Workhouse Ancestors

 

After last week’s post about the Workhouse and my visit to the National Trust’s property of Southwell in Nottinghamshire, I was really pleased to have feedback from some of you about finding your own ancestors in the workhouse.

Then on Tuesday night there was the first part of  the “Secrets from the Workhouse” programme on ITV. Fantastic timing for me. And I also had the chance to recognise that much of the interior and exterior of Southwell House had been used in the filming of the show, to add atmosphere.

102_0370 On my visit I had been struck at how much smaller the rooms were than I had somehow expected to find. Also shocking was the basic lack of privacy that the inmates would have had to suffer in the confined space that they would have found themselves.

 

I could quite understand how, being on top of each other, that these people could end up fighting with each other as was evidenced by examples of records on display in the museum.

102_0377

The food was not of the highest quality, but for someone who had no other means to feed themselves, was at least available to them inside the institution. Breakfast was Milk Gruel and bread. The amount each inmate got depended on if they were an adult male, adult female or a child.

Lunch on a Sunday, Tuesday and a Thursday included 5 oz of meat for the adults and 4 oz for the children. To this was added 16 oz of potatoes and 5-6 oz of bread for the adults and less for the children. Supper was yet more Gruel and bread.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the hapless inmates had no meat or potatoes, but simply a broth for lunch and on  Saturdays they had Suet pudding instead!

That was, of course, unless part of it was stopped as a punishment.

Workhouse Punishment

In the records on show it was possible to see that certain inmates were stopped their meat or broth as a punishment for fighting and given 8 oz of bread or 1 lb of potatoes instead. You really do have to feel sorry for them.

 

There is much more on workhouse records in my new course on English Family History Research at: www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

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The Idle Poor and the Deserving

 

Southwell WorkhouseI have just been to Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire to look over an actual workhouse that is now run by the National Trust as a museum.

By doing this and seeing the layout of the accommodation, with its day rooms and exercise yards, my understanding of how these institutions worked has become clear.

 

In past times, before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the care of the poor members of the community fell to the monks in the various religious houses throughout England and Wales. With the reorganisation that the dissolution brought, those poor ancestors of ours who had the misfortune to fall on hard times, would then have become the responsibility of their parish.

Under this parish system, the old poor law had coped well enough until around the year 1800 when, under increasing demands being made on the system the authorities were forced to review the process for supporting the poor.

The situation was that unemployment had risen to new heights, as a result of the burgeoning industrialisation of the country. Britain now required less men to make the goods that had previously been manufactured by workers in the cottage industries.

On top of this the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves, added to the demand placed on the poor law system as it had been constituted.

As if this was not enough for the Government, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars had meant that a great number of soldiers now had come back from France and they had no work waiting for them at home.

The Deserving Poor.

In my family tree I was, at first, surprised that none of my ancestors seemed to have ended up in the workhouse. As I found more and more forebears I had become complacent that all my lot seemed to make it in the world without having to “Go On the Parish” and then I found one.

It was a sad shock for me as the lady in question had been the wife of a Master Mariner, the mother of several children who had all married and were making their way well in the world. But there she was in one of the census spending the end of her life in the workhouse!

Her husband was nowhere to be found in the census and so I speculated that he must have died abroad, not being able to find his death record. She, poor woman, had nowhere to go but into the workhouse.

But the workhouse was also a place where medical care could be given to those with little means in a time before the availability of free hospitals or medical insurance. So perhaps this explains why she was there? The deserving poor were segregated from the idle poor having different quarters and exercise yards.

The Idle Poor.

The number of workhouses had grown after the enactment of the Workhouse Test Act of 1723. The thinking behind this was that this new Act would help to prevent irresponsible claims being made on a parish’s poor rate. Something that concerned those who had to find the money to run the system as the funding of it was paid for by the wealthier members of the parish.

By the 1830s, in England and Wales, most parishes had at least one workhouse to send its poor to.

