Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Christmas TV and Movies

My memories of Christmas TV and movies when I was a child - I don't have them.  One of the strongest traditions in our family was that the TV stayed switched off on Christmas Day.  When my cousin got older, he was allowed to watch Christmas Top of the Pops (it was a teenage thing).

As I have grown older myself, have moved out, and spent (unfortunately too) many Christmases on my own, I have looked forward to Christmas TV as my main source of entertainment.  Older still, and family history is now my main form of entertainment - so the TV stays switched off again.

The only 'Christmas' movie which I will watch at any time of the year is "A Christmas Carol" - the version with Sir Patrick Stewart as Scrooge.  I admit, I first watched it because I am a Star Trek fan - and he played Captain Picard - but I continue to watch it because he is such a splendid actor.  And he's British!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Christmas Tree

This was my post from last year (2012):

I grew up with artificial trees, so it was natural when I left home and set up my own flat to have an artificial tree myself (and all of my flats have been far too small to cope with anything over a foot tall!). Over the years, artificial trees have improved considerably, so what used to be a rather obviously-plastic one now looks almost real. You often have to touch the needles to check!
"Happy Christmas" by Viggo Johansen

The Christmas tree has not always been with us. Or has it? Check this out from Wikipedia:

"While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originates in Renaissance and early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Martin Luther. Alternatively, it is identified with the "tree of paradise" of medieval mystery plays that were given on 24 December, the commemoration and name day of Adam and Eve in various countries. In such plays, a tree decorated with apples (to represent the forbidden fruit) and wafers (to represent the Eucharist and redemption) was used as a setting for the play. Like the Christmas crib, the Paradise tree was later placed in homes. The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls."

And this from Encyclopædia Britannica: "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."

And from "Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."

I wonder how many of my ancestors had a Christmas tree?

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

On This Day: 30 October

This snippet from Exeter & Plymouth Gazette, 30 October 1841.

Column devoted to the Agricultural and Industrial Association Dinner at Subscription Room, Canniford's London Tavern:

"To the Journeyman who has worked longest in the employ of the same master, £1. - Samuel Murch, Sen., 38 years employed in the Ottery Factory, 18 years during the time of the present respected proprietor, Mr. Newbery."

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Thankful Thursday: William Tyndale and his Bible

Today's "Thankful Thursday" is not about one of my own ancestors.  It is about a man who helped my ancestors - and me.

Willliam Tyndale (1494-1536) translated the Bible into English.  That may not seem very earth-shattering - until you consider the times he lived in.  To possess the scriptures in English was to invite the death sentence, unless you had a licensed copy (presumably the only people who were allowed licences were clergymen!).

William Tyndale
The printing press had recently been invented, and Tyndale took advantage of this "new technology" to get his Bible-in-English into the hands of the people.  (Of course, there were other translations, but only Tyndale's came directly from the Greek and Hebrew.)  It was taken as a challenge to the rulings of the Church.  Tyndale was a very brave man!

I owe a debt of gratitude to William Tyndale.  Without him (and therefore his Bible), the ancestors of mine who were searching for spiritual truth would have been lost.  We see Bibles on shelves and in hotel rooms and don't give them another thought.  My own quest for spiritual truth would have been made much more difficult.

Thank you, William Tyndale.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Way Back Wednesday: Samuel AVERY and Jane BIRCHALL 1806

Today's "Way Back Wednesday" post is about my gggg grandparents.  All I know about them are their names and the date they married.  Oh, and of course I know one of their children: George AVERY 1814-1878, because he was my ggg grandfather.

The couple in question: Samuel AVERY and Jane BIRCHALL.  They were married 18 November 1806 in Stoke Dameral, Devon, England.  Samuel was a carpenter.  Since the Napoleonic Wars happened between 1803-1815, he probably had something to do with building ships for the Navy.  Jane is a complete mystery.

La bataille d'Austerlitz by Gerard

Does anybody have any information on either of them, please?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Note the Neighbours

Following on from last week's "Motivation Monday" post about NOT using the scattergun approach, today's "Tuesday's Tip" may seem like I have my wires crossed somewhere.  For today's "Tip" is to always look at the neighbours when you are reading something like a census return. 

Years ago, I was searching for my gg grandfather, John HAYWOOD, and noticed that in the house where he lived, was a Walter HAYWOOD.  Now, I had no Walter HAYWOOD in my notes - but I wrote him down anyway.  Some time later, I learned that I *did* have a Walter - but it was just that I didn't know it at the time. 

