Monday, 30 April 2012

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: Y is for Yeoman

A yeoman differed from landed gentry in one major way.  They both owned land (although the yeoman often owned substantially less!), but the yeoman would put his hand to till the earth whereas the landed gentry usually employed servants to do this for them.  Even the yeoman's wife would till the earth.

However, the term 'yeoman' was also applied to young sons of the gentry until they inherited their father's estate.  'Yeomanry' were volunteer cavalry regiments amalgamated in 1908 with other volunteers to form the Territorial Force.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: X is for eXtreme Genealogy

You've heard of extreme sports? even extreme ironing? so how about extreme genealogy?  The BBC defines Extreme Genealogy as the art and skill of DNA testing:

The firm is the brainchild of the Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, who [several] years ago published research showing that everyone of European extraction could trace their ancestry back to one of seven women who lived 40,000 years ago. Such was the demand from the public to know which of the "seven daughters of Eve" they were descended from, Professor Sykes spotted a business opportunity."

  • Europeans mostly come from one of seven women
  • About half are from Helena, who lived in the Pyrenees 20,000 years ago
  • Among non-Europeans, 29 such clans have been identified
  • These include 12 among those of African origin
  • Four among Native Americans
  • And nine among Japanese

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: W is for Window Tax

There have been many weird and wonderful taxes throughout the years: poll tax, land tax, hearth tax, hat tax (1784-1811) on men's hats, dice duty (1711–1862), almanac tax (1711–1834), wallpaper tax (1712–1836), glove tax (1785–94), hair-powder tax 1786–1869) and perfume tax (1786–1800).

So, how about this one? Window Tax.  Every household paid a basic 2 shillings; houses with between 10 and 20 windows paid 8 shillings, and the rates for large houses were increased in 1709.  In order to reduce the amount you had to pay, you might block up several windows (which is why you often see these blocked-up windows in old ruins).

In 1747 the Act was repealed and amended: now (as well as the basic 2 shillings) houses with 10 to 14 windows paid 6 pence per window; those with 15 to 19 paid 9 pence; and those with over 20 windows paid one shilling per window. [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p 302]

This tax was abolished in 1851.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: V is for Villein

[Yes, I can spell 'villain' as well].  The type of villein we are talking about owes nothing to the Hollywood baddie.  The original villein appeared in the period of history which deals with the Normans, and the status disappeared in about 1500.

Absolutely free (except to his feudal lord)
Held land hereditarily - and it included a house and a garden plot
Always employed: week work (regular agricultural work) and boon work (extra work, such as at harvest time)
Could hold a number of arable strips of land
Right to graze beasts
Right to receive a crop of hay from the meadow
Rent was fixed throughout the centuries

Could not bring a suit in the king's court
Could not marry without feudal lord's permission

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: U is for United Kingdom

I always get this mixed up - and I live here!

The full name is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", which is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

To include Southern Ireland, you need to talk about the British Isles.

One thing which frequently annoys me about various sites on the Internet is when you come to a drop-down menu (either for a search term or for payment/address details).  I have only ever seen one site use the term "England".  Otherwise, I live in the "United Kingdom".  Doesn't seem to matter that I am English, looking for an English ancestor who did not live in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or anywhere else.

Monday, 23 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: T is for Time Immemorial

You thought this was just a well-worn phrase that has entered the English language as something that "everyone says" when they mean something which has gone on forever, didn't you?  Well, I have done a little research on "time immemorial", and you may be surprised at the results.

"Time Immemorial" was actually a legal term which meant all time prior to the accession of Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in 1189.

In 1291, however, a person who "held a franchise without any charter of authority, but who could proved that he had possessed it from 'time whereof the memory of man runneth not the contrary' (i.e. 'time immemorial' or 'time out of mind') could be granted a charter for that franchise." [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p 283]

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: S is for Scanfest

Scanfest is a once-monthly excellent time for scanning all those one-day items ("I'll scan it one day").  It is usually held on the last Sunday of the month and hosted at the AnceStories blog.  The only downside I have found is that you tend to have so much fun chatting to others, that the scanning pile grows ever higher!