So what would any of our ancestors, unlucky enough to have found themselves in this position have faced? Those poor unfortunates who had no option but to seek “indoor relief” would have to endure unpalatable conditions inside the institution. It was designed to be thus so as to put people off from entering the workhouse unless they had run out of alternatives for survival outside.

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 they would have to undress, surrender their own clothes until they were discharged, have a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform which was usually made of rough and shapeless material. This was all aimed at discouraging people from entering the system by stripping away part of their identity.

The belief, at the time, was that the undeserving poor were idle and so they were made to do tedious jobs. Inmates who were not aged or infirm would have to work for their keep. The jobs given to them were deliberately chosen to be monotonous and boring. At Southwell they would grind corn, pick oakum or, for the females, do laundry work.

Workhouse tasks

The picture to the left is of an old rope from the docks that the inmates would pick apart so that the fibres could be sold back to the docks to be used in the caulking boats and ships.

 

 

So what about the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and how this shook up the system?

There will be more detail about the workhouse inside my course on English and Welsh family history at: http://www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

 

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Handwritten Lincolnshire Registers now online

findmypast searchA few years back and it was impossible to find any English Church Registers online,  but gradually more and more are appearing now and I take my hat off to the various family history websites that are entering partnerships with County Record Offices to bring us more and more of these very special records. Well done Findmypast and Ancestry to name two!

This week it was findmypast.co.uk that made available online records showing the life and times of some of the most famous figures in the largest county in east England, Lincolnshire, following a new project with Lincolnshire Archives  to create the Lincolnshire Collection.

 

The handwritten registers date back to 1538 and span more than 300 years; they provide insight into baptisms, marriages and burials from 103 parishes across Lincolnshire, from Laughton to Gedney Hill.

 

Some of the incredible details include information on the baptisms of scientist Isaac Newton and poet Lord Tennyson, famous for the Lincoln inspired Victorian ballad, ‘The Lady of Shallot’. The records also include information on the burial of famous hangman William Marwood, renowned for inventing the ‘long drop’ technique that ensured the prisoner’s neck was broken instantly at the end of the drop, considered to be a kinder way to be executed.

 

Debra Chatfield, a family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: ‘The Lincolnshire parish records include fascinating information about some of our most noteworthy and infamous figures, not just from Lincolnshire’s history, but the whole of British history.

 

‘Publishing them online so that people can find their ancestors and see whether they are related to Sir Isaac Newton or one of the other celebrities we’ve uncovered, such as poet Lord Tennyson, polar explorer John Franklin, or mathematician George Boole, is really exciting.’

 

Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries and culture, said: “Lincolnshire has a rich cultural heritage, and the county council has long sought to celebrate and enhance this through digital access.  The partnership with findmypast.co.uk is a very positive development that will help bring these records to a wider, global audience, and hopefully encourage people to explore more of the county’s vibrant history.”

 

At present I am yet to find any of my own ancestors came from Lincolnshire, but as I go on researching I am always surprised when someone from outside of the county marries into my family tree and sets me off researching a new line  in a part of the country that I never knew I had kin from. Perhaps one day I will find a forebear from Lincolnshire, but in the meantime I recommend this data collection to any of you that have ancestors from there.

The records are now part of the online parish record collection at findmypast.co.uk and 1.6 billion family history records including censuses, military, newspaper and crime records and can be browsed at http://www.findmypast.co.uk/search/life-events-bmds/lincolnshire/browse-images/.

 

Many resources available on findmypast.co.uk can be accessed for free in Lincolnshire’s libraries.

 Disclosure: The links in this post are compensated affiliate links that may mean I am rewarded by Findmypast should you sign up for their services or products.



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Making Mistakes by Importing Another’s Work

 

Family Tree on a computerIt is a well known fact that you should never import another persons research into your own tree until you have checked it. This weekend I have been looking at a Pedigree chart that was sent to me that, at first glance, seemed to give me some great leads on a branch of my family that I have not got further back than 1805 with.

