I have seen elsewhere on the internet today that the comedian Al Murray is not happy with a claim that he is related to David Cameron!
This was just some of the publicity that has surrounded the launch today of 2.5 million records from British India records that provide a fascinating glimpse into life on the Indian subcontinent
Family history website findmypast.co.uk has, in partnership with the British Library,Â added 2.5 million records covering over 200 years of history of the British in India and published them online for the first time today.
These records covering 1698-1947 give real insight into the heart warming and heart breaking stories of British citizens living in India during the tenure of the East India Company and the British Raj.
Debra Chatfield, Brand Manager at findmypast.co.uk said of the release: â€œThe new British in India records at findmypast are a great opportunity to find ancestors that previously were considered missing, as so many of our relatives sought their fortune on the subcontinent. Whether your relatives were clergy, aristocracy, tradespeople, merchants, civil servants or soldiers, the lowest and the landed all have stories to be told with these records.â€
This holiday period I was catching up with my copies of Your Family Tree Magazine (January 2014 Issue 137). On page 44 I began reading an article all about how one of their readers found the troop ship that took her father to war by doing a bit of detective work with the few pieces of the puzzle that she had.
The reader, Jackie Dinnis who blogs about her family history at www.jackiedinnis.wordpress.com, had a few photographs and his medals to go on and, crucially, a letter written by her father from the unnamed troopship.
In the note, to his mother, he tells of being entertained by an orchestra conducted by a popular British dance band-leader called Geraldo. By doing some research online Jackie found that Geraldo and his Orchestra had been going to the Middle East and North Africa in 1943 to entertain the troops. It required several other bits of information to name the troopship. Facts, that tied the dates of departure up with the detail that this band were on board, eventually named the troopship as the Dominion Monarch.
Now this is where her father’s story overlaps with my father’s story.
As I have written elsewhere in this blog about obtaining my dad’s merchant navy records he was a young purser’s clerk on board the former liner and wartime troopship the Dominion Monarch.
As I read this at Christmas, while staying with him, I asked if he remembered the concert by Geraldo. Sadly he didn’t, though I can confirm that he was on board for that voyage from a look at his MN papers, but he had other story’s to tell of life on board the ship and its convoy passages across the oceans.
Then we fast-forward to Christmas day and one of those games that get played at the dinner table when the family are gathered together. My sister’s mother-in-law picked a card that asked “What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your life?” In turn we all gave our answers and then it was my father’s turn.
“To have survived,” was his answer. And when asked what he meant, he elaborated a little: “being at sea in the war.”
Then, this week, I was able to watch with him the programme on PQ17 the disastrous Arctic convoy. It was not a route that he sailed, though he was empathising with the crews that were so sorely deserted by the Admiralty’s decision to withdraw Naval protection and issue the Scatter signal.
And finally, this week, I was checking in at Facebook to find that some of my younger first-cousins-once-removed, had been looking at their grandfather’s Merchant Navy ID card and receiving a history lesson from their parents over the New Year. The awe with which they were learning about young men (both my Uncle and Father served in the Shaw Savill Line) who had gone to sea at a time when a torpedo from a U-boat may have prematurely ended their lives, was fitting.
So this Christmas and New Year has, unintentionally, taken on a Merchant Navy theme for me. Family history is great!
Your Family Tree Magazine is one of my favourite magazines:
DNA Testing is now accessible to everyone as TheGenealogist offers DNA tests from under Â£50 and slashes prices by up to Â£150 on other tests!
Due to the increase in popularity of DNA testing and advances in technology, TheGenealogist is now able to offer DNA testing for genealogical research at significantly reduced prices. Itâ€™s never been more affordable to add your DNA to the worldâ€™s largest genealogical DNA database and start finding matches. You can see the prices and compare the various tests at www.thegenealogist.co.uk/dna
As family historians, DNA testing can really assist our family history research and help us break down those brick walls. Many researchers find the maternal line difficult to trace using traditional methods such as census and parish records. However, an mtDNA test could prove invaluable to your research and help you discover missing ancestors or add a new line to your research. The test can be taken by both males and females and helps you trace that maternal line.
Itâ€™s straightforward and can all be done online with the minimum of effort. A kit is sent out to you and you simply post it back to get added to the DNA database and discover your results!
