread the news about Herefordshire’s vibrant genealogy community.

If you couldn’t make it last night but would like a copy of the presentation, please email me.

Feedback from the event:

“I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful presentation. I’ve talked about it/ you all day. I’m so glad I came along.”

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No Paying to Access County Archives

There has  been a disturbing new development from Northamptonshire Archives which is  planning to charge £31.50 per hour to access their archives. This price is just to visit the archives and conduct your own research.

Free access to the archives will be limited to a mere 12 hours per week.

This will have a massive impact on the way that we use the archives either as amateur family historians or as professionals.

  • Access to the free slots will be highly contended which will put people off in the long term and make them more reliant on online sources.  This reduction in visitors would then provide a rationale for further cuts in the archives service.

 

  • Genealogy will become a hobby from which people are excluded due to the cost.  Finding the correct record you need is rarely a straightforward process and so you will incur major costs.

 

  • Hiring a professional researcher will also beome cost prohibitive if they have to add the cost of accessing the archives onto their hourly rate.

 

  • There should be the right to access freely the documents that record our lives and those of our ancestors and members of our local community.  Local history would also struggle with limited access to archives and we would miss out on the rich tapestry of information that they have to offer.

 

A petition opposing the plans and calling for a rethink has been set up by Dr. Mary Ann Lund from the University of Leicester. If you do one thing today, please seriously consider signing the petition – it is available at https://www.change.org/p/northamptonshire-county-council-northamptonshire-county-council-don-t-charge-for-visiting-archives.

Introduction to Post Medieval Deeds

After recently completeing an online course with Pharos Tutors on Deeds and Disputes with Susan Moore, I have written an Introduction to post Medieval deeds.

Deeds are some of the most widely available and useful records held in archives.  Some can even date back as far as the 12th century.[i]  They are, however, often neglected partly because the legal language can be difficult to understand and partly due to the fact that before 1733 they were written in Latin.

Deeds are legal documents which are concerned with the ownership or possession of property, usually land or houses but can also include marriage settlements and mortgages.  You might be tempted to think that your ancestors would not have been rich enough to own property but even people of the most humble origin would have a little land such as a cottage and a field  and many people would have leased such property.  Even yeoman farmers might rent their farms for generations.[ii]

To read the rest of the article, email me and I will send you it in pdf format

 

[i] Durie. P. 239

[ii] Alcock. P. 20

Poor Relief Records

Want to find out more about using Poor Relief Records in England before 1834?

Then email me for a copy of my latest article.

Here is the first parargraph:

Parish records do not consist solely of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials.  There is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from the documents used by the parishes to administer themselves efficiently.  In this article I will briefly touch upon the work of the parish and then concentrate on how documents relating to poor relief can be invaluable when researching your ancestors.

Records of UK Civil Internment in WWII

Last night I attended a webinar held by The National Archives on civil internment during World War 2.  Recently, in collaboration with FindmyPast, the archives have digitised and released their collection so it is much easier to discover more about any relatives that may be involved.  133,908 people from World War Two are included.

Enemy Aliens were people who were born in or had family connections to those countries that were allied against Britain in World War 2.  These included people from Germany, Italy, Japan, Austria, Finland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and more.  British women who had married men from these countries were also classed as enemy aliens.

120 tribunals took place across the UK, with 11 in North West London alone.  They were usually headed by judges, magistrates or other prominent members of the community.  Individuals were interviewed and then classed as one of three categories:

Category A                They would be interned in a camp

Category B                They would not be interned but special restrictions would be placed.

Category C                No internment and no restrictions.

The typical tribunal index card produced for enemy aliens contains the following information:

Full name

Place and date of birth

Nationality

Police card reg. number.  All aliens had to register with their local police force and were issued a card.  Many do not survive but if they do they will be held at local records offices or police archives.  TNA has cards for the London Metropolitan area.

