Saturday, 30 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: Z is for Zigzag

Most people think that genealogy goes backwards in a straight line.  And so it does...for the most part.  Pedigree charts march in a straight line (whether left-to-right or up-to-down).  Lineage-based genealogy software shows children, parents, grandparents.  In fact, your research only pauses long enough for you to add in those fifteen children that great great grandma had.
And then you reach a brick wall - a 'dead end', a cul-de-sac.  But this is where zigzagging comes in.  Don't just go in a straight line and stop.  Look at the children.  Their spouses.  Their children and their spouses.  Look at their FANs (friends and neighbours), the place where they lived.  Did they own land?  Were they likely to be witnesses to somebody else's Will?  Were they a 'black sheep' and were reported in the newspaper for a crime?  Did they emigrate? (and that's why you can't find them?)  Zigzagging can often be more fun than researching in a straight line.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Friday, 29 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: Y is for Yonder Street

This has to be my favourite address in my family history.  Yonder Street, Ottery St Mary, Devon, England was where my MURCH ancestors lived through several centuries.  Yonder Street still exists today, with the (fairly small by today's standards) terraced houses at the lower end of the housing market.

I just love the idea of somebody asking where my ancestor lived, and he said, "I live over yonder street"...


Google Map of Ottery St Mary


© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: X is for Making Your Mark
This isn't a post with a strange word you never heard of that starts with 'X'.  Nor is it a post about a word which just happens to have an 'x' in it somewhere.

'X' was often quite a big part of some people's lives.  Nowadays, illiteracy is fodder for newspapers who want a screaming headline or two - but a couple of hundred years ago, there was not nearly as much stigma about not being able to read and write.  If you could, then you were regarded with some awe.  I'm sure you have come across signatures on marriage certificates (for instance), where you almost wish they had signed with an 'X' instead.

But the signatures of the bride and groom were not originally required.  Everybody in the parish expected the parish clerk to be able to read and write, and therefore he would enter the names and dates.  And, of course, he would spell things the way he thought they should be spelt.  Like Winyfort for Winifred.  I wonder if she would have made an 'X' at the time of her marriage (1676) if it had been required?

And sometimes, icons were used instead of the 'X'.  This is known as an autograph...

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

A-Z Challenge 2016: W is for Wiki on FamilySearch
Have you heard of the FamilySearch Wiki?  I had, but assumed it was not much more than a blog.  But actually it is so much more. You go to, click on 'search' and scroll down to the bottom of the drop-down list which appears, where you can click on 'wiki'.  The Wiki itself says it best:

"The FamilySearch Wiki is a tool for finding information about subjects, records that may have been generated about your ancestors, and the places in which the records might be found. It is a vast information depository. When you search in the Wiki you can search for places your ancestors lived, but also for subjects and research methods to help you understand and learn about the history of your families. You can possibly find records and record collections from the states, counties and cities where your ancestors may have worked and lived."

The Wiki has information from 245 countries, mainly links to sources you are looking for: censuses, BMDs, probate, military - but not the records themselves, be warned.  And it's free!

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: V is for Valuation Office Field Books
If you haven't heard of these before, don't worry.  They are tucked away at Kew (in class IR 58).  They cover the years 1910-1914, and list all the properties in England, who owns them, who lives in them, and whether they have been sold recently.

They are also known as 'Domesday Books', because of their similarity in content with William the Conqueror's original Domesday Book.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 25 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: U is for Uxor
The further back in time you go (in parish records, that is), the less and less they seem to think of women.  Children are baptised as the son or daughter of John 'and his wife'.  Then the son or daughter of 'John', with no wife mentioned at all.  I have even come across a marriage record which stated that on a certain date, 'James married his wife'!

Uxor is the Latin for wife.  So, among the highly-stylised Secretary Hand (can you believe it was supposed to make things clearer?) and the mystifying abbreviations (which were probably not at all mystifying to the person who wrote them), you come across 'et uxor', or 'et ux'.  All this means is 'and wife'.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: T is for Toleration Act
I'm still tracing those nonconformist Protestant Dissenter ancestors of mine, and when we last met them, they were being fined for being recusants and not going to (the established) church.  The fact was recorded, so there's one source - and here's another.

