Wolf Hall and family history

Thomas Cromwell

You may have been watching the BBC’s dramatization of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” on television. The lead character in the book and television series, is Thomas Cromwell a man born into a working class family who rises to be the right hand man of Cardinal Wolsey, at one time King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor. Cromwell managed to survive the fall from grace of Wolsey and went on to become the King’s Chief Minister until his own downfall.

The connection between this man and we family historians, with ancestors in England and Wales, is that Thomas Cromwell is responsible for the fact that we are able to trace many of our ancestors back in the documents created by the parish churches across the land.

The Parish registers for baptisms, marriages and burials, were first introduced into the Church of England in 1538 by Cromwell as Henry VIII’s Vicar General and Vice regent, a position that gave him power to supervise the church.

Cromwell required that every parish church was to acquire a sure coffer (that is, a parish chest) within which their records could be securely stored. While the parish chest was not a new idea, they could have been found in churches up and down the land all the way back to medieval times, what was new, in Tudor times, was the notion that Cromwell dictated that accurate records were to be kept and the responsibility to do so was placed on the parish officials to keep these records safe.

The parish chest were often no more than a hollowed out tree trunk that was secured with three locks. The keys were to be kept by the Bishop, the Priest and by a religious layman.

By the mid-1500’s the parishioners in every parish of the land were instructed by law to provide a strong chest with a hole in the upper part thereof, and having three keys, for holding the alms for the poor. Another chest may have been used to keep safe the church’s plate and this or the first chest would also double up as a place where the parish registers and other parish documents could be kept safe. In some places only one chest would have sufficed for both purposes, while in other parishes two or more may have been used.

So the debt we owe to Thomas Cromwell is that he introduced parish registers, some of which have survived pests, fire and flood back through the generations and provide us today with names of ancestors stretching back generations.

If you want to know more about what documents to use to find your elusive ancestors then join the Family History Researcher Academy to learn where to look and what resources to use.

 

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Murderous Madam and the Policeman

George Le Cronier's Memorial, Green Street, St.Helier.

I’ve been having a look at the S&N newsletter, that popped into my email box at the end of the week.

What caught my eye was a fascinating Victorian murder story that took place in the St Helier streets quite local to where I live. I’ve come across it before in the book The Policeman and the Brothel by Theodore Dalrymple, but this is the first time that I’ve seen it written from the family history records point of view!

It was fascinating to see the Illustrated London News report from March 7th 1846; the census records, with the tell tale blanks for the occupations of the young  prostitutes, and the criminal records showing the killer was transported for life to Van Diemens land. Also to be seen is the huge monument for the murdered policeman in Green Street cemetery, a picture of which can be searched for in TheGenealogist’s growing Volunteer Headstone Database that now includes many Jersey burials.

 

The newsletter isn’t just about this story. They begin with a look at what will be coming online from their group throughout 2015:

Parish Records, detailed County and Tithe Maps, millions of new Medals Records, more Grave Memorials from the Volunteer Headstone Project, records of Railway Workers from Pensions to Staff Movements, Jewish records, detailed Street Maps, Passenger Lists, Emigration Records and more War Memorials are all going online at TheGenealogist this year.

And then we hear that this month they’ve released more War Memorials, Parish Records and have now added the 1911 census for all Starter and Gold Subscribers! You can make the most of this with £30 cash back on an Annual Gold Subscription, making it just £48.95 for the first year!

There’s no better way, they suggest, to start the new year than with some special offers – you can claim £50 cashback on a Diamond Subscription to TheGenealogist, and save £££s in their New Year Sale over at S&N Genealogy Supplies. The news letter also takes a look at 2014 in a review.

Finally, there is that interesting article I’ve already drawn you attention to above about Ancestors that fell foul of the law. As the S&N team write in the email, these are always fascinating subjects for family history research and I would say none more than a Victorian murder story of a notorious Madam who escaped the hangman’s noose!

 

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Who do you think you are? Family history programme delights many fans.

Mary Berry

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.

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First World War medal winning heroes now available online at TheGenealogist.co.uk

 

TG Medals

I’ve heard from the team at TheGenealogist about their new medal release that gives full details of heroic soldiers and their deeds in the First World War and The Second Boer War to aid you in your search for more information on your ancestor’s war exploits.

Analysis of these newly released Distinguished Conduct Medal records uncovers stories of heroism and exceptional bravery from ordinary soldiers. The medal was instituted in 1854, but the desperate fighting and struggle of the First World War saw the medal awarded to a larger amount of soldiers for the first time.