Home Office reference number.  This can be really important as it will link to their Home Office file which has more information on the individual.  If you have a reference then type it into in the National Archives catalogue search and any records surviving will be listed.

Address

Occupation

Name and address of employer

Decision of tribunal and date

The back of the card explains reasons for the decision, which camp they were sent too and other details such as family background.  This is usually closed until 100 years after they were discharged as enemy aliens.  This can be as late as 1959.  If the person is deceased, you can however make a Freedom of Information request to have it opened.

Using UK Historical Directories for Family History

Did you know that a Herring Curer operated in Herefordshire in 1913?  Or that in St. Owen’s street Hereford you could find an artificial arm & leg manufacturer in 1890?  Fascinating details like this can be found in historical directories which as well as helping to identify individuals can also give a context to the life of your ancestor.

Historical directories comprise of two distinct types of publication: Trade directories and postal directories.  As the 19th century progressed these types of directories became identical in format but there are significant differences especially when the first trade directories were produced.

The first directory of London merchants was published in 1677 and London directories were published annually from 1734.[1]  A directory for Birmingham was produced in 1763 and the first county directory (for Hampshire) was published in 1784.[2]

Early directories were usually aimed at commercial travellers and typically contained general descriptions of a city, town or village and its communications (stagecoach and later, railway connections).  An entry for a place then listed its churches, inns, prominent residents, farmers, shopkeepers and other traders.  These trade directories included only the wealthier (or notable) residents.  Research has shown that a typical early 19th century trade directory contained only about 6% of the population of the area.[3]  As the 19th century progressed trade directories began to include more names and addresses of private residents whether or not they were wealthy.

The names in many early directories were obtained by personal visits or through local agents paid for the task.[4]  Those involved were often local printers and booksellers, tax and post office officials and agents for insurance companies.[5]  The number of directories increased greatly in the 19th century due to the abolition of the paper tax and a rise in general literacy, covering a county, a range of counties or a city.

Directories with names and addresses of private citizens also helped with the addressing of post and Kelly & Co started to produce Post Office directories of provincial towns and counties in 1845.[6]  The publication of these directories carried on until the 1970s when they were superseded by telephone directories.[7]

 

Directories and the Census Returns

Directories were published more frequently than the census and so they can be used to complement census information.  Information that can be found includes:

  • Confirmation of a person’s address
  • Additional details relating to craftsmen, traders and businessmen who had set up a business on their own account
  • The fortunes of an individual family through several generations
  • Lists of secondary occupations of male householders, such as part-time or seasonal work
  • Relatively comprehensive records of male householders in directories from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
  • A series of directories can show changes in the name of the business, perhaps when it was formed and indeed when it was dissolved. This could lead onto a search in the London or Edinburgh Gazette for either bankruptcy or dissolution of a partnership.
  • An advert in a directory may give details about the actual business, sometimes even picturing the premises and examples of its products
  • A directory’s description of cities, towns or large villages can provide context for the lives of your ancestors. It can provide details about local industries, population, charities, postal deliveries, transport links and schools.[8]

By 1850 the directories were becoming larger and larger and were usually divided into the following sections:[9]

  • Alphabetical lists for particular trades or businesses.
  • Lists of tradesmen and residents arranged by streets.
  • Listing local government and court officials or dignitaries.

Otherwise the entries are usually listed alphabetically by name of settlement.

Beware!

It would be wrong to think of directories as either precise or wholly accurate.  Directories could be out of date usually by about a year by the time they were published.[10]  Added to this some publishers reprinted information from the previous year’s directory without checking it first.  Some even found their entries from other firm’s directories so mistakes could be compounded over time.

In the early directories the general introduction to each town is then followed by listings of the local bigwigs – landowners and gentry; clergy; doctors and lawyers and possibly their widows.  Only then do you get the lists of people in trade.  Unless your ancestors fit into one of these categories their names are unlikely to appear in the early directories, as they don’t include any labourers, servants, shop assistants, clerks or other employees.  As you move through the 19th century however, directories start to include street directories and surname listings for heads of households and so gradually included a much wider section of the population.

