Twiggy’s Family History on Who Do You Think You Are?

 

wdytya2014_twiggy  In the last of the present series and in a show that was the 100th from the BBC of the gripping genealogical programme, we were treated to 60’s icon, model and fashion designer Twiggy.

And what a great show it was.

Twiggy’s Who Do You Think You Are? research revealed that she has a family history story filled with colourful characters, leading lives as eventful as her own has been.

The story of her great-great-grandmother who turned to crime “uttering forged coins” (passing them in payment) and spending time in a Victorian prison. The same woman and her daughter who were prosecuted for stealing a significant amount of money from the girls employer. The mother, having taken all the responsibility and being convicted, doing hard labour.

Others who ended up in the workhouse and the tale of the parish, when faced with having to support the inmates of this harsh institution, prosecuted the husband for abandonment of his wife and children and had him committed to jail with hard labour.

The fact that the convicted man’s occupation was that of a Slater, a hard job dependent on seasonal employment and from his death records we discover that he had a strangulated hernia. All of which point to another era when the welfare state did not exist to provide the safety net that we all so much take for granted today.

So why did the Workhouse exist? Why was there such fear on the part of the administrators of the Parish Poor Relief that they made conditions harsher than those that a labourer on the outside had to endure?

Workhouse tasks
Picking oakum (pulling apart old rope) was a punishment in prison for Twiggy’s 2x great-grandmother. It was also the task given to Workhouse inmates.

 

 

For centuries in England, those who fell on hard times would become the responsibility of their parish. The old poor law system had coped well enough until around 1800 new demands on the system caused the government to think again.

Unemployment had risen to new heights, a consequence of the growing industrialisation of the country that now needed less men to make the goods that previously had been created in the old cottage industries.

Another pressure on the poor law came from the disaster of a succession of bad harvests that meant those who subsisted in rural areas found it difficult to feed themselves.

Then, on top of this, the ending of the Napoleonic Wars caused a great many soldiers to return from France with no work to go to.

In today’s United Kingdom, we often refer to a North South divide with the balance being towards the richer South. In the 1800s the industrial north, with its large cotton mills and other factories, fared better than the South where fewer industries existed to employ those people who had previously worked on the land and were no longer required.

As the situation got worse for the government, by 1832 they believed that they had to overhaul the poor law system and the way in which the poor relief was distributed. A Royal Commission was asked to look into it and as a result parliament passed the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

A belief was widely held in the country that the poor were often undeserving of the money. That they were idle if they had no work. Under the new Act Parishes were compelled to ban together into Poor Law Unions that often covered a 20 mile radius and each Union a Board of Guardians were chosen to administer the new system.

The biggest result of this change that could have affected your ancestors was the provision of a workhouse in each Union.

Five hundred plus of these Union Workhouses were constructed during the next 50 years with two-thirds of them having been built by 1840.

Although workhouses were not a new phenomenon, under the old system most of the unemployed would have received poor relief while continuing to live in their own homes (so called “out relief”).

Any parishioners, now needing help after the passing of the new law, were compelled to live inside the workhouse, where conditions were made as harsh as possible so as to discourage all but those who were desperate from applying.

Families were split up. Men and women segregated with children over seven separated from their mothers and forced to live in the children’s section.

On admission the poor would have to undress, have their clothes taken away from them until they were discharged. They would have had a thorough wash and then dress in the workhouse uniform of rough shapeless material. This stripping away of identity was all part of the discouragement from claiming indoor relief.

 

I have more on the Poor Laws, the Workhouse and Crime and punishment as just some of the many topics covered in my comprehensive Family History Researcher Academy course for anyone researching their English/Welsh family history. At the moment there is a Special Offer trial from the link on this page of £1 for the first two weeks!

Read what some of my past members have said:

“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have been doing family history for many years.  Kind regards. ” H.Stephens

“You communicate in an understandable way! Thank you for the modules that I have had so far” P.Martin.

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Family History Research finds moved house

Sous L'Eglise Summer holiday time can be a great opportunity to look at the places where your ancestors lived.

Quite often I have used time visiting an area to walk down the streets where my ancestors footsteps went before me and just imagining how it would have been in their day.

