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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Over half a million new Parish Records now available online

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A collection of over half a million unique Parish Records has been added to TheGenealogist.

These cover the counties of Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Monmouthshire and Worcestershire. The new online records offer invaluable records of baptisms, marriages and burials dating from the 1500s to the late 1800s from Anglican parish registers. The records are a great tool for those people looking to track down early ancestors before civil registration.

The latest releases bring the total to over 2 million parish records already added in 2014 with more to come. Fully searchable and clearly transcribed on TheGenealogist, they provide hundreds of years of records helping you find those early ancestors to further extend your family tree.

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist remarked: “With Parish and Nonconformist Records it is possible to go back so much further and you never know what new surprises or dramatic events you may uncover in the records. We are continually adding more records to our already extensive collection throughout 2014.”

 

Discover surprising details that can be found in the Parish Record collection.

Many of the records are rare, historic parish records, published online for the first time and offer us unexpected information of dramatic events at the time. In the latest records, we find details of one of the protestant martyrs in the 1500s.

Martyrs burnt at the stake

Protestants in England & Wales were executed under Queen Mary I with legislation that punished anyone found guilty of heresy against Roman Catholicism. The standard penalty for treason was execution by being hung, drawn and quartered. In this case, however, the punishment of  “burning” was used for those found guilty of not being of the Catholic faith.

At least 300 people were recognised as martyred over the five years of Mary’s reign, causing her to be known as “Bloody Mary”. The name of one of the world’s most popular cocktail drinks is also said to be named after her!

A number of the executions were carried out in the county of Essex including that of linen draper, Thomas Wattes from Billericay, whose wife Elizabeth is found in the new parish records. Here we see the burial record of Elizabeth Wattes in the parish of Great Burstead on TheGenealogist. Her record describes her husband as a “Martyr of God” with the added extra note in the record giving details of his death- “The Blessed Martyr of God who for his truth suffered his martyrdom in the fire at Chelmsford.”

Martyr burnt at stake

Oliver Cromwell and his son Robert Cromwell

Robert Cromwell appears in the new parish record sets buried in the parish of Felsted in Essex, son of Oliver Cromwell. Robert was the eldest son of Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell and he died whilst away studying at school at the age of 18. Here we find a copy of his burial record from 1639.

Robert Cromwell's burial. The son of Oliver Cromwell

 

 

The Genealogist site has an extremely comprehensive collection of data sets, which are ever growing. Their ability to react quickly to their customers was demonstrated to me only this week when I had a problem resolved by them within minutes of me bringing it to their attention.

At a time when social media is full of complaints about the functionality of other genealogical data sites, I’d recommend you take a serious look today at what is on offer from TheGenealogist

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used in this post.

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Family History Research in England & Wales: The 1939 Register is coming!

 

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News out today from the British-owned online family history company DC Thomson Family History (the people behind findmypast amongst other websites) and The National Archives that they are entering into a joint project to make the records of 40 million civilians held in the 1939 register available online.

When they have got this data digitised, it is estimated by the company that the collection will comprise of near enough 1.2 million scanned full-colour images of documents. As the records cover the entire civilian population of England & Wales at the outbreak of WWII, this is quite a significant release for those of us researching our English or Welsh family tree.

What was the 1939 register?

It was taken on 29 September 1939 by the British Government and recorded personal details of individuals in order to issue identity cards and ration books. In later years it became the basis of the National Health Service’s records.

Findmypast say that , when complete, the 1939 register will be fully searchable online for the first time, opening up the past to a new generation of family and social historians, just as the 1911 census did on its release in 2009.

So what can we expect to find once this set becomes available to us?

The records contain the address, full name, date of birth, sex, marital status and occupation of individuals, as well as changes of name. Although the Register is literally within living memory for many people, information about living individuals will be kept closed for 100 years from their year of birth, or until proof of death has been authenticated.

From today, anybody interested in being kept informed about the project can register at www.1939register.co.uk.

Annelies Van Den Belt, CEO of DC Thomson Family History said: “This announcement is great news not just for British family historians and those with British relatives, but for anyone with an interest in history itself; providing a fascinating snapshot of the country as it stood on the edge of the most widespread conflict in human history.

“This significant project will bring these records to a global audience for the first time, and combined with the 1.8 billion records already available on our websites will make it easier than ever to begin your family history journey and uncover the powerful stories that lie within and that make us who we are.”

Mary Gledhill, Commercial Director, at The National Archives, added: “The National Archives is delighted to be working with DC Thomson Family History to open up this unique record collection to the world, allowing history enthusiasts to discover more about the people at the outbreak of the Second World War. In the absence of a 1931 and 1941 census, this collection is all the more valuable to family historians trying to trace their ancestors.”

The 1939 register project is the latest contract to be awarded to DC Thomson Family History by The National Archives. Record sets previously digitised by the company in association with The National Archives include Crime, Prisons and Punishment; outbound passenger lists; British Army Service records; Merchant Navy Seamen’s records; Maritime Birth, Marriage and Death indexes and the 1911 census.

Great news for those of us researching our recent ancestors from England & Wales. One of the most anticipated family history projects since the 1911 census.


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TheGenealogist adds 90,000 Criminal Records to their site

 

Criminal Records

I see that TheGenealogist.co.uk has released a whole batch of records that are great for finding any ancestors of yours who may have fallen foul of the law!

Its a set of 90,000 Criminal records, which cover indictable offences in England and Wales between 1782 and 1892, that they have added to their website  for Diamond members and these records also uniquely cover prisoners ‘pardoned’, criminal charges and those classed as ‘criminal lunatics’.

Coming from  The National Archives the records cover the following:

  • HO27 – Criminal Registers, England and Wales
    Registers of all persons in England and Wales charged with indictable offences showing the results of the trials, the sentences in case of conviction, and dates of execution of persons sentence to death.
  • HO13 – Criminal Entry Books
    Lists of pardons.
  • HO20/13 – Prisons Correspondence and Papers
    Including Bethlehem Hospital criminal lunatics and other asylums.
  • CRIM1 – Central Criminal Court Depositions
    Statements on oath used in evidence in trials at the Old Bailey and pardons if granted.

As TheGenealogist says in its newsletter this month, “the 1800s in England and Wales was a place where it was not difficult to get into trouble and end up facing a severe punishment, perhaps even the death penalty. These new records may help shed light on a family relative who broke the Law and paid the consequences.”

Some of us love to unearth the odd black-sheep in the family. So take a look here and join their Diamond level membership to take advantage of this data:

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: The links above are compensated affiliate links and may result in me being compensated by TheGenealogist.co.uk should you buy their products.

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