Now I look back at those same censuses, and with 20-20 hindsight I can pick out his sister, his niece, and other relatives.  So, if you want 20-20 hindsight vision before the future has happened - always note the neighbours.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Motivation Monday: Grandparents

Julie Boucher of the Angler's Rest blog, has started a 15-month set of weekly prompts to create The Book of Me, Written by You.  She describes it as "...not just about genealogy or family history. It is about a personal journey; a journey of rediscovery of yourself and perhaps your loved ones through your eyes."

This week's Prompt is for you to write about your grandparents.
  • What were their names? Edmund George HAYWOOD, Elsie Beatrice BLAGDON (my paternal grandparents), William Hubert BALL, and Minda Mary EDGCOMBE (my maternal grandparents).  Yes, they were married, but as a genealogist I have grown so accustomed to noting ladies down with their maiden names...
  • Where were they from?  Edmund George and Elsie Beatrice were from Millbrook, Cornwall, UK; William Hubert was from Kingsbridge, Devon and Minda Mary was from Ringmore, also Devon.
I wrote about them in my post on 3 February here.  I was in the middle of another year's "Family History Writing Challenge" (which happens every February), writing "Faith and Silk" and stumbling AGAIN.  So writing about my grandparents was a fresh start.

"The Family History Writing Challenge is an opportunity for all genealogists, to set some valuable time aside for the next 2[8] days and commit to writing their family history stories. No more excuses. There are so many benefits to writing your family history."

I like challenges.  Perhaps I should like motivations first...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Sunday's Obituary: Albion and Elizabeth Charlotte HAYWOOD 1913

The Western Times, 16 April 1913: Sad Occurrence: Bovey Funeral Followed by Widow's Death

The funeral took place on Monday of Mr Albion Haywood, of Pottery [my ggg uncle].  Deceased was carried into the Baptist Chapel and interred at the cemetery.  The chief mourners were Mr Norman Haywood, Mr Edgar Haywood (sons), Mrs French (sister), Mr John Haywood, Mr H Haywood (brothers), Mrs J Haywood, Mrs H Haywood (sisters-in-law), Mr and Mrs Clampitt, Miss Vera Haywood, Miss Pearse and Mr Boyne.  A good number of club members attended to show their last token of respect.  Rev. J R Way conducted the service.  There were several beautiful wreaths.

The widow, Mrs Albion Haywood, died yesterday morning.  Much sympathy is expressed for the two sons in their double bereavement in less than a week.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Thomas Francis BUCKINGHAM, born 1880

Today I have been thinking especially about my great great uncle, Thomas Francis BUCKINGHAM.  Thomas was born in 1880; later censuses have him as being born blind, while the 1911 census has him as being blind from age 1.  I have followed him through the censuses; he had a fairly dull life (some might even say miserable): I can't find him in the 1881, but in the 1891 he was in the workhouse, a pauper; in the 1901 he was still in Plymouth workhouse as a basket weaver, and in the 1911 he was at least boarded out somewhere, and worked as a news vendor.

The reason I have been thinking of him is because today (Friday 11th October) I took part in the RNIB's
'Read for RNIB Day' (RNIB is the UK's Royal National Institute of Blind People).  I wanted to do something for charity, but realised that I am not exactly built for running up mountains LOL, but here was something I could do.  Last year, I did a readathon of Star Trek novels.  This year, my work colleagues challenged me to learn basic Braille in 6 weeks and read something in Braille on The Day.  RNIB kindly sent me two copies of "We're Going On a Bear Hunt" (children's book), one in print and one in Braille, and I read the entire book out loud today at work.  Braille was developed in 1824.  I wonder how much access Thomas Francis had to it?  I am so blessed to have the gift of sight.

Thomas was born in Plymouth and died there in 1930, aged 49.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thankful Thursday: I'm Glad I'm Modern

“Count Your Many Blessings” is the title of a hymn I am fond of.  “Name them one by one” it continues.  I know, there are some days when you’re really not sure you have any blessings.  But apply this hymn to genealogy and family history, and immediately you can “count them one by one.”

Imagine trying to do all this research in the 1800s, or 1700s, or 1600s – or earlier!  No computers (well, that’s obvious); but have you thought of the other things there wouldn’t have been?  Would you have had the disposable income to allow you to purchase entrance fees for places which held records? Some of those places (such as great houses) would have been thriving anyway – so I somehow doubt that you would have been allowed access to any records, because they were current.  If you are a woman: would you have been allowed to travel by yourself?   If you were married: would you even have had the time? Would you have been able to read and write?

I am so grateful that I have been born in these times.  Women are more independent, there is more disposable income around (well, I won’t get into that one LOL), technology abounds – and I know how to use it, even if my budget means I can’t afford most of it.  I can read and write!  I’m not sure I could have coped with daily life in some of my ancestors’ eras – let alone been involved in genealogical research.