Mark Bayley from TheGenealogist comments: â€With prices from under Â£50, DNA testing is now finally affordable to the vast majority of family historians. DNA matches are provided against the largest database in the world.â€
The Range of DNA Tests on offer
TheGenealogist offers 3 types of testing- the â€˜Mitochondrialâ€™ mtDNA (maternal line) testing, theâ€™ Y-Chromosomeâ€™ Y-DNA test (for paternal lines) and the Family Finder test, which tests both male and female lines and also tells you your ethnic percentages. With prices starting from under Â£50, itâ€™s become more affordable than ever.
Itâ€™s amazing to discover how far DNA testing can help us trace our ancestry. A skeleton of a twenty three year old hunter who died 9,000 years ago was discovered in a cave in Cheddar, Somerset and Mitochondrial DNA testing was able to identify a local school teacher as a direct descendant. The same principles are being applied to the discovery of at least twenty eight early human skeletons found recently in the mountains of Northern Spain, the â€˜Sima de los Huesosâ€™ tribe, who are undergoing Mitochondrial DNA tests. This DNA is passed down through the maternal line and is easier to recover from ancient bones.
I was passing by a village war memorial this week, still resplendent with its poppy wreaths from theÂ remembrance day service. I took to wondering about who these named individuals, carved in stone, were and what their lives had been before they went off to fight and die for their country.
So it is sort of apt that I just got this in from TheGenealogist. It deals with the National Union of Teacher’ War Records, giving some insight into one set of professionals who answered the call to go to war.
The Diamond subscription on TheGenealogist now has over 18,000 new records to access from the â€˜National Union of Teachersâ€™ War Records from 1914 to 1919. These records include a list of teachers who joined the forces, those who received honours, and also those who were sadly killed, plus other information relating to the National Union of Teachers during the war.
Covering all N.U.T. members who served in the war and also discussing issues of the time, such as pensions, salary levels of teachers who joined the army and fund raising for relief in Europe.
The records are a comprehensive list of members of the National Union of Teachers who served in the Great War. The teaching profession and its members responded to the great nationwide pressure to â€˜do their bitâ€™, with most male teachers of service age answering the call to arms.
The â€˜National Union of Teachersâ€™ had a number of courageous medal recipients amongst its members. Listed here is 2nd Lieutenant Jack Harrison of the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was killed in May 1917 in Oppy Wood, France aged 27. After having earlier won the Military Cross for bravery, he was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for single-handedly attacking a German machine gun post to protect his platoon. His body was never found.
He taught at Lime Street Council School in Hull and also played rugby league for Hull FC as a prolific try scorer. He is listed among the â€˜Gallant War Deadâ€™ in the records along with the name of his school.
The records provide an interesting insight into how a specific profession and its union coped with the events of The Great War. Taken from the National Union of Teachers War Records 1914 to 1919 publication, the records can be found in the War Service Lists in the Military Records section on TheGenealogist.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: â€œThe war affected so many lives, but it can often be hard to trace records for those who survived. This is why TheGenealogist is committed to providing more unique records of those who survived, whether they are casualty lists, prisoners of war, or in this case full service lists for specific professions. We are aiming to continually add more of these specialist records to provide family historians with more unique data at their fingertips.â€
With a little time on my hands this week I’ve been researching my late Godmother’s family, the Kerdals who ran a very successful shop in St Helier that went under the name of Maison Kerdal from at least the year 1893.
Monsieur and Madame Kerdal were French nationals who moved to Jersey, met and married in St Thomas’ church and set up a general grocer’s shop in St Helier. They then had several children including my godmother, whose nickname throughout her life was “Mimi”, though it bore no relation to her given names of Julia Marie Felicite.
Mimi, I can remember, had many tales to tell of her family and its business and at the time she was living I paid only a passing interest. It is so often the lament, of family historians, to claim that they wished they had taken more notice of these stories told by their seniors when alive, and in this case I can confirm that I again fall into this category.
So starting from my hazy recollections of Mimi’s remembrances I thought it was time to take a look at what records survive.