Here is a description of Scanfest from AnceStories:

"What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family documents and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin."

Friday, 20 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: R is for Ragged Schools

1818: John Pounds sets up the first Ragged School.  The name at least does give you some idea of what they were - schools set up to provide free education for the poor.

1844: Lord Shaftesbury organises an official union of Ragged Schools.

The Ragged School movement grew out of recognition that charitable and denominational schools were not beneficial for children in inner-city areas. Working in the poorest districts, teachers (who were often local working people) initially utilised stables, lofts, and railway arches for their classes. There was an emphasis on reading, writing, arithmetic, and study of the Bible. The curriculum expanded into industrial and commercial subjects in many schools.

1844-1881: around 300,000 children went through the London Ragged Schools alone.

1990: "A Ragged School Museum is housed in a group of three canalside buildings that once housed the largest Ragged School in London. It occupies buildings that were previously used by Dr Thomas Barnardo and is located on Copperfield Road in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets." [Wikipedia]

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: Q is for Quarter Days

These are the quarter days, which were when rents were paid and servants hired:

Lady Day - 25th March
Midsummer - 6th July until 1752, then 24th June
Michaelmas - 29th September
Christmas - 25th December

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: P is for Plymouth

"Often quoted, rarely acknowledged" is the tag line to the excellent Plymouth Data website run by Brian Moseley.  Containing over 2,000 pages of information on such varied subjects as churches, chapels, public houses, convents, nunneries, schools, roads, streets, and much more, this site is well worth a visit - and a long stay! (if you can ever tear yourself away from such intriguing pages as those devoted to sports, lighthouses, charities, air services, ambulance services, electricity, and earliest residents...)

The site does not restrict itself just to Plymouth.  Also encountered are Devonport and East Stonehouse, and also the ancient parishes of Saint Budeaux, Eggbuckland, Tamerton Foliot, Plympton Saint Maurice, Plympton Saint Mary and Plymstock, which make up the modern City of Plymouth, within the County of Devon, in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: O is for Online Parish Clerk

I am proud to be the Online Parish Clerk for Ottery St Mary, Devon, England, and am taking this opportunity to outline what an Online Parish Clerk actually is.  Taken from the GENUKI Devon page on this subject:

"The concept of an Online Parish Clerk (OPC), which originated in discussion on the CORNISH-L mailing list, involves identifying volunteers, one or more per Parish, who will act as a focus for gathering together transcriptions and name indexes related to that Parish (which are not already readily available elsewhere). The notion of Online Parish Clerks should in no way be confused with that of the official (i.e. Parish Council-appointed) Parish Clerks. All OPCs are unpaid volunteers who are willing to assist others in their genealogical research...The term OPC as used here, refers to a repositor of genealogically related materials such as (but not limited to) Church register transcripts, land tax assessments and census information, and the OPC should in no way be confused with the County Council appointed Parish Clerks. All OPCs are unpaid volunteers who are willing to assist others in their genealogical research."

Currently, there are Online Parish Clerk schemes running in the following counties: Cornwall, Dorset, Kent, Somerset, Sussex, Warwickshire, and Wiltshire.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: N is for Noble

No, I'm not talking about nobility here - aristocracy and all that.  The noble was a gold coin that was valued at 6 shillings and 8 pence, and was first produced in 1351.

One side showed the image of the king (Edward III at that time) in a ship, and on the reverse was a floriate cross.

Edward III noble: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc:

"Edward IV added a rose to the ship (from which it was called a rose-noble) and raised its value to 10 shillings.  At the same time, he introduced a new coin, the angel, valued at 6 shillings and 8 pence." [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p200]

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: M is for Monumental Inscription

A monumental inscription is the writing on a gravestone.  Sometimes it just gives the name of the deceased and their dates, but there was quite a fashion at one time to add a scripture, or write some flowery verses.  Here are some of my favourites:

"Here lies John Yeast,
Pardon me for not rising."
Ruidoso Cemetery, New Mexico

Under the sod and under the trees
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there's only the pod:
Pease shelled out and went to God
On a grave from the 1880's in Nantucket, Massachusetts

It wasn't the cough, that carried him off. It was the coffin they carried him off in.