TheGenealogist.co.uk has released complete new records of Non Commissioned Officer’s and Other Ranks who were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in The First World War and The Second Boer War.

Uniquely these new records show full details of the Recipients Medal Card combined with a link to The London Gazette which in numerous cases contains full details of the heroic deed that won them the medal. The Gazette is the one of the official journals of the British Government and can be classed as one of the oldest surviving English newspapers.

The records contain full details of the soldier awarded the medal –their name, rank, regiment, date of medal citation and details of their heroism in battle, all easily found using ‘SmartSearch’ on TheGenealogist.
Men from all walks of life found the strength and resilience to summon up acts of courage to go above and beyond the call of duty.

The first Battle of Ypres reached a crisis point for the British at the end of October 1914. The 1st Division were being driven back and the 1st Coldstream Guards had been wiped out in the fighting. At a critical moment, Sergeant J. Kirkcaldy of the 26th (Heavy) Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (as seen in the illustration), brought up fresh horses under a terrific shellfire to replace those already killed. His gallant conduct saved a transport wagon. Details of his DCM Medal award can be found on TheGenealogist:
TG Medals2
TG Medals3
On October 20th 1914 at Chateau de Flandre, Sergeant Forwood of the 3rd East Kents (The Buffs) found himself in a desperate situation. Initially buried alive when a German shell hit his machine gun position killing or wounding his comrades, despite receiving numerous wounds himself, he managed to escape and report the situation to his headquarters to ensure their position was covered. His DCM award appeared in the London Gazette in early 1915 and an artist’s impression of the trauma he suffered is illustrated here.
His full details and link to the London Gazette are all found in the new DCM records on TheGenealogist.

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist concludes: “We are continually making more historic military records available and our new DCM Collection with its link to the London Gazette brings all the information together for the family historian. Our collection of military records goes from strength to strength with more to come.”
To find out the extreme bravery of our soldiers and their courage in the line of duty see the dedicated page on TheGenealogist.co.uk/DCM. There you will find photographs, stories, statistics and a free search facility.

 

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First World War Medal Records go online

TG War
 
Following on from my blog post last Sunday, I have just heard from TheGenealogist to tell me about another set of First World War records.
 
Press Release
For immediate release:
 
Newly released for the first time are First World War Medal Records that crossed the great social class divide.
Over 117,000 ‘Military Medals’ were awarded in the First World War for ‘acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire’. These records are now available to view online complete with an image of the actual Medal Card and a link to the official government publication of the time. It’s a unique, comprehensive set of records available only on TheGenealogist.co.uk
 
The Military Medal was awarded to ‘Non Commissioned Officers and Ordinary Ranks’ and covers exceptional courage as a soldier in battle. It also was awarded for those that risked their lives trying to save others, often in extreme danger. The Medal Records on TheGenealogist show people from a wide range of backgrounds and social classes, including a number of young women from very privileged families who chose to drive ambulances and rescue the wounded in the mud of battle.
 
The role of ‘stretcher bearer’ was one of the most dangerous jobs of the time and surprisingly, the records show many women bridged social constraints of the time to risk life and limb to help rescue and bring in soldiers wounded in battle.
 
Details now available on TheGenealogist range from the most highly decorated Military Medal recipient, stretcher bearer Private Ernest Corey of the 55th Australian Infantry, to Lady Dorothie May Evelyn Feilding-Moore, the daughter of the Earl of Denbigh (the first female recipient of the Medal), to Mairi Lambert Gooden-Chisholm who rescued a German pilot from no-man’s land. Both men and women, crossing the social divide and class customs of pre-1914 to demonstrate outstanding bravery.
 
The new Military Medal records provide:
Full details of the person winning the medal – their rank, regiment, date of medal citation and the details of their heroism in battle
Sophisticated search techniques to find the medal recipient with just one mouse click. A further addition to the comprehensive medal and First World War records now available on TheGenealogist.co.uk
 
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content comments: “With our military record releases in 2014, we are aiming to cover all aspects of The First World War. Every new record set unearths surprises and the Military Medal collection is no different as we discover the female front line heroes listed alongside those who fought to protect our freedom. These unique records consistently provide fascinating tales behind them.”
 
More details on the records of the First World War ‘Military Medals’ can be found at www.TheGenealogist.co.uk/military-medal
 

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