What are you grateful for?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Way Back Wednesday: Ralph LEY and Martha MILLS

Ralph LEY (my 5th great-grandfather) was born in Mevagissey, Cornwall, UK in about 1761.  He married Martha MILLS on 16 February 1786 – again, in Mevagissey.   Ralph and Martha had six children: Nicholas, another Ralph (my 4th great-grandfather), William, another William, Mary, and An. 

Leaving Mevagissey (by Helen Rice)
 Since son Ralph, grandson Nicholas, and great-grandson Ralph grew up to become coastguards – and Mevagissey is a coastal town - it is likely that Ralph senior was a coastguard, too.  The family also included mariners, fishermen, and naval pensioners.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Always Cite Your Sources

I wish someone had drilled this into my brain when I started researching my ancestors:  Always Cite Your Sources.  The thing is, I wouldn’t have understood the importance of this at the time, and later I didn’t see it as important because nobody else in my family seemed interested in genealogy.

Has this situation changed?  Not much, really.  But I have found a new audience – myself.  I have managed to find so many ancestors – and so many potential ancestors – that I need to have sources for each one. When I come back to Ancestor A, after working through Ancestors B thru Z, often I find myself thinking: “That’s a useful ancestor.  She actually links in with Ancestor M.  Where did I find out about her?” And I   Innocent until proven guilty? Nah.  ‘Nothing to do with me’ until proven otherwise.
have been sent so much suspect information through the years, that, instead of jumping for joy at the new connection I have made, I regard Ancestor A with the narrowed eyes of misgiving.

So, if you’re just starting out – please, please, cite your sources.  Even if you think I’m ever so slightly insane right now, do it anyway.  Your ancestors will thank you later.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Motivation Monday: Setting Genealogy Goals

This prompt on Geneabloggers says: Do you have a set of genealogy-related goals you want to tackle? Do you have tips on getting motivated?  I haven’t actually got any genealogy goals.  I need motivation in order to set them! 

When I started out (back in 1977) my goal was just to discover as many names, dates and places of as many ancestors as I could find.  So, in a way, I am well on track with this goal!  I teach short courses in genealogy, and one of the things I always say is to focus yourself on a goal (or goals); the scattergun approach just doesn’t work.  I am only too aware of this (and maybe you are too).  I spend an entire Sunday afternoon going aimlessly from ancestor to ancestor. In the end it’s like trying to find your way through a maze without the key: you end up hitting more brickwalls than you care to meet, and getting so frustrated you start muttering about how you’re not doing THIS again...

 So, which line of your ancestry should you choose? Or, indeed, should you choose a single person?  I am in the middle of writing a book on my paternal great-great-grandmother’s line – the MURCHes – called ‘Faith and Silk’ (because they were the one line who seemed to be looking for a different religion, plus they were all woolcombers/weavers/silk workers).

I’m still writing it.  I’ve been writing it for several years.  And at the same time, I am continuing to look for names, dates, and places of everybody else on my tree.  I can’t seem to stop looking everywhere, and focus myself somewhere.

Does anybody have any advice?  My ancestors and I need help!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Sympathy Saturday: William EDGCOMBE and Mary Ann FOSTER

My genealogy program (Legacy) spat out this rather tortuous relationship: that I am William's nephew's wife's 2nd great-greatniece.  That doesn't mean I can't feel sympathy for this couple.

William and Mary Ann married in 1845 in Plymouth, Devon, England.  The first child I can find is a girl, Emma Jane, who was born in 1850.  I can find no further record of her, though, so she may have died young.  If she survived - she was the only child to do so.

Then came Charles, who died when he was three 1854).
He was followed by Eveline Maria, who died when she was one (1854).
Then came Henry Charles, who died when he was four (1859).
Edward Alfred didn't live for an entire year, and died in 1857.
Edwin Henry Charles lived for two years until his death in 1861.
Another Eveline Maria didn't survive a year (1863).

Poor William and Mary Ann!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Friday's Faces From The Past: Uncle Abraham

"Uncle Abraham"

A mystery photo! This one has "Uncle Abraham" on the back.  Is he part of my family tree? Or was this just a postcard/carte de visite type photo - and nothing to do with me?  Do you recognise him?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

On This Day: 26 September

Today's "On This Day" person is something of a mystery.  William Edward Murch LEY - or BUCKINGHAM - was born on 26 September 1870 in Plymouth, Devon, UK.  He married Susan Mary STEER in 1894, and together they had nine children.  My grandmother had vague recollections of him being called 'Harry'...and an 1892 Barnardo's report lists him as being 20 (so he would in fact have been born in 1872, and probably within the marriage).