I will have often have prepared for such a trip beforehand. In most cases using the census collections and copies of trade directories to”get a feel” for the location in their era.

It is important to try and understand the social history of the town or area where our forebears lived, but what about our own history? Shouldn’t we try and document our times for those who follow?

As we grow older we constantly find that things have moved on, streets have changed, businesses have closed up, buildings demolished.

This week I was reminded of this fact by a visit from several cousins of mine to Jersey. A first cousin, his daughter plus fiancé, flew in from Canada, while a first cousin once removed, plus husband, came from the Midlands by plane. (If you find cousin relationships difficult to understand then check out my free report here.)

My elder cousin from Canada had memories of certain shops, that he had gone to with our grandparents and would have liked to have taken a trip to. The problem was that they had long since gone or changed in the intervening years.

We managed, however, to do many of the sites that had family associations for us; but I was still struck at how change in my own lifetime had crept up on my local environment. From the reclamation of land for a cinema, swimming-pool complex, 5 star hotel and housing apartments, which now replaces the beach where my science teacher had taken the class to learn some hands-on Marine Biology, to the house by the airport where my younger cousin (now based in England) had once lived as a child.

This was to be a great story as the Georgian farmhouse had been demolished, as new regulations deemed it to be too close to the airport runway. In actual fact there had been a dreadful air crash when my cousins lived in it, but she and her mother were thankfully away from the house at the time. In the fog a light aircraft had flown into said building with the loss of the pilot’s life.

Yesterday we took a trip to the site of the demolished house and walked around the footprint of the building. It was an eerie feeling as we picked our way over the old foundations.

I noticed the former garden still had flowers and plant bushes in it that indicted its past life as a formal front garden. These hardy specimens fighting through the weeds and wild foliage that aimed to sometime soon take control.

The happy ending to this piece is that the house was demolished stone-by-stone and it has sprung up again in restored Georgian glory as the cladding to a replica house a few miles down the road! The project is ongoing and the people behind it have a website here:  http://savethelistedbuilding.com/

Yesterday we were privileged to be allowed to visit the house’s new site and my cousin, who had once lived within its granite structure, was delighted with the restoration and the positive ambience of its new location.

 

Think of those who will come after us, what stories can we leave them about our times?

To download my guide to Cousins, Step-mothers and Half-brothers click on this link.

 

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A Newly digitised, navigable atlas collection details 500 years of British history

 

County map courtsey of Ancestry.co.ukAtlas shows us how Britain’s landscape has changed over the last 500 years

Looking at this collection of 57 maps and you will be able to find England’s lost counties of Westmorland and Huntingdonshire

Find Parish borders that hark back to when people associated more with their Parish church than town hall

There is a newly published historic atlas of Great Britain online at Ancestry.co.uk that gives the family historian something of a unique view of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales stretching back over 500 years.

Digitised by the family history site Ancestry.co.uk, the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, consists of fifty seven different maps of the counties of the U.K. What is interesting to me about this is it shows how Britain’s ancient parish and county boundaries have changed shape over the centuries.

We have all been there in our research. You may have lost someone from the records of a
particular county and thus you become stuck unless you can see the boundaries as they stood at the time that your ancestor was alive.
I was doing some research for a client whose ancestors came from Northfield. Today that is a suburb of Birmingham and so is in the West Midlands. At the time of their ancestor Northfield was in Worcestershire.

The subject of the research got married about ten miles away in Dudley, which was in Staffordshire at the time and today has its own archive service as it is a Metropolitan Borough. Thus to find the records of a family that lived in quite a small radius needs careful thought as to where to look.

This newly digitised Atlas is navigable online, users are able to scroll over whole counties and then use a zoom tool to go in and out. Useful if you need to identify the various local parishes, towns and the churches.

The original documents used in the atlas are from the resources of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies.

Browsing the maps open up quite an insight into how England’s historical county maps didn’t change much for centuries, before many of the ancient counties were split up to make more governable areas.

In this atlas the county of Middlesex is shown as it was in the 19th century. At that time it consisted of what are today large swathes of modern London and so included the likes of Islington and Chelsea. London itself is a much smaller settlement that is barely more than one mile wide.