One of Mimi’s stories, that I recall, was of her saying that as a girl she was not at all interested in working in the shop and was once left in charge of it, in her parent’s absence, and simply threw the money given by the customers onto the shelf under the counter for her parents to account for on their return! This was recounted with a wicked grin on her elderly face as she felt sorry for the trouble she caused her parents.
Another memory was that her father moved the business, in the late 1800s, to a corner opposite the General Post Office in Grove Place, St Helier and then, when the GPO moved to Broad Street, he moved the family to live above a grander shop on the King Street/New Cut corner so as again to be close to the footfall that the Post Office provided.
My investigation, this week, began online at TheGeneoligist.co.uk to use their master search and found Julien Kerdal in the 1889 Kelly’s Directory of the Channel Isles at 7 Burrard Street in the trade of Wine and Spirit Merchant and in the 1911 Kellys listed as a Grocer at 45 King Street and again in 1939 as Wine and Spirit Merchant.
In the 1901 census, on TheGeneoligist, M.Kerdal has been listed as a Potato and Butter Merchant and in the 1911 in his own handwriting he has stated that he is simply a Grocer.
Mimi, meanwhile, was a boarder in 1911 in a convent school in Wales run by a group of French Nuns.
I then took a walk to the Jersey Archive. Here I looked at the parent’s Aliens Registration Cards (the children, being born in Jersey, were British and had no need for cards), the rates books to determine when each move was made, the death indexes – provided by the Channel Island Family History Society – to find when they died and where they were buried and the actual will testaments.
Armed with the information, I had gleaned, I was able to visit the sites of their various shops as they moved from Bath Street, to Burrard Street and then to King Street – the main high street of St Helier. I was able to pay a visit to the Almorah Cemetery, above St Helier, to find their graves and notice how so many are unloved and damaged by the years of rain and growth of holly and ivy.
Family history is an absorbing pastime when you mix together the dates, names and information that you obtain from a data collection, with a visit to the actual places where your forebears tread. It is then that it comes to life.
Check out the powerful Master Search tool that is a particularly different feature of TheGenealogist.co.uk where all the records on their site are easily accessible at the click of a button.
Allowing you to use one simple form to search across millions of records, including Parish Records, Wills, Newspapers, Census, Non-Conformist Registers, and more, I used this to research the Kerdal family online.
The simple to use interface allows you to search for a person, family, or an address, incorporating the previous searches such as the Family Forename Search, House & Street Search, and Keyword Master Search.
Disclosure: The above links are compensated affiliate links.
Once you have exhausted tracing your ancestors in the census collections and the civil records back as far as 1837 then you have to begin using the parish records for your ancestor’s area.
As readers of this blog know I am a great fan of these particular documents and so I am really pleased to hear when a new collection get digitised.
Findmypast.co.uk has made these Hertfordshire records available online for the first time, making it easier than ever to trace your ancestors further back through the centuries. Debra Chatfield, marketing manager at findmypast.co.uk, commented on the new release:
â€œThis collection of records is a wonderful treasure trove for anybody interested in looking into their familyâ€™s past in Hertfordshire. Publishing the records online for the first time will make it so much easier for people to find out if they have ancestors from Hertfordshire, as you can now search them alongside millions of other parish records from across the whole countryâ€.
Full details of the records contained in this release are as follows:
I 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 â€œGo On the Parishâ€ 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 â€œindoor reliefâ€ 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.
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?
Parish 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 â€œThis is a tremendous step for those trying to uncover their UK ancestors, and a great resource for family historians with British roots worldwideâ€.
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.
I see that Ancestry.co.uk has launched online Surrey Parish Records, 1538-1987, featuring more than two and a half million historic Surrey parish records in the most comprehensive collection of its type available online.
The records, the originals of which are held at Surrey County Councilâ€™s Surrey History Centre, detail baptisms, marriages and burials contained in Anglican parish registers, dating from 1538 to 1987.
Crucially many records in the collection pre-date civil registration, the government system established in 1837 to keep accurate accounts of citizensâ€™ births, marriages and deaths, making this collection a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace an ancestor living before the 19th century.
Analysis of these records reveals fascinating historical trends, for example that the number of marriages increased by almost 1,000 in 1915 compared to the previous year, as couples rushed to the altar following the declaration of the First World War. (The number of marriages was 2,727 in 1914, increasing to 3,710 in 1915.)