He appears (with family) on the 1901 census as "William L BUCKINGHAM", and on the 1911 census (again, with family) as "William Ley BUCKINGHAM", and he signs himself as "William Ley BUCKINGHAM".  He is proving elusive (read: impossible to find) on the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses.  If his parents were truly Joseph BUCKINGHAM and Amanda Malvina LEY (my gg grandparents), then they did not marry until he was two - and I cannot find them in the 1881 census. 

His mother was definitely Amanda - but, if she was unmarried, shouldn't he be called William Edward Murch LEY?  And where did the name 'Murch' come from?

I have been researching this family for over 30 years - with not a lot of success.  Does anybody out there have any ideas of where to turn next?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Wordless Wednesday: John BLAGDON and Susan Emma FARLEY

John BLAGDON and Susan Emma TAPPER (nee FARLEY) - married 30 May 1896 Devonport, Devon, UK

My paternal great-grandparents

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

On This Day: 21 August

John Samuel EDGCOMBE, 1870-1949
On this day in 1949, my great-grandfather died in Australia.  No - I'm not from 'Down Under' myself; in fact, 99.9% of our family tree comes from England.  My great-grandfather, John Samuel EDGCOMBE, and my great-grandmother, Annie Marian BUCKINGHAM (who also died in Australia, in 1961) went out there in 1926 with some of their teenage children.  I think I need to delve more into 'why'.  I've got the passenger lists as to 'how' and 'when'.  But 'why'? 

Twenty years ago, I found that they had more than 600 descendants living in Australia.  But 'why' in the first place?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

On This Day: 21 July

21 July 1744 was the marriage date for my great great great great great great grandparents: Gideon MURCH and Elizabeth BASTIN.  And it was a Tuesday.

Gideon was born in Ottery St Mary, Devon, in 1721, in the last few years of George I's reign.  He lived through the reigns of two more Georges, but only a year after Gideon and Elizabeth's marriage came the attempt to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne.

In later records, Gideon is described as a weaver.  Throughout his lifetime, there were several improvements in looms and weaving in general: one of the first was the 'flying shuttle', which made its appearance in 1733.  John Kay, who invented it, placed a shuttle at each end of the loom, and one single weaver could knock the shuttle back and forth with amazing speed (previously it had been pushed backwards and forwards, and often needed two weavers).  Gideon would have been 12 when the 'flying shuttle' appeared, and was probably an apprentice.

Further innovations in weaving came throughout Gideon's life; he saw the beginnings of how everything had to go faster, be bigger.  The 'spinning jenny' came in 1764, the 'water frame' shortly afterwards (a powered textile machine). 

Gideon appears in numerous nonconformist records, baptising his children as Protestant Dissenters.  He was definitely looking for something.  I wonder what his wife thought?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Way Back Wednesday: I am Three today!

Yes, you read that right.  I started this blog on 29 May 2010, which makes me three today.  So I thought I would look back at my very first post and see if I have achieved anything along the way...

My post was a short one:
"This blog is intended to be an extension to my ancestor-spotting records at home of names, dates and places.  It is going to be the place where I put my family history.  Anecdotes, snippets of information, quotes, pictures - and even some chapters of book(s) I am writing on the surnames that appear in my family tree.  Who knows? there may even be some information that might help you, dear reader..."

Well, I've managed the 'anecdotes, snippets of information, quotes, pictures' part.  I haven't done the 'chapters of book(s)' bit, though - I suppose I am still too nervous of copyright thieves.  Anyway, the book I was writing ('Faith and Silk', about my way-back-when silkweaver ancestors) has proved to be such a monumental task that I have put it on the back burner while I flex my writing muscles on more 'modern' topics, such as my grandparents' life stories, joining in the Family History Writing Challenge, taking up the A-Z Challenge, and writing about Fearless Females.

The best thing I have discovered about writing a family history blog is that it focuses you.  At least, it did me.  Although I frequently tell beginners not to take a scattergun approach, I am rather poor at taking my own advice - and began to wonder why I wanted to give up researching my ancestors when I 'only' had about 3,000 of them.  Then I started this blog, and it has done wonders for my research approach.  Geneabloggers, with its excellent daily blogging prompts, and Thomas MacEntee with his boundless enthusiasm for the craft, have inspired me and FOCUSED me so that my family history has benefited enormously.

Thank you, Thomas, and also to all those who have followed me.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: Z is for Zachariah Hellier

Zachariah HELLIER is the latest addition to my family tree.  Well, I say 'addition' - he was born in around 1790, and married my paternal great great great great grandmother in 1852, so the only way he is an 'addition' is because I have only just found him.

