Mental Health on Record – The National Archives film


The Lunatic Asylum from Wikipedia

The Lunatic Asylum.  image from Wiki Commons


Have you found an ancestor in the records labelled as a Lunatic?

I know I did, and was a bit shocked to see that she was an inmate of the workhouse until she died some years later. Of course the workhouse was one of the places that people who couldn’t look after themselves would go before the birth of the National Health Service in Britain.

New Film: Mental Health on Record

This week The National Archives in the U.K. premiered a new film called ‘Mental Health on Record’. It is a stop-motion animation film made by a group of young people which explores how contemporary views on mental health can be used to interpret historical records from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Historical documents are used in the film to demonstrate how perceptions of mental health have changed. The film examines how words like ‘hysterical’, ‘lunatic’ and ‘eccentric’ would have been used in past times to refer to our ancestors, their cases often not being recognised as mental health issues

The documents used by the young film makers originate from a range of sources beyond health records, including the Prison Commission, Central Criminal Court and the War Office.


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Discover Your Ancestors with the newly released Vol 9

Last weekend I attended the very successful Family History Show, South West at the UWE Exhibition hall near Bristol. One of the stands there was for Discover Your Ancestors, for whom I am a regular writer. I was so pleased to see that the new Discover Your Ancestors Issue 9 had just come off the press and was available there and in the shops now! With articles on tracing your house history, the family history of the cast and the castle of Downton Abbey and items covering criminal gangs to criminal lunatics, it’s a read that’s hard to put down.

The quality of the glossy bookazine really is amazing and I was impressed with the treatment that the editor, Andrew Chapman, had given both my pieces and the other writer’s articles to make them so attractive on the page.

Discover Your Ancestors V9

This 196-page bookazine contains new in-depth articles, research advice, social and general history, ‘how to’ features, case studies, places in focus, and much more! It is ideal for both experienced researchers and those just starting out.

In this volume you will find features on:
Downton Abbey: the historic location, stars and their family histories
Charles Dickens 150th Anniversary
Celebrity Genealogies: Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Rowan Atkinson
Peaky Blinders & The Krays: the real history of organised crime gangs
DNA and how it can pinpoint ancestors’ locations
and much more!

Also included are over £170 of FREE resources! Including a free online research subscription and a voucher for a free subscription to the monthly online magazine, Discover Your Ancestors Periodical.

Pick up this new release from WHSmiths or go online to S&N Genealogy Supplies where you can also find Discover Your Ancestors Back Issues so you can complete your collection, Periodical Compendiums so you can get up to date with the monthly online magazine, as well as many Books and other new releases from Discover Your Ancestors, including the popular Seven Generation Log Book, 10 Generation Relationship Chart and Birth Year from Census Date Calculator.


Disclosure: I am a regular writer for both the annual print bookazine as well as the monthly online Discover Your Ancestors Periodical

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New RAF Operations Record Books released on TheGenealogist

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This is the first time that these RAF records are fully searchable by name, aircraft, location and many other fields, making it easier to find your aviation ancestors.


In a release of over half a million records, this is the first batch of RAF Operations Records Books (ORBs) to join TheGenealogist’s ever-expanding military records collection.


The operations records books are for squadrons primarily after the First World War but there are a few early squadron records from 1911 to 1918.

These documents tell the stories of these brave aircrew who battled against the odds and give insights into their everyday lives. You can use the collection to follow an airman’s war time experiences from these fully searchable Air Ministry operations record books which cover various Royal Air Force, dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons that came under British Command. The AIR 27 records allow the family history researcher a fascinating insight into their relatives serving in a number of wartime air force units.

In the last week we have been sad to hear of the death of the last surviving Battle of Britain ace pilot from World War Two. Wing Cdr Paul Farnes died aged 101 a few days ago and so it is, therefore, poignant that as one of the last from among the 3,000 airmen – known as The Few – who had defended Britain’s skies in 1940 he appears in this release of RAF records from TheGenealogist.


Wing Commander Farnes had six confirmed enemy aircraft destroyed, two shared destroyed, two possible destroyed and 11 damaged in his impressive war time tally making him qualify as an ace (a pilot who shot down five or more enemy planes).