In 1689, an Act of Parliament was passed which said that Protestant Dissenters (except for Unitarians) could meet in their own houses of worship as long as said houses were registered and not in an organisational structure that linked them all together (which suited my ancestors just fine, as their nonconformism evolved into the Independent faith).

The registration included lots of family history information. The name of the religion (obviously), the minister, whose house the meetings were being held in, and the names of leading members of the faith.  I really must go to my county record office to see if any of my ancestors were 'leading members'.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Friday, 22 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: S is for Sacrament Certificate

Following on from yesterday's 'R is for Recusant Rolls', today's letter goes into a little more detail about what a recusant (especially a Roman Catholic recusant) was supposed to do when it came to sacrament certificates.

A certificate was required by the Quarter Sessions (my letter Q post) to prove that a particular individual who held an official post (civil or military) had:

a) taken the sacrament in a church of the established religion (i.e. not nonconformist)
b) taken an oath that the current king had sole authority in the land

The law began in 1673 and was not repealed until 1828.  The certificates are another source you can look at during your visit to the local county record office.  And this was not just a quick "yes, I agree" like you get in a lot of software these days.  The wording of the oath was really quite violent:

" swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure, as impious and heretical, that damnable doctrine and position 'That Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any Authority of the See of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their Subjects or any other whatever.'...I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual within this Realm.  So help me God."


© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: R is for Recusant Rolls
This subject is close to my heart, as many in my family tree were recusants.  No, it's nothing horrific - that is, unless you were a parish priest of the established church.  Recusants didn't go to church.  At least, not the established parish church they were supposed to go to.  Some were Roman Catholics, and did not want to worship in a Protestant service.  Others (like my ancestors) were Protestant Dissenters.

At first (in about 1560) the fine was 12 pence per time-he-did-not-attend.  By 1581, the fine rose to 20 pounds per month.  Much later, the fine was all his goods and two-thirds of his property (that's maybe why I'm not rich now; there was nothing to hand down).  The Recusant Rolls, as a source, may help you discover a little more about your ancestors: what they owned, what they had to pay, and so on.

If you were an upper-class recusant, it seems as though the law looked the other way.  If you were a really poor recusant, you couldn't really be prosecuted anyway, because you had nothing to surrender.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: Q is for Quarter Sessions
The Quarter Sessions were a 'meeting' of the local Justices of the Peace  But they weren't just criminal courts for things like burglary and murder.  You had to conform to the established religion (or get a licence to worship elsewhere); the JPs also managed the upkeep of the roads, administered the Poor Law, and regulated trade and employment.  This continued until 1888, when the local council took over.  However, the criminal court part continued with the Quarter Sessions until 1971.

Not all Quarter Sessions records survive; but some have been published by county and local family history societies, and some remain in the care of the county record offices.  They may include such items of interest (for a genealogist, at least!) as juror lists, pub landlords, land tax assessments, and maps.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: P is for Private Baptism

This is one you may have come across when researching in parish registers.  There is an entry for a baby “privately baptised” and/or “publickly received into ye church”.  What’s all this about?  You may even have come across the term “half-baptism”.

There are two main reasons for it.

      1) The baby was not expected to survive even as far as the church door, so it was ‘privately baptised’ then and there.  Sometimes even midwives could perform such a baptism! If the baby did survive, it was ‘publickly received’ as soon as it could make it to the church.

2)   The baby was born into a posh family who, like the families who married under licence instead of banns, thought that the general public should not be party to what was a very private event i.e. getting married or being baptised.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 18 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: O is for Outlawry
We're jumping back into the legal system for this letter.  Remember 2012's post "E is for Englishry", where if you could prove that the person you had killed was English, you got away with lesser punishments than if the victim had been Norman?  Well, this is similar.

Same time span (1066 to Tudor times): this is what could happen to an outlaw (someone who ran from the law, or even just did not turn up for court).  Anybody could lawfully kill him on sight.  While he was on the run, all his goods and lands were forfeited for a year and a day, after which they went back to his lord anyway.

And get this, feminists: Women could not be declared 'an outlaw', because they hadn't had to take the relevant oath in the Court Leet of the local manor.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: N is for Negative Proof
'Negative proof' is surely a phrase coined especially for the genealogical community.  Certainly, it is much used by us.  What exactly is negative proof?

