And what a great show it was.
Twiggy’s Who Do You Think You Are? research revealed that she has a family history story filled with colourful characters, leading lives as eventful as her own has been.
The story of her great-great-grandmother who turned to crime “uttering forged coins” (passing them in payment) and spending time in a Victorian prison. The same woman and her daughter who were prosecuted for stealing a significant amount of money from the girls employer. The mother, having taken all the responsibility and being convicted, doing hard labour.
Others who ended up in the workhouse and the tale of the parish, when faced with having to support the inmates of this harsh institution, prosecuted the husband for abandonment of his wife and children and had him committed to jail with hard labour.
The fact that the convicted man’s occupation was that of a Slater, a hard job dependent on seasonal employment and from his death records we discover that he had a strangulated hernia. All of which point to another era when the welfare state did not exist to provide the safety net that we all so much take for granted today.
So why did the Workhouse exist? Why was there such fear on the part of the administrators of the Parish Poor Relief that they made conditions harsher than those that a labourer on the outside had to endure?
For centuries in England, those who fell on hard times would become the responsibility of their parish. The old poor law system had coped well enough until around 1800 new demands on the system caused the government to think again.
Unemployment had risen to new heights, a consequence of the growing industrialisation of the country that now needed less men to make the goods that previously had been created in the old cottage industries.
Another pressure on the poor law came from the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves.
Then, on top of this, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars caused a great many soldiers to return from France with no work to go to.
In today’s United Kingdom, we often refer to a North South divide with the balance being towards the richer South. In the 1800s the industrial north, with its large cotton mills and other factories, fared better than the South where fewer industries existed to employ those people who had previously worked on the land and were no longer required.
As the situation got worse for the government, by 1832 they believed that they had to overhaul the poor law system and the way in which the poor relief was distributed. A Royal Commission was asked to look into it and as a result parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.
A belief was widely held in the country that the poor were often undeserving of the money. That they were idle if they had no work. Under the new Act Parishes were compelled to ban together into Poor Law Unions that often covered a 20 mile radius and each Union a Board of Guardians were chosen to administer the new system.
The biggest result of this change that could have affected your ancestors was the provision of a workhouse in each Union.
Five hundred plus of these Union Workhouses were constructed during the next 50 years with two-thirds of them having been built by 1840.
Although workhouses were not a new phenomenon, under the old system most of the unemployed would have received poor relief while continuing to live in their own homes (so called “out relief”).
Any parishioners, now needing help after the passing of the new law, were compelled to live inside the workhouse, where conditions were made as harsh as possible so as to discourage all but those who were desperate from applying.
Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.
On admission the poor would have to undress, have their clothes taken away from them until they were discharged. They would have had a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform of rough shapeless material. This stripping away of identity was all part of the discouragement from claiming indoor relief.
I have more on the Poor Laws, the Workhouse and Crime and punishment as just some of the many topics covered in my comprehensive Family History Researcher Academy course for anyone researching their English/Welsh family history. At the moment there is a Special Offer trial from the link on this page of £1 for the first two weeks!
Read what some of my past members have said:
“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years. Kind regards. ” H.Stephens
“You communicate in an understandable way! Thank you for the modules that I have had so far” P.Martin.
They have introduced a brand new premium benefits programme for 12 month subscribers called Findmypast First.
Findmypast First say it is their way of saying thank you to those customers who have taken out 12 month subscriptions by offering exclusive benefits and offers that they can take advantage of for the duration of their subscription.
- Monthly webinars on record sets, hints and sneak previews – the first of which will take place on the 15th October.
- Having your say about the record sets you’d like to see next
- Being first to know about all things Findmypast; from record sets to new features.
- Priority support
- Monthly competitions –Findmypast First members can enter this month’s to win an afternoon with one of their genealogists
That’s not all. They’ve partnered with some brilliant brands to bring members of Findmypast First great offers and goodies, including:
- Exclusive Imperial War Museum Membership offers
- Free issues of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine
- Complimentary access to digital memorial website Lives of The First World War, worth £50
- Free digital copy of Your Family Tree magazine
- Exclusive discount to My History products
- Saga Magazine subscription offer exclusive to Findmypast First
With new perks added each month, exclusively available to 12 month Findmypast subscribers. So if you’ve not yet taken out a 12 month subscription, there really has never been a better time to start.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in the above post.