Wing Commander Paul Farnes  Oem89 [CC BY-SA (]


The records provide summaries of events and can reveal the death of aviators, crashes, as well as less traumatic details such as weather and places patrolled by the planes and where the squadrons were based as the war wore on. As aircrew personnel are named in these reports, those wanting to follow where an ancestor had been posted to and what may have happened to them will find these records extremely informative.

Sgt P.C. Farnes first “kill” recorded in the Operations Record Book for 501 Squadron on TheGenealogist


Of value to researchers are the duties recorded in these documents so that you can find the assignments the men took part in. This includes Bombing, Convoy Escort, Submarine Hunt, Attack Docks & Shipping, Dive Bombing Raids and more.


Use these records to:

  • Add colour to an aircrewman’s story
  • Read the war movements of personnel in air force units
  • Discover if a pilot, navigator, radio operator or gunner is mentioned in the action
  • Find if an airman is listed for receiving an Honour or an Award
  • Note the names of squadron members wounded, killed, or did not return
  • Easily search these National Archives records and images


This expands TheGenealogist’s extensive Military records collection.


Read my article: RAF Operations Books build a picture of WWII aircrew ancestors action

These records and many more are available to Diamond subscribers of



*Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links. This does not mean that you pay more just that I make a percentage on the sales from my links. The payments help me pay for the cost of running the site. You may like to read this explanation here:

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Next Saturday – 6th February 2020 Family History Show at Bristol, UK


Many genealogists and family history researchers, myself included, will be heading over to Bristol for The Family History Show, South West in just a weeks’ time!

The show takes place on this coming Saturday 8th February 2020 at UWE Exhibition Centre, with two Large Lecture Theatres with Free TalksFree Ask the Experts Area, Societies, Local Archives and Ministry of Defence stands, Free Goody Bag worth over £8 on entry, Free Parking and Free minibus from Station.

Family history show at University of the West of England Exhibition Centre
University of the West of England Exhibition Centre


Don’t miss the Family History Show’s Early Bird Offer, Two Tickets for £8, saving £4 on the door price, which you can claim here.

Not in the South West? Don’t worry, they are also coming to York in June and London in September.

Free talks will be held throughout the day, from a variety of speakers.

Theatre 1

10:30 Breaking down brick walls in your family history research
with Mark Bayley, Online Genealogy Expert


How to resolve stumbling blocks in your family history research using new and unique search strategies to find those missing relatives. Includes searching for a family using advanced search techniques. The talk also covers unique data sets.

11:30 The Genetic Genealogy Revolution: how DNA testing is transforming family history research
with Debbie Kennett – DNA Expert & Writer


DNA testing is a powerful tool, it can help to break through brick walls and solve family history mysteries. But DNA testing can also produce surprises. Debbie looks at how different tests work and discusses some of the fascinating stories discovered through DNA testing.

12:30 Tracing Your Military Ancestors
with Chris Baker – Military Expert & Professional Researcher 

Chris draws on his experience from researching thousands of soldiers to explore what can be found when looking for a military ancestor.

13:30 Breaking down brick walls in your family history research
with Mark Bayley, Online Genealogy Expert


How to resolve stumbling blocks in your family history research using new and unique search strategies to find those missing relatives. Includes searching for a family using advanced search techniques. The talk also covers unique data sets.

Theatre 2

11:00 Tips & Tricks for Online Research
with Keith Gregson – Professional Researcher & Social Historian


Keith shares top tips & techniques for finding elusive ancestors, illustrated by some fascinating case studies. He is both a popular and academic historian with a range of publications stretching over the past 40 years.

12:00 Breaking down brick walls in your family history research
with Mark Bayley, Online Genealogy Expert


How to resolve stumbling blocks in your family history research using new and unique search strategies to find those missing relatives. Includes searching for a family using advanced search techniques. The talk also covers unique data sets.

13:00 Tracing Rural Ancestors
with Else Churchill – Professional Researcher & Social Historian


English ancestors lived in rural communities working the land. We may know nothing more about them other than the designation of labourer shown in the parish registers or census records. This talk will look at other records and ways of discovering more about rural ancestors and the communities they inhabited. It will look (inter alia) at records and resources from 1750-1950, such as parish surveys and reports on agricultural life, land and other tax records, land holding, friendly societies, school and poor law records.