Here lies an Atheist All dressed up and no place to go.
Thurmont, Maryland

Don't weep for me, Eliza dear,
I am not dead, but sleeping here.
As I am now so you must be,
Prepare for death and follow me.

To follow you I'm not content Until I know which way you went!

And Spike Milligan's monumental inscription: I Told You I Was Ill - but this was disallowed by St Thomas Church in Winchelsea, East Sussex.  So it was written in Irish! (Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite)

Friday, 13 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: L is for Lammas

From Wikipedia:

"In some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1 is Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mass, "loaf-mas"), the festival of the wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide. The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo-Saxon England it might be employed afterwards to work magic: A book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called "the feast of first fruits". The blessing of first fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the first or the sixth of August (the latter being the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ)."

It has also been noted that the word 'Lammas' may have originated from 'Lattermath', meaning a second mowing.  Lammas land was land enclosed and held until Lammas, when it was thrown open for grazing.  And the part I like the most? "There was once an old saying: 'at latter Lammas', meaning 'never'. [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p164]

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: K is for King's Evil

King's Evil is another name for scrofula - a disease of the lymphatic glands, specifically tuberculosis of the neck.  This disease was similar to consumption, and quite a large proportion of those infected (who also died) were under fifteen years of age.

And the cure for this disease?  Historically, it was believed that the touch of the reigning monarch was the 100% cure.  Originally, the king would wash the diseased parts, but later it became merely the king's touch which would effect the cure.  Then the cured sufferer would be given a 'touch-piece', or gold medal.  In order to apply for the touch, the sufferer would have to bring a certificate from the local vicar and churchwardens to state that they had not had 'the touch' before.  Most of the touchings were performed in London, with Queen Anne being the last monarch to provide the touch.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: J is for Journeyman

No, a journeyman is not a man on a journey.  The 'journey' here comes from the French 'jour' or 'journee' (pronounced joornay), which means 'day'.  A journeyman was a day labourer who had served his apprenticeship.

The Statute of Artificers of 1563 laid down the journeyman's hours of work as being, in summer, from, at or before 5 a.m. until between 7 and 8 p.m., with not more than 2 1/2 hours off for breakfast, dinner and drinking; and in winter from dawn till dusk. [Terrick Fitzhugh, Dictionary of Genealogy, p160]

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: I is for Indenture

Indentures usually seem to appear when connected with apprenticeships.  The concept of an indenture was very visual; apart from being a piece of parchment with an agreement written on it, there was also an open secret to an indenture.

The agreement was written and duplicated on the same piece of parchment (with the duplicate known as a chirograph).  A wavy line was drawn - also known as 'indented' - and then the document was cut along the wavy line.  This meant that the different parts could be identified as belonging to each other as long as they fit together correctly.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: H is for Hiring Fairs

Hiring Fairs were usually held annually in market towns.  They were set up to enable employers to find employees (and vice versa, of course) - usually domestics and farm labourers.  If your ancestors were in one place for a long time, then suddenly moved, it may well have been because they had been attracted to a nearby Hiring Fair, the husband (usually) got hired some way away, and so the whole family moved.  Maybe your ancestor was a single man when he went to a Hiring Fair, then he was hired, found a wife locally, and settled down - and thus, your ancestors moved.

One of the most well-known Hiring Fairs appear in the novels of Thomas Hardy, such as Far From the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and the most well-known of all: Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: G is for GeneaBloggers

Calling all those who blog about genealogy!  GeneaBloggers is a very important link you should put in your Contacts/Bookmarks/Favourites right now.  It calls itself 'the genealogical community's resource for genealogy blogging', but that title doesn't do it justice. 