If your ancestors had money problems before the 1860s, they could have found themselves locked up for many years. This new collection of prison records is packed with engrossing detail about the unfortunate people jailed for debt or bankruptcy.
The records include the Marshalsea Prison Commitment and Discharge Books, 1811-1842, and King’s Bench and Fleet Prison Discharge Books, 1734-1862. Prisoners had to pay what they owed before they could be released – and their debts added up in prison so they often found themselves locked up indefinitely. You can discover how much they owed and how long they were jailed for, as well as details of their time inside.
Ancestry.co.uk, Findmypast.co.uk, GenesReunited.co.uk and TheGenealogist.co.uk are tested by a panel for the magazine.
I am a regular user of three of the websites as there are times when data can be found on one that is not on the others. Also, when searching for a person who has been illegibly recorded in the original records, and so posing a headache for the transcribers, one site may better identify your ancestor than on the others.
Sometimes Ancestry’s interface can be a bit overwhelming, as I have found in showing new users how to find their ancestors using this platform. Drilling down with the Card Index helps greatly.
I was very surprised, however, that Findmypast got such a high rating in the magazine review, after all the problems it has had this year with its new interface. I completely understand that there are good reasons for the new platform, which enables them to continue to expand the records available. Yet we have all seen the reports of disgruntled customers who feel the customer service was not what they had expected when they voiced their concerns. So why wasn’t this reflected in the article? FMP actually comes out highly for Navigation and search in the piece.
As a blogger I continue to post news about FMP’s data set releases on my site, along with those of the other providers, only to then receive emails and comments from FMP users expressing their frustration with the site. And I am completely independent of FMP!
Returning to the review article, I was also disappointed to see several wrong statements made about The Genealogist website which I feel I have to mention in the cause of fairness.
Firstly, it has been possible for as long as I can remember to simply use the “?” icon on this website to report an error and yet the reviewer states bluntly that it “wasn’t possible to flag up transcription errors”. On the contrary!
I also can not agree with the reviewers, who indicate that this website “promises more than it delivers” and that it is “possible to form an inflated impression of the content contained based on the marketing”.
An example given by one reviewer is the number of newspapers and magazines on the site. The article erroneously makes out that the data is less than it really is. I have found that TheGenealogist site has a lot more than just the two newspapers that their reviewer was able to find. I make it 15!
One of the contributors reported that, when searching, you couldn’t group all the census years together and she says that you have to examine them year by year. Again this is just plain wrong as all you need to do is use the Master Search which will allow you to do this!
I have always enjoyed reading Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, but this article perplexes me in its bias. What is going on here?
Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by the sites should you sign up for their subscriptions.
I was asked this week to find out what I could about a man that was never talked about in the client’s family.
Intriguing, I thought!
The subject had married the contact’s aunt in 1943 and fathered three children before, at some time, becoming estranged and then divorced from the aunt.
What little I had to go on was that in the Second World War the man was a British officer in the Indian Army. We didn’t know his date or place of birth, where in the U.K. he was from or any other family details.
To make things a bit more difficult he had always used a nick name “Ron” that was not the short form for his actual first name. Luckily for me, the client did know the full name of the subject and to preserve anonymity I am going to refer to him here as Vincent Martin Edwards (not his real name).
Before the independence of India, in 1947, the Indian Army was an important component of the British Empire’s forces and made a significant contributions to the Second World War effort. After independence the records of officers, such as my man, have been deposited at the British Library in St. Pancras, London and so this was my first port of call.
I know from my visits to the British Library that they have runs of the Indian Army lists on the shelves of The Asian & African Studies Reading Room on Floor 3. A look in one of these, for the war years, should provide the officer’s number that can then be used to locate his service records that are held there, but not on open access.
From research that I have done in the past at St.Pancras I know that access to the service record for someone of this era would more than likely be restricted to the next of kin. All I wanted, however, was for one of the staff to look inside the document folder and to provide me with the date and place of birth of Vincent Martin Edwards and so I shot off an email request.
In amazingly short order I was emailed back with the answer: Streatham, 22 February 1919.