Say you have an ancestor called John Smith, who lived in a small parish in the West of England.  You know the year of his baptism, you know the place, you even know his parents' names, so you merrily head off to the internet/county record office to search for him.  You find him, and are about to input his name into <insert name of genealogical software here>.

John, son of Thomas and Mary Smith.  And, right underneath his baptismal entry, is another John, son of Thomas and Mary Smith.  Is it the same one?  Was the parish clerk forgetful, and/or seeing double? You turn the page.  There's another John, son of Thomas and Mary Smith.  This is where negative proof comes in.  In order to make sure that you have the right John, you have to prove that all the other Johns were not 'yours' - within a radius of about 15 miles is about right.  Or, if you are doing a Surname Study, you have to prove that all these Johns were indeed separate individuals and not the result of the clerk having the flu and not seeing straight.

Or maybe you have found what looks like John, son of Thomas and Mary Smith.  But those names are not exactly unusual, so the logic of negative proof is to search all the registers around, to make sure there are no other John-son-of-Thomas-and-Mary-Smiths.

Of course, if your ancestor is called Severus Adolphus Ambrose Smith, you are unlikely to come up against too many duplicates.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Friday, 15 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: M is for Marriage Banns, Licences, and Allegations
These can be a little confusing, so I thought I would separate them out here.

1.  Banns
These took the form of a proclamation in the parish churches of the groom and the bride who were going to be married.  This was in order that anybody could object.  They were read out (in church) on three successive Sundays, and recorded in a special register.  When Oliver Cromwell was in power, and so marriages became civil contracts, the banns could be read out either in church or in the marketplace.  Unfortunately, only a few banns registers survive.

2. Allegations
An allegation was the oath that had to be sworn in order to acquire a licence to wed (see #3)

3. Licence
Sometimes, on a wedding certificate, you will see that your ancestors married 'by licence'.  There were several reasons for this:
  • some felt it was undignified for everyone to know their private business; 
  • Dissenters disliked (and in some cases, refused) to have their banns read out in a church in which they actively did not believe; 
  • perhaps the bride was already pregnant, and the couple wanted to marry straight away; 
  • maybe they were telling fibs about their ages (an older woman marrying a younger man!); 
  • perhaps they did not have parental consent.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: L is for Local History
Is there a town, village, or hamlet where your ancestors lived for centuries?  Have you ever thought of looking at the place as well as the people?  Local history can be an excellent companion to your genealogical research.  It may explain why your ancestors had a certain occupation, provide glimpses into their gene pool, or point you in the direction of certain records you had not thought of yet (such as school registers – and you know the name of the school!).

An example is the subject of The Murch Blog’s “J is for Jerom Murch 1807-1895”.  He was born in Honiton, Devon, England, but married a Norfolk lass.  This would be confusing (Norfolk is hundreds of miles away), unless I had done some more research on him and included local history.  Jerom started as a Unitarian minister – in Norfolk!

The Society for One-Place Studies or the Register of One-Place Studies may well be able to help.  If the place you want to research isn’t already being studied – maybe you would like to join and start your own Study!

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: K is for Knight Service
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will be familiar with the Knight Bus from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Knight Bus is a triple-decker, purple AEC Regent III RT that assists stranded individuals of the wizarding community through public transportation [from], and contains beds, hot chocolate, and toothbrushes.

And now we turn to Knight Service (this is where the fiction stops and the genealogy begins, folks, going right back to William the Conqueror)

William the Conqueror was very dependent upon his knights.  So he divided up the land among his companions, who were usually Normandy aristocracy, and the parcel of land was subdivided and subdivided until there was enough for a fief (or enough to support one knight).  The knight, in return, swore to provide military service.  The system disintegrated in the latter half of the 13th century (when knights became not as essential as foot soldiers).  The system was abolished completely in 1660.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: J is for Jacobite
You know what a Jacobite is, I'm sure.  It is a supporter of King Jacob (whoever he was).  Well, actually you wouldn't be quite right there.  Yes, a Jacobite was a supporter of a King, but of King James II (1633-1701) and his descendants.

More potted history:
1688: James was deposed after 'The Glorious Revolution', and William and Mary took the throne.
1689-90: War
1690: Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland), where James was defeated
1715: The Jacobite Rebellion
1745-46: Battle of Culloden (repression of the Highland clans) - Bonnie Prince Charlie

James II in 1660

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 11 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: I is for Immigration v Emigration
This is something many people get confused about.  When is it 'immigrate', and when is it 'emigrate'?  