The kind person who had sent it to me seemed to have identified the parents of the ancestor that I had myself got as far back as, and so I went to check the details myself.

At first I thought that it really did look like they had saved me a lot of work and had helped me with my family tree – until I noticed that there were two sons of the family with the same first name and one was my forbear, while the other purported to be his brother.

With the terrible instances of infant and child mortality, in times past, it is often possible to come across parents giving the names of dead siblings to the children born after the death of the older and now deceased child. In this pedigree, however, both of the supposed brothers lived long lives into adulthood!

Having been alerted by this error I now looked with closer interest at the purported father of my confirmed ancestor and noted that in the parish records collection there were two men baptised in the same city around the time I would have expected and that they had different parents and so were different families. So now I needed proof that the one chosen by my correspondent to be my forebear was indeed the father of my ancestor I had already researched and confirmed in the prime sources of the parish register.

Two siblings of the same name and two possible sets of parents!

 

This is a lesson for those that are new to family research to take on board when they start to search back before the civil records were taken over by the GRO from the parish church records.

It is equally a lesson for me. I was doing a little family research while feeling tired from a heavy week and the temptation was there to cut corners and import wholesale this enticing bit of research into my own tree. Luckily my sense kicked in and I started to check the details as I have been taught to do.

To learn how to trace your English and Welsh family tree properly take a look at my new course by clicking the image below…

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Records of Mechanical and Civil Engineers published online

 

Ancestry.co.uk

 

I’ve just had an email from Ancestry and have immediately checked out their new records of Civil and Mechanical Engineers to see if I could find any of my engineer ancestors. If you have any that followed this career path then I’d recommend you too have a look now!

Just before I jump back to the data, that I have open in another window, here is their press release…

 

 

 

Today Ancestry.co.uk, has launched online for the first time the Civil and Mechanical Engineer Records, 1820-1930, detailing almost 100,000 of Britain’s brightest inventors and innovators from the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

The digitised records were collated from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and reveal fascinating details about the institutions’ members, including pioneers of automobiles, bicycles and even hydropower.

 

Many were behind some of the notable inventions of the age, including one of the foremost designers of the internal combustion engine (Ricardo) and even an early sniper rifle (Whitworth). Others created some weird and wonderful designs, including a cucumber straightener (Stephenson), an elaborate mousetrap, and early forms of amusement rides (both Maxim).

 

The collection comprises membership records and photographs of engineers who were members of both institutions between 1820 and 1930, and provides a unique insight into their careers and accomplishments.

 

Before the 1700s, engineers in Europe had been almost all military men. Although civil engineering work had been carried out before then, it had not been recognised as an identifiable profession. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was formed in 1818 with a mission to ‘foster and promote the art of civil engineering’.

 

Founded in 1847, IMechE was formed for the growing number of mechanical engineers who were employed in the flourishing railway and manufacturing industries. The institution’s first president, rail pioneer George Stephenson is known for designing the ‘Geordie lamp’ used by miners. A record of Stephenson’s membership appears in the collection, along with a photograph.

 

Other famous engineers who appear in the collection include:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel – Brunel was known for building dockyards, the Great Western Railway, a series of steamships including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship and numerous important bridges and tunnels. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering. Brunel’s membership form for the Civil Engineers isincluded in the collection, dated 27 January 1829.
  • Sir John Rennie – In 1815 Rennie assisted his father, who was another famous engineer, in the erection of Southwark Bridge, and later undertook the construction of London Bridge in 1824, which was opened in 1831, the same year he was knighted. His membership was passed by the council of the Mechanical Engineers in 1844 after ‘many years in the profession’.
  • Christopher Hinton – Hinton was a British nuclear engineer and supervisor of the construction of Calder Hall, the world’s first large-scale commercial nuclear power station. Born in 1901, Hinton’s application to join the Mechanical Engineers is in the records, dated 1921.  