Included in the records are a number of famous Surrey residents, such as:
Lewis Carrollâ€“ The burial of the famed author of â€˜Aliceâ€™s Adventures in Wonderlandâ€™ -Â real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is recorded in the collection as taking place on 19th January 1898
P. G. Wodehouse â€“ The baptism of the writer Wodehouse, who was born prematurely whilst his mother was visiting Guildford, is listed as taking place on the 17th November 1881
John Derrick â€“ Historical sources reveal Derrick is probably the first named person known to have played cricket, while a pupil at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford in the mid 16th century. Derrickâ€™s burial in Holy Trinity Guildford on 27th October 1613 features in the collection
William Bray â€“ The baptism of Bray, whose 1755 diary was revealed to be the earliest known manuscript to reference baseball, is included in the records as taking place on 7th November, 1736
Other names of note who feature in the records includeVice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who captained Darwinâ€™s famous voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, Sir Barnes Nevill Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb used in the Dambusters Raid, and Jerome David Kern, one of Americaâ€™s most successful composers of musical theatre, who met and married his wife Eva Leale in Walton on Thames.
In addition, the Surrey roots of Academy Award-winning actors Sir Laurence Olivier and Kate Winslet can be traced in the collection. The baptism of Olivierâ€™s father Anglican Priest Gerard Kerr Olivier is recorded as taking place on 30th May 1869, 38 years before he welcomed young Laurence into the world in 1907, and the marriage of Winsletâ€™s third greatgrandparents Thomas Winslet and Priscilla Tasker on 7th December 1824 features in the records.
Also included are a number of interesting entries, such as a baptism record revealing one John William Hoakesâ€™ job as the â€˜Inspector of a Royal Lavatoryâ€™, and records of the marriages of the humorously named George East and Ellen West in 1895, and of Luke Sex and Sarah Eager in 1743.
The collection can be searched by name, spouseâ€™s name, fatherâ€™s name, motherâ€™s name, birth date, baptism date, marriage date, burial date, and by parish.
Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.ukcomments: â€œSpanning half a millennium, these records are an invaluable resource for anyone looking to research the history of Surrey and its people â€“ including some of the countyâ€™s most famous literary and sporting residents.â€
â€œThese records have been added to our comprehensive collection of Parish records, featuring millions of records from the length and breadth of Englandâ€
Julian Pooley, from Surrey Councilâ€™s Surrey History Centre adds:
â€œWe are delighted that Ancestry.co.uk is helping us to make Surreyâ€™s records so widely accessible for research. Thousands of people contact us each year seeking Surrey ancestors because they feel a need to understand their history, their family heritage, their place in their community.Â The discovery of these roots is more than simple genealogical number-crunching; it teaches new research skills, it brings scattered families together and makes new friends and it increases knowledge and awareness of the communities we live in.â€
A free launch event for the digitised Surrey Parish Records 1538-1987 collection will be held on Saturday 6th July (10.30am â€“ 3:30pm) at Surrey History Centre in Woking, with Ancestry.co.uk staff on hand to answer any questions about the records and help people search the collection, and experts from Surrey History Centre, East Surrey Family History Society and West Surrey Family History Society available to answer your family history questions.Â To book places on the presentations please phone 01483 518737 or email email@example.com
I have heard from the nice people at family history website findmypast that they have added new Kent baptisms, banns, marriages & burials to their parish records collection in partnership with Kent Family History Society, making it even easier to find your local ancestors. The latest release includes records from Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Ashford & Rochester in addition to 131 smaller parishes.Â They cover an extensive period of history from 1538 to 2006, allowing family historians to discover and add even more generations to their family tree.
Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at findmypast commented â€œThese new records are a fantastic resource for anyone eager to uncover their Kentish heritage. In combination with our recent addition of East Kent and Canterbury material, findmypast is definitely the go-to place when it comes to family history in the south east.â€
The new records have joined over 40 million parish records from UK family history societies available on findmypast in an exclusive partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies that started in 2007.
Jean Skilling of Kent Family History Society added â€œThe Kent Family History Society (www.kfhs.org.uk) is delighted to be working in partnership with findmypast.Â We hope our indices will be of help to everyone tracing their Kentish ancestry.â€