Let's take the fictional case of John Doe, who lives in England.  He decides to go to America to live and find work.  So he emigrates from England, and his American cousin says he immigrates into America.  (Note: his English cousin still maintains that he emigrated.)  Then he decides to go to Australia to live and find work.  John emigrates from America and his Australian aunty says he immigrates to Australia (His English cousin has given him up as a bad job by now, because he never settles anywhere.)

Then back he comes to England to live out his old age.  The Australian aunty, hypothetical tears in her hypothetical eyes, says he is emigrating from Australia.  The English cousin (who may or may not welcome him with open arms) says he is immigrating to England.

John could also be called a migrant, because he moves all over the place.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: H is for Hamlet
No, I'm not talking Yorick and Shakespeare et al.  This is local history.

A hamlet was usually comprised of a manor house, a parish church (if it once used to be a village), and sometimes a few other buildings, often surrounding a farmhouse or a mill. Usually 100 people or less. Think of a village that has shrunk in the wash.  The name itself comes from Anglo-Norman hamelette, which harks back to Old French.

In fact, in 18th century France it was once the fashion for rich people to create a hamlet in their garden! complete with rustic houses and farms (and actually very comfortable).  Marie Antoinette had one created for her at Versailles, but it contained rather more than rustic buildings; there was a Temple of Love, a grotto, a belvedere, fragrant flowers, meadowland, streams, and lakes.  There was even a tower like a lighthouse!

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Friday, 8 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: G is for Google Books

Google Books.  An often-untapped source which is just waiting for you to dive in.  Oh, yes, I’ve heard of it, you say – but what actually IS it?
Google Books is a massive online collection of out-of-print, out-of-copyright books.  Yes, there are also in-print books, and you can always buy them (and GB gives you the link) – or borrow them.  If the book is in the public domain, you can even download a pdf copy FREE.

There are different views of a book:
Full View – if it’s out of copyright, or the author/publisher has requested it – and you may be able to download a pdf.
Limited Preview – you can see a limited number of pages only
Snippet View – information about the book and a few snippets
No Preview Available – information about the book only

Google Books is really a huge search engine just for books.  Try going to it at and searching for "genealogy" (without the quotes).  I got 1,570,000 results in .67 seconds.  How about you?    Try searching for your surname.  See what you turn up.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: F is for Family History
Well, it would be, wouldn't it? I mean, are you surprised? *big grin*

Sometimes people wonder why some folk call it 'genealogy' and some folk call it 'family history'.  Same difference, right?  Well, in some people's minds, that's right (a difference which makes no difference is no difference, said William James, the wordsmith).  But there are definite differences in definition (this post should have been the 'D' post).

1. A record or table of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or ancestors; a family tree.
2. Direct descent from an ancestor; lineage or pedigree. (from the Free Dictionary)

Family History:
(This is only one meaning): A family history is a record of medical information about an individual and their biological family.
(This is my interpretation): Family history not only records all the names-dates-locations, but also the stories behind the people.  As somebody once said: "Genealogy links charts. Family History links hearts."
Do you agree? Do you have any other ideas?
© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: E is for Esquire

Have you ever written a letter to a man and addressed it to "Fred Bloggs, Esq"?  Did you ever wonder how he came to be called Esquire - and what it really means?
Here is a quick potted history of how the term came about, and what it means today:

1.  It started off as meaning a knight's shield-bearer.
then by
2.  16th century: an officer of the Crown
then by
3.  18th century: it meant a man with a coat of arms, a 'superior gentleman'
then by
4.  19th century: when addressing letters to a gentleman
5.  Addressing all men

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: D is for Datestone
You may well have seen these in your genealogical quest.  You find an ancestral home (it doesn't have to be a castle; it can be a much more humble dwelling) and, across the lintel of the main door, or across the fireplace, is a carving of a date.  It sometimes includes the initials of the husband and wife who lived there, and it usually shows the date of the completion of the building.

There was one in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights - do you remember?  When Mr Lockwood first comes across the Heights, he sees
a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date '1500' and the name 'Hareton Earnshaw' [Chapter 1, Wuthering Heights]
showing that he had come across a datestone.  It was fashionable from the 16th century to put up such a stone, but they are not always reliable as a source, because they may have been re-used in rebuilding or extending.