14:00 Dating Family Photos from the 1840s to the 1940s
with Jayne Shrimpton – Photo Expert & Fashion Historian


Jayne Shrimpton explains how to date your family photographs, from formal Victorian studio portraits to 20th-century snapshots. She’ll also discuss key fashion dating tips and cover the main photographic formats of the Victorian era.


Perhaps I’ll see some of you there?

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Celebrating Burns night and Scottish Ancestry

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Its Burn’s night  tonight and so I began thinking about how my Scottish ancestors may have celebrated this important anniversary.

Burns Night falls on 25 January every year, the date having been chosen to coincide with the poet’s birthday, who was born on 25 January 1759.  According to Wikipedia Robert Burns, also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. See: Wikipedia

To celebrate this anniversary I have sat down with a copy of Chris Paton’s new book: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records. Pen & Sword November 2019

My Scotts ancestors are a fascinating bunch and so in the hope of being able to trace a bit more about them I have turned to the latest book written by the respected genealogist and writer who runs Scotland’s Greatest Story research service.



Book: Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records

It always bodes well when just a few pages into a genealogy book that the author manages to capture my attention by expanding my knowledge with a number of facts that I had not known and which allow me to experience that ‘light-bulb’ moment when I think: Ah that explains why…so and so. That was exactly what happened to me when reading this new Scottish ancestry book from Chris Paton, the well respected author and professional genealogist.

I have sometimes wondered why I had found an ancestor born on the continent in an European country, but who also appears within the Scottish records in Edinburgh. This publication has finally cleared it up for me. As the book points out, as well as the normal  civil records, that you would expect to find recorded at the General Record Office for Scotland (GROS), there are also a number of Minor Records that relate to Scots residing or working overseas in certain capacities, as well as those born at Sea (until a UK based authority took over births at sea in 1874).

Another point that I had not been fully aware of was that adoption in Scotland was not placed on a legal footing until the Adoptions of Children (Scotland) Act 1930 came into force. The book taught me that the NRS Register of Adoptions can only be consulted in person at the ScotlandsPeople Centre and it gave me other helpful details about researching adopted people in Scotland.

I was very interested to learn about the differences between Regular and Irregular Marriages and to understand the differences between a marriage by declaration, a betrothal followed by intercourse and a marriage by habit and repute. Again, to understand that there are a number of minor records of marriage that covered Scots people abroad I thought could be important when researching some of our ancestors living in foreign countries.

A fact  that I had not know until I read this book was that uniquely, in the British Isles, Scotland has a Register of Corrected Entries for its civil records. This would allow a name to be put right if it had been given incorrectly to the registrar at the time of registration. This seems so sensible as I am aware of a member of my family whose registered name was misspelt by her father when he registered it in the English system, with the records remaining incorrect to this day!

I was fascinated to read the brief history of the Church in Scotland, especially as I have a Scots ancestor who was an Episcopalian Bishop in Perthshire and now I see why his family were supporters of the Jacobite cause in 1745-46. Other ancestors of mine from Scotland were Covenantors and so I have been given a better understanding of their religious leaning. Previously I had only noted them in the records where I had found them, be it in Church of Scotland parishes, the Scottish Episcopal Church or others. I had not fully understood the various factions that had broken away from the State Kirk and how, even in the branch of my family tree that was Scots, that my ancestors may have had different views on religion from each other.

When looking at the Old Parish Records, which I have done for a number of my ancestors who were married before civil registration took place in January 1855, Chris Paton suggests in this book that we researchers should always consult both the marriage register and the Kirk session minutes “even if there appears to be nothing out of the ordinary with the marriage record”. His example of a couple who tried to get away with banns being read twice on one Sunday, because of their hurry to be married before the baby was born, made me smile.

The advice that Church of Scotland registers may also contain the names of dissenting couples whose banns are being read is yet another example of how educating this volume was for me. The author suggests that we pay careful attention to the name of the minister that performed their marriage as this can reveal the denomination of the church that the wedding actually took place within. Should the minister’s name differ from the incumbent of the Parish Church, in whose register the banns had been published, then the minister’s name can lead us to find the nonconformist church or chapel where the marriage took place.

There is so much more that I could have brought up in this short review that I found interesting in this book, from understanding Land Tenure and the chapters on Inheritance and Law and Order.

I thoroughly recommend that anyone with Scots heritage get hold of Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry Through Church & State Records as I am sure you wont be disappointed by it!



*Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links. This does not mean that you pay more just that I make a percentage on the sales from my links. The payments help me pay for the cost of running the site. You may like to read this explanation here:

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New Norfolk Records released online

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TheGenealogist has just added over 500,000 individuals in a new release of Norfolk Parish Records with images of the original records in association with the Norfolk Record Office. TheGenealogist has transcribed them so that they are fully searchable by name and place.

Caister Church Norfolk

Caister Church, Norfolk

These East Anglian records feature the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials covering various parishes in Norfolk, allowing family history researchers from all over the world to search for their Norfolk ancestors online.


This release of new records accessible with TheGenealogist’s Diamond subscription includes 330,000 individuals from baptisms, 100,000 from marriages and 95,000 from burial records.


  • Search by name the transcripts linked to the original images
  • Uncover the dates for baptisms, marriages and burial events
  • Discover names of family members and in some cases occupations
  • Some of the surviving records stretch back into the 1500s


TheGenealogist’s release has added new records for Norfolk parishes which include baptisms, marriages, and burial records adding to hundreds of thousands of existing parish records for this area and millions of parish records for other counties.


Read the article I wrote for TheGenealogist’s on their site:

Norfolk Parish Registers finds the records of the millers at Docking Windmill




*Disclosure: Please note this post contains affiliate links. This does not mean that you pay more just that I make a percentage on the sales from my links. The payments help me pay for the cost of running the site. You may like to read this explanation here:

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The National Archives makes changes for ordering documents



The National Archives
The National Archives, Kew, U.K.

In the UK The National Archives (TNA) in Kew have announced changes to the ordering of documents and some people are not happy from a look at comments being made on Twitter!

Researchers that need to travel long distances to get to TNA seem to be worried by this trial as it will see the restrictions placed on the number of documents they can order. This, they say, will hinder their useful time spent dong research. The argument is that if a researcher is ordering documents on spec, not knowing if they are going to be useful until they have been delivered to the reading room and the researcher has been able to glance through them, then the restriction reduces the number of alternative documents that they can then order in that day. The reduction to twelve documents a day, plus twelve in advance, is not something that they welcome.


Collect your document from the locker assigned to your seat in the reading room
Collect your document from the locker assigned to your seat in the reading room


Here is the first part of the news item as posted on The National Archives website:


From Tuesday 31 March 2020, as part of a six-month trial, readers will be able to order a maximum of 12 documents for the same day, plus up to 12 documents ordered in advance (a maximum of 24 documents per reader per day).

There will be five document ordering slots available each day and you can order as many of your 12 same-day documents as you require in any of the slots. This means that if you have prepared your references you will be able to order 12 documents at the same time. Documents will be delivered at set times each day.

You will not need to finish your advance orders before ordering documents for the same day. The new document ordering and delivery times are listed below:

Document ordering slots Earliest availability in reading rooms
09:45–10:30 11:00–11:15
11:00–11:45 12:15–12:30
12:15–13:00 13:30–13:45
13:30–14:15 14:45–15:00
14:45–15:30 16:00–16:15

In order to facilitate these changes, same-day document ordering will start at 09:45 and finish at 15:30 each day. Advance ordering for the next day will also close at 15:30. Reading room opening times will be unaffected.

To prepare for these changes, we have looked closely at the average number of documents viewed by each reader per day (currently around eight documents each), and have identified new parameters to ensure that readers who plan their visit can conduct their research efficiently in the reading rooms. The proposed changes will give us the opportunity to supply documents to readers within dedicated delivery time slots throughout the day. This will allow us to maintain the collection appropriately so that we can ensure its preservation for future generations of researchers. We will be trialling these changes for six months from the end of March, during which time we will closely monitor reader usage and seek feedback from readers.

The majority of our readers already request records in advance of a visit in order to make the most of their day. If you are not already a user of the advance and bulk order services you can find details on our website on the how to order documents page. We have included a comparison breakdown of the changes overleaf.


They do, however, point out that their Bulk Ordering is not affected.


Read the full announcement on The National Archives’ website:

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Exploring the history of Eel Pie Island

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I was delighted to be able to write an article this week about a place that I find particularly fascinating: Eel Pie Island – that tiny islet that sits in the Thames at Twickenham.

It is not only the history of the place that intrigues me, but I also have some fond family memories of visiting the place as it was the home of some of my parent’s dearest friends in the late 1970s.