Villages and hamlets also had limited coverage in early directories, often receiving only a brief mention with one or two names, attached to the entry for the nearest sizeable town.

 

Accessing Directories

Herefordshire libraries have a range of directories both to borrow and to use as reference.  These range from the beginning of the 19th century to approximately the end of the 1930’s and can include Herefordshire as its own volume or as a combination with other counties such as Shropshire and Gloucestershire.  Ledbury library also has a range of Tilley’s almanacs that were produced just for Ledbury and its surroundings.  Herefordshire Archive and Record centre also has a good range of directories on its open shelves that can be accessed freely.

Online

Although the University of Leicester’s wonderful Historical Directories website was withdrawn in March 2014, the information is still available for free as part of their Special Collections online. The directories cover England and Wales from the 1760s to the 1910s and although a little cumbersome to use, are still a great resource.  The directories can be browsed by location and either viewed online one page at a time or downloaded and accessed via a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader.  You can also search the directories for  names, towns, villages and occupations but if you are looking for a common name it is much easier to look at the actual directories themselves.

Ancestry also has a number of City and County Directories available from 1766 – 1946 including a limited number from the Channel Islands, Wales and Scotland.  Individual Herefordshire directories on Ancestry begin in 1830 and are available at regular intervals until 1913.  There is also a 1934 directory available.  However caution must be used when searching these directories as the index was created using text recognition software. i.e. the records were not transcribed.  This can sometimes give interesting returns to a search especially on some of the earlier directories.

Scottish Post Office directories

Scottish Post Office directories are available for free from the National Library of Scotland’s website.    Online you can now access 694 directories for the period 1773 to 1911, covering 28 of Scotland’s towns and counties.

In each directory you can:

  • View page by page
  • View a PDF of the complete book
  • Search the full PDF text
  • Download files for free within our copyright regulations

Irish Post Office Directories

Street directories for Ulster begin to appear in the early 19th century and are available to search and browse for free on the website of the PRONI (http://www.proni.gov.uk).

FindmyPast has a wide range of Irish directories for the other provinces from the early 19th century onwards.

 

[1] Herber, Mark. ( 2004) Ancestral Trails. P.159. Sutton Publishing.

[2] Ibid. P.163.

[3] Ibid.. P.159

[4] FamilySearch. Directories in England & Wales. https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Directories_in_England_and_Wales

[5] Ibid.

[6] Herber, Mark. ( 2004) Ancestral Trails. P.163. Sutton Publishing.

[7] Ibid. P.159.

[8] Ibid. P.165.

[9] Herber, Mark. ( 2004) Ancestral Trails. P.160. Sutton Publishing.

[10] Ibid. P.163.

Futurelearn course on Irish history

I have just completed a free online course facilitated by Trinity College Dublin on Irish lives in War and Revolution: exploring Irish history 1912-23.

Using video tutorials , newsreels, articles, posters, diaries and songs, it takes you through the material that is availble on this period which is fascinating especially for those with Irish ancestry.  I have discovered many more sources of information that I will use to try and find out more on the O’Gradys.

Futurelearn do all kinds of courses for free including one on genealogy.  To find out more go to their website.

Alfred Watkins Collection of Historic Photographs

Have you ever heard of Alfred Watkins?  If not then you are missing out on some wonderful historical photographs of Herefordshire and its people.

Alfred Watkins (27th January 1855 – 15th April 1935) was a Herefordian businessman, photographer, author, self-taught amateur archaeologist, antiquarian and authority on beekeeping as well as founder member of the Woolhope Naturalist Field Club. He is famous for his work on ley lines.

He travelled extensively around Herefordshire, and took over 3000 photographs of rural life and surroundings.  At the moment there are 919 images aviable to view for free online.

http://www.herefordshirehistory.org.uk/archive/alfred-watkins-collection/alfred-watkins-images