Datestone 1667

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 4 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: C is for Chapman Codes
"Chapman Codes" are familiar to many genealogists who are working on ancestors from counties in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  They were created by Dr Colin Chapman in the late 1970s as a type of shorthand for genealogy: DOR for Dorset, SOM for Somerset, DEV for Devon and so on.

As abbreviations, one system was in use by the English Place Name Society (established 1923), the Society of Genealogists, the Federation of Family History Societies, even the Post Office, and thousands of other individuals and groups.  So Dr Chapman used the English Place Name Society's and the Society of Genealogist's systems, and created the Chapman Codes to merge everything together and assist at a time of computer development.

But as genealogy becomes more global, they are not quite as useful as they were to those of us on this side of the screen, in my opinion.  I try and avoid all abbreviations as much as possible.  For instance, I came across a WikiTree profile the other day which said that the individual had been born in MA. Where? I knew it was North America, but I had to go to a search engine to find out exactly where (Massachusetts).  I received a wonderful GEDCOM (now used as a word in its own right, seemingly, rather than an acronym) years ago from someone in Australia.  It was peppered with abbreviations and acronymns like SA (South Australia) and NSW (New South Wales), and it had travelled from the United States of America originally, so it had those abbreviations, too.

So computers can still use Chapman Codes in genealogy, but I would plead: do NOT abbreviate placenames if you can possibly help it.

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: B is for Blog

 What is the point of a genealogy blog? After all, a blog usually displays what you're thinking/doing/seeing on the current day, doesn't it?  Actually there are several different reasons for writing in a genealogy blog, apart from those blogs from huge commercial companies, who use them (mostly) to tell you what wonderful new things they have on their site to get you to part with your money.

A genealogy blog is not exactly a source.  Well, it can be, but I would prefer to use one as a repository of clues, then go and do the research myself, once the blog has given me suggestions and/or directions.

It can actually be a pretty good focaliser (ooh, big word there I only learned last week).  What I mean is - and what I found when I started this blog - it focuses you.  I always caution against the scattergun approach: where you have 4,000+ ancestors in your family tree, and you dart from one to another and never get anything done.  What a blog can do is almost magical.  If you only have time and energy to write one blog post, then it stands to reason that you are better off settling on one ancestor only (OK, and maybe their family).  You can write on another ancestor tomorrow.

And with this focusing comes peace of mind.  And when you have peace of mind, you can think in a straight line.  You notice genealogical details you didn't see before, because you were rushing on to the next ancestor.  You thought you didn't have the time; but you now have time to complete that research log which shows where you've been and what you've done (and this helps when you really don't have time; you can just pick up where you left off, because you wrote it down).

So a genealogy blog can be many things: a source, a repository, a focaliser - and cousin bait.  Cousin bait is where you have titled your blog post with an ancestor's full name and dates, and a distant relative happens to be desperately seeking them on Google (other search engines are available).  And they find your blog! So they find you! Collaboration ensues - hooray!

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved

Friday, 1 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016: A is for And We're Off!
The fifth year for this blog in the A-Z Challenge.  In case you were unaware: the A-Z Challenge is held every year during April.  Participating blog authors choose topics for brief posts EVERY DAY, taking the alphabet for their writing prompts.  It's such fun! This blog is devoted to genealogy, so  my A-Z theme has always been genealogy in some form or another.  For the past couple of years I have taken great pleasure in researching genealogical trivia for my posts (such as C is for Corpse Way, E is for Englishry, F is for Farthing, I is for Infant Mortality).  This year will be no different.

Just some of the topics I have lined up: O is for Outlawry, R is for Recusant Rolls, T is for Toleration Act. It seems that the further you dig, the more there is to discover.  Originally, this blog was meant for recording any anecdotes of my own ancestors.  Well, I've written down all the ones I can actually remember, so perhaps now is the time to change the focus of this blog.  Oh, I don't mean away from genealogy - but I have enjoyed the 'genealogy trivia' so much that maybe that will feature more heavily from now on.

Anyway, back to the A-Z Challenge - how about a graphic which tells you all about when I am supposed to be writing?

© 2016 Ros Haywood. All Rights Reserved


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