Eel Pie Island, I have since discovered was once the home of a an Inn that turned into a hotel. This hotel then became famous in the British music scene before going into decline only to be torn down and redeveloped in the 1970s.

Using a combination of records, however, I have found a little about the family that developed the business that changed the island’s name from the Ait at Twickenham to what it is known as today

You can find the article here at TheGenealogist’s Featured Article pages.

Eel Pie Island
Eel Pie Island hotel until its sale in 1899 from TheGenealogist’s Image Archive



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New Searchable War Memorials



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Press Release from TheGenealogist

New Searchable War Memorials

TheGenealogist has just released over 12,000 records from 138 War Memorials. This means that there are now a total of over 580,000 individuals on War Memorials that are fully searchable in TheGenealogist’s Military records with photographs centred on their inscription. These memorials can give researchers an insight into education, rank, regiment and occupation of an ancestor.

Red Deer 55th Street Cemetery Alberta, Canada - RAF Deaths At Penhold
Red Deer 55th Street Cemetery Alberta, Canada – RAF Deaths At Penhold

The War Memorial records will allow the family history researcher to discover:

● over 12,000 additional individuals recorded on War Memorials
● additional War Memorials from England and Canada
● fully searchable records which are transcribed from images of the tributes
● colour images of the memorial centred on their name
● a variety of memorials in honour of the war dead from various conflicts

The Map Explorer™ on TheGenealogist can also be used to locate all the War Memorials on georeferenced historic and modern maps making them easy to find. The War Memorial database includes names from the Boer War, the First World War and World War II. This latest release from TheGenealogist covers war memorials from various parts of the UK, particularly West Yorkshire, County Durham and East Sussex as well as Canada.

This new release covers memorials that are not all set in stone or cast in iron. There is the WW1 memorial volume book held in Darlington Central Library for Pease and Partners of Darlington. This firm owned mines, quarries and other works all over County Durham and Teesside. This particular memorial is useful to a researcher wanting to “break down barriers” as it not only gives the rank and regiment of the man, but also gives his place of occupation (which particular mine, quarry, or works they had been employed in) which could aid a researcher to try to get the employment record for an ancestor – the volume is divided into sections for the 543 men who died, over 4,100 who served and details of the medals awarded to 134 of them.

Other employment War Memorials in this release include: Yorks & Lancs Railway locomotive works at Horwich where 122 employees were killed in WW1 and in London the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Braziers recording 37 men who were killed or served in WW1 and WW2.

1914 1919 The Great War: Liverymen and Freemen of the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers
1914 1919 The Great War: Liverymen and Freemen of the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers

Additional School and college War Memorials added this time include Petworth Boys school, which commemorates 2 teachers and 28 pupils killed in 1942 when the school was destroyed by enemy action, and King’s College Cambridge where 345 students or former students etc. are commemorated having been killed in both the First and Second World War.

Of further note are War Memorials in Pimlico, London where 67 men from a Peabody Estate who were killed in WW1 are recorded. There is an interesting set of stained glass windows in Grimsby Minster dedicated to 25 Grimsby men lost in WW2 who were members of various clubs such as the Grimsby Cyclists’ Club. In this release there is a memorial in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada to 35 men of the RAF killed there during their training and in Eastbourne Town Hall there is a roll of 180 civilians or firefighters etc. killed there in WW2 by enemy action.

These records are available to Diamond subscribers of TheGenealogist as part of their large Military Records collection.

Read TheGenealogist’s article: Using War Memorials to research ancestors from the First World War



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Who was the father? Watch out for “extra-pair paternity”

As reported in The Guardian newspaper the women of the 19th-century urban poor were not always faithful to their husbands (in contrast to their countryside sisters) according to some research published in the journal Current Biology.



You can read The Guardian‘s story here:

The authors of the paper conducted research where they compared the Y chromosomes of 513 pairs of men who supposedly share a common ancestor. Their aim was to discover what the prevalence was of what they called “extra-pair paternity” over the past 500 years – in other words, they were looking at how many times in the family trees of these 513 pairs of men that the father named on the birth certificate differed from the actual biological father.


I wonder how many people discover from doing a DNA ancestor test that they are not related biologically to the ancestors they had thought that they were from doing the paper trail research in the records?

Food for thought?

Old Woman with a Baby in her Arms Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0]
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