Zachariah is described as a millwright in the 1861 census, living in St Saviour's Place, Ottery St Mary, Devon with my ancestress, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's granddaughter, Anna Maria HAYWOOD.  The same house he lived in with his first wife, Susana - and the same house he lived in with his two younger sisters, Mary and Johanna.  I wonder if he was born there and raised there?

Is he a familiar name to anybody out there?

Monday, 29 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: Y is for Yoke

You may not think that a yoke is a very genealogical thing - but I have linked it to my ancestors, who were
most of them agricultural labourers, and were therefore probably very familiar with yokes...right down to my own grandmother, who could remember using one to go and fetch the milk (and this was in the early 1900s).

A yoke was usually used with other animals, though, such as oxen, horses, donkeys, mules - and even water buffalo (although you don't see too many of them in the southwest of England!).  Bow yokes, withers yokes, and head yokes have all been used with various animals - a yoke can even be used with a single creature.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: X is for eXtreme Genealogy

OK, so I cheated a little bit,and today's post is the same one as last year's "X is for..." - because, after all, X is a pretty hard letter!  The original post can be found here, but here it is again:

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

Friday, 26 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: W is for Wessex and Wyverns

You may have heard of Wessex before, and various companies in the southwest of England are trying to resurrect it, mostly by using the word in their company names.

Wessex was the last English kingdom before all the kingdoms were joined together.  Its last king was Alfred (yes, you probably have heard of him).  Alfred (the Great) is remembered as having something to do with having burned the cakes he was supposed to be watching, but he was much more than that.  He reorganised Wessex and was at the forefront of a revival of scholarship and education.  He helped to translate several Latin texts into English.

As a result of these literary efforts and the political dominance of Wessex, the West Saxon dialect of this period became the standard written form of Old English for the rest of the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond. [Wikipedia]

Wyvern: Although a wyvern may look like a dragon, it isn't really.  Dragons (in most cases) have four limbs, while wyverns only have two. states this:
"There are many terms used to refer to dragons, and incorrect terminology is often applied. Wyvern, hydra, and firedrake, in fact completely different species, have all been mistakenly used."
"Wyverns, while close relatives of the dragon, have been argued as being not of the same order. In England they have been referred to as 'dragonets' because [they're] generally small in stature and basically appear to be adolescent dragons when in fact their body parts are fundamentally different."

The golden wyvern on a background of red is a symbol of Alfred’s Wessex.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: V is for Verderer, Vert and Venison

A verderer (there were four per forest) was the officially-elected individual who looked after and administered the "vert and venison".  The 'vert' was described as "the trees and shrubs which bore green leaves and thus provided food and shelter for livestock" (The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, David Hey).  The 'venison' was not just deer, it was all livestock.

The Verderer's Court of the Forest of Dean still meets to settle disputes, with records dating from the seventeenth century.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: U is for Up-and-down Husbandry

Up-and-down husbandry was also known as convertible husbandry - and has nothing to do with cars!  It was used in the 15th century and was revived in the 1930s.

This method of farming is really a method known by gardeners everywhere, and employed by most.  If you have an allotment, or smallholding, it makes sense to rotate the crops every year, because some pests and diseases will proliferate if the same crop is grown in the same area year after year.  (And crop rotation was used in Roman times).

Up-and-down husbandry alternated arable strips with grass crops.  Sometimes a field would stay 'under grass' for up to 10 years, or become grass permanently.  This enabled crops to be grown and livestock to be grazed (giving the arable land time to recover).

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: T is for Teasel (or Teazel)

Teasels were something I was very familiar with as a child; they were just another plant that was part of the surrounding countryside. They are tall and prickly, and in Europe are an important winter food source for birds.  However, in the US, they are not as welcome.

Teasels have been linked with medicinal purposes, acting as:
  • Cure of Lyme disease
  • Antibiotic
  • Improved circulation
  • Cure for warts

However, whether or not you believe in these (!), teasels had another use in the textile industry.  The teasel head was used as a comb for cleaning, aligning, and raising the nap on wool.  (The 'teased' the fibres!)

Although metal cards largely replaced them, nowadays there are still individuals who infinitely prefer to use teasels in their work, claiming they are more gentle than a metal comb.

"Production in the 17th and 18th centuries was localized, notably in the Cheddar area of Somerset, parts of Gloucestershire, and Essex." (The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, David Hey)

Monday, 22 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: S is for Secretary Hand

I first met "Secretary Hand" when I was transcribing a 1700 census for Ottery St Mary (the transcription can be viewed here at GenUKI).

It was widespread in the British Isles during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and grew out of the Book Hand and the Court Hand.

Soon, it was used for businesses, government, and church - and then it became so common that it was taken up for personal use.