GeneaBloggers is run by Thomas MacEntee (I expect you have heard of him) and is so much more than a bunch of useful links.  Here is a snippet from their home page:

"Blogs listed at GeneaBloggers are selected based on content and ability to move the "genealogy conversation" forward."

There are memes, challenges, lists by country (it's international) and state, links to GeneaBloggers Radio, blog resources (design, templates, editing photos, blog publishing, improving your blog and many more), upcoming events, webinars (Thomas MacEntee does a lot of these, and he is an excellent speaker) - I still haven't managed to look through all the pages on the website.

GeneaBloggers describes itself as "a fast-growing community of like-minded bloggers who are always ready to lend a hand to new GeneaBloggers members".  Well worth a visit!

Friday, 6 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: F is for Franking of Letters

1660 onwards: Sending and receiving letters is only to be done by Members of the House of Commons and clerks of the Post Office.

1764: Each peer and Member of Parliament is allowed to send 10 free letters not exceeding one ounce in weight per day, by signing their name in the corner of the folded letter (envelopes weren't around).  Each Member can also receive up to 15 letters per day.

1837: The practice of Members of Parliament 'franking' letters for their friends is stopped (well, the powers-that-be tried to stop it).  The person signing his name in the corner also has to put his address plus the day of the month, and the letter has to be posted on the same day not 20 miles from the franker's home.

1840: Franking was abolished - the penny post was introduced.

30 April 2012: The price of a first class UK stamp will be 60p; the price of a second class UK stamp will be 50p.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: E is for Englishry

Aha! you say - there is no such word.  In genealogy: oh, yes there is.  We're talking 1066 to the mid fourteenth century, here, and the subject is: murder.

The penalty for killing a Norman was quite severe; the penalty for killing an Englishman, not so severe.  So, instead of just finding out 'whodunnit', genealogy came into play to find out whether the deceased was Norman or English by descent.  (If nobody could decide, then they considered the victim to be Norman).

Then, the spotlight would fall on the person accused of the murder.  If he could successfully plead 'Englishry' (ie that the deceased was English and not Norman), he would not receive the more severe penalties, which included a fine on the hundred (place) in which the murder was committed.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: D is for Daughter-in-Law

This is one of those words/phrases which meant something entirely different in your ancestors' times.  Look at old censuses and be amazed at the number of daughters-in-law who appear, aged only 3 or 4!  Wonder at the loose morals and shocking marriage customs among your farthest and dearest!

And then you find out the truth.  A daughter-in-law in our ancestors' day was in fact a stepdaughter, or part of a blended family where the father or mother married again after the death or disappearance of their spouse.  Some naughty census-takers, intent on confusing later generations [hollow laugh] even called a stepdaughter a daughter!  Similarly, if you find unknown sons-in-law - they are quite possibly stepsons.  Which of course hints at a prior marriage for either the father or the mother.  Which means more family history delving - yippee!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: C is for Certificates

When people first start to look into their family history, they often begin with birth, marriage and death certificates.  I know I did - and I leapt into the detective work of tracing and establishing a family tree by pouncing feverishly on each certificate as I found it, often focusing only on the name of the individual it concerned.  I didn't, for instance, look at a birth certificate for someone called John and notice that his father was called Henry and his mother was called Mary, who was listed with her maiden name.  I just looked at 'John'.

But it's when you come up against those brickwalls I mentioned in my previous post that you realise you really should have looked at all the other information that was just sitting there, waiting for you to notice it:
  • Parents' names (including mother's maiden name)
  • Father's occupations
  • Address of event
  • Whether the couple were married by licence or by banns, in a mainstream church or nonconformist
  • Is the father listed as 'deceased'?
  • Cause of death
  • Witnesses to a marriage; informant of birth/death
And then there is locating the certificate itself.  If you are hunting through the General Register Office's indices for the registration number, it is always worth remembering (put up a sticky note on the wall so that it is in front of your nose) that the event was not necessarily registered at the same time as the event actually happened.  The indexes are divided into four quarters: Jan-Mar, Apr-June, July-Sept, and Oct-Dec, so my birth (in November 1959) was actually registered in the March quarter of 1960!  I have several instances in my family tree where other family members told me I would never be able to find the birthdate, because such-and-such an individual had changed his age and run away to sea...but I found said individual.  He had been born on 31st December, but registered in the next year's first quarter!