The Home Counties appear in their original form before the legislation of the London Government Act 1965  created Greater London. You will also be able to see the original boundary of the counties of Essex and Surrey when viewing the maps.

Other counties that are defunct today but can be traced in the atlas include Westmorland (today a part of Cumbria), and Huntingdonshire, which disappeared into Cambridgeshire following a Government Act in 1971. Lancashire is also to be found here in its original form, comprising of modern day Manchester and Liverpool and also various parts of Cumbria and Cheshire. It was subsequently reorganised and downsized, losing nearly a third of its area in the process.

Before the population of the country grew over the centuries and along with this regional administration developed, people were inclined to identify themselves more with their local parish when considering where they came from. As time moved on and these parish borders changed to such an extent that now it is almost impossible to determine the exact location of some parishes and their records using modern maps.

I have an interest in a small village that sits today in North west Leicestershire, but in years past was divided between Leicestershire but with pockets residing in Derbyshire and completely surrounded by Leicestershire on all sides!

The Atlas is thus an authoritative guide to the drastic changes in Britain’s county and parish borders over the last 500 years and a valuable way of adding geographical context to family history research.

The maps were the brainchild of Cecil Humphery-Smith, a genealogist and heraldist who founded the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, based in Canterbury, which promotes family history both through courses and its extensive library. He is, of course, the author of Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers.

At Ancestry.co.uk, the maps can now be searched and browsed by county.   For family historians using Ancestry’s Lancashire Parish records as well as the 1851 Censuses and Free Birth, Marriage and Death Index will discover that every record in these collections links to a relevant map.

In addition, almost eight million new records have been added to the Lancashire Parish records currently available on Ancestry’s site.

Ancestry.co.uk Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “The borders of the UK parishes and counties have changed so much over the last 500 years and that really makes these maps the key to navigating the past and progressing with your family history journey.”

To search the Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, as well as millions of additional birth, marriage and death records, visit www.Ancestry.co.uk.


Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used in this post.

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8 million newspaper pages online at The British Newspaper Archive

 

British Newspaper ArchiveI noticed this week that The British Newspaper Archive has expanded the number of pages that we family historians can view on their site. I do like old newspapers as a family history resource!

It seems that you can now explore 8 million newspaper pages at The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) after the website reached a major milestone this week.

While adding editions of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Cheshire Observer and The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, the counter on the homepage ticked over to display 8,000,000 pages.

 

The amount online has doubled since the website launched with 4 million pages in November 2011. The time period covered now stretches from 1710 – 1954 too, much broader than at launch.

If you tried searching for a person, event or place before without success, its well worth trying again now. Visit www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk to try a search for free.

Thousands of pages are added every week, so your chance of finding something amazing increases all the time. 825,000 new pages have already been added so far this year.

 

You can see a list of the newspaper titles that have been added or updated in the last 30 days at
www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/home/LatestAdditions.


Disclosure: Links are compensated affiliate links.

 

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Online Newspaper Archive Passes the 7 Million Page Mark

 

British Newspaper Archive

The British Newspaper Archive (BNA) passed a giant milestone today, as page number 7,000,000 was added to the site at www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.

 

Since its launch in November 2011, the BNA has been committed to transcribing thousands of pages a day. With a target of 40 million pages by 2021, this 10-year project is the biggest digitisation of newspapers to take place in the UK.

 

Ian Tester, The British Newspaper Archive’s Brand Director, said: “We are ecstatic to reach the 7 millionth page. Newspapers are one of the richest resources available to historians, and historical newspapers packed a lot more into a page than modern papers. The Archive holds newspapers that date back to the early 18th Century, and with the 7 million mark passed, we now provide access to comfortably over 100 million stories and articles online  a unique perspective on more than 200 years of historical events.”

The 7 millionth page to be added to the online archive was page seven of the Burnley Express for Saturday 30th June 1945. The main headlines of the day include a visit from Winston Churchill, images of servicemen, and an article on the cost of living and pensions.

 

The website is free to search, with a range of credit and subscription packages available to suit the different needs of researchers who wish to view the paid-for content. Access to the resource is free to users of the British Library’s Reading Rooms.

 




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Non-Conformist Family History and Bunhill Fields

 

Bunhill Fields

I’ve just been on a visit to the City of London and while on my way to a meeting I realised I was passing the famous nonconformist burial ground of Bunhill Fields!