Looking at this sample (this is William Shakespeare's Will):
can you believe that Secretary Hand was introduced so as to provide a more legible style of handwriting? 

In genealogy/family history, you will most often see it when you are trying (desperately) to transcribe the Will of one of your ancestors.

Below is a graphic supplied by, which shows the individual letters:

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: R is for Rebecca Riots

These riots began in 1839 and lasted until 1844, and took place in South Wales.  The name comes from the biblical passage about Rebekah's descendants "possessing the gates of those which hate them" (Genesis 24: 60), and related to the gates on the new turnpike roads: the protesters, dressed in women's clothing, wanted to remove them!

But why stop at gates? The protesters also revolted against the New Poor Law workhouses (which were apparently pretty revolting themselves, anyway) and any Church of England clergymen who demanded the payment of tithing.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: Q is for Quernstone

A piece of knowledge for you that is more historical than genealogical: the quern or quernstone was the forerunner of the millstone and was used for grinding corn (millstones were used more often in water-powered or wind-powered mills).

It is most frequently unearthed as part of an archaeological dig centered on Roman or Romano-British sites.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: P is for Plough Monday

Plough Monday, usually the Monday following 6 January, was the start of the agricultural year.  And, of course, any excuse for a party!

In NE England, a plough would be dragged around the town to raise funds for the parish (and if you refused to pay up, your front path would be ploughed up).  In the Scilly Isles, there would be cross-dressing, joking, drinking and revelry.  In Norfolk, Plough Pudding (a suet pudding with meat and onions) is cooked and eaten on Plough Monday.

Harrison Ainsworth, in his novel Mervyn Clitheroe, described it thus:
"The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations."

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: O is for Ordeal

There were several types of ordeal to determine whether a person was guilty or not.  Prepare to be amazed!

1. Ordeal by fire - walking over hot ploughshares for a distance of 9 feet. Innocence determined by either total lack of injury, or if the injury was only festering after three days.

2. Ordeal by boiling water - suspect had to dip his hand into a pot of boiling water to retrieve a stone.  Innocence determined by whether or not the burns had healed in three days.

3.  Ordeal by cold water - suspect was submerged in a stream either in a barrel or with a millstone around his neck.  Innocence determined by whether or not he survived!

4.  Ordeal by cold water (witches only) - suspect is submerged as above, but sinks if guilty, floats if innocent.

5.  Ordeal by cross - accuser AND accused stand either side of a cross with their arms out horizontally.  The first one to lower his arms is the loser.

6.  Ordeal by ingestion - bread and cheese blessed by a priest were administered.  Guilty if the suspect choked.

7.  Ordeal by poison (Nigeria) - fed a poisonous bean.  If defendant vomited it up, they were innocent.

8.  Ordeal by boiling oil (India) - as #2, but both accuser AND accused had to dip their hands in boiling oil.  Whoever had uninjured hands afterwards was innocent.

9.  Ordeal by turf (Iceland) - suspect had to walk underneath a piece of turf.  If the turf fell on his head, he was guilty.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: N is for Nuncupative Will

Most genealogists are familiar with an ancestor's Last Will and Testament as a document written without commas (if written by a lawyer's clerk, as they mostly were) and full of interesting facts such as "I bequeath the six best horsehair chairs to my loving daughter Emily" or "I do not bequeath any monies to my son John who is parsimonious and will not give to the poor".  Written down well before the death of the person in a specific format.

But a nuncupative will is word of mouth only, and then testified to in a court of law by two or three witnesses.  (The writing-down part  is usually after the person is dead, but must be shortly after.)  Some U.S. states still allow this, as do England and Wales; military personnel on active duty are often permitted to do this

Monday, 15 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: M is for Mocavo

You may have heard of Mocavo, the great search engine for genealogists.  Why is it so special? you ask.  I'll tell you.  Ever searched for a surname and come up with some *really* unwanted results?  For instance, for this month's letter 'J' I wanted to talk about the occupation of Jagger.  So I searched for Jagger.  Oh dear.  Mick came up, and Bianca, and Jade - but also the song by Maroon 5, an article about the Rolling Stones' latest tour, Mick's style of parenting...and on it went.

Mocavo is different.  It searches ONLY genealogy sites.  It is especially good for North American genealogy sites - but I have noticed Australian sites, and even GenWestUK is in there! so its horizons are broadening.  Cliff Shaw, the creator of Mocavo, says:

" has the capacity to index every single piece of free genealogy content found anywhere on the web, and will be growing by leaps and bounds in the coming months. We expect to shortly offer all of the web’s free genealogy information, searchable and accessible to all – something that has never been done before. It’s set to become the go-to search engine for every family history enthusiast.”