When I began to research my family history, over thirty years ago, looking for the reference to a certificate meant a special journey to St Catherine's House in London.  I grew impressive biceps as I heaved huge books from their places on tall shelves and turned crackling pages as I visually scanned line upon line of beautifully-written handwriting.  Now I switch on the computer and go to FreeBMD - and all it takes is a click of the mouse.  How astonished my ancestors would be at this technology!  FreeBMD volunteers (I was one) have transcribed over 214 million records - and they still haven't finished.  But I will be forever grateful that they have worked so hard - and so too are my ancestors.

Monday, 2 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: B is for Brickmaking

If you have ever delved into family history, you may well have heard of brickwalls.  You may even have come across some of your own.  Brickwalls are when you have searched and thought and looked and delved and still haven't been able to find the information you are looking for.  But brickmaking is different.

Brickmaking is the profession followed by most of my HAYWOOD ancestors.  In the late 1780s, John HAYWOOD (my great great great great grandfather) was a potter, as were his two sons after him.  John (born 1816) was a brickmaker; his six sons followed in his footsteps as well (John, Alfred, Walter, Albion, Ebenezer and Harry).  And the profession continued through the years, the only difference being the men who were foremen and managers - of the local brickworks. 

This didn't exclude the girls, either, although they tended not to make the bricks.  Anna Maria was an earthenware painter for years and years, even after she became a widow at a young age and returned to live with her (brickmaking) father.

So when you are faced with the brickwall of several people of exactly the same name living on the same street of the same town - look at their profession.  Might just be the demolition you are looking for.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: A is for April's A-Z Challenge

Well, for quite some time now the post I wrote "I Missed the A-Z Challenge!" from last year has consistently been one of the top-read posts! so I am happy to announce that this year (2012) I have not missed the Challenge.

A-to-Z Challenge
The concept behind it is that you blog every day in April (except for Sundays) using a different letter of the alphabet for each day's post. [And btw, although today is a Sunday, you're allowed just this once].  I put together a word-processing document about all the genealogical things I wanted to blog about, thinking that I would find this really difficult, and ended up with not just one thing per day, but a whole choice of things per post - so my April is going to be not so much a challenge-to-find as a challenge-to-choose.  Here are just some of the ideas: Brickwall, Bishop's Transcripts, Brickmaking, Census, Certificates, Directories, Family History Societies, Geneabloggers - and the list goes on.

Week One:
April 01, Sunday - Letter "A"
April 02, Monday - Letter "B"
April 03, Tuesday - Letter "C"
April 04, Wednesday - Letter "D"
April 05, Thursday - Letter "E"
April 06, Friday - Letter "F"
April 07, Saturday - Letter "G"
Week Two:
April 08, Sunday - BREAK
April 09, Monday - Letter "H"
April 10, Tuesday - Letter "I"
April 11, Wednesday - Letter "J"
April 12, Thursday - Letter "K"
April 13, Friday - Letter "L"
April 14, Saturday - Letter "M"
Week Three:
April 15, Sunday - BREAK
April 16, Monday - Letter "N"
April 17, Tuesday - Letter "O"
April 18, Wednesday - Letter "P"
April 19, Thursday - Letter "Q"
April 20, Friday - Letter "R"
April 21, Saturday - Letter "S"
Week Four:
April 22, Sunday - BREAK
April 23, Monday - Letter "T"
April 24, Tuesday - Letter "U"
April 25, Wednesday - Letter "V"
April 26, Thursday - Letter "W"
April 27, Friday - Letter "X"
April 28, Saturday - Letter "Y"
Week Five:
April 29, Sunday - BREAK
April 30, Monday - Letter "Z"


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