It was back in 1665 that the City of London Corporation hit on the idea of making use of some of the fen in this area as a common burial ground for the interment of bodies of the City’s inhabitants who had died of the plague and could not be accommodated in the churchyards.

The burial ground then went on to attract those people who were mainly Protestant but who dissented from the Established Church. The reason for this was the predominance of such citizens in the City of London over others who did not conform to the Church of England’s ways, such as the Catholics or Jews. Not withstanding this, Bunhills burial ground was open for interment to anyone who could afford to pay the fees.
Bunhill Fields Burial ground
The end of this burial ground was to come after the 1852 Burial Act was passed. This piece of  legislation enabled places such as Bunhill Fields to be closed, once they had become full. For Bunhills, its Order for closure was made in December 1853. The records show that the final burial  was for Elizabeth Howell Oliver and this took place on January 5 1854. By that date approximately 120,000 interments had taken place.

Nearby can be found the Quaker Burial ground, known as Quaker Gardens. These are on the other side of Bunhill Row to the main nonconformist grounds and contains the burial plot of George Fox, who founded the Quakers.

In many other parts of the country nonconformists would simply have made use of the Parish church yard until public cemeteries became the norm for internment. True that there are a few nonconformist burial grounds in other parts of the country but many were miles away from where the deceased lived and so it was more practical to be buried in the church yard along with their Church of England neighbours.

 

 

For those of you researching Parish Records and Non-Conformist Records my advice is to go and look at what TheGenealogist has to offer:

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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

 

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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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Old Directory Listing: Hay Edwd.Massey,50Princes’ sq.BayswtrW

Princes' Square, Bayswater, London.
50 Princes’ Square, Bayswater, London.

I’ve just been in West London and so I took the opportunity of a bit of leisure time to find the house where my great-great grandfather lived for a time. This was in Bayswater, way back in 1880.

Having fired up my reluctant computer, something to do with the Firefox update I think (which was making it use 99 to 100% of its cpu to do something or other!) I headed over to TheGenealogist.co.uk and searched their old directories data base.

In the Kelly’s Post Office 1880 Court Directory I found an entry for Edward Adolphe Massey Hay as:

Hay Edwd.Massey,50Princes’ sq.BayswtrW 

I smiled as I noticed that he had lost one of his middle names in the listing as this is something that happens to me all the time!

Switching then to the old maps website http://www.old-maps.co.uk/maps.html I located the street just north of the intersection of Palace Court and Moscow Road in South Bayswater.

I then wrapped up warm, got out my A-Z and set off with digital camera to find, photograph and generally get an impression of the surroundings that once my great-great grandfather had called home.

The house was now part of a hotel and was one of a road of houses all designed to look the same, with at least 5 stories above the ground floor and a strange protruding 4 story frontage above their front doors.

I love walking down streets that my ancestor’s have pounded in their time. As I do it I try to imagine what it must have been like in their times when the motor car would not have claimed the street outside their front steps, transistor radios would not have been blaring and the aeroplanes flying overhead would not have been heard. Instead the clip clop of hansom cabs, that prevailed until 1908, would have been in their place.

Princes' Square garden.
Princes’ Square garden.

Around the back I discovered a pleasant communal garden of the sort that is common in London and noticed that the design of the rear of the property was much more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

If you would like to try to find your ancestor’s in the London Directories then check out the data sets at TheGenealogist.co.uk

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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WDYTYA? LIVE Stand That Caught My Eye: Drawing On The Past

Drawing on Past smile.MOV_000001868Another fascinating stand at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE show this year was one run by Anne Daniels for her Drawing On The Past business.

She creates totally unique artwork using photographs of your ancestors and incorporating both hand drawn and digital imaging techniques, the finished design is then printed using a high quality fine art printing process.

Anne says that when you commission a piece of work from Drawing On The Past you can be assured of receiving a unique artwork, drawn from your own personal history.

I was really impressed by the finished articles. If this is something that would appeal to you then contact her via her website at:

http://drawingonthepast.co.uk/

Finally, here are a couple of examples of her work. Click on the images to see them up close!

drawingonthepast 

Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 14.24.04

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