Meanwhile I had found the marriage details online for the couple at Findmypast in their British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns. The bride and groom were both 24 when they married in St Anthony’s church, Coonoor and so I had confirmation of a birth date of 1919.
Turning to the online Birth, Marriage and Deaths, that are widely available on the internet, I went in search of the birth of Vincent Edwards for that quarter. These should be held in the records for the district of Wandsworth and so all I had to do was find the reference and order the certificate from the GRO.
Ever think things are going too well… that they are just a bit too easy?
The rapid reply from the British Library, the exact date and place?
Yes, that’s right! There were no records for Vincent Martin Edwards in that area for that date.
I began to expand my search to the neighbouring districts and found a Vincent Edwards in Camberwell for the first quarter. Perhaps this was my man? Was he born just into this district, I wondered, as it is not that far away on the map.
Now you may have heard the mantra “Always kill off your ancestors” that is try and find their death and in this case it only took me four years in the same Camberwell district to find the death registered of this namesake. This Vincent Edwards only had a life of 4 years, so couldn’t be my man.
So if the district was not wrong what about the date, not withstanding the supposed corroboration of the year from the marriage return?
I went back to the Wandsworth BMDs and began checking for the birth in the years either side for 5 years at a time. Result: a Vincent M Edwards born in 1920, so now we know he had lied about his age on his Indian Army records and at his marriage as well!
The lesson is to always treat dates with healthy scepticism until you get the primary record to prove them. I have ordered the certificate and await it with interest. From it I will be able to see such details as the Father and Mother’s names (The mother’s maiden name was added to the births, marriages and deaths index (BMD) held by the GRO from the September quarter of 1911).
I have a useful tutorial in my Family History Researcher course on using the General Register Office index and ordering certificates for anyone that is unsure of how these records can help in your English/Welsh family tree research. Click the link below to read more.
Great news from the team at TheGenealogist. You can now find records of injured First World War servicemen online for the first time.
Over 1.3 million records from daily and weekly First World War casualty lists have been released online by TheGenealogist. This vast collection of unique records cover all ranks to help you discover more about your injured ancestor’s wartime service.
The new records include career soldiers, volunteer Pals battalions, war poets and even a future Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. The collection covers both those who died of their wounds and those who recovered and returned to the front.
The records are a great resource for finding out what happened to an ancestor during The First World War. Details include:- the name of the injured serviceman, his regiment and rank, the date he was registered as a ‘casualty’ and often his home town or place of enlistment.
These records also work with TheGenealogist’s unique ‘SmartSearch’ feature, which allows you to link to the comprehensive range of other military records available on TheGenealogist. Many of the wounded servicemen received medals for their actions and with a few mouse clicks you can discover whether your ancestor received any commendations, such as in the Military Medals records available online on TheGenealogist.
The First World War affected people from all backgrounds who were bravely wounded in the line of duty. Daniel Laidlaw, a career soldier from Little Swinton in Berwickshire, re-joined the army aged 40 as a Piper in the 7th Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers , 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.
At the Battle of Loos, troops of his battalion were ordered by General Douglas Haig to attack the heavily fortified German positions in their sector. The Scottish troops, facing a thick cloud of chlorine gas, were hesitating but Piper Laidlaw climbed out of the trench and under fire began playing his pipes to inspire the troops and they successfully resumed the attack. He was wounded in both legs but had carried on playing for as long as he could, his Casualty Record can be found on The Genealogist along with a SmartSearch link showing that Laidlaw was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: ”The sheer number of records in this latest release show how brutal The First World War was. Record keeping at the time must have been a real challenge, but thanks to TheGenealogist’s SmartSearch technology, when you find a casualty record, you can instantly see if other records, such as medals, appear on the site.”
The new 1.3 million records of the wounded are available as part of a Diamond Subscription.
To find out more about the ‘First World War Wounded Collection’ see the dedicated page on TheGenealogist.co.uk/ww1-wounded. There you will find photographs, stories, statistics and a free search facility.
Disclosure:Compensated affiliate links used in this post.
The greater the knowledge that we have about a subject, then the more tools we have at our disposal to explore it.
In family history, the more we understand the records and resources, then the better we are able to locate our ancestors hidden in the documents.