 

Sir F Henry Royce is another famous engineer listed in the records; he is known globally as the co-founder of the quintessentially British Rolls-Royce manufacturing company where his engineering legacy lives on today. Frederick W. Lanchester, another of the so-called ‘big three’ English car engineers, celebrated for his innovative work on gas and petrol engines as well as his later research into aeronautics and flight theory, is also featured.

 

Aside from cars, prolific railway engineer Thomas Brassey appears in the records. Upon his death in 1870, Brassey was responsible for one in every 20 miles of railway in the world. Irishman Thomas Andrews is also listed as the chief naval architect of the ill-fated Titanic and he lost his life on its maiden voyage in 1912.

 

ICE received a royal charter in 1828 and by the end of the 19th century had become both an educational and qualifying body when it introduced examinations for civil engineers.

 

IMechE started graduate examinations in 1913 and elected its first female member, Verena Holmes, in 1924. She got her first job building wooden propellers at the Integral Propeller Company in Hendon and went on to patent many of her own inventions including medical headlamps, poppet valves and apparatus for treating patients with tuberculosis. ICE’s first female member, Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan, is also included in the records, becoming a member in 1927.

 

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.uk comments: “Included within this collection are some of the brightest brains Britain has ever produced, who were responsible for some of the country’s most iconic landmarks and feats of innovative design. Today, as it was then, engineering is a vital part of the country’s economy and it is fascinating to be able to learn more about the men and women who established this legacy.

 

“Not only do these records provide a unique insight into engineering during the 19th and 20th centuries but they will provide a valuable resource for anybody trying to trace an ancestor within the collection.”

 

The new database comprises three collections; the Mechanical Engineer Records, 1870-1930, the Civil Engineer Records, 1820-1930 and the Civil Engineer Photographs, 1829-1923, each of which is available to view from today online at Ancestry.co.uk.

 

 

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More Parish Records Find Their Way Online!

 

parish church recordsParish Registers are one of my great favourites among all the records available to family historians. They record something about ancestors of ours that may not have managed to get themselves recorded elsewhere in their lives, or at least in records that have survived through to today.

Every time I hear about more data, making it onto the Internet, I am thankful. My reason is that it may allow someone, somewhere, to make the right connection to their past family members that they may not have done without these databases.

I’ve been a bit busy theses last couple of weeks and missed this announcement when it first came out 9 days ago, but the Family history website findmypast.co.uk has added over 450,000 new parish baptisms, marriages and burials covering the period 1538-2009 from areas as diverse as Northumberland, Durham, Ryedale, Sheffield, Wiltshire and Suffolk to make it easier than ever to trace your ancestors further back through history and further expanding what has now become the most comprehensive collection of England and Wales parish records online. Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager for findmypast.co.uk commented on the new release “This is a tremendous step for those trying to uncover their UK ancestors, and a great resource for family historians with British roots worldwide”.

 

Full details of what this exciting record release contains are as follows:

 

  • 141,525 Suffolk Baptisms 1753-1911
  • 244,309 Wiltshire Baptisms 1538-1867
  • 27,420 Northumberland & Durham Burials 1587-2009
  • 22,687 Sheffield Baptisms 1837-1968
  • 8,181 Sheffield Marriages 1824-1991
  • 7,113 Ryedale Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1754-1999

 

These records are brought to you by Suffolk family history society, Wiltshire family history society, Northumberland and Durham family history society, Sheffield family history society and Ryedale family history society as a result of the ongoing partnership of findmypast.co.uk and the Federation of Family History Societies. They are available to search online now and can be viewed with PayAsYouGo credits, a Britain Full or a World subscription.

 

The records are available on all findmypast sites as part of a World subscription.

 

 


Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by Findmypast.co.uk should you sign up for their subscriptions.

 

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