There is a paid version (isn't there always?) which offers lots of tools as well as a basic genealogy search engine, and there is the capability to upload GEDCOMs and have it suggest ancestors to you, which makes it sound much more like a site.  But I haven't used these, so I cannot comment.  What I would suggest is that you head on over and take a look to see if you like it.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: L is for Lord of Misrule

Imagine you are a lowly servant in a mediaeval palace, castle, or manor house.  Christmas is coming - but during the twelve days of Christmas (from December 25 onwards) you are chosen by lot to be the Lord of Misrule (in Scotland, the Abbot of Unreason; in France, the Prince des Sots).

So, what does the Lord of Misrule do?  The Lord has "licence to organize boisterous activities and to make fun of his social superiors." [The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, by David Hey]

Although the custom originates in Rome, with much overeating and drunkenness, and slaves being served at the feast by their masters, plus giving them orders, it was also observed in Britain.  It was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by Mary, then abolished again by Elizabeth I.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: K is for Knobstick Wedding

Heard of a "shotgun wedding", where a woman got pregnant out of wedlock, so the (supposed) father was forced to marry her? well, here is another version.

The "knobstick wedding" had exactly the same reasons behind it i.e. the reputed father having to marry a
pregnant-out-of-wedlock woman.  The 'knobstick' part is because these were the staves of office of the churchwardens who attended the wedding to make sure it took place.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: J is for Jagger

Many many people know of the famous rock star with 'Jagger' in his name, but only a little research shows the origin of this surname.  However, there are a couple of  variations:

1) A jagger was a peddler; the 'jag' referred to the pack on his back.

2) A jagger was a man who led packhorses; the 'jag' was the pack that the horse could carry on its back (probably coal).

And by the way: Joseph Jagger, the mill engineer, was the origin of the song "The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo"...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: I is for Indexing

So, you've heard about indexing at, but you're not sure you should try it, because you're not that comfortable sounds have to have been doing genealogy for over 30 years...I haven't got the will be expensive...

Stop making excuses.  Because, actually, that's what they are.  You may think that they're more like reasons - and very reasonable reasons - and you will be pleasantly surprised to find they just don't apply.
  • You don't have to be a computer wizard
  • You don't have to be a genealogy guru
  • You just watched half an hour's worth of cartoons on the TV.  That's all the time you need to index
  • It's free
All you are doing is typing out somebody else's writing (two-finger typists are perfectly acceptable).  Your work gets checked - so you needn't worry that you will make horrific mistakes which will then go out into the world - and you will be giving back / paying it forward to people everywhere, because then the records you index will be available online for free.  You can fit it in around your busy schedule - even half an hour a week is great - and there's plenty of help every step of the way.

Try it!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: H is for Hue and Cry

Ever wondered where the phrase "hue and cry" came from? (Or did you already know - or think you knew?).  This became law in 1285.

A crime is committed.  A witness sees it being committed.
It is his responsibility to shout loudly (raise a hue
and cry), so that others could come and catch the criminal.  (If the criminal escaped over the parish boundary, it was the new parish who was responsible for catching him.)

If the witness failed to raise the hue, or failed to report the crime, they could be fined.

If you raised a false hue, you could also be fined.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: G is for Google Alerts

Google Alerts are something I have only just come across.  If you ask Google what they are, it says "Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries."   They add that Alerts are useful in:
  • monitoring a developing news story
  • keeping current on a competitor or industry
  • getting the latest on a celebrity or event
  • keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams
I would like to add that Google Alerts are useful in genealogy.  Say you search for "Obadiah Montague", and find a number of resulting useful websites.  If you make searching for Obadiah one of your Google Alerts, then every time there is something new about him (say, somebody uploads a newspaper article they have just found), you will get an email telling you so.  You can manage the frequency to once-a-day, or once-a-week, or 'as-it-happens' - and you can create up to 1000 Alerts.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: F is for Farthing

I can dimly remember farthings.  They went out of circulation on 31 December 1960, so although I was too tiny to have actually used them, there were still some lying around our house.  They were first minted in 1714.

A farthing is a quarter of a penny.  Well, actually, when the word originated, it meant a quarter of anything (farthing-land was about 30 acres), but came to be used for the quarter-penny.  When decimalisation took
over in this country, the new penny was the same size as the old farthing.

Even though a quarter of a penny sounds like a small amount, there were coins that were of even smaller value.

The third-farthing was minted for use in Malta.

Half-farthings and quarter-farthings were also minted for use in the colonies.  The half-farthing was also introduced to Britain and kept going for 25 years.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: E is for Engross

Aha! Got you! You thought you knew what 'engross' meant, didn't you?  The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "to take or engage the whole attention of", with the example of "a mystery story that will engross readers all the way to the surprise ending".