Today I am really excited to announce the launch of yet more help for those people researching their English/Welsh family roots.
I’ve listened to your feedback and acted on it.
Some of you told me that you’d like to buy tutorials on certain specific areas for a very modest outlay of under a couple of pounds.
For those of you who asked for this quality information, so as to increase your knowledge of the family history records and resources, then here are the initial four tutorials being released today. I am making them available for the first time as MP3 downloads for £1.99 (or $3.30) so that they really are affordable to all.
Whether you want to listen to them on your computer, or transfer them to your MP3 player, then these programmes in my new Nosey Genealogist’s Master Mind Audio Series explain what the records are, where to find them and how to use them.
I know that many satisfied family history researchers have passed through my Family History Researcher Course of 52 written lessons – downloaded in pdf format to their computer each week. I have received compliments on the content and the accessible style and it gives me great pleasure that many of you really enjoy receiving a weekly module from my Family History Researcher Course. (If you have not joined yet, but are interested in this written course then check out the special offer which is currently a £1 trial for 2 weeks http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/trialoffer/)
But I also understand that some of you just wanted to listen to an audio programme on certain specific subjects and so that is what I have done for you today.
The first four Master Mind Audio Series Modules are:
- Tithe records
- The Parish Chest
- Illegitimate Ancestors
Watch this space as I record and release more audio downloads in the near future.
To listen to a sample taken from the podcast go now to www.NoseyGenealogist.com/mastermind or click on the image below…
This week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC was a bit more traditional in tracing Mary Berry’s family back through various record sets. From what I can see, on the forums and on facebook, this has please many people who don’t like the recent trend of just one ancestor being looked at in a programme in more depth.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this week’s, with Mary Berry being a great choice to investigate with some interesting ancestors that made use of a large number of resources from the family history researcher’s tool box.
In defence for those other programmes, with the single subject, I would just like to say that one of the points that I was taught (and which I myself now teach in my own family history course) is that family history involves looking at the social context of our ancestors, as well as collecting names, dates and details.
We need to understand the world in which our ancestors lived and what was happening to make them be the people that they were. Perhaps these editions were simply trying to show this and in the confines of an hour long programme this naturally excluded all the other generations that would appear on the celebrity’s family tree.
That said, it would seem that the popular vote is for the later type of WDYTYA? Viewers from the genealogy pages on facebook would prefer to see a family tree being traced back and a little bit of detail being fleshed out on the poor unfortunate person who had fallen on difficult times or who had shown great grit.
As long as when we come to research our own family tree that we don’t make the mistake of simply collecting names, dates, perhaps an occupation and place or two and then move on to the next generation without thinking a little about the social context of our ancestors, then my vote is also with the Mary Berry type of programme, but only narrowly in favour!
As I wrote this post today I was casting my mind back over the show and counting off the data sets and resources used for which I have modules in my Family History Researcher course.
There was her ancestor who was the baker with the contract for supplying bread to the Workhouse and the Outdoor relief paupers (not really made clear in the programme as to what each were, probably because of time constraints). My module on the Poor Law explains the difference between indoor and outdoor relief.
There was also Christopher Berry Junior’s wife and 6 children who ended up in the workhouse with some of the children dying while inmates, but the segregation that would have taken place between children and parent was not mentioned. See my module on the Workhouse.
Mary Berry was shown the Trades Directory and especially the one that her ancestor had published. In my course I have a module on Trade Directories written by Mary Bayley of TheGenelogist that uses that website’s great resources to explain their usefulness to the family historian.
Mary Berry had an ancestor of the same name as her who was identified in the GRO vital records as having had a number of illegitimate children. The Parish Registers also confirmed this fact. I delve into these three areas in separate modules on the Birth Marriage and Death certificates (lesson 2), the Parish Records (5 and 8) and Illegitimate children (21).
Then there was old newspapers (lesson number 42), Bankruptcy (lesson 29), apprentices (lesson 15), death records (lesson 25) and probably more!
If anyone is new to our fascinating subject, or is a seasoned family history researcher who would like to be refreshed on English/Welsh researching then I have a £1 trial for two weeks on offer at the moment.
Click the image below to find out more.