But as it applies to genealogy (although I must confess to becoming engrossed when working on my family
tree), it has a different meaning.  Or two.

1) If there were lands/houses supporting two or more families, and then these houses and lands were gathered together and owned by one person, they were said to have been 'engrossed'.

2) If you were a calligrapher, you could 'engross' a legal document into formal script..  And if you remember pictures of monks doing calligraphic writing, they are always hunched over their desks.  Engrossed in engrossing?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: D is for Directories

There are several types of Directory which can be immensely useful to the genealogist.  There are such records as Court Directories, Commercial Directories, Trades Directories, and Street Directories (and probably others).  The most well-known are those produced by Kelly and Pigot; the area covered ranges from one city (Plymouth) to several counties which are next to each other, such as Cornwall and Devon.

However, directories do not cover every single household.  "Labourers were never included and only a small proportion of craftsmen - those usually in rural villages.  Self-employed tradesmen appear in large numbers
but are not necessarily all covered...In villages, the squire, parson, farmers, graziers, innkeepers and blacksmiths are regularly included." (The Dictionary of Genealogy, Terrick Fitzhugh).

One of the earliest directories (in 1677) was "A Collection of the Names of the Merchants living in and about the City of London: Very Useful and Necessary."

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: C is for Chatham Chest

Another 'popular name for' something.

This time, it derives from the location it came from i.e. Chatham in Kent.  The Navy Board had their offices there, and administered a fund for wounded sailors.  This fund
originated in the late sixteenth century, and lasted until the early 1800s, when it was transferred to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.

Incidentally, this was not a generous bequest by some monied landowner - it was collected by deductions from pay!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: B is for Bawdy Court

Yes, what you're probably thinking is what it was.  'Bawdy Courts' were another name for the ecclesiastical courts, which were so called because they often dealt with divorce and/or immorality.

The ecclesiastical courts, divided into Bishops' Courts and Archdeacons' Courts, were set up in Norman times and their records exist from the 15th century.  They dealt with all sorts of things, from heresy to perjury
via whether or not you behaved yourself in church.  Punishments ranged from fines to excommunication.

These records also included descriptions of the witnesses - not just the usual name and address, but also where they had lived, right back to their place of birth.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: A is for Arlee

A is for April, and the A-Z Challenge has arrived! But A is also for Arlee Bird, without whom the Challenge would not exist, so I am HUGELY grateful. The Challenge is to create a blog post every day during April, using a different letter of the alphabet as your theme for that day's post.

A-Z Challenge
Readers of my blog will remember the post I wrote about having missed the Challenge in 2011.  That particular post is so popular, it still pops up in my "You might also be interested in..." section at the foot of this
page, with 669 views.  I wish people would instead read some of my other posts which are about things more interesting than failure!

Last year (2012) I participated in the Challenge and, as I am principally interested in genealogy and family history, each of my daily A - Z posts were about genealogical things; and I propose to do the same this year.   Last year, with about a dozen views per post, I wrote about topics as diverse as Englishry (many bloggers found this fascinating), Hiring Fairs, Scanfest, and Time Immemorial (which had 652 views as opposed to the usual dozen!).  This year, the timetable runs like this:

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

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Fearless Females 2013: Day 30: Words of Wisdom

Did you receive any advice or words of wisdom from your mother or another female ancestor?

"Never say never".

Showing that, while my Females may be Fearless, they are also adaptable...

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.  I know this is really US-centric - but that's not going to stop me honouring my own Fearless Females...

Friday, 29 March 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Kingsbridge Fair

Here is a photo which I inherited.  Don't know the people, do know the location - Kingsbridge, Devon UK.  Maybe sometime in the 1930s?

Does anybody in this pic look familiar?  I would love to know!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Fearless Females 2013: Day 27: Off to Australia

Do you have any passenger lists or other documentation?

Once again: Annie Marian Buckingham EDGCOMBE.  Born 11 September 1873 in Plymouth, Devon, Annie married John Samuel EDGCOMBE on 22 February 1894.  John Samuel was a coastguard, and so they lived in Co. Mayo, Ireland for a while, then his farming father called and back they went to South Milton, Devon.  Between the two World Wars, John and Annie decided to leave for Australia.  The two oldest boys, Harry and Ted, went in 1924 on the SS Berrima.  Two years later, on 3 August 1926, John, Annie, and the younger children went to Australia on the SS Hobsons Bay:

Once again, in honour of National Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.  I know this is really US-centric - but that's not going to stop me honouring my own Fearless Females...


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